|Vol. 13 No. 3 March 2011||
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the children of Israel in Exodus 20:1-17. The time had come for God to reveal to them exactly what His expectations would be for them as His chosen people. The Ten Commandment law was unprecedented. It was the foundation for the 613 commandments that were to follow. These laws would cover the moral, ceremonial, civic and social needs of God’s people.
In verses 2-3, God emphatically declared, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” God told them right then that He would never accept being “next”!
When Jesus was asked by one of the scribes in Mark 12:28b, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him in verses 29-30. “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” Jesus reiterated that God will never accept being “next”!
If we are seeking to be pleasing to God, and a worthy disciple of His Son, we must realize that God never comes “next.” God is always first! God does not take second place to anyone or anything! Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness as Jesus commands in Matthew 6:33 is just that – a command – not a suggestion, a recommendation or a proposal.
Brother Charles B. Hodge, Jr. writes a monthly column for the magazine Gospel Advocate. His November 2010 subject was “Don’t Play at Worship,” and one of the many powerful statements he made was, “God is holy. God is the priority of the church. He is first! He will not be second, let alone last!” Those of us who are sincere students of the Book can truly appreciate the authenticity of that statement.
God must permeate our entire lives, and He does not stand in line for entrance into our hearts! As Christians, we must strive daily to live in the center of His will. It is of no laughing matter when we as a people have the concept of being first down to a science, except in devotion and obedience to the One who made us!
In our society, we stand in various lines waiting for goods and services on a daily basis. We are accustomed to having to wait and hear the word “next” as we are standing in these lines. There is no getting around it; it’s the “nature of the beast,” and whether we actually hear the word “next” or not, most of us know and understand we have to wait until it is our turn.
God does not, has not and will not ever be in that category! Why? Everything and everybody belongs to Him! Everything and everybody is under His divine and sovereign control! David proclaimed in 1 Chronicles 29:10, “Yours, O LORD is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all.” Why is that? Because He’s God!
We are not left to wonder why God commanded that He be put first and kept first from the beginning of His dealings with the children of Israel. In giving them the first commandment, God made it as clear to their human minds as they could comprehend that He was to be first.
At that point in their relationship with God, they were so afraid, in awe and trembling that they told Moses to speak with them. They said they did not want God to speak directly to them anymore because they might die. However, Moses said to them in Exodus 20:20, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.” Yet, when we look over the history of the Israelite nation, their repeated practices of idolatry with the heathen nations around them became their ultimate downfall!
Since God will never accept being “next” in our lives, what did Jesus mean when He said we are to love God above all? The answer to this question has been the subject of many books, debates, sermons, Bible studies and articles. For the purpose of this article, the answer will be most simplistic.
To love God with all of our heart is to love Him with all of our emotional being. To love God with all of our soul is to love Him with all of our spiritual being. To love God with all of our mind is to love Him with all of our intellectual being. To love God with all of our strength is to love Him with all of our physical being.
Psychiatrists and physiologists tell us these four components – heart, soul, mind and strength make up the whole of a human being. We who believe with all of our hearts that we were created in the image of God are not the least bit surprised that these professionals in their “research” have finally come to that conclusion.
So, how do we love God in this supreme manner in a spiritual way? This answer as well will be most simplistic. We love God with the whole of our lives and existence by putting and keeping Him above all human relationships, all material pursuits and all personal goals. After God, we must relegate and enumerate the cares, the quests, the allurements and the deceits of this world.
God demands that we surrender our lives to Him because He will not accept half-hearted allegiance. The ultimate idolatry is worship of self. Romans 12:1-2 commands that our bodies are to be presented as living sacrifices. We are not to conform to this world. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
God being “next” is impossible because He will never be first – after us!