After introducing himself as “the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2), God gave the people of Israel the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (20:3). God started by teaching his children the most important thing—“Kids, don’t forget this: one God.”
The commandments were given in order of importance, one through ten. Their progression enables them to build off one another. The first four relate to our relationship with God, because it is the most important relationship we can have. The last six relate to our relationships with our neighbors, how we treat others in light of how God treats us.
When a lawyer approached Jesus and asked him to name the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). In his answer, Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments. It is as if Jesus said, “Here’s the summary. All the 613 laws, including the ten that I wrote down on tablets of stone, really fit into two big ideas: love God and love your neighbor.”
The people of Israel had escaped Egypt, but they were committing adultery, they were stealing, and they were lying. They had adopted some weird spirituality and were worshiping false gods, including a golden calf. Life was not going well for them.
But God, their Dad, sat them all on the couch and said to the effect, “Kids, listen to me. First things first: there’s one God. I’m God. You’re not God. They’re not God. Nobody else is God. Nothing else is God. I’m God.”
You can’t live free until you realize there’s only one God and you’re not God. This may come as a shock, but you’re not the center of the universe. You’re not the most important person. We become miserable when we worship ourselves because we were made to give worship, not receive it. We were made to worship the one God. We were made to enjoy him. We were made to glorify him. And when we make ourselves the center of our lives, we make ourselves miserable.
No! God puts his name in the circle. God is not just at the top of our priority lists but demands and deserves to be at the center of our lives. There’s a big difference. It’s not like we check him off as the first item on our list and then move on to the rest. God must remain at the center of our lives. When he’s at the center, his perspective matters in all of the rest: worship, money, marriage, possessions, real estate, sexuality—all topics he covers in the subsequent commandments.
Everything has to be connected to him because he is the only God. There is one God. One. What does one mean in Hebrew? One! The entire Bible backs up this truth. The idea of one God is very offensive to people who believe there are lots of gods. But God says there’s one God. Agnostics believe we can’t know. God says, “I’ll tell you. You can know for sure. I even wrote a book.” Some believe that everything in the world is all part of God. No, God says that he made the world. The first commandment answers all the philosophical, theological, and spiritual questions: one God.