Who is First?

If you do not believe that human life is special, then explain why so many things compete for our attention.  Nothing competes for the affection of slugs.  Slugs are slugs.  Nothing desires to be the sovereign of the slug soul, but so many things desire to be sovereign over us.  The gods manifest themselves with icons and acts.  They are money and sex without commitment or consequence.  They are addiction and gluttony.  They are the exaltation of self, pride and hubris.  They rape and pillage and leave the soul unsatisfied, lonely and dark.  Alla and wica, buddha or a star, nature or nothing, all of them exist, whether in mind or matter, it makes no difference.  We think of them, they compete for us, therefore they are.  They are gods.
It is interesting to note that the first commandment does not declare there are no other gods, but rather that none of them should be before the God who has delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 20:2).[i]  Because He is savior He has the right to be sovereign.  You decide who wins.  How ironic.  Commandment one is not only an invitation to exclusivity, but conversion.  When He is first, life is different.  This God uses a word to designate this difference.  It means something is exclusively His.  It is the word “holy.”  If we surrender sovereignty to Him, the following nine commandments are not just demands, but demonstrations of holiness.
God is not only saying that He has an exclusive right to us, but that we have an exhaustive right to Him.  He LORDS over all of us.  We enjoy all of Him.  After all, the commandment is about which gods “You shall have.” 
Which one will you have?  Consult the preface (v. 2).  There is only one saving God.  The rest are taxing, exhausting, consuming, defeating, unrelenting, and unsatisfying.  There is only one God who has introduced Himself by giving life rather than taking it, saving it rather than destroying it.  It is difficult to please all the other gods.  This one is already pleased, in Himself.  He doesn’t need you so that he may finally find pleasure.  He is already a happy God.[ii]  The first commandment is primary not because He needs more of us, but because we need more of Him.  We need a satisfied God to be sovereign of our unsatisfied souls. 
If you are not holy and satisfied, He is not first.  Who is first?

[i] Peter Enns, The Application Commentary, Exodus (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2000), 414.
[ii] See John Piper’s The Pleasures of God.


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