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, verses 2 and 3.
So we end here at the beginning. We end with first principles: God is God. We are not to worship anyone or anything else. In reality, this first commandment goes with every other one. There is no sin that doesn’t start without first making something else more important than God.
Let’s not gloss over that slavery thing, though. You and I: we are still slaves. Paul said we believers are slaves to righteousness; that’s true. Yet it’s also true we are rhetorical slaves to many other things. I’m a slave to my job; you’re a slave to your children; we slave out in the yard every weekend; my wife slaves in the kitchen. Blah, blah blah. As we talk down a pretty powerful word, let’s not lose sight of what it really means.
Slavery is having no freedom. It is being under the complete control of another. It means someone can beat you, abuse you, work you, and kill you without your being able to do anything to stop it. For over 200 years, in colonial America then into Constitutional America, slavery was legal and normal. It took a civil war and drastic societal change to rid the nation of slavery; even then, hatred found ways to perpetuate its effects for another hundred years.
Don’t kid yourself: slavery still exists in this world. There are still whole parts of Africa in which men enslave each other. The sex trade is run on slavery in every nation in on the planet. Every government, even benevolent ones, has the tendency to move from liberty to tyranny to enslaving its people; it is only we the people who prevent that. Slavery is alive and well in 2014.
The Israelites had been slaves for over 400 years, since the death of Joseph and the kind pharaoh he served. They were subjugated, beaten, tortured and worked until God delivered them into His freedom. Quickly they learned that slavery, however, needs no taskmaster. Slavery can exist when you’re enslaved to your sins, to your temptations. God understood this, so He gave them this first commandment to remind them that He is God. That He redeemed them. That He is more powerful. In Him there is only love, justice and true liberty. In God, there is no cruelty of slavery. In God, there is only the true freedom of divine redemption. We were created for that loving freedom.
That’s where we end this series. God started it by reminding us of His true, free redemption, then gave us reminders of how to cling to that honest liberty. How much freer could we be if we simply took His commandments at His Word, then lived our lives accordingly.
Lord, You are my only God. You are the only source of liberty, truth, and love.
Read Exodus chapter 20: the full Ten Commandments.