Thursday, June 13, 2013

No Other Gods

The opening lines of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-3) famously read:

Then God spoke all these words saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before Me."

It struck me the other day that in English, we have two different meanings of the word "before" - one chronological (Sally finished eating before Joe did), the other geographical (Sally stood before the committee).  And whichever definition of "before" we have in our heads when we read the above verses can greatly change the impact.

Here's what I mean...Is the commandment:
  1. You shall have no other gods that you hold as more important than me     OR
  2. You shall have no other gods in my presence - that is, no other gods at all     ?
Well, when we dive into the Biblical text's original Hebrew, we find that the word translated "before" in Exodus 20:3 is paniym, which has a variety of meanings including face and presence.  In other words, the meaning is geographical - no other gods at all.

So, what does this mean for us in American society, where we don't worship multiple idols to cover our bases?  We must remember that our idols can include money, fame, physical perfection, academic perfection, addictions, specific relationships, and many, many more things.  So it's not just that we are to view God as more important but keep them around ... If we want to obey the first commandment, we must go even farther - either omitting them from our lives completely, or beating them down in importance to us to the point that they lose their status as gods to us.

What does this look like in your life?

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