You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)
God loved us enough to speak to us. He loved us enough to not only tell us His name, but also to own us, call us into relationship with Him, tell us how to worship Him, and hold us accountable. We understand the God of Israel by understanding His commandments, and to understand the commandments “perfectly” is to understand that they cannot be read in isolation from one another.
Through the first commandment, God is saying that He desires our complete and utter devotion. By placing God on the throne of our lives, we open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and enable the kind of relationship and communication that God desires with us. We realize that we are not attempting to get something out of God but we are instead “bending our lives toward God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, p 34)
Our God reacts intensely to those who disobey this commandment. He is jealous because He is sovereign. He has a particular and passionate desire for relationship with us and expects our very particular and passionate worship of Him in return.
Note that this is a commandment with consequences, both good and bad. By following this commandment, we are promised God’s steadfast love to the thousandth generation! By failing to follow this commandment, our iniquity will result in our children being punished to the third and fourth generation.
What are the “costs” of following this commandment? In the western world, the costs are often social — we may not look or sound like those around us. Our behavior may result in our isolation from others who do not know Christ. In other parts of the world, the cost may be death. What are the costs of not following this commandment? Sin itself is the punishment.
For Week 3, please read Chapter 2 on the Second Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:
- Why did God give us His name?
- Why is knowing God’s name such a great gift to us?
- How do we rightly or wrongly use God’s name?
- What causes us to break this commandment?
- How are we hurt by abusing God’s name?
- What are the public consequences of keeping this commandment?
- How would you explain this commandment to a child?