It’s The First And Greatest Commandment But Why?

Most Christians know the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Or at least they know it as Christ stated it. “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.” (Matt. 22:37-38).


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4
Key Verse: “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above on the earth beneath; there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:39


But have we ever stopped long enough to think about why it’s the first and greatest commandment? Is it because God is a dictator? Is it because He’s unreasonable? Is it because He wanted to see us fail?

Nope.

It’s because He alone is God. And He knows it. “There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me” (Isaiah 45:21b).

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

The LORD is the one who blots out our transgressions and remembers our sins no more (Is. 43:25).

The LORD is the one who made the earth and created man on it (Is. 45:12).

The LORD is the one who stretched out the heavens and put the stars in place (Is. 45:13).

The LORD is the one who forms light and creates darkness (Is. 45:7).

The LORD is the one who changes times and seasons. He alone removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21).

I love the way God says it in Isaiah 44:8, “Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

So nothing else will do. Only God. Everything else will fail us. Therefore, He started with this… “You shall have no other gods before me.” It makes sense really that a loving God would begin with a request for allegiance because He knows anything other than him will disappoint. Leaving a gaping hole in our quest for life and love and satisfaction.

If we want love – God is love.

If we want peace – God is peace.

If we want joy – God is joy.

If we want life -God is life.

If we want truth – God is truth.

Chase me God says. Put me first. Because to seek God first and foremost is to seek the utter most longing of our soul. When we chase after anything other than God, we are always left with less than. Yet for some reason we still think it’s money or a home or a spouse or a child we most need. Or the fulfillment of a dream or job or fame we most want. The lap of luxury that will bring the most joy. Or a night in front of the television or an extended vacation that will build us back up.

But it’s none of those. It’s God. Why is it that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be satisfied? (Matt 5:6) Because it’s God who satisfies. So love me with everything you’ve got, says the LORD. With your heart and soul and mind and body. You won’t regret it.

And do it in the right way.

Which brings us to the second commandment. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Ex. 4:4).

In other words, don’t make idols. Don’t carve a face into a piece of wood and call it a god. Don’t liken the Creator to something He’s created. It reduces his power to an item. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

We are to worship in spirit and truth, not stationary items and false convictions. By faith, not fabrication. With God’s might and majesty exceling beyond anything we could even imagine, God says, “Don’t even try.” Any and every attempt will fail.

“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit” (Isaiah 44:9a).

Furthermore, we don’t need to make things to represent God since “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). We already have plenty to spur us on to worship.

What we need to do, is be the image of God.

And therein lies the kicker. God’s already made something to represent Him. He’s made us, in his own image! Bringing a whole new meaning to the commandment, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), don’t you think?

It’s not our responsibility to make things that represent God, it’s our responsibility to be a representation of God.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2). That the world might see God in us. That they might come to know Him. That they might reject every other false attempt at deity, except the LORD Almighty, the gracious God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It won’t be long and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD (Phil. 2:10-11). So why wait? “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4). “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39).

And that my friend is why loving God with everything we’ve got and everything we are is the first and greatest commandment. Let us go and let us love Him and let us do it in the right way.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How might your life change if you truly sought God at all times? What would be easier? What would be harder?
We aren’t to make images of God but we are to be the image. Can you give an example when the world saw God in you? How did they react?

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When Idols Don’t Make Sense Anymore

I won’t put myself above the rest. If I’d been an Israelite at the time of the Exodus, there’s a good chance I’d have purchased a few Egyptian gods for my shelf. As there were plenty to choose from. Perhaps eighty or so, with a few more popular than the others. Like Hapi, god of the flood. Khnum, guard of the Nile. Osiris, god of the underworld.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 7:14-25
Key Verse: “To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.” Deuteronomy 4:35


Then there was Hathor the goddess of love, represented as a cow. (Interesting choice in my opinion.) Heqt, the god who helped with childbirth, represented by a frog. (Hmmm…) And Amon-Re, the sun god, a favorite of many in Egypt’s hot sunny climate.

But seeing as Israel had been enslaved for hundreds of years, with heavy burdens, and no sign of the LORD’s favor. Yet Egyptians were living the high life, prosperous and successful, why not try out a few of their gods? Maybe there was something to it. Couldn’t hurt, right?

This the mindset of an Egyptian influenced Israel, God had some work to do. But he was up for the challenge. Bringing a one-two punch with just the first plague by turning the Nile to blood. Their life source and greatest asset, the Nile offered not only food and transportation, but fertile ground, and need I say it, water.

The only reason the first plague didn’t destroy Egypt is because God lifted his hand after seven days. But it sure would have rocked their world. The equivalent is us going to the gas station only to realize we’d just pumped 20 gallons of blood into our mini vans. I can hardly fathom the crippling effect, but let’s try.

First, we’d be walking home AND staying there. Second, no tractors could run. Trucks would be unable to make deliveries. Crops would rot in the fields. Grocery store shelves would go empty. (You get the idea.) But then imagine you get the smart idea of siphoning the gas out of your lawn mower only to realize it too had been turned to blood.

I’m picturing some very confused mamas the morning of the first plague. Because it wasn’t just the Nile that reeked of blood. It was every bit of water in the land. Canals, ponds, pools, and even the vessels of wood and stone at home on the counter. (I know they probably didn’t have counters – just go with me here.) Up early to make pancakes and want does mom find? Blood.

How much do you want to bet kids all over Egypt got in trouble that morning for filling their mother’s pots with blood? “But mom, I promise I didn’t do it!” (Evidence this was a miraculous event and not just from natural causes like red silting of the Nile.)

Realizing the catastrophe at hand, Egypt would have turned to their Nile associated gods. And seeing as the Nile was so loved and adored, there were lots! Yet all of them were rendered powerless by one simple act of God because while Pharaoh’s magicians had no trouble mimicking the sign, they were not able to undo it.

The people were stuck. No matter how long or hard they called on their so-called gods, the water remained contaminated. It’s believed that Egypt’s priests daily washed their idols with water. Yet for seven days, there only choice was to wash them with blood.

The LORD was sending a loud and clear message to Israel and Egypt alike, that He alone is God and there is no other. To believe in the power of idols. To set your hope in something made of stone or wood, carved by human hands, with no power to save, no life, was to set your hope on death. Blood.

Yet to hope in the LORD God, to worship Him, is to hope in the One who made, sustains, and holds life. Is it any wonder then that God’s initial display of sovereignty in Egypt, a land full of idols, was to turn water to blood? While Jesus’ initial display of sovereignty in Israel, a land He filled with his awesome presence, was to turn water to wine!

In Christ, there is life in abundance. In anything else, there is death.

Yet did they understand? Did they take the warning to heart? We know Pharaoh didn’t. Did Egypt? By the end, with nothing left to their name, bearing the loss of their firstborn, I’m sure there were some. But what of Israel? Did it sink in that God was God and there was no other?

In Deuteronomy 4 toward the end of their 40-year hiatus in the wilderness, Moses urged Israel to remember how blessed there were because of what they’d seen and heard and experienced saying, “Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders…all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him” (v. 34-35).

To you it was shown Israel that you might know there is none besides HIM. The blood, the frogs, the gnats, the flies, the livestock, the boils, the hail, locusts, and darkness. And then the Passover. The riches of Egypt in their possession. The cloud by day the fire by night. God’s presence ever with them. Guiding them. Protecting them. Providing for them.

It should have been more than enough. Yet God’s made himself evident to us as well but has it been enough for us to turn from our idols? (It’s getting personal now.) The money we cling to. The dreams we worship. The people we idolize. The stuff we covet. The television we mediate on.

Still top priority, after all God’s done for us…

The cross. The tomb. The resurrection. The redemption. The gift of God. The adoption as sons and daughters. The inheritance. The hope. The Helper. The promise of His presence forever. “The riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:7b-10).

But is it enough for us to know and believe the LORD is God and there is no other? To leave our idols behind? To seek His glory? To seek His face? (Yes, it’s more than enough.)

God did wonders in Egypt that they might know. And God’s done wonders in us that we might too. So let’s set the other stuff aside. Let’s leave it where it belongs – in His hands, for His purposes. And let’s raise our hands to Jesus. Who proved himself worthy long ago by redeeming Israel and then proved it again by redeeming us.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How did God prove himself to Israel? How has God proved himself to us? How has God proved himself to you personally? Are there idols you need to set aside, things you’ve allowed on the shelf just in case God falls through? Ask the LORD and seek to set them aside, because it’s He alone who is God.