No Other Gods
"I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Deuteronomy 5:6-10).
From the very start of the first two commandments, we realize that these commands were directed to one particular people - the Israelites - whom God had freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. These laws were new to the people. They did not exist prior to God speaking them at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5:2-3).
The law of Christ has a similar foundational statement. It is a statement borrowed from the law of Moses, though from a different section. It does not come from the Ten Commandments. "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27). This statement by Jesus is based on Deuteronomy 6:5. Only an absolute, complete love of God can serve as the foundation for any law. A love and, yes, a fear of God begins the process of learning (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; I John 5:1-3). It applies to every person (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
What Is a God?
Since God told the Israelites, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Deuteronomy 5:7), it is important to understand what is meant by a god. A god is any person or thing that is conceived to have superior power and is worthy of worship, honor, praise, and exaltation. Most of the passages we will be examining refer to idols as gods.
Idol worship is not something only found in the ancient histories of men. Have you ever heard of a person idolize a sports hero or some other famous person? We give these people our praise and honor because of their abilities. People experience shortness of breath in the presence of someone they have long admired for their superior skills. Sometimes it is material things that capture the attention of men. There are people who make wealth into their god -- everything else is sacrificed so as to place money as their top priority.
Any person or thing that you believe has the power to direct and control your life can become a god to you. Some believe that the alignment of stars and planets control their destiny. Others call on psychics to help them make decisions. Even superstitions control the lives of many, whether it is avoiding stepping on a crack or wearing a lucky hat for a game. And surely you have seen people give pleads to luck as they depart on some risky venture.
Oh yes, the gods are still with us. We just dress them up in different clothes and call them by new names, but they are still our gods.
Why There Can Be No Other Gods, but God
Mankind tends to make gods of the physical things around him. Naturally, we focus on the things with which we have experience. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:22-23). Paul makes a solid case for the foolishness of men. Just how reasonable is it to believe that anything in this world is greater than the universe? Man often idolizes gods in the image of animals. Even today the Hindu religion reveres cows as the highest form of life on Earth. Yet what animal has ever created something greater than himself? Even the idols in the form of men are ridiculous. Man is able to create things, but he has never been able to create things on the scale of complexity in which this world operates. We have learned much about the world, but there are so many basic facts we don't understand, let alone control, such as gravity or life itself. How then can a god be like an animal or man?
Many idols are fashioned by the hands of men, so how intelligent is it to claim that these idols are superior to the men who formed them? (Isaiah 44:9-20). Now some try to avoid this obvious conclusion. They will tell you that the image is not the god, but only a representation of their god. The image merely helps the worshiper focus his mind on whom he is giving homage. By the way, this is the same argument used by the Catholic church to justify the images before which its members kneel. Yet consider the nature of God and His works. Can any of us claim to comprehend the full extent of God? (Isaiah 40:12-17). Then how can anything made by men represent such a God? (Isaiah 40:18-20). You must know your subject before you can represent him. God is simply too mighty in power. He exists beyond even time. He cannot be represented (Isaiah 40:21-26).
The divine nature is unlike anything in the physical world. "We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising" (Acts 17:29). Idols are mute, but God speaks to man (I Corinthians 12:2). God lives, but idols are not living things (Revelation 9:20). Over and over, God has proven that He is unlike any idol. "For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries. He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants. He defeated many nations and slew mighty kings - Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan - and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to Israel His people. Your name, O LORD, endures forever, Your fame, O LORD, throughout all generations. For the LORD will judge His people, and He will have compassion on His servants. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them." (Psalm 135:5-18).
Nothing within the creation has been able to control the destiny of man, whether we talk of material things or the philosophy that men have devised. "Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast. They stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity. Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. To whom would you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me, that we would be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; they bow down, indeed they worship it. They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; they set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; it cannot deliver him from his distress. Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." (Isaiah 46:1-11) Science has eased the burden of men's lives, but it hasn't changed the nature of man. Psychology doesn't solve problems. It cannot absolve a man of his guilt. Nothing created by man can save him. "But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah" (Jeremiah 2:28). Every god of man fails the most basic test - the protection and care of its followers. This is simply because no other god exists. All the gods are merely the imagination of wayward men (I Corinthians 8:4-6).
There is Only One God
God has proven His existence by His might. He created the world. He destroyed His own handiwork with a great flood. Over and over He has demonstrated His power to control events both in the present time and in the future. It is this God who has sent His Son into the world to rescue us from our own predicament (I John 4:9-19).
Our God is not so far above us that we do not enter into His thoughts. He cares for us; He cares for you. Will you come and declare your belief in the only true God and submit your life to His will? You can begin a new life this very day.