No Other Gods – Identity and the First Commandment

Posted on January 19, 2014 | 25 comments

For some time I have been wanting to create a blog series, so for the next ten Mondays we will be looking at how the ten commandments relate to identity. It all starts with God’s words in Exodus 20:1 – 3…

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

Before God gave the commandments, he made a statement of significance, a statement that is thematic throughout the Bible, a statement regarding his relationship with the image bearers he created.

I am the Lord your God.

Your God.

While it is not used here, there is a complementary statement that the Lord uses in other places where he states his desire to be their God (for instance, see Exodus 6:7 and Leviticus 26:12), yet it is logically implied even here – I am the Lord your God, hence you will be my people.

From the beginning, God has been concerned about our identity – the sense of self that we, as his image bearers possess.

Our identity was always intended to be from the reference point of being his people.

Our sense of significance was supposed to come from being the people of a God who was daily present with us.

Our security was supposed to come from being the people of a faithful God.

Our feeling of wholeness and love was supposed to come from being the people of a God who does not need anything from us.

The Bible is a story of a God who wants people to see themselves as his, and of people who want to seek their wholeness and identity apart from him.

So the first commandment is that we have no other gods before the One True God.

He is exclusive. Preeminent. The Lord has no competitors.

And this commandment is really for our benefit. God is stating that we should not place our identity anywhere else. We should not seek wholeness or significance in any lesser thing.

Our hearts are constantly tempted by lesser things. (see A Lesson on Performance)

This is idolatry. Seeking wholeness in something other than God. Gaining our identity from a standard of the world. (see When Numbers Are Not Enough)

Everything in the life of a Christ follower should be run through the lens of being one of his people.

Our sexuality. Our relationships. Our parenting. Our finances. Our purchases. Our career. Our family. Our ___________.

And I’m not talking about the lens of behavior, I am referring to continually asking our self the question – am I seeking to have my worth defined by this facet of my life? (see Adopting Roles or Identities)

Fortunately, when we are in Christ – when we have adopted the covering of being his people – God has a plan and direction for our faith. (see Author and Perfecter)

Our redeeming God is also a Restorer. All things will, in due time, be restored to the way the Lord originally intended.

Revelation 21:3 paints this picture…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

It seems that, in the end, we will finally delight in being his people. In seeing the source of our identity as being his. Read that passage in its entirety. No more tears. No more crying. No more pain. Those things are part of the old order, the order of things dominated by the false self.

In the present, take time to delight in truth, and commit to having no other gods before the Lord, the One who defines who you are.

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  1. Great post! Thank you for this great reminder.

    God revealed to me that I was identifying myself too much with my career and not with Christ. When I left my job to stay home with our son, it was truly eye-opening how much it affected my identity. I had no idea how much I valued my career until God asked me to leave it behind.

    God is working on my heart so much through this and teaching me to find my identity, my value, approval, and acceptance in Christ alone.

    • Change always presents a crisis for identity. And a time to grow. Great words.

  2. And I’m not talking about the lens of behavior, I am referring to continually asking our self the question – am I seeking to have my worth defined by this facet of my life?

    This is the question that I need to ask myself when self doubt creeps in to my heart. I need to go back to His Truth that I am beloved just because I am his.

    • Me too, every time I think I have freed my identity from some worldly standard, another layer of the onion appears. The question you quote has been invaluable to me.

  3. This is such a great reminder as to why we are told to love our God above all else THEN love our neighbor as ourselves…Thank you for sharing this today!

    • Great point. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Love this! This is going to be a great series, looking forward to the rest!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you will be back.

  5. It’s always profitable to go back to basics, the very beginning of what God left His people, the meat of what He wants us to know. And He wants us to know He is God. This is not rocket science, but it does require us to look through that one lens and that one only. And, oddly enough, when we do, we don’t see ourselves at all. Neither do we see the world, or works, or other people. We see Him. And that’s exactly what He intended.

  6. Great post. I think that in my own life, I see myself looking for identity in things/people other than God in the uncertain times most. I’d like to be able to point to something “concrete” and say, “There! I can trust that!” Which, of course is exactly what I shouldn’t be doing…

    • That is our battle in this broken, fallen world. You’ve said it so well. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Just today I was reading in chapter 44 of Isaiah and was struck by the wording in verse 5. I love the idea of how the last one mentioned in that verse wrote, “The Lord’s” on his hand. What a beautiful statement and reminder. I want that to be my heart cry. Thanks for reminding me again of that beautiful thought from the Lord, Scott!

    • Yes, I want that to be the cry of my heart too. “The Lord’s”. I love that. Thanks!

  8. NO other God’s before me. The thought crossed my mind regarding the marriage vows. Forsaking all others, to thee only will I cling.
    Awesome study here, and I am looking forward to the next one. Thank you for sharing with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

    • In so many ways, marriage is a picture of God’s pursuit and commitment to us. Forsaking all others, we are joined to him. Thanks for the great comment.

  9. This really hit home to me today! As I am going into my seventies I am becoming more aware of losing my “good looks”. Not to sound vain but this is a process of loss that I am going through. Not just my looks but eyesight and dexterity and memory and the list goes on… I am so thankful for my wonderful Savior and I am looking forward to “going home” some day, but in the meantime adjusting to retirement and the loss of the Tigger person I have been is taking a toll or adjustment. My God is to be my first priority, and he is, but I know he understands my process too.
    I share here so you beautiful young people understand that the older ladies around you are human too!
    Thanks for your weekly lessons. God uses his word anywhere and every where!

    • Thank you for opening your heart here. Great message for everyone – male, female, young, or old – to hear, process, and prepare for. Thanks for being part of the blog!

  10. it is absolutely
    a constant challenge
    to see ourselves through the lens
    of Jesus Christ rather than
    through the lens of this world

    i love the way you tied our self image
    together with the first commandment

    thank you for sharing
    at Fridays Unfolded!


    • Thanks for commenting – and doing it poetically. Glad you are involved.

  11. I really enjoyed reading this. For this new year I finally decided to participate in the Daniel Fast my church does every year. I also add a few others things such as limiting my time on social medial etc. This fast has really shown me a lot of things. I think the biggest thing it showed me plays right into what your were talkin’ about. Sometimes I think we don’t even realize that it can be as simple as putting a tv show before God.

    • so many people talk about having ‘no time’. it is revealing to do a ‘time journal’ for a week and see how much gets frittered away.

  12. Thank you for sharing on this beautiful Sunday, and for linking up with us at the #WWDParty, have a wonderful week ahead.

  13. This is something I have been challenged about recently. God is teaching me more about putting Him first.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  14. Great post. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. We can’t understand who we are unless we first understand and acknowledge who He is.

  15. Thanks so much for this, and for linking up to our Weekend Wind-Down party last week!


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