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First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.
First, that we know and trust God as the only true God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry. Third, that we treat God's name with fear and reverence.
It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.
God leads men to see that the God revealed in Scripture, and manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus, is the God who made heaven and earth. Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods, such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel!”
The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty. This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.”
The first three commandments show how we are to live in reference to and in light of the only true and living God.
The first commandment tells us that we are to have no other gods but God. He is to be the exclusive object of our worship, the ultimate object of our love and desire. The second commandment is similar and tells us that we are not to worship God according to our own conception of God, what the Bible calls idolatry. We must worship God according to who he is and not according to what we want him to be. In other words, do not worship false gods, and do not worship God falsely.
The third commandment is actually similar to the first two. We are not to misuse or mistreat the name of God. We know God’s name describes his character, the essence of his being, which is why he told Moses that his name is “I am.” In other words, God is saying, “My name is that I’m self-existent and eternal.” To not misuse the name of God doesn’t merely mean that there are certain words we can or cannot say. It means that when we speak of God, whether through words or lifestyle, we are to fully honor and respect who he is.
Let’s consider the first two commandments a bit more. Say, for instance, you believe in your heart that attaining some goal in your life—prestige, a certain kind of job, a relationship with the person of your dreams—will provide you with ultimate comfort and will answer your heart’s desire for significance. In a daily functional way, you look to that goal to provide you with deeper comfort than God. That’s breaking the first commandment. You’ve turned your goal into God. Prestige, a certain job, or a person has become the object of your worship.
The flip side is that if you worship God because you believe that he should provide you with comfort by providing the prestige, the job, or the relationship that you desire and are looking for, you are also violating the commandments. You’ve imposed your conception of who God is on God. You’ve created a custom designer god, an idol. These first two commandments are that we worship God alone, that we worship God as a true God, and that we not worship a designer god or an idol.
So why do these commandments insist on us worshiping God alone and worshiping God as he is and not as we want him to be? Why is the third commandment so insistent on honoring and respect- ing his name and his character? It is because God created us with a desire that only he can fulfill—a desire for him. If we are always trying to change who God is or replace him with something else, we’ll never be at peace. We’ll never experience true comfort, true significance, or true joy. We’ll never be whole. But if God is at the center of our lives, not another god or a revised version of God, but the true and living God, we’ll truly be at peace.
This is precisely why Augustine wrote, “You’ve made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
One and Only God, your name is above all names, and we come before you in reverence and fear. Keep us true to your commandments. Reveal to us any false gods in our lives. Let us worship you alone in spirit and truth. Amen.