When God gave those first Ten Commandments, He did so in a most dramatic way. Perhaps not as spectacularly as the rendering in the Charlton Heston version, but we certainly knew that the hand of God was involved. Since we weren’t on hand at the original giving, we can only speculate what was going through Moses’ mind. He had seen the fickle ways of these “chosen” people. Not only were they witness to a mass exodus from their life of bondage, but the parting of the sea so they could cross safely get across. They spent time in search of the promised land being led by God, in the form of a pillar of fire during the night and a pillar of cloud. His very presence was physically with them and still they complained and groveled for most of the journey.
We sit here today wondering how they could’ve been so blind, yet over the past few thousand years, haven’t we pretty much done the same? We can’t see God in the way these people did, but we do have written evidence of his presence every single day in the Bible.
The laws He inscribed on those tablets of stone are relevant today, but hardly ever referred to or used in our society anymore. The very first one is the key to the rest of them.
“YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS”
What does this mean? We should fear and love God above all things.
When I first learned this in my confirmation class, it made me wonder if there were other gods than mine. Of course by then I’d heard about the ancient gods of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Still I wondered why we needed a command to fear and love God above all things. He was the only God. There was no question in my mind that He created heaven and earth – that He was the ruler of the universe – that His love surpassed human comprehension – that he deserved not only my love, but my honor.
As life progressed, I began to see what “fear” meant. It wasn’t the kind of fear we experience when we’re in danger (although that’s part of it too.) It meant standing in awe of Him. There was no one on earth that could love me so unconditionally that His life would be sacrificed for me. There was no one who could defeat the devil and all his minions like Him. There was no one who would lift me out of the pit of despair or guide me through the difficulties of life. His presence wasn’t seen, but I knew He was there.
If we view God in this way, there is no possibility of disrespecting Him. Still we do so every day, when we place our own needs before those of others – when we lash out at our government (established by God) – when we feel we can figure things out for ourselves without any intervention from God – when we rely on things of this world rather than the free gifts He gives us.
The first four commands from God pertain to our relationship with Him. The rest are designed to help us in our dealings with others. Of course, we’re commanded to obey all of them, but the first one sets the tone for all the rest. If we fear and love God above all other things, the rest of those law become easy to keep.