The Great Command..
“You shall have no other Gods but me.” (Exodus 20:3, NIV)
This is the first commandment. No other Gods. But when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, listen to His response: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:36-38, NIV)
So the command to have “no other God” also infers, according to Jesus, the requirement to treat God as “God”. And that mandates a total reverence, absolute love, an unwavering commitment and complete trust-there is only ONE Supreme Begin. It also means, therefore, to remove things from our minds, hearts and souls that could compete with, or serve to imitate the Supreme Being.
A few nights ago I woke up with many concerns in my mind. The boys behavior and grades, our business, our nation, my personal challenges and the errors I have made over the past and even recently. A general sense of dread overtook me, but then as I prayed, He reminded me that either He is God or He is not God. Either I treat Him as the Almighty One—the One I turn to for help and protection and also for direction and my ultimate purpose—or I treat His as one of the supreme things in my life. But if He is that God and if I properly understand the “great and first commandment”, (He alone is God)I will not allow the bank, the IRS, Stokes County Health Department, my sons, my ambition and plans or even my past foibles to become the ruler of my imagination! They will not dominate me because these “rulers” will make me worry and anxious, they do not love me like He loves me!
And what’s a true test of my obedience and adherence to the first commandment: Do I worry? If I do, I am breaking that first command. I am not letting God be God—-i.e. sovereign. I am trusting something other than God——and no matter what it is, I am missing the mark, and somehow I have allowed Satan to convince me that worrying will help me.
So let me suggest that if we are serious about this first command, we will put no confidence in finding peace from others, or the governments or even our own good efforts. Neither should we trust good luck charms, religious idols/symbols, superstitions or the the occult or astrology.
The first commandment to worship no other gods but the Lord is the foundation for any true faith and an essential understanding if we would be holy. You can’t trust God and Buddha or Allah or science/technology. In the ancient world, citizens that abandoned an earthly king who had done much for them, and then entered into league with an outside ruler were considered guilty of the highest treason. How much worse, then, is it to turn one’s back on the great King who paid such a high price to rescue His people? When God’s people elevate someone or something above Him, they are actually committing the greatest act of betrayal possible. May we never be traitors to our Lord. In Dante’s inferno, the deepest, darkest most painful part of hell is reserved for traitors.
Most of us are not likely to worship an idols made of wood or stone. Our idolatry is more sophisticated but therefore more dangerous. We are apt to place money, material items, relationships, and other pleasures before our pursuit of God, so we should always be on guard against a “progressive” idolatry. We must always make the Lord first in our thoughts and desires.1 Corinthians 8:4–6 (ESV) “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
The first commandment prohibits us from any focus or fascination on any supernatural source of help or intervention other than God Almighty. Do you have good luck charms? Are you afraid of bad signs—-a black cat crossing your path, knocking over a salt shaker, the 13th floor in a hotel, walking under a ladder, having a lucky number, and so have no place in a person’s life if they are obedient to the first commandment.
There’s one God—-one source of all that is good and one source worthy of our praise, attention and worship. If He is our only God—-our only object of absolute attention and awe, we will “love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. It is inconceivable to be in God’s holy presence and want for anything more! Is He your God—your Supreme Being?
Is he first in your life and do you look to Him for protection—-or is it something else? To who or what are you most devoted? Is it football? Or your work? Or your allegiance to your nation? Or your devotion to your spouse or children? Jesus spoke about misplaced loyalties. Jesus is God in the flesh and was clear about what “loving God—-i.e. Him and His Father—-meant. Do you love Him? Would you be excited about entering into heaven if He told you that it would only be you and Him for eternity?
No other Gods—not even those we love and hold in high regard. Only one Being is worthy of total admiration, attention, praise and worship. And if we worship Him we will be drawn into a love with Him to which nothing can compare. That total love allows us to receive the best fruit of the Holy Spirit-the capacity to love others! Outside of Him our love for others will always be limited. Within in our resources to love others is limitless.
I tell you, this commandment stands for priorities and getting our heads clear about ultimate purpose, the pinnacle and love and the meaning of life! I wonder how many of us that talk about Him, or even preach about Him but do not know Him. To know Jesus Christ….to experience the overwhelming love of God is to not only obey Him, but to pant for Him and desire Him more than anything else. It is to be a willing, surrendered, living sacrifice for Him.
When Moses chiseled out the words, “You shall have no other Gods but me”, they were spoken to people who looked to Moses as evidence of a man in intimate relationship and love with God. Later they saw Joshua and Gideon, Deborah and David as people to whom God spoke and to whom His Holy Spirit rested. They trusted in God because of what they saw and what was represented to them in Spirit filled men and women.
With the coming of the God’s holy Son, whose birth we celebrate in a few days, we each are able to not only receive His peace and joy directly, but we have also received the gift of His Holy Spirit—the Comforter. He perfectly speaks, woos, calls and reminds us of God’s love for us—-a love that will not let us go. As with Moses, we have the ability to commune directly with God—-something the Israelites never had. Like David we can have our souls filled with the power of His Holy Spirit which can teach us to pray, sing, write and even preach! Like Deborah and Joshua we now have the unlimited power of God within us —which serves both as a witness to others and confirmation to us of His favor and election of our souls. Because Jesus has come and made Himself the pascal lamb and sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, we now have access to the throne of God in a manner those before Jesus did not. We are indeed blessed.
But what of those that have not experience the blessed cleansing that Jesus is able to provide for those that acknowledge that He is Lord? They can still look to a “Moses” or “Deborah” or “Joshua”—-i.e. they can still look to someone else that has an audience with God and one to whom God speaks——that is, they can look to you and me—-those of us who have been redeemed and restored to God. We are the ones that give evidence of God’s love both in the manner in which we are single-minded in determination to make God being first and primary in our lives and in the manner in which we love the others that Jesus came to save.
No one questioned Moses’ or Joshua’s devotion to God——nor their honesty or their integrity. The people may have rebelled because they did not like what these spiritual giants said, or because of how unwilling Moses and Joshua were to negotiate or compromise when it came to obeying God, but no one ever doubted that these men loved God, knew God, had incredible power or were zealots for God!……because of course it was obvious for any fool to see that they knew God on a personal level and were dedicated to honoring Him. They obeyed the first commandment.
In terms of obeying God’s commands I am accountable. He will not make me obedient nor will He cause me to find the time to work at it. I am expected to control my body and my mind. Oswald Chambers once remarked that, “The grace of God is absolute and limitless, and the work of salvation through Jesus is complete and finished forever. I am not being saved— I am saved. Salvation is as eternal as God’s throne, but I must put to work what God has placed within me. To “work out own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) means that I am responsible for using what He has given me. It also means that I must exhibit in my own body the life of the Lord Jesus, not mysteriously or secretly, but openly and boldly. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection . . .” (1 Corinthians 9:27)" as a testimony to those that do not know Him!
We have no excuse for not honoring Him by keeping His commandment—-particularly the first.
Every Christian can have his body under absolute control for God. God has given us the responsibility to rule over the “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” including our thoughts and desires (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are responsible for these, and we must never give way to improper ones. But most of us are much more severe in our judgment of others than we are in judging ourselves. We make excuses for things in ourselves, while we condemn things in the lives of others simply because we are not naturally inclined to do them.
Are our lives a living testimony that we worship one, and only one, God? Are your lives so dedicated to honoring Him—in our priorities, our relationship with others and even in how we care for our own bodies, that others recognize that we are set apart, special and that we think and do things different from the common man.
The early leaders of Israel and the first apostles were an embarrassment to Satan and the forces of darkness. May our lives be the same.