Love God and Put God First!
In Exodus 20:3-17, we find the Ten Commandments as written with the finger of God to His people. These directives are not declarations of rules or restrictions, but they’re ten ways to express our love to God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV), “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” When you consider this directive of love, it’s merely an expansion of the Ten Commandments as the first four commandments deal with our love for God, and the final six commandments deal with our love for one other.
Jesus further admonished us in John 14:15 (KJV), “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This command also affirms the fact that our obedience to God should be rooted in our love to Him. Put another way, if we love God, we ought to love God in the way He wants to be loved. He wants us to love Him through obedience to His commandments. Hence, the commandments are embedded in love, not merely a law, and I like to refer to them as “Love Letters from God” to us.
In Love Letter number one, God tells us, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 (KJV). God is very serious about this directive, which is why He made it His first commandment, because when we put other things or people first in our lives, we reduce God to anything but first place. God, however, is not to be relegated below anything or anyone. Moreover, the subsequent nine commandments are inconsequential unless you accept and follow commandment one. We are to “seek God first and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto (us).” Matthew 6:33 (KJV).There can be nothing in our lives that comes before God, because if it does, we have breached commandment one, and we can’t move to the other commandments. Put God first!
Additionally, God is not saying in this love letter that you can have other gods, and you can worship all the other gods you want. “I just want to be your favorite.” When a husband recites his vows to marry his wife, he’s not saying, “I want to be your favorite husband,” he’s saying, “I want to be your only husband.” Accordingly, God is saying, “I’m to be your only God, not your favorite God.”
The words “favorite” and “only” are not synonymous. “Favorite” means the one that is “preferred above all others of the same kind,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. “Only,” however, means no one else, nothing more, solely, exclusively. When God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” God is saying there is only one God, not a favorite god, not a god instead of, in addition to, or in opposition to the one and only true God.
By Carlton P. Byrd, D.Min.