And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
The order in the Ten Commandments is, ‘God first and foremost.’ It isn’t that there aren’t any commandments governing social relationships, but those concerning duty to God come first. If life is to work out at a horizontal level, we must first sort out the vertical relationship with God.
There is a kind of theological logic at work here. Why would you have any ‘’other gods before” the Lord God who redeemed you, who liberated and delivered you, and brought you “out of the land of slavery”?
But they did; and we still do.
Tom Hale observes: ‘Most Christians have no difficulty following this first commandment just as it is stated. But there is a deeper meaning within this commandment: namely, that we are to put nothing before God. We agree that we should put “no other gods” before God, but we forget that we can make our own “gods” and put them first. What are these “gods” we make? We make money and possessions a “god”; we make lust and sensuality a “god”; we make ourselves a “god.” Whatever it is that we love, value and honour more than the one true God, we make into a “god.” This is the deepest meaning of the first commandment, and this is why it’s so difficult to obey it (Deuteronomy 6:4-5…Mark 12:30). ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.241.
I would just add a further comment on all the commandments. It is sometimes argued that they are negative in tone and mode: ‘Thou shalt not.’ But as Alec Motyer points out, a positive command means we are restricted to doing the one thing commanded. But a negative command means we may do many other things other than the one thing that is off-limits. This takes us right back to the garden:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17.