Israel, once a people under servitude, gained freedom in a new land. Yet where there is freedom there is duty. Israel was not free to do whatever she wanted, she was free to do what was right. Israel was to be governed by laws. And God had already written their constitution, as it were. Of first importance, headlining the list, was a command to exclusively worship Yahweh.
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3).
It’s not that God is first in a pantheon of other gods; he alone is God (see Deut 4:35). In the Exodus, God already demonstrated that he was superior to the many false gods of Egypt—the ten plagues were direct attacks on Egyptian deities. In this new nation, it was imperative that the only true God be revered.
Moses would emphasize this to a later generation, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:4–5). Though these verses show us what was preeminent in the Old Covenant, they also carry over in the New. Jesus declared that they comprised “the most important” commandment (Mark 12:29). He brought this concept to bear in his final rebuttal to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve'” (Matt 4:10).
Whether we look to the past, the present, or the future, Scripture is clear that there is only one God. “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me” (Is 43:10). Yet idolatry has continually plagued the human race. Our hearts yearn to worship created things—that which came from God’s hands or our own. Calvin rightly called the human heart an “idol making factory.”
But it’s not enough to believe that there is only one God; the demons do that (James 2:19). The Thessalonian church serves as an example of those who have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). We need a changed heart that is devoted to him. Only as the Holy Spirit works through the gospel message can we both believe and practice these things (1 Thess 1:2–10).
There’s only one God, one worship. Find your freedom there.