"You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3
Unbelievers refer to the Ten Commandments as rigid and to God as a stern taskmaster in the giving of the law when He said, "Thou shall not" do this or that. If God has in His heart only rigid requirements and prohibitive desires for mankind, we would have to say He is a God of Law. Where are mercy and grace? Ah, but if we want to see what God is like, we only have to look at Jesus Christ on Calvary's Cross, full of grace and truth manifesting unconditional love. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
The Law was given as God's standard of what man ought to be, and reveals the sinfulness of man. It is like a mirror that reflects man's moral derangement. It is like a plumb line beside a bowed wall; it reveals crooked lines. It is like a bright light; it reveals hindrances in the way. But it does not create evil, nor is it capable of correcting it; it simply reveals what's there. That which can only curse, can never justify. That which can only kill, can never be a rule to live by. The Law is neither the "ground of life" for the sinner or the "rule of life" for the believer. The gospel of grace gives life as the "only proper ground" of forgiveness.
What do you think God means when He says, "Thou shall have no other gods before me"? Do you immediately think of idols or icons that people revere or worship? It goes deeper than that. It means, giving honor, reverence, or glory to any creature or creation, which is due to God only. Now, let's be very practical. What are some of the gods that confront us? How about pride, covetousness, sensuality, ego, pleasure, or whatever is esteemed or loved, feared or served, delighted in or depended on, more than God? That becomes our god and is idolatry.
God said, "My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water." What is it in creation that is not a product of His power and a gift of His grace? That which satisfies the heart and soul of man finds its source from His grace and love. What does He require of us? He requires us to "regard Him" as the source of life and true joy, "acknowledge Him" in all we have and do, and "delight in Him" as our Friend, our Father, and our Everlasting Portion. But what do we prefer? We prefer pleasure, fame, fortune, power, and the world's acclaim. Sin is making these things the "chief pursuits" of our lives, letting them draw us away from God, letting them claim the affection that is due to God alone. God refers to such attitudes and conduct as "forsaking the fountain of living waters." God said, "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness" (Isaiah 55:2). He is the "fountainhead" from which all the refreshing, living waters find their source. So come, "that out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life!" Make Christ pre-eminent in the whole of your life. He is Lord, to be revered above all.
© 2007 by Ed Powell. Used by permission