3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 2

Last time we talked about the requirements of the First Commandment. Today let’s dive into the other two categories and try and find a way to help us defeat the idols we fall for in our daily lives. But first, let’s read the rest of the text for the commandment:

For I am the Lord your God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me, and bestowing mercy on them that love me to thousands of them, and on them that keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:6 (LXX2012)

When children today are taught the commandments this portion of the text is sadly cut off in most cases. This portion contains, not only what we already know, that God judges those who worship any other than Him; but it also tells us that great mercy is given to 1,000 generations if only one would trust Him. This is the secret, I think, in keeping this command.

The Blessings of the First Commandment

For if you rest, you shall be undismayed; and if you sleep, you shall slumber sweetly.

Proverbs 3:24 (LXX2012)

The blessings of the first commandment are the greatest of all. God promises to be our God. He says He will govern and uphold us. He will keep us, protect us in our greatest fear, love us through our biggest messes, and provide for us whenever we have a need.

God will through means, that is, through the governing of creation, provide for us all that is necessary for both this life and the next. He will not rain down from heaven our food as for Israelites in the desert, but rather will enable us to gain what we must, to barter for what we need.

The Perversion of the First Commandment

Finally, we have the way in which Satan seeks to pervert the first commandment. Satan looks to bring evil upon us. In doing so, he is craftier than any other. Thrusting torments at us he tricks us into thinking it comes from God. We do not have enough money, or a big enough house, because God has not fulfilled his end of the bargain. We lose our job or fail in a venture because God did not prosper our way.

In doing so, Satan manipulates us into despising God and turning to other means to supply our want. We then make idols out of other ways to provide our needs. Abandoning the God that could save us from all this trouble.

Even worse, the evil one tricks us into thinking that now God owes us something and thus we make God out to be a debtor.

Keeping the Command

It is this great trick of the devil that hinders us from trusting fully in God. Because at the very root of our distrust is our firm belief that God either will not supply us our need or that He will instead meet out judgement on our heads.

Yet when we come to acknowledge that God is constantly providing us precisely what we need (though not in the manner we expect it) we begin the very long journey of trusting in Him whom we have not seen. Just as Jesus has taught:

Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.

John 20:29 (WEB)

Conclusion

What struggles do you face that keep you from believing? Let’s talk about them in the comments below. There is much that can prevent us from seeing God for Who He is. One job of the Church is to help one another see the One True God and realize His great love for us.

Next week, let’s take a look at the second commandment, how to use God’s name.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

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3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 1

Now that we have a firm idea of what to look for when studying the commandments (The Requirement, Blessing, and Perversion) we are ready to study in a little depth the first command.

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods beside me. You shall not make to yourself an idol, nor likeness of anything, whatever things are in the heaven above, and whatever are in the earth beneath, and whatever are in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them;

Exodus 20:3-5 (LXX2012)

The First Commandment is the most important of all. Fundamentally, the breaking of any of the other nine commandments is also a violation of this First Command. Also, The keeping of this commandment requires that the other nine follow suit.

Therefore, a strong understanding of what it means to have no other gods but God is critical to keeping and understanding all of the commands.

The Requirement of the First Commandment

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Luther’s Small Catechism

In this commandment, God forbids idolatry, that is, having any god before Him.

What is a god?

But what does it mean to have a god? In order to know that, we must know what a god is.

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I [Luther] have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.

LC I:2

In short, a god is that which we trust with our whole heart. Most of us would have to admit the thing we trust most is not god. In fact, I would bet that the thing we both trust more is wealth.

When we have money, we rest secure. Yet the moment we lack sufficient funds, we instantly enter into a panic. Why? Because without that money we cannot meet our needs. We cannot pay for food, rent, taxes, etc.

This alone should convict our souls of damnable idolatry. In our section on the Creed we learned that God “richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil”. So if we are looking to money to meet those needs, we do not look to God. We have made money our god.

A Subtle Idol

There is yet another, more subtle way to create an idol. We can be like the man from Jesus’ parables of the talents. We can make God into something He is not, most commonly a debtor. For has the servant in the parable made his master out to be a “hard man”, so he received a hard master. We, Who make God out to be a debtor, make Him into no god at all, but rather into a weaker figment of our imagination that cannot accomplish the things we need a God to do. This is even worse than to trust in money which is at least capable of some meager aid.

We ought to examine our heart as to whether we have the One True God or a false one. Does our heart look to God for only good and comfort? Or does it look elsewhere?

Conclusion

In my next post we will look at the blessings and perversions of the First Commandment, which will hopefully shed some light on how to overcome our failures in keeping the requirements we have just learned.

I would love to hear in the comments below what some of the biggest idols are that we struggle with every day.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.