There’s a lot I don’t understand about matters of faith, but one thing I get: there’s only one God, and he deserves (and expects) top priority. You’ll find this thought in pretty much every book of the Bible.
God stated it emphatically at the beginning of his covenant relationship with Israel:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
If you read the surrounding chapters in Deuteronomy, you’ll read scores of reminders of the blessings of obedience and the curses of rebellion. You’ll hear God’s chastising them for disregarding his law. You’ll hear dire warnings of coming wars and captivities and punishments. And if you keep reading you’ll read about how quickly the people disregarded every warning. They kept on forgetting that he was the one and only God, that there was none like him.
I sometimes become a little haughty when I read what the Old Testament Israelites did—worshiping golden calves, building idolatrous “high places,” mimicking pagan neighbors. How could they? Why did they ignore God’s specific warnings?
But then, of course, God reminds me that human nature hasn’t changed too much in the last three thousand years. We often forget that he’s the one and only, don’t we?
Our distractions are different . . . I’ve never been tempted to melt a pile of gold and create a golden image for me and my family to worship. You’ve probably never constructed an altar in your backyard for your Friday night Baal service. We’re much too sophisticated for those primitive rites, aren’t we?
But again the Lord convicts us. We’re tempted to do the same thing, but we’ll dress it up differently. Their golden calves may be our fancy cars, expensive gadgets, and luxurious homes. Their high places might be our football stadiums or shopping malls. Their Baal worship might be our total commitment to a career or hobby.
We need to be reminded often of the most important thing there is about faith: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There’s never been a time when that wasn’t true, and there will never be a time when God will expect anything less than all of our heart, soul, and strength.
The Israelites messed that up repeatedly, but their mistakes are opportunities for us to learn. What is there in your life right now that you’re putting on the altar where God ought to be? —Chuck