When you think of a law, what is the first thing you think of? Do you think of the police or the court system? Do you think of a list of rules and regulations? Do you think in terms of what is right and what is wrong? Whatever the case, the idea of law is something that all of us are familiar with. Some of you might fear the law and others my never really think about it. If you claim the name of Christ though, our first though when we think of the laws should be love. The scripture is full of references to the importance of the laws. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a song about loving the law of God. But we do not love the law for its own sake, we love it because of how it reveals the character and nature of God and how we are to relate to him. There are various summaries of the law throughout scripture, there is one set that stands out above the others. The Ten Commandments.
Question # 94
One of the thing we need to understand when we come to the Ten Commandments, as well as any other part of scripture, is that every part of scripture has a context. There is the immediate context and the context of the rest of scripture. If we are going to understand the Ten Commandments, we need to understand them in their context. This list of commandments comes to the people of Israel as they are in the wilderness shortly after leaving the captivity of Egypt. This is the context for the commandments. Question 94 asks about what the Lord requires in the first commandment. In order to understand what is commanded though, we need to look at why we should obey. In the context of Exodus, the Ten Commandments starts of with a reminder of who it is that is giving the commands. Exodus 20 starts with a reminder that the Lord is the one giving the commands. The very same Lord who is responsible for all the mighty works that brought the people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is after reminding the people who he is, that he gives the first command.
What is Required?
A lot of times when we read a command, such as You shall have no other Gods, we tend to think of it purely in negative terms. We forget that if there is something to avoid, then there is by implication, something positive that we are supposed to do. When the catechism asks about what is required, it looks less at the obvious negative and more at the implied positive. It starts off by talking about obedience to the commandments is for my own good, for the good of my salvation. I need to flee all forms of idolatry including witch craft, and prayer to anyone or any thing that is not the Lord. Something else that is implied that can be easily missed is that knowledge of who the Lord is, is a foundational requirement for obeying this command. I cannot obey someone I do not know. If I do not know the Lord, his character, his nature, I can I know that what I am doing is service to him and not another. We are called to trust in him alone. To expect all good from him, all love. We are to fear him, both reverence and dread. The command in short is to forsake all and follow the Lord. He must be first.
The First commandment is simple. Have no other Gods be for the Lord. The implications of this and the death of this is any thing but simple. Calvin once wrote about how our hearts, even as Christians, are factories of idols. We constantly find new things, and bring back the old, to take our focus off of the Lord who created every thing, our savior, who brought us out of death and into his glorious light. The command to have no other Gods simple reminds us that there are no other Gods. There is nothing and no one who can take Gods place. Our most fundamental sin, the essence of what drives all our other since, is our desire to put ourselves in God’s place. To be the one who decides. To be the judge of what is right and wrong. We do things be cause the feel good or because we want someone to like us. The first commandment points out the wrongness of that attitude. We must have no rule over our lives, only one God, there can be no other.
Soli Deo Gloria