Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

In many traditions, the first and second commandment are lumped together. It is as though the command to have no other gods is one in the same as the command against idol fashioning and worship of created images. But is it? Is there not a fundamental difference between method of worship and belief structure about God?

I think it is no accident that God delivered his first commandment, distinct from the second but undeniably related, at the beginning of his Law. Whereas the second commandment, and all that follow, are related to orthopraxy--the correct practice of following God--the first commandment is very plainly orthodoxy--the correct belief system that under girds all moral truth and orthopraxy itself.

God says in His first command: You shall have no other gods before me. His command is not of worship. It's not of action--either required or prohibited. It is one of theology. In this command we see that we cannot believe whatever we wish to believe about God.

It was not acceptable to believe God was one of many regional ba'als. Israel could not believe that God was one with nature and nature one with God (pantheism). The people identified by His covenant could not hold to a belief that God was in an epic battle of good vs. evil (such as a yin and yang).

No. In this commandment we learn that we are not free to simply believe what we want to believe about God in the false hope that there are no practical repercussion. As soon as Israel forgot their theology, sin resulted. At Peor. Throughout Judges. In Jeroboam's sin. All throughout scripture, the failure to recognize God as the one true God and the God that He declares Himself to be ultimately leads to sin.

So, who do you declare God to be? Do we have other gods before our God? Do we believe that we can have the god of money, of love, of luck, or of capitalism and not affect our practice of faith?

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