Then God gave the people all these instructions:
"I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
"You must not have any other god but me.
"You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands." (Exodus 20:1-6)
Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God's new nation? At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of his laws. The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live.
Many times when we sin, we wonder how God could ever love us again. However, it is the grace of God that gives us a chance to repent and to find new life. God’s grace is not a pardon; rather, it is a measure of forgiveness that gives life to the broken.
As we grow in our relationship with God, oftentimes we are surprised by His love for us. But even more surprising is the amount to which He pours out His grace in our lives. When we sin, God does not cast us aside. Instead, the compassionate heart of God meets us where we are and goes to great lengths to mend our hearts and to restore our relationships with Him.
The Israelites had just come from Egypt, a land of many idols and many gods. Because each god represented a different aspect of life, it was common to worship many gods in order to get the maximum number of blessings. When God told his people to worship and believe in him, that wasn't so hard for them—he was just one more god to add to the list. When he said, "You must not have any other god but me," however, that was difficult for the people to accept. But if they didn't learn that the God who led them out of Egypt was the only true God, they could not be his people—no matter how faithfully they kept the other nine commandments. Thus, God made this his first commandment and emphasized it more than the others.
According to Jewish tradition, when God wanted to give the Torah, the Bible, to humankind, he offered it to every nation in the world before the children of Israel. Each nation asked God the same question: “What’s in it?” God shared with them the Ten Commandments – don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and so forth. “No thanks!” they replied. “It’s just too hard!”
The Bible tells us, however, that in the last days there will be an attack on the family. One of the signs of the end times will be a lack of respect for one's parents. We read in 2 Timothy 3, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy" (verses 1–2).
Today, people have many kinds of gods. Money, fame, work, relationships, and pleasure can all become gods if we devote too much time to them. No one sets out to worship these things. But when we depend on them for personal identity, meaning, and security, they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies. Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.
Sometimes our life may feel like an arid desert. Things are tough and nothing comes easy. But it is specifically in those times that we must cling to God’s Word with faith and obedience. We must serve God in all places and at all times.