You shall have no other gods before me.
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
I love wedding days. No other days are like them. Promises made, tokens of love exchanged, and two lives changed forever.
With two words the bride gives herself away. She looks into her husband’s face as the minister asks: “Will you take him as your husband and live together as God has ordained? Will you love him . . . and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?” “I will,” she promises. What the future holds is uncertain, but what’s certain is her promise: her husband alone will have her intimate affection.
Forsaking all others. No rivals. Wholehearted devotion – this is a bride’s promise to her husband.
Israel is the Lord’s bride. A warrior husband, the Lord delivers his bride from tyrannical Pharaoh. Of all the nations of the world, Old Covenant Israel alone stood in relationship to the Lord as a wife to a husband (Isaiah 54:5). The Lord’s devotion is wholehearted, his love steadfast.
Israel’s obligations are clear. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Just as a wife can lawfully have only one husband, so Israel must have only one God. Belonging to the Lord means forsaking all other gods. No rivals and wholehearted devotion – that is bride Israel’s promise to her Savior husband.
Israel cannot be reminded too often that the Lord is a jealous husband. “I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14 puts it even more strongly: “you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” So strong is his jealousy that when his people give their allegiance to an idol, he denounces the betrayal as “adultery.” The Lord declares: “with their idols they have committed adultery” (Ezekiel 23:37).
In marriage, it is right for a husband to be jealous for the exclusive faithfulness of his wife, and for a wife to demand the undivided marital loyalty of her husband. Integrity demands intact and pure marriage covenants. Unconcern for marital integrity is sin, glaring ungodliness.
The New Testament scriptures reveal the church to be the true Israel of God – the God who remains a jealous husband and who demands the exclusive allegiance, undivided loyalty, and devoted love of his people. Trusting in Christ and dependent upon the Holy Spirit, we must take care never to give our hearts to rival gods and betray the Lord. He has rescued us from our sin. In Christ, we are his blood-bought possession. We must declare with the hymn-writer,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.*
* Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”