We live in a world of sports. Americans are passionate about baseball, football, and basketball. Canadians live and breathe hockey, we are told. The British are so into football (what we call soccer in the States) that the sport has caused riots. Indians and Pakistanis stop everything else, and even share space in a pub, during the cricket matches between those two nations. And don’t dare get an Irishman started on hurley, football, or Irish-rules rugby. All of these sports have as one goal determining who is the best, who is number one. After a championship (or even before it) you can see people waving giant foam fingers and chanting “we’re number one.”
Sports are fun. Sport has its place in life. Some even say baseball is life. But sports have this one failing. Very often they are based on a faulty premise: some person or team can actually be number one. Even the mighty New York Yankees may temporarily claim to be number one, but that is fleeting. (Just look at them in recent years.) In sports a number one ranking is for such a short time that it really means very little. There is only one who can lay claim to being number one, and with Him it is a permanent claim.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6:4-5) This is the cornerstone of Jewish life. It is repeated several times a day. “The LORD is one.”
Generally people look at this passage and take it to mean simply that there is one God. We are to honor no other gods because there is only one God. While this is definitely part of the meaning of the passage, it is not the whole meaning.
The LORD is one. Our God is number one. Not the Yankees; not Manchester United; not the winner of the World Cup, Stanley Cup, Lombardi Trophy, or the World Serious. God is number one. He is now and always number one. While that includes the thought that there is no other god like him, it means so much more.
If God is number one, that means that everything else and everyone else is not number one. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:3) Since God is number one, that command to the Jewish people is, in one sense, essentially meaningless. Since no other god can possibly be before God, how could we put someone in that position? That would by like saying the Chicago Cubs are the best team in the past hundred years. You could say that, but you would clearly be wrong. You could say that a piece of wood is better than God, but that would not make it so. The real meaning of this command, then, may be to be real. God is number one, so root for him. Be on his team.
Because God is number one, all creation is subject to him. And because he created all, he is number one. Kind of a vicious circle, that. If you can find anyone that can create like God did, then God is not number one. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?” (Job 38:4-5)
More than that, because God is number one, he will win. Life is more than a sport. Life is, so to speak, life and death. It is not a mere game; it is deadly serious. If that is true, it behooves us to be on the winning side. God’s side is the winning side. Always!
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom 8:37) When we are on God’s team we can always say, “We’re number one, because our God is number one.”
Singer JJ Heller planned on a basketball career. She was a star in high school. Everything looked good for a stellar college career. But in her freshman year of college she started missing shots that had been easy for her. That year was a disappointment. The following year she started writing and performing songs in praise of God. Now those hopes for a basketball career have been totally replaced by her singing career. She learned that sports are not number one; God is.