“If our faith is to be genuine Christian faith it must be more than faith in faith.”, writes Kevin DeYoung in his book, The 10 Commandments. And this is a salient point, the object of our faith is what matters. Yes, we want to have a sincere and deep faith, but if our faith is misguided then it has trusted in something that is not trustworthy and that is, in part, the reason for the fist commandment.
The God of Scripture is pointing us towards the true object of salvation, himself. In a context with competing deities, God wants to make sure his people have a clear understanding of what is true among a land of illusions. And this is why the first commandment is first. It sets itself as the foundation, upon which all the other commandments will follow.
Consider that for a moment, all of those other moral laws, flow from the identity of the true and living God. In our current context, it is argued that you don’t need God to be good. But this misses the point. While people who don’t believe or actively reject God can do seemingly good things in our society, it really forces us to ask, “Why is that we all intuitively know what is a good thing and what is bad?” This “moral code” is built into us as we are made in God’s image.
And this is one of the particular reasons why God as the creator has rights over us as creature. Yet in our sinful estate, we have corrupted the first commandment. We act as if there is no God, yet all of us know the true God truly, as Scott Oliphint has said. This raises a question, “How do we keep the first commandment?” DeYoung answers with three ways, “Worship God exclusively, shun all idolatry, and turn to Christ uniquely.”
Worship God Exclusively
As we have heard, the commandments are not arbitrary but predicated on the deliverance from Egypt. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was not because they raised an army and vanquished Pharaoh, it was because God interceded. His sovereign power is evidence that we can trust him. His delivering works are confirmation of his love for us. The so-called gods of this world, who don’t even exist, have no power and they do not love us. Therefore since God has saved you and loved you he alone should be worshipped.
This is in part why the Bible begins with the announcement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” This is a solo act with no accompaniment. However, later the Bible talks about how Israel would allow other gods to be worshipped alongside Jehovah.
We are quick to shake our heads at Israel as they bring false idols into God’s temple where he alone is worshipped and adored. But it reflects how we often allow other areas of our lives to have equal or more influence than God. But in order to worship God rightly and truly he alone is the God we must worship because he is the one who saved us and protects us.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD 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. Deut 6:4–5