Perhaps it’s a lone blue M&M in a bucket of red ones. Or a mustard yellow car in a parking lot of black ones. Whenever you have something that’s different from everything else, it’s easy to notice it.
The Israelites were called by God to be different from everyone else. God called them to be holy-to be set apart. In a land of polytheism, it was easy to pick out the monotheistic Jews. The Egyptians had gods for everything: Isis, the goddess of protection; Ra, the god of the sun; Anubis, the god of the dead. When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they discovered other gods like Dagan, Molech, Eshmun, and Yaw. That’s why God started with the Commandment, “Do not have other gods besides Me” (Exodus 20:3). Idolatry was Israel’s biggest temptation-one they frequently succumbed to.
Sometimes we hear that God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. In one sense, it’s true; God is interested in shaping us to be like Christ, even when it costs us everything. But the Ten Commandments ensured that God’s people would remain holy in relationship with Him, and also that they would love their neighbors, which can contribute to happiness. Loving God and loving others are both essential to Christianity. According to John, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).