What does the first commandment ‘do not have other gods before me’ teach us?
God spoke these words to the Israelites when he established a covenant-relationship with them (Exodus 20:3). Not having other gods before Him means that God does not tolerate the worship of any god other than Him.
God had a special relationship with Israel
God had a special relationship with the people of Israel. Many times He revealed His almighty power to them: He led them out of Egypt by signs and wonders, by a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 4:34). By worshiping Him, the people of Israel give Him the honour and glory due to Him. God Himself said to them: “To you it was shown, that you might know that LORD is God; there is no other beside Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35). God revealed Himself as the one true God and therefore could not tolerate the worship of other, man-made gods in His presence.
Still relevant to us today
The first commandment still comes to us today. God has given us ample evidence that He truly is God and that there is no other beside Him. He created the earth and all that is in it (Genesis 1-2; Isaiah 40:12); He created our lives (Psalm 139:13-16). Thus it only makes sense for us to worship Him. He sent Jesus into this world so that by seeing him we may know God (John 14:8-9). Jesus died on the cross to take away our terrible guilt and reconcile us with Him (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 2:17). Who has ever heard of a god willing to come down and take the blame?
The big difference
The big difference between God and other ‘gods’ is this: God created us, whereas we create our own gods. We create them in our minds or with our hands. They have no other power than the power we give to them (Isaiah 44:14-20; Psalm 115:4-8). When we create our own gods, we do not give God, our Creator, the glory that is due to Him. We rob Him of what is His.
God is sovereign
God is an almighty, sovereign, acting God. He “goes and takes a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by signs, by wonders” (Deuteronomy 4:34); He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16); Jesus prepares a place for us in heaven (John 14:3). He is constantly acting to save us and provide for us. What a big difference with the gods we create. They never give peace and they cannot act or bring us salvation (Isaiah 43:10-12; 44:9-10).
Giving room to Satan
When you worship other gods than God, – and this might be anything, from statues to putting your car above everything else – you give room to Satan to exercise power over you. Satan is a merciless master: he demands and never gives, and he is a master at deception (Genesis 3:1-5). Turn to God, worship Him only and “let his glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 108:5) – the earth He created!
Get a good introduction about the Bible in What is the Bible?