In this post I will be articulating several things that I think the first 3 commandments to be teaching. I want to preface this by saying that many of the things I say I know to be foundational biblical truth. However a few of them I am still working thru and may not be very solid. Critiques are, as always, desired. Even more so on this post, as I am learning this and desire to hear the thoughts of the saints.
And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
The first three of the ten commandments. When I first heard these, as a young child, the whole list just seemed to be a series of do’s and dont’s. I did not see the differences that I saw later, between the ones that are directed Godward, the first four, and the ones that are between men, the last six. But as time went on I learned this. Later still I learned that there is a greater depth to the concept of the name of God than I previously understood, but that I will articulate further below.
Just today, while mulling over the word, some things began to click together in my head and I want to lay them out here for the saints to be edified if they are correct, but also so that if I am wrong in this, God, via His church, can rein me back in.
What I am going to put forward is that these three commandments are not just intended to give three do’s and dont’s. They are intended to establish the boundaries of a worldview. They are intended to address all of life.
#1 I am God, you shall have no other.
The ten commandments were not just random, because our God is not random. All that He does He does with purpose originating in the only perfect mind there is. So, God, in His perfect will chose to start His law with a declaration of His own deity and His exclusive rights to that title. This command is a proclamation to humanity that God is God. There is no attempt at any justification of this statement, or any reasoning up to it. Just a simple declaration of Deity. God does not at any point thru scripture stoop down and try to prove to fallen man that He is God. He states it clearly, and His creatures are under obligation to believe and act accordingly.
“You shall have no other gods before me”, is a claim of the exclusive rights of God. There are no others so you are not to live as if there are. He alone is God and commands that we are to acknowledge this in our thoughts and lives.
#2 You shall not make an image for worship. Not a likeness of anything in …heaven ….earth… or… water.
This condemns the constructing of any images of any sort to any created thing with the intent of worship. Idolatry in its most obvious form is here explained and forbidden. The creating of a physical idol is making outward an internal act of idolatry. God has already been deposed and a created thing placed on that throne.
Now, of course every act of idolatry outwardly directed toward something outside of the person has its origin in an act of idolatry within the person. Already the person has exalted Himself in His own mind to sit and judge over God. He, the person, has determined that God is not to be worshipped as God, thus exalting His own mind to the idolatrous position of being in judgement over God. Romans 1 is clear that fallen man knows of “His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse”. Even those within false religions have been clearly shown the truth… but… “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” They may not necessarily at the present time be conscious of the fact that what we proclaim to them is true. Still, their idolatry is without excuse.
There is another point to be made out of this command. God phrases this command in such a way as to make the Creator/creature distinction very clear. He went thru the list of things in heaven, earth and water to make a point. Everything here, everything on this earth, everything not God, is NOT to be worshipped. Why? Because it is not God. It is created. It is distinct and different from its creator and it would be idolatrous for us to worship anything this side of the Creator/creature distinction.
#3 You shall not take God’s name in vain.
Men with far greater wisdom than I have written very well on this command. I recommend you go and read some of them. But still, I need to address it as well.
Very often we read this and assume that it merely means we are not to use God’s name as a curse word. This misses most of the point.
When a Hebrew thought of someone’s name, it was not limited to the vocal or written construct that signified that person. It identified all that that person was. Their worth, reputation, and honor were all tied up in their name. Furthermore, there was a sense in which when wrongdoing was done by a member of a particular family or tribe, it brought dishonor on the name of that family or tribe. If a jew were to commit a terrible crime that would bring dishonor to the name of His tribe and family. It would entail a deep lack of respect for the dignity of those dishonored. It was to diminish them in the eyes of others, to pronounce them as unworthy of respect, honor and obedience.
When God says not to take His name in vain, there is nothing there in to indicate that this is speaking of something merely verbal. It is saying that if we are taking on the name of God, proclaiming we are His servants, we are to behave in a way befitting that claim of allegiance. We are to honor God, and not take up His name in a trite, or vain manner. We are to be serious about the fact that we, as followers of the one true God, have taken up His name and His honor in the eyes of the world is in a sense tied to the way that we behave. We represent Him. In essence, do not think of God as trivial when you claim to be His, but live according to His ways and thus glorify Him.
These three commands seem to me now to be so much more than just a few do’s and dont’s. They provide the foundation for all of life.
#1 God and God alone is Deity. Only recognize Him as Divine.
#2 No created being is Deity. You may worship none of them.
#3 Do not defame the character of this God. Do not take up His cause lightly.
These truths are absolutely foundational. Bank on them.
I would greatly appreciate feedback, especially from those older and wiser than I. Am I accurately bringing up the underlying points to these commands? Am I taking some too far? Am I not taking some far enough?