The Great Commandment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Then God instructed the people as follows:
2“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.
3“Do not worship any other gods besides me.
4“Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. 5You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations. 6But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations.
The Israelites had just come from Egypt, a land of many idols and many gods. Because each god represented a different aspect of life, it was common to worship many gods in order to get the maximum number of blessings. When God told his people to worship and believe in him, that wasn’t so hard for them—he was just one more god to add to the list. But when he said, “Worship only me,” that was difficult for the people to accept. But if they didn’t learn that the God who led them out of Egypt was the only true God, they could not be his people—no matter how faithfully they kept the other nine commandments. Thus, God made this his first commandment and emphasized it more than the others. Today we can allow many things to become gods to us. Money, fame, work, or pleasure can become gods when we concentrate too much on them for personal identity, meaning, and security. No one sets out with the intention of worshiping these things. But by the amount of time we devote to them, they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies. Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.
Why did God’s laws speak so strongly against sorcery (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12)? Sorcery was punishable by death because it was a crime against God himself. To invoke evil powers violated the first commandment to not worship any other god. Sorcery was rebellion against God and his authority. In essence, it was teaming up with Satan instead of with God Throughout chapter 22 we find examples of the principle of restitution—making wrongs right. For example, if a man stole an animal, he had to repay double the beast’s market value. If you have done someone wrong, perhaps you should go beyond what is expected to make things right. This will (1) help ease any pain you’ve caused, (2) help the other person be more forgiving, and (3) make you more likely to think before you do it again.
Much good can be said of Jotham and his reign as king of Judah, but he failed in a most important area: He didn’t destroy the high places, although leaving them clearly violated the first commandment (Exodus 20:3). Like Jotham, we may live basically good lives and yet miss doing what is most important. A lifetime of doing good is not enough if we make the crucial mistake of not following God with all our hearts. A true follower of God puts God first in all areas of life.
This man wanted to be sure he would get eternal life, so he asked what he could do. He said he’d never once broken any of the laws Jesus mentioned (10:19), and perhaps he had even kept the Pharisees’ loophole-filled version of them. But Jesus lovingly broke through the man’s pride with a challenge that brought out his true motives: “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor.” This challenge exposed the barrier that could keep this man out of the Kingdom: his love of money. Money represented his pride of accomplishment and self-effort. Ironically, his attitude made him unable to keep the first commandment: to let nothing be more important than God (Exodus 20:3). He could not meet the one requirement Jesus gave—to turn his whole heart and life over to God. The man came to Jesus wondering what he could do; he left seeing what he was unable to do. What barriers are keeping you from turning your life over to Christ?