And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” [Exodus 20:1-3 ESV]
God, after bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and redeeming them from slavery, speaks openly to them. In His first statement “you” in “you will have no other” is not directed to the corporate group but to each individual. Each person, made in the image of God, redeemed by God, is personally given each command by God. Yet, these are not commands but statements of fact. In Hebrew they are called the ten “words” not commandments. We relegate them to commands because it is easier to understand how to apply a statement of expectation than a statement of fact. With expectations, especially those clearly expressed and understood, we know when we violate them. These are not just expectations. These are statements of fact.
Nor are these statements suggestions. He does not ask us to keep these statements. He does state what will happen if we do not keep them. We will suffer His just wrath. Even the tiniest (in our view) violation against the image supernaturally built into each reveals a corruption God will not tolerate. He does not create anything less than perfect, nor will He allow in His presence any who are less than perfect. His measure is Himself, the perfect image of Himself built into each imperfect person. These are absolute statements because He is absolute.
His first statement is telling us His authority to make these statements and judge according to them. He is God. There are no other gods. The Trinity is One God, not three. He has no competition and no equal adversary. There are none compelling Him to act. There is no standard outside of Himself by which He is measured. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. If there is anything created, He created it. He is not created. He is the Creator. He, and He alone, sustains all of creation and all of eternity. He, and He alone, governs all of creation and all found in creation, even in eternity. He, and He alone, gives purpose to creation, and all in creation throughout eternity. He, and he alone, owns all of creation, whether existing in the created universe, or existing in eternal heaven or eternal hell.
He is “I am who I am” [Exodus 3:14 ESV], or “I am what I am.” God is.
Rebellious man asks “who is this god?” and states “your god is not my god” or “I have no god.” Pharaoh did not recognize God, spoken about by Moses and Aaron, even after seeing and feeling the wrath of God against him and against Egypt. The king of Assyria ridiculed the God of Israel to Hezekiah after God used him to exile the northern kingdom. God miraculously saved Jerusalem. (See 1 Kings 17-19.) Pilate, questioning Jesus, found He had done nothing deserving death, rejected truth and sentenced Him to death. Christ’s death sentence was a gift of life for those who belong to Christ. Rebellion cannot change truth. Nor can attitude, motivation, expectation, legislation, force or power.
Righteousness comes to those who are God’s through the truth of God and His Person. For there is nothing righteous in anyone, even those who are His. We have no righteousness in and of ourselves. If we are righteous it is His righteousness spread over our sin. Those who rebel against God will not receive the covering of righteousness made from the blood of Christ. Those who are not His will seek to silence, even through destruction, those who are His. The presence of anyone covered with the blood of Christ, is evidence of the eternal truth of God.
This first statement, and all statements made by God, are not simply for obedience but for revelation. God reveals Himself to us and then reveals us to ourselves. We obey, not because He is God, which is still a valid reason to obey, but because, through the direction and motivation of His Holy Spirit, we can do nothing but obey. Our lives are lived within His will. Conversely, those who rebel against Him can do nothing but rebel because they are not His. God created us to love Him. Those who are of the world do not, cannot, will not, love Him. Those who do love Him will suffer persecution because of their love for Him.
Persecution, even if brief or long, intense and deadly, cannot compare to the life of eternity given by the Life Giver of Eternity.