No Other Gods Before Me
No Other Gods Before Me
Categories: RECENT RESEARCH
Robert Shaw, D.Min.
Excerpted with permission from Created for Significance: Discovering Who Defines Us and How We Obtain our Significance.
Have you ever wondered why God hates idolatry so much? The very first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). He is making it clear that He is the One and only Creator and the One and only God. We are to worship Him and Him alone. This is not because God has an ego complex. It is because He loves us. “The first and most important thing you could ever know about a relationship with God is that He set His affection upon you before you ever contributed anything to Him” (Wright 2005, 97). The baptism of Jesus depicts this truth. Before Jesus began His ministry; before Jesus ever healed someone; before Jesus preached or performed any miracles, God the Father said this: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Jesus’ significance to the Father was in who he was, not what he did. We all need to hear the same declaration from our Father.
Essentially, man’s attempts at self-sufficiency lead to the creation of idols. “If we arrived on planet earth self-sufficient, we would be robbed of the most developmental process of life – learning to trust that someone else is there for us” (Wright 2005, 97). God wants us to rely upon Him. He loves us so much that He desires to bless us. Idolatry takes us away from the Lover of our souls. “The word idolatry can refer to the worship of other gods besides the true God, or the reverence of images” (Beale 2008, 17). Beale expands the definition of idols as, “whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security” (Beale 2008, 17). Our longings need to lead us to God and our identity should be a result of our attachment to Him.
The Bible teaches that God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9; Josh. 24:19). Jealousy is not the same as envy. Envy is a sin. Jealousy says, “I have something that I love and that is mine which may be threatened, hurt, or taken away, and I do not want to see that happen.” Envy says, “You have something that I want, and I desire to obtain it anyway I can.” The difference is ownership. We belong to God. God hates the idea that sin and Satan can take us, and have taken us, away from relationship with Him. So, the Father sent His Son Jesus to redeem, or to make it possible to bring us back, in order to re-establish relationship with Him. God’s jealousy is based on love, and He did not want to lose us to something other than His Name and His image! We belong to Him. Our relationship was broken due to sin and Satan, and He bought us back. God deemed us significant enough to do a significant thing through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus!
I believe there is another reason why God hates idolatry. It is because He loves us too much to have us be identified with anyone or anything other than Himself! Human beings long to find identity and meaning. We often seek something or someone to provide identity and peace. However, as it relates to idols or to anything besides God, Scriptures say, “Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them” (Psalms 115:8, italics mine). People take on the characteristics of whatever they emulate. “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (Beale 2008, 16). Do you want worldly significance? Then choose worldly idols, which lead to ruin. Do you want true significance? Then choose Jesus Christ, forgiveness, and restoration. God’s design is that human beings were created in His image, but unfortunately, people often instead become more like the images they create and pursue.
God created human beings to have, enjoy, and even produce life. God also created us to desire Him and worship Him. God doesn’t just give life, He is Life! Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life (John14:6); that He was the Bread of Life (John 6:48); and that He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). Pursuing God brings man to the ultimate source of life, identity, and purpose. In fact, “our yearning for God is the most important aspect of our humanity, our most precious treasure; it gives our existence meaning and direction” (May 1988, 92). What most people do not realize is that what we yearn for cannot truly be met by the trappings and the lies of the world. Our yearnings and longings can only be met ultimately through relationship with God. Life-less idols of any kind do nothing to truly define who we are! Boyd states:
The real issue is not what kind of idols people embrace but whether they are trying to fill the void in their souls with an idol at all. So long as people strive to get life from an idol of any sort, they block themselves off from their true source of life (Boyd 2007,89).
I encourage you to change the names and images by which you define yourself, for they are man-made and therefore, less than ideal to say the least. Our emotional pain and hurts have a powerful way of defining who we are. Bring them to Jesus, and speak them out, seek the Word and the presence of the Lord for only He has your true name and significance.
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Dr. Robert B. Shaw, Jr. is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in both Virginia and North Carolina. He works at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) in Forest, VA in professional development and as membership divisions director. Dr. Shaw is an adjunct professor at Liberty University and a Clinical Trainer for graduate counseling intensives. He is also an ordained minister, serving as an elder and executive pastor in churches for over 25 years. He has also been a middle school and high school teacher and athletic coach in both the public and private school environments. Dr. Shaw spent several years counseling military personnel and their families near FT. Bragg, NC and specializes in abuse and trauma related issues, addictions, depression, anxiety disorders, life adjustment issues, loss and grief, counseling church leaders and pastors, and adolescents and adults. Dr. Shaw has a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Wagner College, New York where he attended on an athletic scholarship in track & field; a Master of Divinity Degree from Christian International Theological School, Florida; a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University, Virginia; and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Formational Counseling, from Ashland Theological Seminary, Ohio. Dr. Shaw is a National Board Certified Counselor (NBCC), and a Board Certified Professional and Pastoral Counselor (BCPPC). Dr. Shaw and his wife, Lorinda, a registered nurse, have been married since 1978, and have five children together and six grandchildren. He enjoys running, the beach, sports, music, traveling to historical sites, and spending time with family.