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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Larsen

Worship No Other Gods Before Me



Welcome to Week 3 of my writing project, The Year I Read the Bible.  In a nutshell, last year I read the Bible cover to cover and this year, I’m sharing my thoughts via blog and video.  I’m hoping that by doing so, it might inspire you to do the same thing!


In the Old Testament of the Bible, God delivered many rules and commandments to his people to teach them how to live righteously and form in them the behavior and mindset of his chosen people. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 19, Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to appear before God, where God called to him and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth.” (Exodus 19: 3-6)


What God shared with Moses were stone tablets containing the ten commandments. The very first commandment of the ten is: “You must not have any other god but me.” Exodus 20:2 – New Living Translation.


The fact that God listed this commandment first is significant.  Although he goes on to list the nine other vital commandments (you shall not murder, you shall not steal, etc) the first one on his list is to worship him and only him.


As I was reading the Bible, I looked at the concepts in two ways:

·        What was the historical significance of the message?

·        And what does it tell me today in my current life?


Let’s take a look at what was going on during this time relating to worshipping other gods.  Thanks to my Chronological Bible, I know that Moses received the Ten Commandments approximately 1300 to 1400 years prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. At that time, every community or grouping of people seemed to have invented their own myths about the gods they prayed to.  These came to be known as pagan gods.  Here’s a short sampling of the “other gods” that the recipients of God’s Ten Commandments would’ve been aware of.


Baal (pronounced with two syllables, Bah-ahl) was a god worshipped in many Middle Eastern communities, especially the Canaanites, who considered him a fertility deity. His title was known as Prince, Lord of Earth.  Canaanites believed that Baal fought with Mot, the god of death and sterility, in seven-year cycles.  If Baal won a battle with Mot, seven years of fertility would ensue.  If he lost the battle, the earth would experience seven years of drought and famine.


The Old Testament mentions Baal by name over a hundred times.  The God of Abraham was very aware of the draw of this particular pagan god to his chosen people and forbid them by name for worshipping him.


At this same time, the ancient Greeks worshipped twelve pagan gods. I’m sure we’re all aware to some extent of the major Olympian gods and goddesses (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and the like).  Our children even know them because Disney created the popular animated movie about them.


Around 300 BC (Before Christ), the Greek and Roman empires combined their pagan religions, transformed and reinvented them to be known as the Hellenistic religion. Old cults died and a new religious movement came into being. Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis entered the scene.  Hellenism survived until about 300 years after the death of Christ, and when Jesus was engaging in his earthly ministry in the area of Galilee, the Romans who ruled unjustly over the Jews were largely practicing Hellenism.


In a recent Bible study I attended covering the Book of Philippians, the instructor said that at the time Paul wrote his letter to the new Christian church there, a total of thirty-eight “religions” or gods were being recognized in the area.


Imagine that! From a historical perspective, we see why God placed that commandment at the very top of his list.  He needed his people to realize that none of those other gods were sanctioned by him, and he was the one and only.


Throughout the Old Testament, we see many instances where God’s anger is stoked because his people once again wandered away from him and began to worship one or more of these popular deities that were so prevalent around them.  Can’t you just picture early Jews talking to their neighbors about an issue they were having, and that pagan neighbor saying, “There’s a god for that! All you have to do is pray to him or do a prescribed ritual and your problem will be over.”


It reminds me of all the weight-loss products on the market.  Let’s face it, losing weight is not easy.  It takes a lot of hard work and discipline.  Eating right, drinking water, exercising.  You can’t just take a pill and be skinny.  But why do we always forget that when an ad comes over our Newsfeed proclaiming that a celebrity lost forty pounds in a month just from eating a gummy every day?  She didn’t change anything in her diet and she didn’t exercise!  Want the same product? Click here to buy!


When I look at it like that, I begin to understand the plight of ancient Jews when they succumbed to their temptations to solve some of life’s problems by worshipping a pagan god who was reported to be a specialist in one particular area. If their difficult lives could be made easier, isn’t it worth a try?


That’s why God put that particular commandment first on his list. I get it. But what does that commandment tell me in my life today?  Obviously, twenty-first century humankind doesn’t follow the ancient gods. But what if we looked at it like this: what are the things in your life as a modern-day Christian or Jew that takes you away from focusing on God? What things or practices in your life have, in effect, replaced God in your life, even if you still believe in him?


The list could be very long, but here’s a few I can think of off the top of my head:

·        Substance addiction (alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs)

·        Pornography

·        Workaholic tendencies

·        Adultery

·        Child abuse or neglect

·        Spending too much time on the internet

·        Choosing to spend time on self-centered pursuits rather than with God or the people you love who depend on you.


You get the idea. By spending our time on these unhealthy pursuits, they become the god that we worship in place of our true God. What would be on your list? Has it become an unhealthy past-time? Is it time to refocus and place your priorities back on God?

 

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for being our one and only God. Thank you for documenting your number one commandment to help us remember to place you first in our lives. Forgive us when we wander away from that priority but thank you for always welcoming us back. We pray for your help in structuring our lives properly and remembering our connection with you.  Amen.

 

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