You shall have no other gods
And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:1-3)
As our God made a covenant with the people of Israel and with Abraham, He brought them out of Egypt and led them to take after Him. He made them take after Him. And in order for them to meet His standards, He gave them His words. Then He promised that He would be with them if they obeyed all of His words.
What was the first commandment? You shall have no other gods before me. Some misunderstand these words as though it means there is no other god but God. But such confusion was actually brought on by Christians themselves who say that. Hence many people do not acknowledge the existence of other gods but only the existence of God and man. As a result, they turn the blame on God for every problem.
However, this world is full of gods. That is why God said those words. And the number of gods is not even small; one-third that was in heaven was cast down to be bound in this tiny universe. They who held the power of the kingdom of the air all came down to the earth since the crucifixion of Jesus to torment the saints and to hinder people so that they can’t believe in Jesus. Thus the earth is packed with those fallen angels, the gods of this world. If they could be measured in volume, or if they could be seen in our eyes, this place would be so packed like a jam-packed bus, and we won’t be able to move one bit.
Furthermore, when people die, they become demons and remain on earth. There are roughly 8 times more demons than the number of people on earth. That means there are countless gods. So how can anyone say that there are no gods? It certainly is not easy trying to live in the midst of a myriad of gods. In a sense, it’s amazing that people can live normal life. There isn’t anyone who lives a normal life properly. Humans are supposed to live up to 120 years, but a lot of people can’t live past the age of 80. Because we are living amongst such numerous gods, we can’t live our lives properly. Nobody can. Who lives until 120 years?
When we come to form a relationship with God out of those countless gods, God wants us to acknowledge that He is the only God, distinguished from all other gods, and to worship Him. There are many women and men living in this world, but when people get married, the woman is told that she must be devoted to her husband and none other, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any men in the world. It means she must not have another man. It also means that there are many men and that there is every potential for her to fall for those men. Thus she is warned ahead of time. “You must not have another man but me”. That is what marriage is about. If people can’t accept that, they can’t get married. That’s why some people don’t get married. They don’t want to be stuck with one woman or one man.
There are many women in the world, but a man chooses only one of them and promises to be with her only. But does that mean that all other women are unattractive? No. There are so many attractive people. If you carefully observe each person, everyone has his or her own charm. It’s only because we don’t know everyone and don’t have an interest in them. But if we consider each person and get to know them, we can find that every human being is attractive in their own way. That is why people that spend a lot of time with each other at work end up having an affair because they always see each other. There is no other reason. It’s because they spend so much time together. Even if a person seems so unattractive, once you start spending time with them, you start to notice their charm.
It’s not that other people are bad; instead, they may be nice to you and have many good traits. Nevertheless, once you are married, you must not go after them. In the same way, there are many gods apart from God, but we can’t say that they will all bring you harm. We must not have a closed mindset. I am speaking from a post-modern standpoint. They could bring some benefit to you. That is what is said in a modernist society. Only he is right, and he is beautiful.
What post-modernism says is that everything has a meaning. Everything is worth something and has meaning. That is why unbelievers in this world argue saying, “Is God the only god? Is God the only one who is good? Other gods can be good and help me”. That’s their approach. It’s becoming a diverse society. So they turn their eyes elsewhere now. It is just like how a woman whose eyes were set only on her husband turns her eyes to other men. Similarly, people are asserting that there are many great things about other gods too.
Furthermore, they are now thinking not only from God’s point of view but also from the viewpoint of the other gods. In doing so, they come up with a different perspective of God. In the past, everyone regarded the Bible as a good book, but some people these days deem the Bible as an x-rated book. Even unbelievers used to recommend the Bible as a recommended reading for young adults but now, some people even say that the Bible is damaging to humanity and young adults must not read it.
This is because, when they read about the works the God Jehovah did in the Old Testament, it appears as though He is claiming to be the only God who is right and despises all other gods. Not only that, this influences the people so that even they believe that only they are the special nation and all other nations are looked upon like dogs. For example, from God’s point of view, it is exciting that Joshua entered Canaan’s land and defeated all the people living in the land. However, from the viewpoint of the people that were defeated, these Israelites who had left Canaan hundreds of years ago suddenly came and claimed ownership over their land and killed all the people who were living in the land. They completely annihilated the people. It’s outrageous, isn’t it? What they did was unreasonable and savage. So this God doesn’t seem like a righteous and just God who stands for these poor Canaanites, but who only defends and helps the Jews (Israel), and so slaughters and slays all the people, even the children. How violent is this God?
In this way, people have started to take on different views from various angles. They start to see this God as a savage and violent God who doesn’t go well with humans. On the other hand, the gods in this world are not like that. Rather, they are more inviting saying, “Let’s live happily together”. The reason is because there are many of those worldly gods who are not fighting against each other but want to live together. They seek to be happy amongst themselves whilst excluding God. That is why people are crying out for peace and reconciliation in the world.
Even now, what the devil is saying to us humans is not, “I will destroy you all!” Actually, what the devil is saying, “Let’s live together happily.” The god of this world is saying to people, “Why should you listen to the words of Jehovah? You people should join forces together to live well. No need for religions since religion only causes conflict. Let’s just make a paradise ourselves and live happily.” From man’s point of view, what’s not to like about that? He is saying, “Just leave out Jesus, and let’s just live together happily here. We can make this place heaven.”
Hence when people view from this angle, the gods of this world ought not to be excluded completely. That is why they regard those gods the same, and therefore even God is regarded as one of those gods. That is the worldly people’s point of view. And to them, we cannot just say, “Our God is the greatest, so you have to believe in our God!” And God also feels the same. He doesn’t want us to follow Him blindly and ignorantly. He wants us to know Him first.
So then, why should we follow this God? God didn’t force us to follow Him. That is why He made a covenant. Hence we establish a covenant with God. He first revealed to us who He is and what He wants. After that, He asks us if we want to be with Him, and if we do, then we must keep these things. He clearly asked us if we want to or not. And then, when we wanted to, He said, “Let’s make a covenant”. From then on, we have our commitments that we must keep.
Why must we follow this God, then? Is it because He is the most morally upright God? Morality can be subjective depending on how it is viewed. For this reason, some people regard God as immoral. So why should we follow this God? There are so many other gods. Why should we love this God? Because this God is most excellent? Because He is most righteous? That might be true from God’s perspective but not from the perspective of other gods or people. So what is the reason that we should follow this God? What would you say to an unbeliever if you had to explain to him why we should follow this God? What would you say? Would you say, “Because He is the most virtuous God”? No, that’s not going to work on unbelievers. For them, God is not virtuous at all. Why should we follow this God? Why do you follow this God?
I will follow this God to the end. Even if He had slaughtered countless Gentiles, I will still follow Him. Even God knows very well the reason why; why we humans need to follow Him. It says in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Why should you choose that? For you to live. He said that for you and your descendants to live, choose life and blessing. The reason is to live. The reason I choose this God to live is because He is the supreme. He is the God that gave life to all things; He is the one who will judge at the final judgment; He is the God who can send all the other gods and humans to hell, whether He is righteous or not, in the eyes of all the other gods. For them, He is not righteous. Nevertheless, this God is the most powerful, the One who began all things and who will bring an end to everything.
Thus Jesus said, “I am the beginning and end. I am the first and the last”. He holds supreme authority. Everything happens in His hand, and He will judge all things. Ultimately the one who can send a man to hell or heaven is He. That is why I am standing on His side. I am standing in His line. Why? To live. If I stand on the side of the devil, I would be displeased with everything God does and think they are not right. That would be my choice. To such a person, the devil would appear to be an angel of glory. That is why there is even a Satanic religion. People in that religion openly worship Satan and call on Satan’s name. To them, Satan’s argument sounds right and plausible. Yet we have to choose. At the end of the day, Satan is a creation and will be thrown into hell, and hence each person will have to be accountable for the choices they have made.
I am standing with the Creator and Judge. I have returned to Him. I have chosen Him. Therefore, I know that everything He said He would do to us would be fulfilled upon me. The only chance of our decision of choosing Him ending in despair would be if He was a liar who can’t keep His promises. However, we know what kind of God He is. He is the one who would keep His promises even if it brings harm to Himself. We came to know this through the Bible. In order to keep His promise, He even sacrificed His own Son.
Another point that makes our God the only God is that He has blood. It is not the fact that He has blood that makes Him one and only. But in order to keep His promise made with such worthless human beings, He even shed His own blood. He laid down His own life. Is there another God like Him in this world? Who in the world is so full of love that, to keep a promise, he would give his life? Where in the world is such a god?
And is there a god like Him that promises to bless us but also to make a source of blessing so that all nations on the earth would be blessed through us? Is there a god like Him who wants all people to be blessed and wants to share everything He has with us? People take after their god. People are bound to take after the god they belong to. Though they thought it was their own personality and nature, it is the nature and character of the god they worship that they take after. An innate characteristic of humans is that if they have anything good, they want to have it all to themselves. They don’t want to share.
You might think you are not like that? But it’s because you have enough that you can share with others. However, even those who do the Lord’s work are always facing those temptations. You don’t want to share. You don’t want to share this precious word. Why? If I’m going to give it to somebody, I might as well have the fame and glory for it. Generally, you don’t want to spread these words to others whilst letting others be glorified for it. You’d rather want that they didn’t know the word. If they are not going to receive grace from the word through me, then I’d rather don’t want them to receive grace. Everyone has this mindset. It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s shocking.
I admit that I have such thoughts within me. Rather than not admitting it and therefore sinning, I admitted this early on, and therefore I fight against this all the time. I had this mindset that I would rather want people not to receive grace, if they are not going to receive grace through. Instead of receiving grace through Pastor Chang-Ju Kim or Pastor Ryu Song in China, I prefer they didn’t receive grace at all. And one day, I wish they would receive grace through me so that they say, “Pastor Lee is best! He is amazing! His sermons are great!” I’d want to hear that, not hear about people praising Pastor Ryu Song or Pastor Chang-Ju Kim and how they received grace through them. It sounds evil, doesn’t it? I fight against that all the time. So I do the very opposite of what is in my mind. If I didn’t have the Lord’s word, I would never be able to do that.
In this way, humans don’t have any desire in their hearts to share something good to others. And this is the same for all the other gods. Those gods are willing to destroy for their own sake. But right now, I am not doing that. Instead, if I have something good, I send it to Pastor Ryu Song and Pastor Chang-Ju Kim so that they can receive grace too. Why? There is a different god at work within me. Originally I was full of demons and the thoughts of man, but now that a different god is at work, my actions are different from my thoughts.
I testified about this before. I was out till late doing pastoral visitations and returned home. I was hungry, it was raining, so I was cold and shivering. I was just about to eat my dinner at 9 pm when I received a phone call, that someone was waiting to see me at church. The first thing on my mind was, “I don’t want to go”. I wanted to make every excuse not to go. But I had to fight against that. “I don’t want to go. But I have to go”. So I went. Some people might think, “Wow, he is incredible. He is full of love”. But actually, I’m not. I was full of the thought of not wanting to go, but I went. Do you know why? Because there is another spirit (god) at work inside me. Who is he? He is God. How great is this God? He is different from all other gods. And I know this God.
This God is so powerful that even just for that reason, we must choose Him so that we can live. Even if He was wicked and evil and self-centered, we would still have to choose Him. For ourselves to live. Yet He is a God full of love and so full of compassion that no other god in this world is like Him. What more then do we need to consider?
In the Old Testament Times, people followed Him because He was the most powerful God. They were just forced to follow Him. But Jesus Christ came and revealed to us that not only is He the most powerful God, but that He is full of love and grace. Therefore we follow Him now because we love Him. In the Old Testament times, people didn’t love Him. They followed out of fear to save their own lives. But for us now, on top of all that for us, we also love Him. This means it is out of a truly willing heart. We don’t have to be told to worship God because we will do it willingly.
This is how we met our God. Therefore, there is no possibility that we will worship another god. Even if another god was to entice us, we won’t even look at them. We know the nature of our God. We know that our God is a jealous God who wants us to worship only Him. Yet that’s not all that God wants, for He showed mercy to mankind by lowering Himself. Hence we must seek to please only Him and worship Him all the days of our lives.
When God chooses people who will serve Him, He doesn’t choose those that have been divorced because people who cannot keep their pledge to their husband or wife cannot keep their promise to God, whom they cannot see. That is why a divorced person is not fit.
The reason a woman has to submit to her husband after marriage is not because the husband is always right. That’s not the reason. The reason she must keep her eyes only on her husband is not because he is handsome. There are many other men that are better looking than him and who are nicer to you than your husband. Nevertheless, wives must obey their husbands. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, once you are married, you have to fully submit, not try to determine what is good and evil. You no longer try to distinguish between good and evil yourself. The husband is to do that, and you must follow. That is why after you get married, if your husband tells you to stop working, for example, stop working here at the Chinese translation center, then you have to stop.
You probably thought I’d tell you to keep working here even after you get married, didn’t you? I have never said that. When sister Gong-Rei was getting married, that’s what she thought. She was concerned if her husband-to-be would support her. She was worried if he would be supportive of her work. And I scolded her and told her, “Wake up! Why are you even getting married? You are not getting married to have your husband support you. Even though you are alone now, once you are married, you have to submit fully to your husband. If your husband tells you to stop working, you have to stop.” So when she determined herself to submit to her husband, she had peace and got married. And she continues to work because her husband tells her to. When you got married, I probably would’ve said the same. Do you remember? If your husband makes you stop working, you have to. That’s how it should be. Thankfully, your husband lets you work. The same is for your missionary. If your husband tells you to stop working, you need to stop. You have to follow what your husband says. Otherwise, don’t get married. If you don’t have that determination, don’t get married. Only get married when you have that determination.
We are just thankful that your husbands permitted you to work here. But marriage is a contract, and you must follow that. Since we have a contract (covenant) with God that we will worship the one and only God, let us pray that we can keep all of our commitments.
God our Father, we are the ones who worship the one and only God and have received His love through Jesus Christ, whom He sent. Help us not to live in fear of the Lord but dedicate ourselves to the Lord with true love for the Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center