We must remember that ancient Egypt was described as a land of slavery. It was not a good place for the Israelites to live. It is a picture of the human heart without the light of God – a heart where darkness and death rules. We all need deliverance for our souls. But for that to happen we also need enlightened minds.
Now it is part of human nature to gravitate toward idolatry. If not idols of wood and stone, then other idols of our own making – those things or pursuits in which we find our greatest meaning. The picture of slavery is a metaphor for the true nature of the other gods we invent. We often do not realise it but to be enslaved is bad business. The problem is we do not always experience enslavement that way. Sometimes we find it quite enjoyable. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15? When he left his father’s house life became one enjoyable party for him – for a while anyway. He did not encounter nor see his enslavement and would have laughed if anyone suggested it. This is why the Israelites often complained to Moses in the wilderness and said they would rather go back to Egypt than endure the difficulties of their wanderings. They forgot they had been slaves in Egypt and were badly treated. They remembered only the things they enjoyed. In the same way our memory can sometimes be selective and fool us into thinking that it is better to live as we used to, and not as we ought to.
But now suddenly we are confronted by these words – NO OTHER GODS. This commandment is in the second person, singular, which means to refer to all of us. Notice also that it is a commandment, not a suggestion. There is only one God, only one Redeemer. Only one moral entity who has the right to claim our allegiance. He created us, put up with us in our sinfulness and provided us with a way of salvation. Thus the command that you should have no other God before me, or alongside of me, or in addition to me. He claims total allegiance.
We still have to think more about this.
Prayer: O God. Give us ears to hear your Word and hearts to obey it. Help us to search ourselves so that there will be no rival to you. Amen