Saturday, June 21, 2014

No Other Gods -- Exodus 20:3


You shall have no other gods before Me.”
 
Much has already been written over the centuries about the first commandment.  I would like to offer some new thoughts and in doing so, I do not want to suggest for a moment that the commandments have different weights and values.  They do not because a) they come as commandments and b) they come from the Absolute Commander, God Himself.
Humor me for a moment and allow me to draw an analogy between these commandments and the duties of a job description.  In the world of Human Resources that I come from, we are often asked to write Job Descriptions for the various positions that our clients have in their organizations.  I also teach the fundamentals of Job Analysis, Documentation and Evaluation to HR personnel across Canada.  I only tell you this to relate that when writing Job Descriptions, we follow a recommended approach that assists any job evaluation committee rating jobs for pay purposes to get a better handle on the meaning and importance of the various duties and responsibilities.  For example, usually we only cover those duties that take up at least five percent of an incumbent’s work time unless they are very critical.  [An example that comes to mind is that if we were writing the job description of the American President, we would certainly include in there his/her responsibility for delivering the annual “State of the Nation” address to Congress, even though it takes up less than 5% of his annual hours.]
The rules we follow for identifying duties is that they be written in one of three ways – in chronological order if that makes sense, in order of what takes the most amount of time, or (and this is our preferred approach) in the order of importance.  That is, if we kept eliminating duties from the bottom up and we eventually ended up with one duty – which one would that be?  Now God may not have had our standard ideas of how to write a job description in mind when He gave us the Ten Commandments, but as I consider Him to be the Ultimate and Absolute Human Resources expert, He certainly did not give us the commandments in a arbitrary order.
This is indeed the first commandment.  And it is the first one, perhaps for the very reason I suggest.  If God eliminated all other commandments, then this one, if followed well, would be enough to satisfy Him in His desire to have a relationship with us.
But God knew everything there was to know about the men and women He Himself created.  He knew we would want to have other gods.  We would want idols to worship in addition to Him, just in case.  So He is very clear with His first commandment.  It is in a way, an ultimatum, “No other gods, period.”  A successful relationship with God and His full blessings do not come if this commandment is not satisfied.  We cannot insist on His goodness upon our daily lives if we court and woo other gods.
Please note that we are not discussing here whether or not God will save any person from an eternal separation from Him, after death, if he or she does not obey this or any other commandment.  God can, and Scripture teaches us, that He will provided we are His child.  That is not the issue.  We are talking here about enjoying the full blessing of God in this life.  In fact these commandments were given for that purpose and primarily that purpose.
So what does “no other gods” mean in the 21st century.  I do not claim to know.  But I can tell you some things I think it means as I sense them in my own life.  It means that I do what I am prodded to do by the Holy Spirit.  Some examples for me lately range from going to corporate worship when I feel like not going; speaking to some one when I think I do not have time; saying I am sorry when I have erred or sinned against another person even when I feel they won’t accept it; and raising my hands in praise to Him while I worship Him in singing, even though it is against my tradition.
For me it also means that I do not put other things I desire above God – a vacation, fun, my favorite sports team, my chosen causes that I support as good as they may be, my possessions (including my electronics), my clients, my friends, my church, and even my family.  If I have missed anything, please let me know.
These days, for Christian actors it means their careers if the roles are inappropriate; for Christian politicians it means their support of a party’s position when it is against how God would have us vote; for young men and women it means their choice for dates, courtship, engagement, and marriage if they are outside of what God wants for them.  For many, it means choosing God’s way over our desire to live common-law.  And the list goes on.
No other gods.  Period.  What does that mean for you?
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