Deuteronomy 5:6-7 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
This year I have been particularly struck by how God had to deal with the prevailing polytheism of human culture, even among the descendants of Abraham. Here He specifies the name He had communicated at the burning bush, which the NIV renders as LORD. That was to distinguish Himself from all the gods of Egypt with which the Israelites were familiar, not to mention the various gods of the lands they were passing through. Then He specifies that they aren’t to follow any of those other gods. He had made it very clear that He was the only Creator and all the other gods were lies, (Deuteronomy 4:39) but the people weren’t really there yet in their understanding, so He specified absolute monotheism as the first of His commandments to them. The average American doesn’t really understand this is an issue, but it is a major consideration in Japan, India, and various other countries. This whole issue is closely tied to the idea of absolute truth. Americans might not think specifically of a multiplicity of gods, but a shockingly large percentage deny the existence of absolute truth. Actually, that is polytheism by another name. Mankind is given to rebellion, and the devil doesn’t much care what form it takes. When we say that all religions are equally valid we are saying that none is real, including whichever one we claim. Not long ago even a prominent atheist came out with a public statement that though he didn’t subscribe to any religion, Christianity was preferable to all the rest because of the behavior it encouraged, in sharp contrast to other religions, particularly Islam. Even an atheist can understand that it makes a huge difference what God you serve.
This is a huge issue here in Japan. I have had numbers of people who liked what they heard about Jesus, but they just wanted to add Him to their god shelf, and when I made it clear, through John 14:6 and otherwise, that they couldn’t do that, they left. That’s heartbreaking. Realizing the persistent polytheism of the Israelites, I am really seeking God as to when and how to insist on the exclusivity of Christ. A man whom I met in the mental hospital (who is now in a group home) is still shaky on this point, but he keeps coming back to “just Jesus,” and I believe he is saved. I need to remember that God meets each of us where we are, because we couldn’t get to Him on our own in any case. I am not to set barriers in people’s way, but trust the Holy Spirit to convict them and lead them out of the lying traps of the devil.
Father, I’ll be seeing someone today whom You have indicated is ripe fruit. Keep me from saying anything to him that is not of You. Help me rather speak Your gracious truth to him in love, so that he may pass from death to life while he still has opportunity, not only for his sake but for his family as well, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!