Why go to Church when the weather is bad?

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The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
(Pro 22:13)

This is an unavoidable problem like illness. Weather can be severe enough to keep anyone from attending church, whether it be extreme snow and ice, or severe thunder and lightning. There are times when no one should be outside. If the weather is too serious to even creep out of your door, then don’t come. Something as simple as dark can be a hazard for someone who cannot drive at night.

But like illness, weather can be an excuse. Don’t be like the one who peeks outside, and if the weather is uncomfortable, decides to stay in bed. Bad weather will come  and go, but don’t start telling yourself that I can’t go to church today because it might rain, or, “It sure looks cloudy out there. I better stay home.” Honestly, for those able-bodied this should rarely be a reason to avoid going to church.

Using this as an excuse is actually much more revealing. One who stays home because “it just doesn’t look good outside” is someone looking for a reason. Honestly, there have been days when snow was piled up a foot or two deep, but I went over and unlocked the church. I can’t wait to get to church on Sunday morning. It just feels right to me, and if I have to weather a bit of weather to do it, that just makes it a challenge. The non-Christian is certainly discouraged by unfavorable weather, but a warm and inviting Church can conquer weather.

Why go to Church if I don’t feel well?

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It seems especially true in winter that people are sick and they miss church, but this can happen anytime. Now, you can’t blame someone when they are sick that they miss service, right? We all get sick sometimes, and sometimes, we do the Christian thing and don’t share the illness with others. Parents of newborns are encouraged to stay home from church for this reason. But this reason can be used too readily, so that a slight cough and the uneasy headache are called upon as unwitting accomplices in the delinquency of Church attendance.

And what about those who are too old or infirm to attend Church? These are the homebound elderly or those whose chronic illness keep them from attendance. Shouldn’t there be an exception made for these too? Conversely, is the Church off the hook if these people can no longer attend Church?

The Scripture is quite clear to both sides of this. “If anyone is sick, let him call upon the elders. They will come and anoint the sick . . .” (James 5:14) I think it goes without saying that missing a Sunday is excusable, since most illnesses clear up in a week’s time. But this verse seems to speak to the more chronic conditions that keep someone from attending church regularly. The homebound and the chronically ill still need to be fed spiritually. The Church needs to engage them on at least a weekly basis. This verse implies that the one sick at home is not simply to just stop attending, but continue to be involved in the local church, calling upon the elders. If a Church has not made contact with you for being absent, then this verse demands that you contact the church and tell them you are ill and need a visit. Church leaders can’t read minds. Being at Church is so important, even for the sick, that the elders, in their shepherding role, need to continue to minister to them.

Non-Christians don’t really use this excuse, unless they are older. but being older, have a greater need for interaction. This is a perfect situation for outreach, and should not be avoided.

Did JESUS “Fold” the “Napkin”?

Ok, so this one isn’t mine. I found it in my archives, but I thought it would be helpful to illustrate an important point. Just because we read something in an English translation doesn’t mean we can read it back into the original context. This thing makes the rounds every year around Easter. Thought you might be better equipped with this information.

And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. (John 20:7)

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Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin?

This is one I can honestly say I have never seen circulating in the emails so; if it touches you forward it.

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this …..

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple out ran Peter and got there first. He stopped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

Was that important? Absolutely!

Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished. Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.” But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because………. the folded napkin meant, I’m coming back.”

The Message in the Neatly Folded Napkin in Jesus’ Tomb – Fiction!1

Summary of the eRumor:

According to this forwarded email, the head covering over the body of Jesus Christ in the grave was a neatly “folded napkin.” It goes on to say that among Jews of the time a master would let his servants know whether he was finished eating or coming back to the table by the way he left his napkin. If he tossed it aside, he was finished. If he folded it, he was not finished and would return. The hidden message in the story is that by laying his “napkin” aside and neatly folded Jesus was saying he was coming back.

The Truth:

There are a couple of problems with this eRumor. One is the translation or interpretation of the Bible verse quoted. The other is the alleged Jewish custom referenced in the story.

The Verse

The eRumor is based on whether the cloth was a “napkin” and was “folded” in the empty tomb of Jesus.

The story is based on the account of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20:7.

Here is how that verse is translated in one of the most widely-used versions of the Bible, the King James Version: “…and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.”

We checked seven of the most respected translations of the Bible to see how the translators handled this verse.

Three of them translated the cloth as a “napkin” (King James, American Standard, Revised Standard Version). Others translated it as a “burial cloth” (New International Version), a “handkerchief” (The New King James Version), or a “face-cloth” (New American Standard Bible). The Greek word is saudarion, which comes from a Latin word for “sweat.” It connotes, for example, a towel for wiping sweat. It is used in the Greek for a towel or cloth, but not specifically a table napkin.

The other key word is “folded.” Was the burial cloth or napkin left folded in the tomb?

Two of the translations used the word “folded” (New International Version, New King James Version). Others translated the word as “rolled up” (New American Standard Bible, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version), or “wrapped together” (King James Version).

The Greek word is “entulisso,” which is from words that may mean to twist or to entwine.

The bottom line is that there is not agreement that it was a table napkin and not agreement that it was neatly folded in any meaningful way. The main meaning of John 20:7 is to convey that the cloth, which was placed over Jesus head or face at burial, was separate from the rest of his grave clothes.

The Story

We have checked numerous Bible study sources and have found nothing about this alleged Jewish custom of the folded napkins. We did not find any Bible scholars who have used this story and illustration about the meaning of the folded napkin.

Additionally we talked with a Jewish rabbi friend of TruthOrFiction.com’s who has been a life-long Orthodox Jew, a Jewish scholar, and lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and he said he’d never heard of it

The only references to this story that we found are from Internet postings and emails that seem to have originated in 2007.

.Updated 1/28/08

The Deductions:2

Well, Aunt Erma, it turns out that there are good reasons why you’ve never heard of this tradition.

I find historical/cultural traditions- particularly Jewish ones- of great interest and value. Yet, they are apparently made up at alarming rates. So, I wanted to verify this story. It turns out that I did.

There are several problems with this story. Separately, perhaps they could be overlooked. Compiled together, the story lacks even a hint of authenticity.

The KJV rendering of John 20:7 reads,

John 20:7 (KJV)

7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

The more modern NIV reads,

John 20:7 (NIV)

7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

One says “burial cloth” while the other says “napkin.” One says “wrapped” while the other says “folded.” These types of variances in English translations are clues that further study on an original language term is needed.

1- Like many are, this idea is falsely based on a western application of an English term: in this case, the term, “napkin” in the text. When English speakers use that term, we’re thinking Wendy’s drive-thru. Using the English understanding of that term, a scenario was obviously invented. The underlying Greek term is soudarion, which is defined as a piece of cloth used for one of two purposes in the East: to wipe sweat off the face or to cover the face of the dead. As such, no self-respecting Jew would EVER use such an article at a meal setting (it would be either unclean or in the least thought of as unclean), and thus no such mental association would ever be made between the soudarion (or lit. “sweat-cloth”) and a dinner napkin. It would be tantamount to modern day people associating a diaper with a napkin. Only a few (older) translation use the term “napkin” for this reason. It is a technically proper translation, but gives a western reader the wrong impression. More modern translations use other terms, such as “burial cloth” (NIV), “face-cloth” (NASB), “handkerchief” (NKJV), etc.

2- The second problem is with the term “folded,” also necessary to the postulated cultural reference of folding a napkin at the dinner table. That underlying Greek term is entylisso, which is a compilation of two terms, en (meaning “at a primary fixed position” – or “at,” “in,” “among,” etc.) and heilisso, meaning “twisted” or “coiled.” While “folded” is again a technically accurate translation, it conjures up the idea of the creasing and flattening out of an article. In fact, it is more akin to the wadding up and throwing aside (used in the supposed practice of the master leaving the table) than an intentional folding and creasing. This issue may could be explained away if it were not for the problems with the term soudarion. But, coupled together, it’s just another hole in the cheese. Entylisso gives no clear indication that the face-cloth was folded in an intentional way, but rather that it was somehow handled and distorted as being discarded separately from the grave clothes.

3- I have a sizeable arsenal of Jewish background resources. I searched them all to find a reference to this practice and could not find it. Afterward, I set off in research online. Surely you can’t believe everything you read online (as this email demonstrates) but I thought it worth a try to find a legitimate biblical scholar who may have referenced the custom. As it turned out, I found only one Jewish scholar (David Bivin of The Jewish Perspective) who had referenced this custom (of folding the napkin at the dinner table) and he did so in response to this very email. His answer? “There is no historical or cultural documentation which supports claims of this assertion.”

Sadly, you can find this reference in numerous online sermons by pastors who should know better than to randomly quote a tradition they learned of in an email from Aunt Erma.

. . .

Make no mistake: Jesus is returning. But, not because someone had the creative ability to fabricate this outlandish email. He is returning because scripture says he will.

1 http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/f/folded-napkin.htm

2 http://www.returningking.com/?p=78

Why go to Church when I am so busy?

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(Jas 4:13-15)

How busy are you? When you find yourself incredibly busy, and don’t have any spare time, you need to take moment and ask yourself who are you busy for? What is your goal that you are this busy? Fore example, if you are always busy doing work, what is your goal? Pleasing your boss? Providing for your family? Avoiding something else in your life? If you are too busy for Church, what are you busy doing? Who are you serving? This is only a problem for people for whom Church is not among the higher priorities. And I don’t anyone should demand that Church be the highest priority. That spot should be reserved for Jesus. But if you don’t have five minutes for Jesus, then you are practicing idolatry, and that is sinful.

Now it is important for Christians to make Church as attractive as possible so people will be drawn to Church, rather than repel them. But is that really the priority of Christians as well? What makes a church attractive isn’t the building, the worship service, or the style of preaching, but the spiritual beauty of the people. People who are winsome, thankful, joyful, and peaceful. I would want to worship with believers who care, who always have time, or will make time for me. It is off-putting to worship with people who are always busy because you feel they never have time for you. What kind of person do you want to attend church with? Then that is the kind of person you need to be. Don’t be so busy that you can’t be with God’s people on Sunday morning.

Nowhere to Hide

Jesus Reached Out

No matter where you run, or how buried you are in work and circumstances, there is no place that God cannot find you. This is a comfort to some, and a fear for others. Don’t add God to your list of fears. When Adam sinned against God, he ran and hid. God called out into the garden and said, “Where are you Adam?” Adam hid because of his sin, but his sin did not hide him from God. God knew exactly where Adam was, just as our parents could always see our foot sticking out or our hair just above the back of the couch. We pretend that we can hide from those that love us the most, but we are only fooling ourselves. God sees us in our sinfulness, our wretchedness, even our busyness, and stills calls to us. He still reaches out His hand. God loves us, even when we sin against Him. God loves you, especially today.

Why go to Church when I work so much?

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A lot of people work. And people are commanded to work, for the sake of providing for his family. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Ti 5:8 ESV) And often managers and supervisors schedule their employees without regard to Sunday worship. Often work is cited as an excuse rather than the real problem.

In truth, the Scriptures call for one day in seven for rest. This is called keeping the Sabbath. Those that would take this seriously would remember that God rested on the seventh day, and so we ought to as well. And so some will say that “Sunday is my only day off. It is my day. I don’t want to have to get up early to go to church.” But these folks are not off the hook yet, as Sabbath-keeping in Scripture was about spending the day in worship. This was a day to remember that Lord made the universe. This was a day that the Jews went to synagogue, and spent several hours there. People then were expected to work for seven days (this long before the labor-saving devices we now employ) and then to spend one whole day not doing any work (or play for that matter).

Now, Christians observe the first day of the week for worship, as this is the day that the Lord rose from the dead. We have applied Sabbath-keeping rules to Sunday, allowing us to use Saturday as a work-day. This is not mandated by Scripture, but something we do anyway. But this statement “my day off” is a smokescreen, since people will get up early on Sunday to take in a sports event, or watch their kids play. If you schedule a church service in the afternoon or evening, there would still be excuses. The root issue is the heart. If Church was important to this person, he would rise early on Sunday because he couldn’t wait to get out of bed to see His Lord.

Many people in foreign lands walk miles on Sunday morning, before the sun comes up, after six days of grueling labor, just so they can worship the Lord. The problem lies in the heart, the rebellious heart that resists the calling of his Lord. Admittedly, some have to work on Sunday morning, or work the night before. But someone who avoids church on account of work is giving voice to a symptom rather than the underlying problem. Rather than condemned for not coming to church, that person too needs to be loved into the kingdom. You do not know if that person is working extra hours to pay off a debt, or to care for his family. If you see a person working on a Sunday, offer to worship with them at a time convenient for them,

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
(Mat 18:20)

0001 – Source Code 1–No Other Gods

“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exo 20:3)

So I’ve been binge watching Babylon 5, and I am struck by the degree to which this show involves religion, even a more accurate understanding that not all Christians are Catholic. One of the leads, played by the lovely Claudia Christian, is a Russian Jew. still observant when it fits the plot. Now, somewhere in Season 2, Dr. Franklin, the station’s chief medical officer, remarks that he is a “foundationist”, that is, he believes in God, but that every time we try to define God, He is always bigger. This intrigued me because that is a very humbling idea. When we try to define God, we must realize that our definitions will always fall short, because we cannot conceive God in our finite minds.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1Co 2:9-10)

In reading this first commandment, it seems like a simple thing. We don’t build or worship blocks of stone or wooden idols. We don’t sacrifice animals to the sky or the sun. However, I think there is more to this verse than meets the eye.

I have what may be considered a peculiar view of history. I take the Scripture seriously wherever it leads. When I read of the accounts of the Creation and the Flood, to the Tower of Babel, it seems a much better fit than the millions of years of evolutionary history I’ve been spoon-fed for years. Thus it seems to me that while the Bible tells us the essential truths of history, the secular world also passed down to us in the form of folklore and myth another history, much diluted by time and retelling. Where the Bible had the benefit of Divine shepherding over the centuries, the stories of myth did not. Myth tells of great deeds and great heroes, even gods, who lived ages ago. What should amaze us is that these stories exist at all, that there is something rather than nothing. What inspired these stories?

There are a few works that follow this line of inquiry, but the field has been ignored for centuries, especially now that the theory of Evolution has taken over academia. Isaac Newton wrote a book on history that made a serious attempt to reconcile the stories of myth and the ancient world with the Bible, called, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended To which is Prefix’d, A Short Chronicle from the First Memory of Things in Europe, to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great (see On Amazon for Kindle). More recently I’ve seen it in Brian Forbes’ From Noah to Hercules (see Noah to Hercules on Amazon). I encourage you to take a look at some of these sources for yourself. 

It seems fiction as we know it today simply was unknown in the ancient world. While there were certainly story tellers, our modern methods of printing and inexpensive materials, electronic distribution and so on didn’t exist. Thus anyone who committed a story to stone or clay did so because they believed it was true, or at least worth recording. They simply didn’t have time to invest or money to pay a scribe to write out what everyone knew was fiction (because everyone knew the stories as well as he did). We also know that stories were more often transmitted orally long before they were ever committed to writing and bear evidence of this in their patterns and forms. Whole epics were memorized. Thus while many of the mythologies we know today from the ancient world are grossly exaggerated, they have some basis in truth. Two cases help illustrate this.

One fantastic epic from the ancient world is Gilgamesh. Inscribed on an incomplete series of clay tablets and found in a ruined library of Ashurbanipal in 1849, the epic is the story of an ancient king, Gilgamesh, who lived in a historically verifiable place, Uruk, probably sometime in the 29th-24th centuries BC. Gilgamesh is famous for destroying a number of monsters in the ancient world, and built many cities. He met fascinating characters like Utnashpashtim, the survivor of the world-destroying Flood. Though the story of Gilgamesh is exaggerated, there may be pieces of it that can be verified.

Another is Homer’s works of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Many of the events of the Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, have only recently been understood as more accurate than we gave credit. Many ancients believed that the war against Troy to be a defining date in history, so that events were understood before the war and after the war. Troy itself, its ruins anyway, are believed to be verified on the west coast of Turkey. Troy VII (layer 7 of Hesilik) is believed to match the destruction of Troy in about the 12th century BC. Biblical Troas was located not far from the original Troy. Troy was a real place. The evidence for its destruction is real. When Homer (or the Homeric poets) wrote down the narrative at a much later date, it was a story told and retold, memorized for generations and shared as a morality tale and entertainment. However modern investigations into the story, including elements of its descriptions of geography have been verified as accurate. Extending credibility to the Iliad is easier than to the Odyssey, but being works from the same period should allow us to give Odyssey the benefit of the doubt.

Ancient history seems to be divided into roughly three periods, 1) the age of Titans (“of old”, Creation to 1689 AC at the Flood), 2) the age of gods (“of former times”, after the Flood, approx 4000 BC to about 2500 BC), and 3) the age of Heroes (2500 BC- to the fall of Troy). In each successive age, glory and honor diminishes. And this is why primarily we are not taught this, and why we favor Evolution. Evolution teaches that each successive generation is better than the last, so that our generation is certainly better than those of the ancient world. We have computers, after all. But we forget, even if our only evidence is the ancient structures like the pyramids, the problems we solve today with computers, they solved in their heads. Contrary to Evolution, when we study the Scriptures we find that ancient man was far more intelligent than we are today, not the knuckle-draggers we’ve been taught.

If we were to line this up against the Biblical record, I believe that the age of the Titans was the period before the Flood. The atmosphere was pressurized far more than now due to a canopy of water that lay over the whole earth. Animals didn’t need great lung capacities to support massive bodies and they grew to tremendous size, as did the rest of the natural world. People too took advantage of this highly oxygenated atmosphere and likewise grew to unusual sizes, even “titanic” proportions, to the point “there were giants (or, Nephilim) in those days.” Whether you believe they were giants, the result of genetic manipulation by the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, or that the Nephilim were the mighty offspring of their unions with human women, people were larger than life in those days. “These were the he mighty men who were of old.” God need not call them anymore than that. “Of old” (or, time before time) seems to be the Bible’s way of describing this time before the Flood.

The men and women who emerged from the Ark became the basis for the pantheons of gods told by their great-grandchildren, as these were not only taller than most, but lived extremely long lives, compared to their descendants. I find it interesting that Noah had three sons. In Greek mythology, the Titan Kronos had three sons, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. In Egyptian mythology, the world emerged from the Flood-waters and eight primary gods were responsible for the creation of the world. Strangely, it was eight souls that emerged from the Ark to repopulate the world. I believe the first few generations that emerged from the Ark became the basis for the mythologies the developed in the ancient world. While the Bible says little about the exploits of these ancients, focusing instead on the family of the promise, the mythologies are filled with their exaggerated exploits. Gilgamesh may well the secular name of a king mentioned in Scripture, Nimrod. (See http://davelivingston.com/nimrod.htm)

In the Bible, there is a curious proverb attached to the “ancients” in 1 Samuel 24:13. The proverb is, “out of the wicked comes forth wickedness”. But the word used for the ancients is more closely defined as “men of former times” or “of the east”. This is a curious designation, since the people who emerged from the Ark traveled south along the mountain ridges while the flood waters receded and the plains dried out, then they descended west from the mountain ridge and gathered in the plain of Shinar, the site of the original Babel. This site is considerably further south than the Ararat mountains where the Ark landed.  The Bible has a sense of its own antiquity.

The age of Heroes follows on and describes the generations that followed the gods. The Iliad and the Odyssey takes place in the age of Heroes, but not in the age of the gods. The Exodus takes place in the age of Heroes (1440-1400 BC) as does the stories of Joshua, Samson and David. It is into this time that Scripture takes us into the story of Israel in earnest. When God gathers His people at Sinai, He first warns them about worshiping other gods. God isn’t worried about a cabal of imaginary or fictional deities that hold the attention of men for a time. I believe he is referring to the pantheon of men and women who lived after the Flood and were at first revered by their progeny, and were later worshiped, their stories told and retold, until they were no longer recognized as merely human.

We are prone to honor our heroes. We build statues in their honor. We put their faces on our currency. We tell and retell their stories until they pass into legend. Did George Washington really cut down a cherry tree to show he couldn’t tell a lie, or did someone invent the story, using that name, to teach a moral lesson (ironically, since the story wasn’t true)? How often today do we invoke the authority of those long dead to establish a point? (“Lincoln once said . . .”)

It seems that God had more in mind here than telling us not to make up gods and then serve them, but to resist our natural tendency to honor and glorify the dead (um, Catholic saints?), venerate them in our memory and eventually make them an authority in our thought-lives (Charles Darwin anyone?). It is a challenge to us to whom we give authority to in our thinking, and a challenge to our worship.

Who are the gods in your life? Your parents? Why does Jesus say:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luk 14:26)

‘Why does Jesus challenge the authority of those in our own lives? Who do you give permission to guide your thoughts?

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:5)

Some say they worship reason, but how do they define reason? But there are lots of ways to define reason, and sometimes, it is simply what makes a person happy at any particular time. By whose definition do they define it? For someone somewhere gave them the idea that Reason ought to prevail. And if it is not Reason that guides your actions, then what does? Who holds sway over your mind if not God?

“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:20-22)

I believe with this first commandment, we’ve been taught for generations and lulled into thinking that the Israelites were ordered to stop worshiping fictions, but I am afraid the truth is much more unsettling. These statues, rituals and ideas of men were based on real people of the distant past, whose stories and legends passed down to them, but without the fact-checking of divine inspiration. Instead, their stories were conflated and padded with the desires of sinful men, to manipulate and coerce others for the sake of power. Who were the priests and soothsayers if not the most powerful men of their age? If we are not aware of this, our ancestors may become the same for us, our overlords from the grave, because we were not careful to “have no other gods” before Him.

God knew this tendency was within all of us to make sacred those we revere, to honor our heroes and glorify their memory. Thus even in the midst of idolatry, there a grain of truth. 1 Corinthians 10:10 says that sacrifices to idols are sacrifices to actual demons, real spiritual powers. Why wouldn’t the demons rejoice when God and His transcendent nature, greater than all we can ask or imagine is ignored in favor of finite, limited creatures (Romans 1:23)?

Thus His first commandment is very simple, “Have no other gods before Me.”