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MAY 3 2015

The First Commandment

 

When God delivered His eternal law to Moses he had to decide which command- ment would be given first. The first one would be one which God would necessarily deem as significant, important, and life-impacting. It only consists of eight words:

 

You shall have no other gods before me.

 

God calls his people to have no other gods besides Him. I wish to ask and answer two questions: Why does God give this command? And, how may we fulfill it?

 

[I.] Why does God give this command?

 

The second commandment, which is directly related to the first, receives a comment by God explaining why the second commandment is given: “for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God.” This explanation applies equally to the first commandment.

 

[A.] One reason why God gives this directive is because He is a jealous God. A pastor tells of his experience when a couple came to his office for counseling. Both had a complaint about the other and it was regarding the same behavior. The husband saw it as normal and that the wife was overreacting. The wife saw it as wrong and that things needed to change. They related an incident where they were at a restaurant and when the waitress arrived the husband smiled at her with delight. He noticed her name on her uniform and engaged her in spirited conversation. Then he gave her their order.

   As the waitress walked away, the happy husband turned his eyes back to his wife…and was sincerely startled by the change in her countenance. She looked hurt and grieved. “Honey,” he said, “what is wrong?” She replied, “I saw the way you looked at that waitress. That hurt me.”

   The husband was truly confused. “Hurt you? Why should that bother you? I was only being friendly. That’s my nature. I’m outgoing. I just enjoy people.”

   Her husbands words did little to comfort his distressed wife. Hadn’t he vowed that he would forsake all others, cling to her and be devoted to her? She told him that, since their wedding, she had noticed his eyes brighten up when meeting other women on other occasions but had not said anything until that evening in the restaurant.

   The story has a happy ending. The pastor somewhat took the husband’s side and thought that the wife was overreacting, but that the husband still had to take his wife’s feelings into consideration. That he should train his eyes and treat other women in a polite and businesslike way. The husband did this and, thereafter, his eyes would only light up when his wife entered the room. The couple had a happy marriage after this incident.

   But there is a little more to the story. The pastor thought that the wife had a jealousy problem and that the husband was being quite accommodating. In his view, the wife was the one with the problem. He thought that she was oversensitive and insecure. He was under the impression that jealousy is the problem of the one who has it.

   As time went by and he studied the Scriptures more and also talked to more couples, he became wiser and realized that jealousy is many times appropriate. He became aware that in a covenant relationship there should not be any competing affections. The affection and love for a marital partner should be with all the heart. He thought back on that incident and realized that the wife’s jealousy was warranted.

   She wanted his eyes. She wanted his heart…his whole heart. And she got it!

 

   God’s jealousy for his people is like that. It is warranted and right. Someone might think, “What does the great omnipotent God care about one of his people being distracted by some passing affection? Doesn’t he have more important things to do than to keep track of small indiscretions or wandering affections?”

   If we think such thoughts it is because we underestimate his love. He loves us and desires our whole heart. He notices the little things in the same way that wife did.

   In Jeremiah 44 the wives were baking little flat cakes and using the image of the queen of heaven, a false goddess, on the flat cakes. The Lord is jealous about this. He gets angry.

   You might even call them cookies. God was concerned about women baking cookies? Yes, he was. Because baking those cookies with an image on them revealed something about their hearts. Their hearts were not for him. They were for what they thought they could get out of it. When you read the whole chapter you learn that they were making offerings to the queen of heaven because they though she made them prosper. Still, it was affection for someone and something else besides the true God.

   God wanted their whole heart and he didn’t even get cookies.

   God desires your whole heart and some of us only give him cookies: Sunday morning only out of our whole week. And some will not even give him cookies.

 

   God is jealous and he is jealous in a good way. In fact, it is so true that God is jealous that he even calls himself by that name. In Exodus 34:14 he says: “Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Isn’t that an amazing statement? He calls himself by the name “Jealous.!”

 

“Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

 

Do you know what that means? That he is jealous.

 

Because he is jealous, he directs us to have no other gods.

 

[B.] Another reason he gives this command is because he knows what is best for us. There was a young man, Jack, who lived next door to a girl his age. They were both 17 years of age and both still living with their parents. Because they lived next door to one another, went to the same school, and even went to the same church, they knew each other quite well. The girl, Caroline, was on the pretty side, but more average looking than pretty. The boy was attracted to her and they did go on a few dates together. But he met another girl at school who was prettier and had more charm. The boys parents, being wise parents, insisted that the girl spend time with their family so that they could get to know her better. The boy didn’t particularly like that idea but went along to please his parents. The more time she spent with them the more the parents began to notice some character defects in the young woman. She claimed to be a Christian and even went to church with them but they noticed that her heart was not in it. She seemed to be anxious to get away from it all.

   But the boy didn’t seem to notice any of this. He was focused on her outward beauty, her charm, and her body because, well….he was a boy.

   The boy was still respectful of his parents, though, and when he started thinking of marriage he just didn’t bulldoze in and make a decision without consulting his parents which so many young people are likely to do in the current age of independence. When he asked them about marriage they told him that they did not approve and, as gently as they could, explained why. They noticed things about her which they believed would result in a difficult and trying marriage. They suggested that he discontinue their relationship and re-establish his relationship with Caroline. They explained that she possessed character qualities that would lead to a fulfilled relationship. He replied, “But I love so-and-so and I don’t have the same feelings for Caroline.”  His parents explained that feelings come and go, but they will eventually follow one’s commitment.

   Although he was generally an obedient child this was just too much. He decided to marry the other girl contrary to his parents counsel. It didn’t take too long before her beauty dissipated and he finally started seeing her lack of character. She made some very bad decisions that resulted in divorce. Meanwhile, Caroline found a godly young man and went on to live a fulfilled life.

   The parents were wise. They knew what was best for their son. They really did know.

 

   God knows what is best for us. He desires that we have what is best; that we not settle for less because he loves those who are his. There is no “god” that holds a candle to the true God.

 

  • His love is better than any earthly love and certainly better than inanimate objects that cannot love in return.
  • His purity is something to be admired, loved, and appreciated by those of us who are impure.
  • His wisdom is unparalleled and leads a person to trust in him in a greater way than any earthly trust.
  • He meets the deepest yearning of our hearts. This is why the famous quote by St. Augustine rings so true: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
  • His laws are good, holy, right, and for our benefit. They reflect his character.

 

God desires and commands that we have no other gods besides him because he knows that he Himself is what is best for us. His love is the best and the most satisfying.

 

[II.] How may we fulfill the command to have no other gods besides Him? First we must recognize who these other gods are. A god is anything to which we give a greater love and devotion than the true God. Therefore, a person can make a god out of money while all the while thinking that they are fine with God because they believe in him, go to church, and say their prayers.

 

A person can make a god out of their job when they devote all their time and energy to it and neglect their relationship with the Living God.

 

A person can make a god out of their hobby, their sport, or their own comfort. When a person chooses to sleep in on Sunday morning instead of coming to the house of God, which is His church, they are making a god of their own comfort and are guilty of breaking the first commandment.

 

A person can even make a god out of their spouse, their children, or their parents. Yet, Jesus taught us, did he not, that we must love God more than our own families?

 

Last week we learned about how to live out the law. We saw that the law was a betrothal document and I said that there were two keys to living out our betrothal. What were they? (Answer: Loving the Lord and being infused with His substance.)

 

[A.] If the answer to how we live out the law in general is by loving Him and being infused with Him, what is the answer to how we live out the first commandment? By loving Him and being infused with Him!

 

But we can make those two ways as one, because loving Him and being infused with Him go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. When the apostle John was commanding his readers to love one another in his first letter he wrote: “…love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (I Jn 4:7) You see, if to love one another with genuine love requires being born anew then it is even more true that to love God necessitates being born anew. Being born anew is the initial reception of God within us!

 

The apostle goes on to say: “Whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him.” (vs. 18) Therefore, if we are loving God, God is abiding in us, that is, we are infused with Him. If we are experiencing a lack of love for Him then we need more of Him, more of His infusion.

 

Brothers and sisters, we simply need to love the Lord more! If we do then we will have no other gods before Him.

 

[B.] How can we love the Lord more than we do? There is more than one answer to that question. There are many things that we can do to stir our love up for the Lord just like there are many things that we could do to stir our love up for our spouse. But I am constantly reminded to keep my messages simple. I am going to heed that advice and share with you just one simple and easy way to acquire more love for the Lord: Ask for it!

 

Everything that we have that is good comes from Him through Christ. Love for Him is no different.

 

We begin by asking Him. To that end here are short prayers to kindle love for the Lord within us. Some are affirmations and some are requests. Following the example of Scripture, some are addressed to the Father and some are addressed to Jesus. They have this in common: they turn our hearts towards the Lord and reflect our great need of His transforming power.

 

For these to be effective they should be said often. Do not be fearful of repetition. The Lord is not against repetition. He is against vain repetition. In the same way that lovers like to often hear the words, “I love you,” from the one another so, too, is it a good thing to frequently say these prayers.

 

 Moreover, these prayers are not magical. They have kindled greater love for the Lord within me and I pass them on only that they may have the same effect for some. You may have your own prayers that you have found distinctive in drawing your heart to Him. The power is not in the words but in Him who we trust.

 

Let us not be like that young newlywed husband, delighting in others over the one he is to love above all others. Let us love the Lord more and more as our years shorten. As we love Him more, we will have no other gods before Him.

 

 

Seven Short Prayers to Love God More than We Do.

 

 

 

  1. O Lord Jesus, I love you!

 

          2.  Lord Jesus, I love you. Help me to love you more.

 

          3.  Father, you love me. Yet, I do not love you as I ought. Stir up within me a greater and more intimate love for you. I ask you this through

               your  Son, Jesus, my Lord and Elder Brother.

 

          4.  Father, you have been my Helper and Protector all the days of my life, even before I came to know you. Be my Helper now. I need more

               love for you. Grant me this great need.

 

          5.  Father, your word promises that you love me. When you gave to me (put something precious to you here) this was and still is an expression

               of your love to me. Thank you for your love.

 

          6.  Father, your word promises that you love me. When you gave to me (put another precious person or thing to you here) this was and still is

               an expression of your love to me. Thank you for your love.

 

          7.  O Lord Jesus!

 

 

(Simply calling on the name of Jesus will bring his presence and his love.)