The First Commandment : No other gods

Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Blog, God's will, God's word, The Ten Commandments, Wisdom | 8 comments

The First Commandment : No other gods

You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3 ESV)

The First Commandment is absolutely basic and fundamental to all else that follows. In effect, it tells us to put God first.

It’s probably fair to say that few Christians nowadays consider that this law applies to them. Or, if it does, they’re certainly not guilty of breaking it. After all, by identifying ourselves as Christians we’re clearly not worshipping pagan gods or following any other religion.

Many Christians, correctly, eschew Astrology because it advocates faith in something other than God and it is a form of divination which is expressly forbidden in the Bible. (Deuteronomy 19:10-14)

Others prefer not to practice Yoga because the postures are those that are offered to the almost innumerable number of Hindu gods. However, some Christians contend that Yoga is fine because they’re not actually worshipping these gods.

Even within the Church it’s all too easy to make an idol of someone who’s been influential in our lives; a teacher, a Youth Leader, a Pastor or a mentor. Often these people are, in effect, gifts from God to help us grow spiritually but they are, of course, no substitute for God Himself.

Christ makes it very clear that we are to love God above all else. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. (Matthew 4:10)

He also makes it clear how we are to love God; You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

What does it mean to love with all our heart?
The heart has long been considered the seat of our affections, passions and emotions. Whenever we declare that we love someone with all our heart, the implication is that there’s no-one we love more.

It’s perfectly legitimate to love those special people that God has granted in our lives; a child, a sibling, a friend, a sweetheart, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent etc. And it’s perfectly legitimate to love dearly. However, the moment these relationships become more intense and more important than our relationship with God, that’s the moment when we break the first commandment.

In today’s self-obsessed world there’s also the risk of loving ourselves more than we love God. This is pride at its worst and it causes us to break this first commandment. The Bible warns us that, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

What does it mean to love with all our soul?
Our soul is eternal and it’s what makes us unique. Even identical twins who share identical DNA, still have separate souls. Our soul, then, defines our eternal identity. How do we define ourselves? It’s a good question.

Sometimes we define our identity in terms of our relationships with the people we love and so we might describe ourselves as a daughter, sister, wife or mother.

For others, it may be based on what we do. For example, we might describe ourselves as a homemaker, a nurse, a teacher, a missionary. Or perhaps we define our identity based on our passions and hobbies; an artist, a musician, a writer, a gardener.

Once again defining our identity in these terms isn’t necessarily a bad thing but our primary identity should be that of a grateful, redeemed child of God. The moment we base our identity on any other thing is the moment we break the first commandment.

What does it mean to love with all our mind?
The mind refers to our intellect and is concerned with learning, knowledge and reasoning. The Psalmist refers constantly to the need to mediate on God’s Word and to commit it to our hearts and minds.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15-16)

We need to dedicate our minds to learning about God so we can discern the meaning of things in the light of Scripture. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

It also involves self-discipline and taking our thoughts captive to Christ. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

One area where we may stumble is in education and learning. Many people look to science for the answers to the great questions of life and, indeed, sometimes, it does offer some very plausible explanations. There’s no doubt that many scientific laws and explanations hold true. And that’s not really surprising – after all, God created it! We need to remember that, at present, our knowledge is patchy at best. Some scientific theories that were once regarded as absolute are now relegated to the dustbin of history in the light of new knowledge and information. It’s prideful, and therefore sinful, in the extreme to place science and knowledge before God.

What does it mean to love God with all our strength?
This speaks to our will, enthusiasm and effort. Where do we spend most of our time and resources? What activities attract our wholehearted input, commitment and participation?

To love God with all our strength is to love with our resources, our talents, abilities and our time. Our love is to be as practical as it emotional and intellectual.

Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

Whenever we put other interests and activities before our commitment to God, we’re breaking the first commandment.

The first commandment : You shall have no other gods before Me.
The principle behind the first commandment is that we are to be consumed on every level by God. He is to be our magnificent obsession. If we fail just one time in just one area, heart, soul, mind or strength, we break this commandment.

Guilty as charged.

8 Comments

  1. Wyn, thank you for your post and it’s directness to the subject of our number one commandment. In researching my blog that I’ll share in a couple of weeks, I came across a passage in Isaiah chapter 6. The prophet is distraught over the people’s behavior before God. Isaiah was in the temple when he suddenly saw the Lord sitting upon a throne. Angels, Seraphim, were surrounding him calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” He saw the Lord in all his glory and majesty, his equal unparalleled. It’s humbling to think of how easily we can be swayed away from acknowledging his complete holiness and put something else in our lives as more important.

    • Yes, Chris, I amazed and more than a little ashamed at how much we diminish God in our daily lives. My journey through the Psalms, with all their extravagant praise and wonder, is opening up a whole new perception of God for me. I look forward to your next post! 🙂

  2. All I can add is that I am thanking our God, the author of this commandment, for His abundant grace that covers my inability to keep this or any of His precepts. Luther writes, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in God or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens me and the whole Christian Church.” And, Roman s 5:6 declares that “…at the right time, while I was still in my sin, Christ died for the ungodly.”

    • Yes, Clara, studying the Ten Commandments has underlined my complete inability to obey the law. However, it also highlights the spectacular and fully undeserved miracle of God’s grace!

  3. Wyn, This is beautifully written and encompasses so well our difficulties with the first commandment. As you said wherever we place our resources, time, effort, energy and money that is where our heart lies! Matthew 6 verse 21: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So, I spend a lot of time in my office but every time I look out the window I am reminded of the power of God and His central, essential place within me and I try to bring God and his teachings into my work and to work as if He was watching me. But of course this is so very difficult and most of the time I am so focused on ‘the doing’ that I don’t think about ‘the why’ and I am not sure what I am worshipping but it is not God! So, it is a life long challenge to act out the first commandment!

    • When I first started this study I thought I had no real difficulty with this commandment and I suspect that many Christians think the same. But when we read what Christ says about HOW we’re to love God, I realise that I break this commandment very often and in so many ways.

      What’s more, putting God first in every way possibly directly affects how we deal with the other commandments. It’s absolutely fundamental to everything else that follows.

      I agree with you Sheila that it’s a life long challenge to observe the first commandment – to say nothing about the remaining nine!

  4. Thanks, Andrea, for you comments. I think that many people, even Christians, seek to explain away our behaviours by any other means rather than our own innate sin. I guess that’s one of the areas where we’d rather rely on science than on God.

  5. Wyn, I found your comments very interesting and, particularly , the mention of identical twins having separate souls. Having identical DNA is inescapably true since they come from the one egg which has divided to become two separate embryos. That being the case, they should, by the laws of science alone, share the same soul but, of course, they don’t and even if they are very alike in their behaviour they are still not identical in their thought or behavioural patterns.

    The unbelieving world may want to explain this away by saying that our behaviour is shaped by our environment and peer group , however, if that was the case then no one can use the excuse that ‘I was born that way’ as is so often heard to justify certain lifestyles and behaviours. Surely, if being around others is solely what shapes our thoughts and actions in certain ways, then we are able to change our company and therefore our behavioural patterns again.

    Identical twins most often grow up in the same household, with the same parents, siblings and peer group so why should they behave and think differently unless they each have their own individual soul which is unique to them alone. Science cannot explain this fact but God’s Word perfectly explains it by the repeated references to every human being being a combination of body and soul, the latter of which lives on in eternity.

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