The Ten Commandments – Part One – Devotion to God (Exodus 20)

God, in his great love, has offered to each of us a new freedom and a better way of life. We are given freedom from death through eternal life with Jesus Christ, and a freedom from the shackles of our past as we live each day, one at a time. We are free to partner with and rely on Him to carry and heal our griefs, losses, afflictions and addictions. The burdens and sorrows of life are gradually replaced with a joy, serenity, and peace that surpasses all understanding as we rely on Him in faith to handle the challenges that come along each day.

After the Israelites experienced life-changing freedom from slavery in Egypt and received the daily provision of food and shelter that the Lord provided for them in the desert, God laid out for them the keys to living a successful and joyful life. We refer to these keys as the Ten Commandments. For many of us, they carry a somewhat negative connotation because, in our flesh, we have such a difficult time living up them.  In fact, we are often downright failures at it.

Nevertheless, the Ten Commandments are priceless because they reveal so much about the true nature and character of God, and the thoughts, attitudes and actions that bring Him pleasure.

The first commandment is:

20 And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:1-2 ESV

In any intimate love partnership, the relationship is exclusive. In this regard, God made our hearts like his own, as we were created in his image. He wants us to be faithful in our relationship with Him just as we want our soulmates to be faithful to us.  There no room for another if a relationship is to be a joyful one.

There are still fundamental differences between our hearts and God’s. Ours’ tends to be largely focused on ourselves and our own needs and desires. God’s heart is always focused on us and on those around us, for our own well-being. Our natural hearts can be focused on a selfish taking, while God’s heart is always focused on generous giving. We may be tempted to be envious or jealous of others around us because of their successes, honors, or possessions, but God is only jealous of our attentions toward Him. He hates it when our devotion to other people, objects, goals or possessions gets in the way of our devotion to Him.

When our hearts are proud and self-focused, there is no room for God.  But when, with God’s help, we learn to set aside our pride and begin to experience humility, we see the wonders of God around us and start to appreciate how deserving He is of our devotion.

One person in the New Testament who set aside his pride, prestige, and position to focus on God was Zacchaeus, in Luke 19.  Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector in a day when the riches and prestige of that position were often obtained though over-collection of taxes and greed.  There is a good chance that Zacchaeus would normally have been focused on the “god” of money rather than on the one true God.  But we know that on the day that Jesus came to town, something changed in Zacchaeus’ heart and with his actions.  His focus became fully directed toward Jesus.  Jesus noticed this, and rewarded his devotion with His presence at Zacchaeus’ house:

19 He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  Luke 19:1-6 ESV

In a childlike manner, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a look at Jesus. Whether initially motivated by a simple curiosity or a true spiritual hunger, this rich man went the extra mile to see God. In response, Jesus called to him by name and told him He was coming to house, elevating this meeting to the level of a spiritual encounter. This was further reinforced by Zacchaeus’ declaration that he would repent, give generous gifts to the poor, and make amends for anything he had unjustly taken in the past.

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 ESV

The first commandment reveals to us that God wants our total devotion; He wants to be our “Number One”. He does not want life’s distractions to take the place of Him in our hearts, competing for his time and attention as an idol or another god. A friend of mine put it this way: “Whatever comes between you and God, you will lose.”  I do not know if that is good theology or not, but I do get the point that we are loved by God and He wants to be in a love relationship with us, for our benefit. He is not just a Santa Claus who is only there to give us things whenever we ask for or need them. He really does want to give us good things and to help us out of troubles because He loves us, but He also wants to be our loved as our God. Anything that waters down our divine, two-way love relationship is a competing god and is a violation of the first commandment.

The first commandment lets us know that God wants us to spend some time with Him today.

Reflection:

What are the biggest distractions that keep you from devoting time and attention to God today?

Considering the past week or month, would you say that you are currently in a period of spiritual growth, spiritual drought, or somewhere in between?  What would it take to bring the peace and serenity of His presence into your heart today?

Recall a time when you felt particularly close to God. What types of things were you thinking and feeling about God at that time? What were the yearnings of your heart? How were you spending time with Him?  Perhaps today will be the first time. If so, enjoy!

If you are going through a time of spiritual drought, (and we all do at times), ask Him to restore your intimate relationship with God today.

How does it impact you to know that God’s number one desire is to be your number one desire?

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