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 the gift of eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ, and a freedom from the shackles of our own past as we live each new day in gratitude and joy, one day at a time. We are invited to partner with Him, the One who heals our failures, grief, losses, afflictions and even our addictions. The burdens and sorrows that life brings are ultimately overcome by a serenity and peace that surpasses all understanding, helping us handle the challenges that come each day.
After the Israelites experienced their own life-changing freedom from slavery in Egypt, they received a daily provision of food and shelter that the Lord helped them to survive and thrive in the desert. God then provided for them the keys to continuing to live a successful and joyful life in Him – the Ten Commandments.
For many of us, the Ten Commandments carry a somewhat negative connotation because, in our own flesh, we have such a difficult time living up them. In fact, we are sometimes abject 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 when reflected in our intentions.
The first commandment begins:
20 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:1-2 (ESV)
In any intimate love partnership, the relationship is designed to be exclusive. There are no third parties. In this way, God made our hearts to be like his own, created in His image. He wants us to be faithful in our relationship with Him just as we need our soulmates to be faithful to us. There is no room for another if our relationship is to be a joyful one.
There are still some fundamental differences between our hearts and God’s. Ours’ tend to be often focused on ourselves and our own selfish needs and desires. God’s heart is always lovingly focused on us and those around us, for our well-being. Our hearts can be about taking, while God’s heart is always about generous giving. We may be envious or jealous of others around us because of their successes, honors, or possessions, while God is only jealous of our attentions toward Him. He hates it when our devotion to other people or things gets in the way of our devotion to Him.
One common problem area we humans have is pride. When our hearts are proud and self-focused, there is no room for God. But with His help, we can begin to set this aside to experience a true humility, seeing the wonders of God around us and appreciating how much of our attention and devotion He truly deserves.
One person in the New Testament who set aside his pride, prestige, and position to focus on God was Zacchaeus, found in Luke 19. He was a chief tax collector in a day when the wealth of that position was often obtained though over-collection of taxes and greed. There is a good chance that on most days up to this point, Zacchaeus was focused on the “god” of money rather than on the one true God. But on the day that Jesus came to his city, something changed in Zacchaeus’ heart and with his actions. His focus became fully directed toward Jesus. Jesus rewarded his devotion with His presence at Zacchaeus’ house:
19 He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 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.” 6 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 better 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 his house. Their meeting became a true spiritual encounter, as evidenced by Zacchaeus’ subsequent declaration that he would repent, give generous gifts to the poor, and make amends for anything he had unjustly taken in the past.
9 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”. The Lord does not want life’s distractions to take the place of Him in our hearts or to have to compete for time with an idol or another god.
The first commandment lets us know that God wants to be first in our lives, today and every day.
What are our biggest distractions that keep us from devoting the time and attention to God that He desires from today?
Let us pray:
Lord, it is so easy to get sidetracked by the distractions of life and neglect to spend the time with You that You deserve. Help us to grow stronger spiritually as we desire a closeness with You. Water us when we are spiritually dry, and fill us with joy as we make You our number one priority. Speak to and strengthen us through Your holy word. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.