In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and have now reflected on the sins forbidden by the commandment.

The first commandment also forbids estranging ourselves from God.

Many people try to keep the first commandment and have no other gods before God. But over time they backslide and distance themselves from God. Other interests and desires become more important in their lives than God.

But Ezekiel has these stern words from God for those who start well, but then return to idolatry: ‘”This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’ “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! ” ‘When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the LORD will answer him myself. I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the LORD”’ (Ezekiel 14:4-8). And Isaiah said to the Israelites who turned away from God: ‘”Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted”’ (Isaiah 1:4-5).

And the Apostle Peter speaks of such wanderers in this manner: ‘If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”’ (2 Peter 2:20-3:1).

Those metaphors from Peter are quite apt to describe those who estrange themselves from God. In going back to sin, they’re like dogs that go back and eat up the vomit that their bodies previously rejected. Or they’re like a freshly washed pig plunging back into the mud.

Have you estranged yourself from God? Have you gone back to rolling in the mud of sin? Repent. Our Lord Jesus is exceedingly patient with humanity and embraces all those who truly come back to worship him as their God.

Joel Radford.