2009-11-08 - A Nation of Priests, A Holy
The Ten Commandments Series, Part 2
Thou shalt have no other gods before me Vs. 1-3
The Call to Monotheism
Is Polytheism Really an Issue Today?
How Should we Practice Monotheism?
The Call to Monotheism: It is not surprising the first commandment
we find deals directly with the worship of God. The principle of monotheism
was unique in Moses day. God was telling the Israelites that they were
not to be like their future neighbors and worship more than one god - or
any other god other than Him. I wonder how the Christian cults
that teach polytheism, or the heretical movements that teach we can become
gods, can possibly get around this one!
Walton and Matthews note:
The phrase before Me means in my presence and
therefore prohibits other gods from being considered to be in the presence
of Yahweh. This prohibits several concepts that were a standard part of ancient
beliefs. Most religions of that day had a pantheon, a divine assembly that
ruled the realm of the gods, the supernatural, and, ultimately, the human
world. Thee would typically be a deity who was designated head of the pantheon,
and he, like the other gods, would have at least one consort (female partner).
This commandment forbids Israel to think in these terms. Yahweh is not the
head of a pantheon, and he does not have a consortthere are no gods
in his presence. The only divine assembly that is legitimate for their thinking
is made up of angels (as in 1 Kings 22:19-20), not gods. This commandment
also then effectively bans much mythology that deals with the interactions
of the gods with one another. 1
It wasnt good enough that the Israelites worship Him along with other
gods; they must only worship Him. Notice He says in vs. 5 that He is
a jealous God. In Isaiah 42:8 we read
I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give
my glory to another or my praise to idols.
Paul carries this same thought into the New Testament:
....or even if there are so-called gods, whether
in Heaven or on Earth (as indeed there are many gods and many
lords), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom
all things came and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Corinthians
By the way, since they were not to worship other gods, as their neighbors
did, what do you think were some of the ways the pagan worshiped their gods?
I encourage you to list some of them, and see how many would be applicable
to the worship of the true God.
It is also interesting to note that nowhere do we find a command against
the belief there is no God, atheism. After all, David tells us:
The fool says in his heart, There is no
God. (Psalm 53:1).
In other words, only the insane deny the existence of God.
We must recognize that even today, the practice of polytheism still exists
around the world. This is true even in this society (the U.S.). We find this
especially in the practices of some of the eastern religions, cults - and
sadly some of Christendom that teach some day we will all become gods. Some
of the cults are even more subtle, in that they teach you can follow their
tenets without violating the teachings of Christianity. They teach a Christ
who doesnt even exist, and so one can end up following more than one
god without necessarily realizing it. Some also believe certain elements
of Christendom are really teaching polytheism, without intent, in the way
they approach saint worship. So you can see the problem may be more common
than we realize.
Stuart Brisco points out that there is another way to worship other gods.
He described how the Canaanites confused the acts of nature with gods, and
so developed a host of gods. His concern is that we do the same thing, but
from a slightly different angle.
What does this have to do with us? A lot. We also live in a very
sophisticated pagan culture. Like the Israelites, we are called to be the
people of God in the midst of a culture that does not honor him. Living in
our sophisticated, rational, skilled, technological society, we too forget
the Lord. We find it so easy to develop a nominal attachment to him, pushing
him more and more into the background, as we follow the gods of society.
It doesnt take long, before he no longer holds the number-one spot.
But for us if we follow the teachings of Christ:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:35),
there is no danger that we will worship other gods in addition to
This works the same way with a husband or wife. If they love their spouse
as Christ said regarding the Father, there is no way they could possibly
become unfaithful. And here it is unfaithfulness towards Himself that the
Lord is warning against. There is a basic underlying principle here: a person
can only whole heartily love one person or thing. In the proper scheme of
things, the Lord must come before all else.
To be continued.
Walton, John H. and Victor H. Matthews, The IVP Bible Background
Commentary, Genesis - Deuteronomy, InterVarsity Press,
Downers Grove , IL , 1997, p. 107.
Brisco, Stuart, p. 6-7.
Series to be continued.
Comments or Questions?
Podcasts of Studies in Matthew can be found at