In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve been looking at God’s law as summarised in the ten commandments. Today we can begin to examine each one, starting with the first.
The first commandment is ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). But what does that mean? What are the duties required in that commandment?
Firstly, the first commandment requires that you acknowledge God to be the only true God and your God. The LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah about this acknowledgement that he expects of his people: ‘”You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed– I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God”’ (Isaiah 43:10-12).
And if God is your God, then the first commandment tells you to worship and glorify him accordingly. The Psalmist links acknowledgement of God with worship of him: ‘Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care’ (Psalm 95:6-7).
But how can you worship God? One way is by focusing your thoughts on him. For example, David says to God: ‘On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night’ (Psalm 63:6).
And that means that if you are following the first commandment, then you should be remembering your God, not ignoring and forgetting him. The teacher in Ecclesiastes says: ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1-5). His point is clear, it won’t be long until you go to your grave. So remember God throughout your life.
So do you acknowledge God to be the only true God and your God? Do you worship and glorify him accordingly? Do you think of God? Do you remember him throughout your days?
It’s all too easy to see how we have failed to keep the first commandment as we should. Thankfully, if we trust in Christ’s death for us, then he paid for all the times we have not kept the first commandment and gives us strength to keep it better than we have. So, have you trusted in Christ?