291. THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.
THERE SHALL BE [WITH THEE] NO OTHER GOD IN MY PRESENCE
These are the words of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). In the natural sense, which is the sense of the letter, the meaning nearest the letter is that idols must not be worshiped; for there follows,
Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor worship them; for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God (Exod. 20:4-5).
In the sense nearest the letter this commandment means that idols must not be worshiped, for the reason that before this time and after it down to the Lord's coming, idolatrous worship prevailed in a great part of Asia. The cause of this worship was that all churches before the Lord's coming were representative and typical; and these types and representations were such, that Divine things were set forth under various figures and sculptured forms; and when the meanings of these were lost the common people began to worship them as gods. That the Israelitish nation was also in this worship when in Egypt, is evident from the golden calf which they worshiped in the desert instead of Jehovah; and that afterwards they were not wholly alienated from that worship is evident from many passages both in the historical and in the prophetic Word.