“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I Yehovah (the LORD) your God am a jealous God…” Exodus 20: 3-5 (ESV)
Without knowing who is speaking (see part 1) the above statement would be fairly useless. But we know who is speaking because He just told us. And it is followed by this:
“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6 (ESV)
Well, there is a quite a bit in these verses. This post will deal with the ‘have no other gods before me’ part. The rest of the verse, in my opinion, deals with a culture and how it raises its children. Back to ‘not having any other gods before me.’
If you have been in Christian circles for any length of time then you have most likely heard this verse quoted and then everyday activities listed that can become as ‘other gods’ in our lives. That is not how I am going to approach the subject, though there is validity to much of what is said in those discussions. Rather,
Tradition! Tradition. (pause) Tradition!!! Tradition. (think “Fiddler on the Roof” and the song “Tradition”. If you haven’t seen the film, you are missing an excellent film.)
There is nothing wrong with traditions as long as they are honoring to God, either directly or indirectly by not going against His word. God left us a huge amount of room to make our own traditions around His word. If you study God’s “Appointed Times” (the “Feasts” – see Leviticus 23)), you will see only a few things that are required. The rest we get to make up! And boy have we! (Unfortunately, much of what was ‘made up’ is ‘get rid of it all together – but that is for another post.)
When the Israelites were entering the promised land, God made it very clear that they were not to copy anything the peoples were doing. They weren’t even to look into their practices (see Deuteronomy 12:29-32). God repeatedly stated that He did not want the Israelites to copy anything the peoples of the land were doing, nor worship Him in that way.
“And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you… ” Leviticus 20:23 (ESV)
“Learn not the way of the nations…” Jeremiah 10:2 (ESV)
“… and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? – that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship Yehovah (the LORD) your God in that way…” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (ESV)
To put that in today’s language, the verse says,
Don’t bring any part of pagan practices into your worship or traditions, and then think that I’m okay with that simply because you put the phrase, “In Jesus’ name” on the practice; or think that I’m okay with it because I have been silent about it for generations. It’s not okay. Time and phrases do not change the Word of God!
We need to check our own traditions and practices and, whenever it stems from pagan practices, get rid of it! God gave us already a bunch of ‘holidays’ around which we can form all sorts of traditions, and when we do so, the nations will see that we are ‘set apart’ (holy).
Honoring God is also a form of worshiping Him. Obeying is a form of worshiping Him. Be like Yeshua (Jesus) and only follow those traditions that truly honor God the Father!
So, can you think of any traditions that are common in Christianity (or Judaism) that violate this command of God? I can think of quite a few…