What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?

52 Ways of knowing God, New City Catechism

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, also honouring his word and works.

“It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—” (Deuteronomy 6:13–14 ESV)

These were and still are some of the most important verses in the entire Bible. Moses, the friend of God, the Leader of the Nation, the Prophet of God, reminds his people, a nation, at the doorstep of the Land that God promised. He is reminding them about the importance of the Commandments.

He is refreshing their memories of the Covenant of God’s Word given to the people through Moses and the people’s commitment, who promised that they would obey.

Moses is reminding them of the 2nd and 3rd Commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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.” (Exodus 20:3–4 ESV)

So what we have here in Deuteronomy is the outwork of the 2nd and 3rd Commandment; it is the warning. They were about to enter into the promised land, and now they were to put into practice what Moses taught them, which is the very Word of God.

Want I want you to know that these commandments are not an intellectual exercise, nor they are just moral or ethical values, there are given so that we can live by them, obey them, trust them.

It is like a sports team that has been given the instructions to win the game by their manager. There is a game plan, and they need to follow the game plan to overcome the enemy. I know that this example is not perfect, but they make the point.

This is why Deuteronomy is so essential for us to understand. “You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—” (Deuteronomy 6:13–14 ESV)

The people of God forgot the plan. They did go after other gods, and by doing that, they were unfaithful to the genuinely faithful one. They paid a heavy price for their unfaithfulness and disobedience. They committed adultery.

For us as Christians, Christ-followers, we have to grasp God’s redemptive plan. Two important revelations took place within God’s redemptive plan, and these two are well established in the Judaeo-Christian history of salvation.

One, it’s God’s ten commandments were given to Moses at Mount Sinai.
Second, it’s Christ death and resurrection at Golgotha, where Christ fulfilled the entire law, and he became, in the words of John the Baptist, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He became the ultimate and supreme, and sublime sacrifice of worship.

The letter to the Hebrews tells us in chapter 10

“First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:8–10 NIV11-GKE)

This is the ultimate sacrifice of worship. Yes, worship. These two commandments have very much to do with worship.

Let me ask you one question. I want you to be honest!

What do you worship most?

Ok, let me unpack that question with another three questions?

  1. What do you love most?
  2. What do you trust most?
  3. What do you obey most?

Whatever you love most, it is an act of worship.
Whatever you trust most, it is an act of worship.
Whatever you obey most, it is an act of worship.

Trust & Obey
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his goodwill,
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But, we will do well if we remember these two commandments. They are a warning. They are like the stop sign that urges us to check our hearts and ask what I love, trust, and obey more than any other thing on this earth.
We can trust and obey idols, and if we do, we will never be satisfied, and we will be disappointed.

“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:3–4 NIV11-GKE)

At the heart of these two verses, we find the warning of Idolatry.

What is idolatry?

“Idolatry occurs when we hold any value, idea or activity higher than God.” (from “The Ten Commandments: God’s timeless values for life today” by J. John)

“What is an idol? There are so many idols, and they are so subtle that a simple definition is difficult. Let me try to express it this way.

A Christian could make the following statements about God:

• God gives purpose, meaning and fulfilment to my life.
• God governs the way I act.
• God is the focal point around which my existence hangs.
• God is often in my thoughts, and I get enthusiastic about God.
• Thoughts of God comfort me when I am down.
• I read about God, I talk about God, I make friends with those who are also committed to God.
• I desire more of God.

An idol is anything that you could replace the word ‘God’ within statements like those above.” (from “The Ten Commandments: God’s timeless values for life today” by J. John)

The heart.

Let us think of the heart as the place where all our affections, emotions are stored. It is the place where we are capable of releasing and receiving love.
We love because God loved us first, and when we love, we are reflecting on our Creator.
Every one of us, and there is no exception to this, we have been created into the image of God, and God is love. Love can bond us, and love can drive away fear, and love makes us secured.

The Bible speaks about different kinds of love. CS Lewis, in his book Four Types of love, makes an excellent presentation of them.

Affection (storge)
Affection covers an array of loves. Like animals, the care of the mother to babe is a picture of affection. It relies on the expected and the familiar.

This is the love Eli and Samuel

Friendship (philia)
Friendship is the love dismissed. “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves,”

The love Jonathan and David

Romantic (eros)
Unlike friendship, lovers “are always talking to one another about their love” and “are normally face to face, absorbed in each other.”

Please read Song of Songs. If you read it well, then you will realise that it can be very spicy.

Charity (agape)
This is our chief aim, the unconditional love of the Father given to us through his Son. Affection, friendship and romantic love are each the training ground for charity to grow. It’s also a rival to the three.

This is the love of the Father, John 3:16, all over.

I want you to hear what CS Lewis is saying, that all the other loves are rival to the unconditional love of God, to the Agape love of God.

Let us keep our hearts pure!

The mind.

What are the things that your mind is mainly occupied with?
What are the things you most fantasise about?
What are the things that you feed your minds with?

How much do we feed ourselves with the Word of God?
How much do we believe and articulate the Gospel?

Jesus summarized the greatest Commandment saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37–38 ESV)

We love the Lord with our Minds by knowing and understanding who He is and how he has revealed himself in Scriptures. This is why spending time in God’s Word is so important.
Because, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV)

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

The renewal of our minds happens when we let the Word of God decern our thoughts, our minds. It is in that process we are built up; we strengthen, we are encouraged.

This Word that God commanded Joshua never to let go of it the Word of the Master tell us what to believe and how to live the word in our mist.

The way to stand firm when we are tempted to worship idols, Paul says that we need to wear the belt of Truth and be ready to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:4–6 NIV11-GKE)

Let me finish reminding ourselves of the Psalmist words, which is a description of the futility of idolatry.

“Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes.
Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound.
And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:3–8 NLT-SE)

The most important thing about these verses is verse 3 “Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes. He is to be feared.

“C.S. Lewis alludes to this in his children’s story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Mr Beaver talks about Aslan, the great lion.
‘Who is Aslan?’ asked Susan. ‘Aslan?’ said Mr Beaver. ‘Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood . . .’
‘Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’ ‘That you will, dearie, and no mistake,’ said Mrs Beaver; ‘if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.’
‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe?’ Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’

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