Moses travels up Mount Sinai. God then gives him the law to give to the Israelites, starting with the Ten Commandments.
Then God gave the people all these instructions:
“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
“You must not have any other god but me.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”
Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God’s new nation? At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of his laws. The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live.
The Israelites had just come from Egypt, a land of many idols and many gods. Because each god represented a different aspect of life, it was common to worship many gods in order to get the maximum number of blessings. When God told his people to worship and believe in him, that wasn’t so hard for them—he was just one more god to add to the list. When he said, “You must not have any other god but me,” however, that was difficult for the people to accept. But if they didn’t learn that the God who led them out of Egypt was the only true God, they could not be his people—no matter how faithfully they kept the other nine commandments. Thus, God made this his first commandment and emphasized it more than the others.
Today, people have many kinds of gods. Money, fame, work, relationships, and pleasure can all become gods if we devote too much time to them. No one sets out to worship these things. But when we depend on them for personal identity, meaning, and security, they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies. Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.
Talk to God about keeping him at the center of your life. Look at the amount of time, energy, money, and thinking that goes into the different priorities in your life. Do any of them seem to be taking up too much of these resources?