“Do not have other gods besides Me” (Exodus 20:3).
The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Law that God establishes for the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt on the way to the Promise Land. In many Christian circles and teachings, these laws are Old Testament and were done away with when Jesus died for our sins. After all, they were to help the Israelites see and understand that it was impossible for them to live blamelessly under these laws (as well as the other laws) He gave them, revealing their need for a Savior.
Yet it would seem to me, that these Ten Commandments were not removed from our instructions from God. Instead, they were further emphasized and defined when Jesus discussed them in Matthew 5, for instance stating that adultery was not just the physical act, but the lustful desire and gaze.
Ultimately, it would appear, that these Ten Commandments lay a permanent foundation for allfollowers of Christ. That being said, what do these commandments mean to us? Let’s begin to discover this foundation:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them” (Ex 20:2-5).
God has already proven Himself to care about His people, their safety, and their provision by the time He establishes this set of laws. Thus, He reminds and reaffirms to them who He is and what He has already done for them. Every nation must have a basic foundation of law in order to form structure, as well as endure the test of time and consequences of sin. The same is true in a family and between spouses. Laws and expectations are established in the family unit in order to have unity, guide children, allow spouses to properly handle issues such as conflict and sin, as well as clearly established expectations pertaining to all members of the family unit. The same is true (or should be) of our lives as individuals before God.
This once again returns us to inspect the foundation we have built our lives and walls on, that comprise our lives. This foundation – these governing laws, are what we fall back on in hard times, they are like the borders God commanded that the waters of the seas not go past during creation. They define your beliefs and establish your patterns of behavior as you live out those beliefs.
These Ten Commandments provided a clear and concise expectation and pattern of behavior for the Israelites as they moved forward. What they failed (and we do as well) to grasp is that each commandment builds on the foundation of the previous. The other key that they failed to grasp was that the intention was not just a control or law for outward behavior, but the inward heart.
The first commandment is one everyone knows but we all fail to fulfill. To have no other gods beside the LORD God, and to not make any idols. Sometimes we lift ourselves up as equal to or as judge of God, thus worshipping our own intellect. Other times, we worship the creation and ignore God’s law to enjoy it – such as looking at a woman to lust after her.
Interestingly, all the other commandments and any teaching must begin with the foundation of having no other gods (or idols) before God. Remember: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It is to fully understand and fear God so as to hold fast to His commandments, maintain His rightful place as head of all in our lives and hearts, and with this concept firmly rooted, move forward to glorify Him.
When we choose to succumb to temptation, and watch something we know we shouldn’t, do something we know we shouldn’t, or in any other way walk outside God’s guidance for our lives or hearts, we in effect choose to place another god along side or above the LORD God. Thus, if Satan can tempt us, as Christian men, to succumb to the enticing temptations that he places in front of us to lure us away, he in effect convinces us to lift him up as an equal or even above God and His Word.
That being established, it is extremely important that we pour a firm and proper foundation to measure our lives by and build our lives and family on. Yes, we will all fail at times, but the main question is not whether we fail but if we learn from our failures, allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work in us to focus us inch by inch more on Him.
Joshua’s statement, “Choose this day….” is a bold one, that to be fulfilled must be established on a firm foundation – and a firm foundation does not happen by accident – it takes intense labor and sweat to dig in and build. But that work will last a lifetime and even firmly establish generations to come.
Are the Ten Commandments at the core of your foundation, tossed out of the way, or somewhere in between?
What is your foundation?
What gods or idols have you lifted up to be equal or above the LORD God?
Begin to work at placing the Ten Commandments and their implications on your heart as part of your firm foundation. Tear down any strongholds or idols that you have made worship places for in your heart, eyes, and mind. Firmly choose THIS day whom you will serve and worship.