The purpose for the creation of mankind was to love God and be loved by Him. As Jesus stated, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Man’s love for God is demonstrated by reverence of and obedience to God and His commandments. These four commandments, found in Exodus 20, are listed first, as they require first priority in the heart of mankind.
The first of these is in verse 3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” For the Israelites, this was a vital commandment to their preservation as a nation of God. God was going to lead them into the long-awaited Promised Land. But the people of this land called Canaan were overrun with pagan culture and religion. Their worship was centered on an array of gods, including Molech, Chemosh, Baal, and Dagon.
All of these gods were viewed as powerful and effective means for the prosperity of agriculture, economics, health and fertility, financial wealth, and more. But the fact remained that none of them were the true God, the Creator God, the Almighty God. They were simply a counterfeit, a spiritual trap set up by Satan to deceive the nations.
The nation of Israel was easily susceptible to this same deception if they neglected to keep the first commandment. Unfortunately, the culture from which they had escaped was built upon a pantheon of gods that was just as colorful as the gods of Canaan. The children of Israel, during their 400-year captivity in Egypt, had most certainly been exposed to the dozens of Egyptian gods that ruled the spiritual underworld. Even pharaoh himself was considered to be a god, and was treated as such. Just like the gods of Canaan, none of the gods of Egypt represented Almighty God.
The land the Israelites came from and the land they were going to were filled with gods that they were to utterly reject. Instead, the children of God were to cling to the one true God, placing Him far above all other false gods.
For the Christian today, the same truth is still relevant. While there may not be the worship of Molech or Baal, there certainly is the worship of money and possessions, people, and even self. These things are not to be placed in a higher position over God. He desires to be first in the lives of those who love Him and keep His commandments.