Monday, May 14, 2012

Exodus 20:2-3 Only God is God

"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."

Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV)


In the previous post, I already covered Exodus 20:1-17 briefly, but here I want to start taking each commandment individually and seeing what we can discover about it.  Note that sometimes the explanation of the first commandment below also contains information which is really more about the second commandment [about not constructing idols], but I needed to mention it here in order for the explanation to make sense.

First of all, there is one issue we should discuss.  Some people number the commandments differently than others.  Some split the last commandment, which is about coveting, into two, making the coveting of a man's wife a separate commandment from coveting his possessions.  However, I believe they disregard the second commandment [the one about how we should not make images of God] by lumping it into the first and this then seems to allow them to construct [and pray to] statues of God or various saintly persons and still justify themselves by saying that since these images are 'secondary' to God that they don't violate the first command, to "...have no other gods before me".  This is an error, for the words "no other gods before me" do not mean "you can have as many gods as you like as long as the True God is in the first place in your heart."  It actually means more like "you shall not have any other 'gods' in my presence/in my sight/before my face/in opposition to me"  That is the real sense of the words.  Since it is impossible to imagine a situation where one could either 1) pray to another person besides God, or 2) construct an image of any person or thing and pray to it, without it being, as we might say, "in God's face" [both literally, for He sees all things, and figuratively,  as in 'deliberately provocative'] then the obvious conclusion is that He doesn't want us to have any other 'gods' beside Himself, the One True God.

This makes sense, because God is the one who created the world [and ourselves], and brought Israel out of Egypt, with all the miraculous wonders of crossing the Red Sea on dry ground while the hostile and unrepentant Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the same sea.  The plagues upon Egypt -- which both Egypt and Israel had witnessed -- also bore witness to God's power and work on Israel's behalf.  Since we do not know what God looks like, we can't construct an image of Him without it being something 'other' than Him.  So while I can certainly understand that it is easier to worship something which one can see or touch, it is not Him, and in the second commandment, we are expressly forbidden to do so.

Needless to say, it follows that God would not want us to pray to saints or any other type of holy person.  Some say that it is just that this saint is functioning as an intermediary, a helper, a go-between, for they do not feel worthy to just go directly to God themselves.  This sounds humble, but is wrong on several counts:
  • First, there is no class of persons who are 'more godly' than any other.  The Scriptures are clear that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and that "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  We can't get the kind of help we need from a fellow sinner.
  • No one besides Jesus can function as an intermediary between God and man.  It is true that because we have all sinned, we are separated from God and need an intermediary.  However, it has to be the One who God has chosen:  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men..." (I Timothy 2:5-6) Once we accept the salvation which Jesus Christ purchased for us by his blood, we are forgiven and then can go directly to God with our own requests.
  • Besides, for such 'saints' to hear our prayers or requests, they themselves would have to have the God-like qualities of  omnipresence [being present everywhere at once] in order to hear our requests and also of omnipotence [having all power] in order to do something about our requests.  No person [even holy people] have such qualities, so we either have to stop calling out to them as though they can help us, or else admit that we are worshiping them as a 'god'.
  • Some additional information:  All believers are called 'saints' in the Scriptures.  Here are some scriptures which use the term in 'saints' in this way:  I Samuel 2:9, Psalm 16:3; 30:4; 31:23; 34:9; 116:15; 149:1; Daniel 7:18; Romans 8:27; I Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:15; 1:18; 6:18; Philemon v.7; Revelation 5:8; and Revelation19:8.  Those are not all of the places where the term 'saints' is used this way, either, but you get the idea!
 So, to sum up the first commandment:  No other 'gods' besides the True God, no intermediaries between God and man besides the one whom God has appointed, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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