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Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

The Ten Commandments are the first laws that God revealed to Moses when He was declaring the stipulations of the old covenant, so they occupy a special place in that legal code. Many of the other laws in the Old Testament appear to be applications of the Ten Commandments to specific situations. Moreover, the reappearance of the Ten Commandments in the New Testament in passages such as Romans 13:8–10 suggests that these laws in particular have a significance for God’s people that transcends culture. For these reasons, Christians from all the major theological traditions have viewed the Ten Commandments as a summary of the enduring moral law of God. Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith helpfully outlines the place of the law of God and specifically the Ten Commandments in the Christian life.

God’s demand that we have no other gods before Him stands at the head of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3). This law should not be understood in the sense of rank, as if there are truly other gods and that God is merely the highest. While it is true that there are other spiritual beings that Scripture sometimes refers to as gods, these other “gods” are not rival deities to Yahweh, the Creator of all. They are pretenders to the throne. The first commandment means no other gods exist before the face of God, before His presence. Since God is omnipresent—everywhere—and there can be no other gods in His presence, there are no other gods who are, in fact, truly gods as the Lord is God (see Jer. 23:24).

Because the God of Scripture is the only true God, we are obligated to render worship unto Him alone. Throughout Scripture, we find constant warnings to God’s people against serving other gods. During the period of the judges, for example, God disciplined the Israelites when they served the Baals and the Ashteroth (Judg. 2:11–15). The Old Testament also looked to the day when the other nations would abandon their false gods and worship the one true God, a day that comes to fulfillment in Christ as people from all tribes and tongues worship Yahweh, the God of Israel, through Christ (Isa. 19:16–25; Rev. 7:9–12).

Moreover, because the God of Scripture alone is God, only He should receive our ultimate trust and allegiance. Some may trust in chariots, horses, and other non-gods, but we must trust only in the Lord God Almighty (Ex. 20:7). Only He cannot fail us.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We break the first commandment every time we seek our ultimate satisfaction in a source other than God. We keep it whenever we seek to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us seek to trust and love Him above all else today.


For Further Study
  • Exodus 34:14
  • Deuteronomy 4:32–40
  • Matthew 6:24
  • 1 Timothy 2:5

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Jul 2017 Issue