Dan Popp
God
Written in stone: Thoughts on the Ten Commandments
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By Dan Popp
September 11, 2012

I am Yahweh, your God.... (Exodus 20:2a, WEB)

Watching the video of the Democrat Convention delegates voting on whether to recognize God and Israel's capital, I felt that I was witnessing the death of a party. I don't suppose it matters much whether we engrave "In God We Trust" on our coins; it might be more significant that we acknowledge ourselves to be a nation "under God"; but the question of Who is our God determines everything.

I hope you'll think with me over a series of short articles about the Ten Commandments, and how they may be relevant to 21st Century life. They're recorded in Exodus 20 and repeated in Deuteronomy 5. And the first command is first for a reason: All the others follow from it.

Then 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." (Ex. 20:1-3, NASB)

God begins by presenting His credentials. If He could be photographed, He might have shown a photo ID. I am the LORD your God.... He uses his name, YHWH (represented in most translations by the all-caps LORD), to differentiate Himself from all other gods with other names. He is not Dagon, He is not Allah, He is not Whoever-You-Think-I-Am; He is I AM. YHWH means, I AM WHO I AM. He says, to de-compress it, I am the I AM WHO I AM. Perhaps my bias is showing, but this to me starts to suggest "trinity" — the thrice "I Am's."

The door is opened wider for this idea by what comes next, ...your God. The word for God here is the very common OT word for God, elohim. The Hebrew suffix — im indicates plural; seraphim is more than one seraph, Purim is at least two lots, etc. It amuses me to see people arguing against the doctrine of the Trinity using the Shema — "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Deut. 6:4, NKJV) because right in the middle of this emphatic declaration of the unity of God is the word elohim — plural.

The Deity continues with His résumé: ...who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Before God starts "telling us what to do," He reminds us what He has done. For us. He is the Promiser and the Fulfiller. He is the God of grace, who helped us when we were unable to help ourselves. He is the Deliverer, who at a specific point in time performed a miracle on our behalf and rescued us from bondage. It's funny how unbelievers imagine that believers believe on "blind faith." God asks us to believe because of empirical, historical fact. The Jews to this day look back to the Exodus as the foundation for their faith. Christians look to the empty tomb of Jesus, the prophecies He fulfilled and the eyewitness testimony sealed in the blood of the Apostles and early martyrs. There's nothing "blind" about faith. When someone comes to God, the Bible says he "comes to his senses," his "reason returns to him." His blindness is cured.

Now that we know who this God is, and we know that He is "for us," we can listen to His commands. Whatever they may be, they're not going to enslave us, but set us free. That's His M.O.

The Manufacturer now begins to write our much-needed instruction manual.

You shall have no other gods before me. This is simple gratitude based on the above. It's fitting and proper. It's a recognition of the way things really are. And, like all the other Commandments, obedience to it takes faith.

The first directive reveals God's person and His heart. You'll find many times in Scripture the poignant phrase, "I will be their God, and they will be My people." As someone has commented, God longs to be a Father with a family. This initial command also recognizes our need for something or Someone bigger than ourselves, and frankly admits that the One Self-Existent Being has rivals for our affection, however puny and unsatisfying they may be.

Our choice of god determines everything. The servants of Molech burned their children to death. The Greeks and Romans invented lecherous gods who approved of their perversions. The followers of the I AM, despite our many flaws, built a civilization based on life, justice and mercy.

Atheists are fond of saying that they can be "good without God." What they mean (I take it) is that they can refrain from being extremely, overtly wicked without God. They can go through life without murdering or raping or kidnapping. But can they set themselves free from sexual sin? — from lying? — from envy? With what inner resources will they honor their parents, and why would they set apart the Sabbath? With Self on the throne, can they love their neighbors as themselves? No, an atheist can be good without God only if he gets to redefine "good." Refusing to acknowledge the Source of all good, isn't good.

I am YHWH your God...You shall have no other gods besides Me.

Our choice of god determines everything.

© Dan Popp

 

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