Opening Prayer: Almighty God, Father, Son, and Spirit, we bow before you now as people who are members of an idolatrous culture. We have not served you and you alone, and therefore we cry out to you for mercy and grace. You are our life, our hope, and our salvation. Speak to us now, break us and remake us, that we might serve you and you alone. Destroy any idols that we are still clinging to or hiding in our hearts. Amen!
Calvin said that the heart of man is naturally a factory of idols. It is this natural inclination of fallen man that always resists the law of God. This is because the goodness of God is always the aroma of life to those who are being saved and the aroma of death to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16). The issue is fundamentally an issue of worship. To those who have submitted to the grace of the Triune God, his word comes to us as life, health, and strength. To those who resist, his word is always ugly and repulsive. The issue is the heart of man. Yahweh’s word always comes to us in the context of salvation: “I am the Lord your God who brought out of Egypt…” Freedom is not doing whatever you feel like; freedom is living out the fullness of what God has created us for.
The Inescapability of Morality
There is no neutrality. People always serve a god. It is not whether a god will be served but only always a question of which god. The first commandment is the foundation of all of life. It fully assumes that there will always be a god or gods, but the Lord requires us to hold him in highest regard. But Moses explains this law in Deuteronomy explaining that this is a call to warfare. It requires that we make no peace with idolatry (Dt. 7:2, 5). This is what we call the “antithesis” that originated in the garden. This was the promise of warfare, and we are called to this no less than Israel (Mt. 10:34, Eph. 6:13-18). And throughout the Scriptures we see that the most potent form of warfare is worship. The way we are to wage war with all idols is through praises, prayers, the declaration of the Word of God, and the celebration of the sacraments.
Centrality of Worship
This is why worship is central to all of life. Lord’s Day worship is not a social club, something you should do if you have time, its convenient, or works into your schedule. The worship of God comes first: before God you may not place anything else. This comes down to submission to the Word of God. Paul says that when the gospel is preached, it is the voice of Christ speaking (Rom. 10:14). Christ says where two or three are gathered, he promises to be in their midst (Mt. 18:20). The pattern after the resurrection is that Lord appearing to his disciples when they are gathered together on the first day of the week (Lk. 24, Jn. 20:19, 26). Paul assumes later that the early Christians will gather together at least as often as the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:2). John sees his vision of Revelation on the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). We are summonsed to appear “before God” on the Lord’s Day, and to refuse is to place something before God. This is the principle of ‘firstfruits’.
All of the Law
When the Lord says that we are to have ‘no other gods before me’, it also implies that all of life is ‘before God.’ Our entire lives are open before his face. There is no place or time that we can go to where our life is not fully disclosed to God (Ps. 139:7). This means every moment of our lives are either acts of submission and worship to the Triune God of the universe or acts of rebellion and treason. This is why James can say that if we stumble at one point in the law we have broken all of it (Js. 2:10). This is true of all of the laws but easiest to see with the first. If God is our God above all other gods then whenever we do other than what he requires we are putting another god above and before him. Clearly, to break any other commandment is to break the first commandment. But God claims all of us because he is determined to save all of us.
Conclusions and Applications
Recognizing God as God above all gods means that you are called to call on this God. Where are you struggling? What worries you? What are you mad about? You have access to this God and he is not deaf, dumb, or blind. Call upon your God. Stop saying that you will pray. Pray. Sing. Cry out. Call upon your God.
Notice how Moses ties so much of this commandment to children and descendants. We are not to give our children in marriage to those who worship other gods (Dt. 7:3-4). This is based on the fact that God has made us his special people (7:6), and this is not for anything in us but because of his promises and because he is a covenant keeping God even to a thousand generations (7:9). A direct application of this law is that God’s people must not give their children to those who do not worship the Triune God; we must not make a covenant with them (7:2). It is the myth of neutrality which insists that education can be neutral or “tolerant” of all religions. Exceptions make bad law. This also means that it is not enough to merely homeschool or send your children to a Christian school. You are called to be training soldiers.
Moses also calls us to fearless obedience (7:11-15, 17ff). Christians for far too long have been cowards and sheepish about the claims of Christ. When we see the giants of our day whether they be politicians, military prowess, movie stars, celebrities, or merely public opinion, we are commanded by God to remember what he has done to Egypt and to all those who have stood against him in the past. Christ must reign until all of his enemies have been made his footstool. This is why the Son of God appeared: to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8). Therefore worship the Lord; give him thanks and praise: you are called to war with all idols. “For the faithful, wars will never cease.”
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, teach us wisdom. Give us the mind of Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we may wage war against all idols, and that we might teach our children to do the same. Forgive us for whatever peace we have made with sin or any kindness we have shown to idolatry. Teach us to hate sin. Teach us to despise idols.