“God’s Law Begins with Devotion to God Alone”
To be Christian in a day like this is to be devoted to God alone. God is one and there is no other.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 begins every Hebrew service of worship:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be radically committed to Almighty God. Why? Because only God is Holy; God alone is Almighty.
The God we worship is the creator and the redeemer of all the heavens and the earth. There is no one like this God. To God belong all honor and praise.
Look for a moment at God’s Word in Exodus 20:1-11. These first four commandments cement our commitment to the one God of all creation.
From the beginning of the commandments the Biblical writer wants us to know that these Ten Words come from God, not from human beings. God speaks these words. These are not human rules that come to us from the imaginations of the human heart; they are God’s words. We are to take God’s words to us with utmost seriousness. They are more than simply human religion (human beings lifting ideas up to God in worship). These commandments come from the mouth of the creator; they come in a revelatory event that originates with God, not human beings. They are more than an evolutionary step in human religious development. The Ten Commandments are words to us from the heart of Almighty God.
As the first command is spoken, we are reminded that the God who gives us the Ten Commandments is the same God who delivered the Hebrew people from Egypt. The God of the Bible is not a god invented by human beings that begins with human imagination. The God above all human gods is the one who speaks. Our response is to listen and worship. We are to put no human idea or thought before Almighty God, for this is the God who acts in human history. The example given in the prelude to the Ten Commandments is God’s action to redeem the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. Another action of God that resulted in the formation of the Church is God’s willingness to become flesh among us in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. To this God belong all honor and glory.
From the mouth of the God Almighty we are told to put God first. There is no god like Almighty God; there is no one like Him!
The second commandment follows on the path of the first commandment. All the human idols that are made to prop up our human egos are to be rejected. We are to worship God alone and throw away our human idols.
The reality is that most of us in the 21st century don’t have idols made of wood, gold or silver to which we bow in obedience. Our idols are much more sophisticated. They are idols of the heart. These idols can be described in terms of ultimate concern, in terms of what is most important to us.
The second commandment reminds us that Almighty God wants to be of ultimate concern in our lives. Nothing else is more important. No human enterprise is more important than God. All our penultimate concerns are secondary. God alone is to be worshiped and praised. God alone has the power to save. When we put the things of the world before God, we fool ourselves if we believe that God will understand and simply overlook our infidelity.
God wants our whole-hearted devotion, or nothing at all.
God is not impressed by a middle of the road, lackluster devotion to the Lordship of Almighty God. In Revelation 3:15-20 we read the words of the prophet to the church in Laodicia:
“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ Yet you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore, I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Listen, I stand at the door and knock, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”
This point is that God calls us to places of radical obedience. When we give power and authority to the things in our lives that dominate our human thoughts and actions, we place God on the back burner. We make idols of ideas and objects that in the long run will destroy us.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to turn from these human distractions and turn our eyes fully on Jesus Christ, forsaking the human idols that threaten to undo us. The result is a blessing from God! Only as we open ourselves to the fullness of what God wants from us will the Spirit of God grow us into the disciples that Jesus has called us to become.
God expects that we respect him in thought, word, and deed. Nothing less will do. Using God’s name in a flippant, casual way is a sign that we have not fully embraced the Lordship of God’s Almighty power. When we see this lack of respect for Almighty God present in our lives, we are called to turn back to God with all our heart, mind and spirit.
The point is that God’s name is important. In Hebrew culture the name for God was so important that it was a name that was forbidden to be spoken. Our Hebrew brothers and sisters believed that when you said someone’s name, you somehow controlled them. And in the Hebrew mind, God can never be manipulated or controlled. The Almighty character of God supersedes any human attempt to remake God in the human image. Human beings are made in God’s image, not the other way around.
As a result when God’s name comes up in the scriptures of the Old Testament, the reader is not to pronounce God’s name, because God can never be controlled. Instead of saying Yahweh or Jehovah, the reader said the word LORD. In the King James Version of the Bible, the word LORD is often used for the Hebrew name for God, YHWH.
The final commandment that deals with the Almighty character of God provides for one day out of seven for a day of worship and Sabbath rest. On this day we are to reflect on the wondrous work that God has done among us. Just as God took time to enjoy the wondrous work of creation that God had made, so we are to set aside a day of Sabbath rest, giving honor and glory to the God who has created and redeemed us. No other human activity is so important that we can ignore God’s activity among us. This is what worship is all about. Making time in our busy lives to worship Almighty God is vitally important.
From a Biblical perspective, worship is not an optional part of our life together. Worship is of ultimate importance. Nothing is more important, not money or family or personal pleasure. Worship is what makes our lives worth living. Worship is what brings meaning to the things in our lives that are important to us. Worship keeps our work in perspective. Worship brings meaning to the family relationships that are the foundation of human culture. Worship brings perspective to our human will to power. Worship gives honor and glory to the one God of all the universe, the same God who became flesh for us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Worship brings purpose and meaning to our lives in way that nothing else can do. Worship is God’s gift to people of faith. And while Christians worship on the first day of the week to remember the day of Jesus’ resurrection, the principle of worship and Sabbath rest remains the same. Nothing else is more important!
It is no accident that our commitment to God begins God’s Ten Words of Law. When we put God first in our lives, and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, everything else falls into place. After all, God is first; we as human beings are second!
When God is lifted up, the result is blessing. The peace of God that passes all human understanding fills our hearts and lives with hope and new life. Nothing else is more important.
Thanks be to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!