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 these are 10 ways to express our love to God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37, “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. 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, “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. To put it 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 in law. And I like to refer to them as “Love Letters from God”—to us.
I’m to be your only God, not your favorite God.
In Love Letter #1, God tells us in Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” God is very serious about this directive, which is why He made it His first command. Because when we put other things or people first in our lives, we reduce God to anything—but not first place. God, however, is not to be relegated below anything or anyone. Moreover, the subsequent nine commands 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],” according to Matthew 6:33. Nothing comes before God, because if it does, we have breached commandment one. We can’t move to the other commandments.
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”—no. When a groom recites his vows to marry his bride, 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. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, favorite means the one that is “preferred above all others of the same kind.” Only means no one else, nothing more, solely and 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. Not a god in addition to. Not a god in opposition to the one and only true God.
In our highly secular, postmodern world, it is very convenient to put things before God. It is very easy to become so obsessed with our favorite people, places and possessions that they begin to rival our God. We must put God first! God is to be above everything and everyone! There is no one or nothing like Him! He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords! “He is God; there is none else beside Him,” says Deuteronomy 4:35. And remember Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
Let’s love God the way He wants to be loved and put Him first! Remember His Love Letter #1, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me!”
CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version