The purpose and meaning of the First Commandment
Establishing, developing and maintaining a personal relationship with the true living God is the most important commitment we can ever make. That is the primary focus of the first of the Ten Commandments. It reads as follows,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2-3
When Jesus was asked which of all the laws of Scripture is the greatest, Christ responded with the command emphasizing the supreme importance of our personal relationship with God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:35-38. See also Deuteronomy 6:5
The supreme guiding power over our lives, that which controls our ideals is our focus of worship. Many things can take the place of the worship of the true God in our hearts and minds. The adoration of these things will eliminate any possibility of our establishing or maintaining a real relationship with God.
The basis of our relationship with God
The Bible is clear concerning the basis of our relationship with God: He is our Creator! The prophet Isaiah chided the ancient Israelites for failing to grasp the significance of trusting and honouring their Creator. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 27 Why sayest you, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” Isaiah 40:26-28
All that we are, and everything we have, ultimately comes from one source being God. Paul cautions us to be “not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17. The only reliable assurance that our future is secure lies in our relationship with our Creator. The Bible affirms that our Maker is both living and real and the one and only true God. “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king…” Jeremiah 10:10
He created for us a wonderful dwelling in our beautiful planet. He fashioned it to provide us with everything we need for our material well being and survival. It is His desire that we enjoy and appreciate His gifts to us. At the same time, He wants us to understand that we must never direct our worship toward anything that He has created or regard it as the source of our life and blessings. Only the Creator and never the creation is to receive that honour.
The veneration of nature
Man's worship of nature, or some aspect of nature, has been the basis of one idolatrous religion after another. Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible succinctly explains the underpinnings of religions that were contemporary with and geographically close to ancient Israel. “The great idolatrous cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia closely reflected their physical environment. Their religion, like that of their neighbours the Hittites and Canaanites, focused on nature. They had no real concept of a single, all-powerful Creator-God. And so they accounted for the vagaries of climate, agricultural events and the geography of the world around them by means of a whole array of gods.” (1973, p. 10)
The Egyptians and Mesopotamians thought of the forces of nature as powerful spirits ruling over their environment. This superstitious worship of the sun, moon and stars as well as “mother” earth and most of its natural forces such as lightning, thunder, rain and fire, persists to this day in some parts of the world. Ironically, this underlying concept has also been adopted by modern day religions that teach that God is more or less the sum total of the natural powers of the universe. But all have one thing in common: They fail to distinguish the Creator from His creation.
Many people place their confidence in astrology. Whether they realize it or not, in doing so they attribute divine powers to the creation being the stars rather than to their Creator. God warns us against this practice. “And lest you lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when you seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD your God has divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.” Deuteronomy 4:19. Astrology is a way of looking to the creation instead of to the Creator for supernatural guidance.
Exalting the creation is the cornerstone of today's materialistic, secular view of the universe. The theory that life evolved from inert matter is an attempt to explain the creation of our amazing universe without the intelligence of a Creator. Responsible scientists refute the belief in the spontaneous generation of life. Some have demonstrated the scientific impossibility of life evolving from the nonliving. Research demonstrates that cells, the building blocks of life, are made up of so many complex and interactive and irreducibly complex systems that the possibility of life originating spontaneously defies even the most extreme view of the laws of probability.
Michael Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, writes: “The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell—to investigate life at the molecular level—is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!' The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science.” (Darwin's Black Box, 1996, pp. 232-233) Dr. Behe refutes even the possibility that life could have evolved. In other words, solid scientific evidence now makes it clear that the existence of the creation necessitates a Creator.
Why people turn to superstition and idolatry
Some 2,000 years ago the apostle Paul explained that the all too human tendency to attribute intelligence and life giving powers to the physical creation has been a major source of superstition and religious blindness. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” Romans 1:21-25
The First Commandment warns us not to accept a religion or philosophy that teaches that our life and well being originate with or depend on anything other than the one true God. There is no pantheon of deities. There is no other source of life or blessings but God. There is no other power that rules over the heavens and the earth. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S your God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” Deuteronomy 10:14. He alone created and sustains the universe in which we exist. This is the First Commandment's powerful message. We are to worship and serve our Creator and miracle working God who led ancient Israel out of Egyptian bondage and to credit our existence and blessings to no other source. We are to love, respect and honour Him and to have a genuine personal relationship with Him.
How can the true God be more real to us?
It is through God's remarkable works that we can best comprehend God's character. David describes his enthusiastic admiration for God's care and concern for His creation. “I will speak of the glorious honour of your majesty, and of your wondrous works. 6 And men shall speak of the might of your terrible acts: and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall abundantly utter the memory of your great goodness, and shall sing of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. 9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Psalms 145:5-9
Another Psalms exclaims: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalms 107:8-9
Moses adds that our Creator “does execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.” Deuteronomy 10:18. Jesus explains that God is so loving and merciful toward all that “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45. God is concerned about the well being of all people, even those who live in ignorance of His existence. Why is it so important that we understand the fundamentals of God's character? It is vital that we understand God because He wants to create in us that same character of His divine nature. Peter tells us that God has “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature…” 2 Peter 1:4
This comprehension involves a major shift of mind set. As Paul tells us, “And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2. What kind of renewal should occur in our thinking? Paul explains, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. God wants us to become like Him by emulating the thinking, attitudes and outlook toward life exemplified by our perfect example Jesus Christ. How can this change in our thinking take place?
Getting acquainted with the true God
We get to know God by practicing His ways and emulating the love for others that motivate His thinking. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his Commandments.” 1 John 2:3. And, “He that loveth not knows not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
The Bible is a handbook that tells us what we need to know about God. Jesus Christ tells us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. See also Deuteronomy 8:3. Paul explained that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To know God, we must study those inspired Scriptures. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
The family relationship
The relationship that God wants with us is that of children with their Father. “And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18. Herein lies the awesome purpose of our existence: the continuing development of righteous character and our ultimate destiny as members of God's family (same verse; Matthew 5:48). The apostle John stresses the importance of this special relationship, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that has this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3
It was for this purpose that Jesus Christ was born to be the Saviour of mankind. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one [Father]: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Hebrews 2:9-11
This is the awesome purpose for which you were born. To become a member of the very family of God! What a remarkable love the living God and Creator of the universe has in store for us. He wants us to be a part of His family and live forever in His Kingdom. He tells us that our highest priority in this life is to “seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Matthew 6:33. Our heavenly Father gave us this lifetime to establish a permanent relationship with Him so we can receive eternal life as His children. We should love, honour and respect God so much that He alone is the supreme authority and model in our lives. He alone is God. We should allow nothing to prevent us from serving and obeying Him.