Then God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me.
Throughout human history, God has used many different ways to communicate with us. On different occasions, He has spoken through voices, dreams, a cataclysmic flood, our consciences, the written Word, a flaming bush that didn’t burn, and becoming one of us for a brief time. One of the most dramatic moments of God’s desire to connect with us was when He carved stone tablets and gave them to Moses. On these tablets, also known as the Ten Commandments, God gave clear, powerful directions to enable us to relate to Him(the first four commands) and to one another(the last six).
As a preamble to the first command, God reminds the people of Israel of their recent history. Shortly before this moment, God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. He miraculously rescued them when the Egyptian army had them pinned against the sea, and He provided food for them every day in the wilderness. Without doubt, God had proven His greatness and grace to them. Nothing could compare to His majesty and His loving-kindness. With that in mind, the first command says clearly, “Keep me at the top.”
It’s easy for us to think that we don’t have any problem with idolatry and competing gods in our lives, but let’s take a closer look. All around us, people put success, money, pleasure, and power in the center of their lives. And if we’re honest, these things threaten to crowd God out of the center of our own lives too. We may not bow before a golden calf, but our minds can easily be preoccupied with gaining more than we have now. Keeping God in the center is a decision and a process.
Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.
“God, having spoken to the fathers long ago in [the voices and writings of] the prophets in many separate revelations [each of which set forth a portion of the truth], and in many ways, has in these last days spoken [with finality] to us in [the person of One who is by His character and nature] His Son [namely Jesus], whom He appointed heir and lawful owner of all things, through whom also He created the universe [that is, the universe as a space-time-matter continuum].”
What powerful truths has God made known to us through His Son Jesus. To those who would question the love of God for them, what could speak more powerfully than for Him to give up His Son.
“He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
Furthermore, that Son proved His love for us even before we were saved by giving up His very life for us.
“But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
How powerfully has God spoken to us through His Son and how powerfully is His love for us shown through Christ. What more could God say or do to prove His love for us?
One might ask then, “What would be an appropriate response be to such a display of love that certainly put us first?” Wouldn’t a response of love and gratitude that reciprocates the love of God that put us first, also show itself by putting God first?
There are a lot of things and people, too, that pressure us and demand to be first. Sometimes our careers may demand top priority and time and it’s easy to justify giving in to its demand for after all it provides the resources for everything else in life. But far too often careers become our masters and we find them demanding more and more of our time and attention so we can stay on the success track. You see, it’s easy for even good things to replace God as first in our lives. Sometimes our careers tell us to put them first, that there will be time for God when we retire. But God didn’t put off redeeming us, in due season He sent Christ.
It’s obvious from scripture that God has had us in mind first. Before He created us, He prepared a paradise for us. After we rebelled, He provided redemption for us. Even beyond death, He has prepared a glorious future for us. Why then does it seem so burdensome to us to put Him first in our hearts?
Jesus gave us a powerful principle to help us find the proper balance to life:
“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.”
The secret to a satisfying, fulfilled life is to simply put God first. And that’s not as easy it it may seem. You see God doesn’t force Himself on us, He waits for us to just return His love. We may spend great amounts of time working or serving or doing good things, hoping in some way to impress God. Like Martha, we may want to make sure that God is honored, served well and our busyness is proof of our love for Him. But what He really wants is for us to be more like Mary, and just sit at His feet for a while.
All of us know that all of our work, or things we may give are but small tokens in comparison to making that one we love the center of our attention. That’s what God was asking of the Israelites. He was willing to deliver them from slavery, rescue them from armies, provide food and water and all their other needs and all He wanted in return was to be first place in their lives. For us, He was willing to give up His Son, the Son was willing to give up His life so we could be delivered from sin, rescued from the devil, receive eternal life and all its benefits and all He asks of us is to be first. I really don’t think that’s asking too much, do you?
Dr. John Thompson