“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, ESV).
We were made to worship, which is a theme that runs through the whole Bible. The essence of worship can be found in the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” This actually means no other gods before, after, or alongside God. There is only room for one true God, Maker of heaven and earth. Anything or anyone else claiming the title “god” is a fake.
When we give our highest attention or allegiance to anything or anyone other than God, we are worshiping what is false. The first commandment is first because our response to and respect for God are foundational to everything else. When God is truly the only one we worship, every other part of life takes its rightful place.
The word worship in the Old Testament literally means bow before. It’s the idea of actually pressing your forehead right to the ground. Both the posture and the term express extreme humility and recognition of the infinite superiority of the one who is worshiped. In the New Testament there are two Greek words relating to worship: one of them (proskuneo) means to kiss toward, or to kiss the hand, conveying the idea of adoration. The other word (latreuo) means to give or to pay homage. It also means to ascribe worth or value. This is how we as creatures should respond to our Creator.
Hearing this, people might ask, “What kind of God wants to be worshiped as the only God? Is He arrogant and self-absorbed? Or is He just insecure? Why would He need affirmation from us if He’s God?”
If you find yourself thinking along those lines, realize those are kindergarten thoughts about God. It’s time to grow up into Him. You’re confusing deity and humanity—God is not a human being, and He doesn’t function like one. We will not understand Him by projecting human characteristics and behavior onto Him.
It’s arrogant for one human being to want the adulation of others because most people are not qualitatively very different from one another. But God is not some exalted human being at the top of the humanity pyramid—He’s in an entirely different category, where He is the only member. He is ineffable glory and dwells in unapproachable light. He says He’s not like us at all—“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
The amazing thing is not that God invites our worship, but that He accepts from us what He does not need. The more we study His Word, the more we understand He desires our worship because being in His presence is where we rightly belong. Whether we realize it or not, we need to worship—and God wants it directed toward Him because He knows what is best for us.
Expressing gratitude and praise to the Lord should never be routine. As you prepare for your next opportunity to worship the One who gave His life for you, consider your level of anticipation. Prepare your heart to humbly acknowledge Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s what you were created to do.
Lord, please forgive me for those times when I let other people and priorities crowd into the space where only You belong. I’m ashamed by how easily and how often I let this happen. Thank You for Your patience in drawing my attention back to You. I don’t want to have any other gods before You. I don’t want to have any other gods period! Help me each day to make good on that desire by deliberately seeking You first and always. In Jesus’ name, amen.