"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," Deut. 5:6-7.
Worship has never been lacking in human history. People have never had a problem bowing down in adoration to something beyond themselves. In fact, we know that the Hindu's have created a system of thousands(conservative estimate) of gods and idols which they worship. In the days of Moses, every culture on the earth worshiped, in sincerity, gods of all sorts. They bowed their head to cat gods, dog gods, death gods, life gods, frog gods and even...snake gods. You can hear the serpent whispering. Yet true worship, the worship of Yahweh, the one true God, has been rare through out human history. I believe all false religions, and all of them are false who do not bow their knee to Jesus Christ, started with the first siblings ever, more specifically, Cain. Cain was a devoutly religious man. Genesis 4:3 reveals much, "And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord." We learn here at least 4 things. First, Cain worshiped. Second, he knew the right time of worship. Third, he knew the proper location of worship. Fourth, he knew what to worship. We are not told exactly why God did not respect Cain's offering but that is another topic for another day. But we do know that Cain was extremely religious. He was excited with his offering and did not understand why God was not impressed with him. Cain then created the first martyr in history and things went quickly downhill from there.
Fast forward to the Exodus. The Hebrews left a pagan land. A satanic land that worshiped snakes and death. They journeyed through more pagan lands and they were preparing to enter into the most pagan land. The land of Canaan was horrific. Their practice of child sacrifice would make even Planned Parenthood blush. Even modern secular historians have said that the people of Canaan were the most depraved in all human history. This, my friends, is the land flowing with milk and honey that the Lord promised His people. They were surrounded on all sides by people who sincerely worshiped gods but who hated the true God. This is the dire, exciting and hopeful situation that Joshua would face with the Hebrews and it was of utmost importance that the Hebrews remember one thing: "You shall have no other gods before Me." Friends, this is all we really need to know. In effect, God is telling us, "Don't worry about anything else, love Me!" When God says "before Me", He is saying, "opposed to Me". The Hebrews were to remember all that God had done for them. He had proved His power and authority by delivering them from their bondage in Egypt. This should have been their antidote against the pagan gods that surrounded them. In fact, they should have remembered all the plagues that God Almighty inflicted on the Egyptians. The plagues were God's demonstration of authority against all the pagan god's the Egyptians held high. They would have the awesome memory of the Red Sea parting and so many others. Truly they could fix their minds and hearts on such an awesome God!
Yet, do we? I know I allow my emotions to rule me too often. I often succumb to the tyranny of my emotions. I do not practice time alone enough with God. I should "be still and know that He is God" as a far more regular practice than I do. I allow my emotions to drag me into all sorts of sin: anger, lust, frivolity, etc. I could easily cure this. God does not tempt us beyond what we can bear. I worship happiness, frivolity and esteem to the detriment of my faith in Christ. Like a cat drawn to a spinning top or flickering laser, I chase my emotional highs with little regard for anyone else let alone my God and Savior. I am not like Moses who, "choosing rather to suffer the affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he looked to the reward," Hebrews 11:25-26. My riches are so often passing and joyless. Oh, I'm happy for a time, yet not without pain. Moses had much less to work with than I do, or you do. He did not have any book written for Him. He did not have the Holy Spirit. He did not have the church, books on theology, Bible studies or anything. He was the meekest man on earth. He did not physically see Christ, yet he esteemed the reproach of Christ. He only saw types and shadows of Christ. He saw even dimmer than we do. Yet he had no other God before him.
The Hebrews were hemmed in on every side by pagans who wished to snuff them out. We know that they ultimately did not obey the first commandment. They lived in a far more evil day than we do and were without the word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. They fell into the worship of false gods because of this and their sin. We must all ask ourselves this: What is our excuse? Learn, live and the love the Gospel beloved.