In the typical Christian tradition, the first ‘commandment’ is, “you shall have no other God’s before me.” However, that is the wrong place to start. The first statement that starts off the “10 Statements” is,
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
The list must start with an explanation of who is giving the list. Otherwise, there is no foundation for authority. It could be anyone giving a list of rules if there is no authorship attributed to the list. Perhaps this is a good part of the reason why the ‘battle’ for displaying the “10 Commandments” was so easily lost here in the USA. Also, perhaps leaving out the authorship also points to an endemic problem in Christianity where the word of God receives less and less attention.
But the list does start with claiming who the author is. He starts by naming Himself. In most English translations, one wouldn’t even notice this as the word “LORD” is used in place of his name (this is true in both Christian and some popular Jewish translations). But that is not His name. That is a deliberate obfuscation of His name. His name is clearly spelled out in the original Hebrew and is the four Hebrew letters, “yud hey vav hey”. (See this post about His name).
In this beginning statement, we see both His name, and what He has done. Both are important and foundational to our faith in Him and our obedience to Him. Knowing His name is great, but what dos that mean to us? Thus He clarifies even more and says that He is the author of salvation. Author of salvation? What?
God states that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Most think only that this is talking of what He did for the Israelites. But it is so much more. Elsewhere in scripture God tells the Israelites to think of these words as if they were the ones personally brought out. That injunction stands for us today.
Think of it this way: ‘house of slavery’ as in slavery to sin; ‘land of Egypt’ as in the world’s ways. In other words, God is the one that brings us into His kingdom, freeing us from the slavery to sin and freeing us from the bondage to the ways of the world.
If this foundation is not present, the foundation of who God is – YHVH – and what He did for us – freed us from bondage to the ways of this world, and from slavery to sin. We are now free to serve Him! Without knowing this, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice would not have the meaning it has. Without the foundation of who God is and what He has done, the 10 statements become the 10 commandments, and they become just part of the “dead” law God gave, instead of being the living, active words they are.