1st Commandment


“To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart…to have a God, as you can well imagine, does not mean to grasp  him with your fingers, or to put him into a purse, or to shut him into a box.  Rather, you lay hold of God when your heart grasps him and clings to him.”

(Martin Luther, Book of Concord, quoted in Interpretation: The Ten Commandments, Miller, p. 19)

Deuteronomy 13

            Scholars agree that Deuteronomy 12 and 13 are applications of the 1st Commandment.  So we will take a look at Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.  (ESV)

This chapter is a warning against false prophets.   What I want to focus on is a verse that adds to the positive description of the 1st Commandment, verse 4 has six expressions that define and clarify what it means to have no other God and to love God with all your heart, soul and strength.

You shall walk after the Lord your God.  So we start with our feet.  We can with our feet walk away from god.  We can walk in the wilderness with not plan or goal. Or we can walk after the Lord our God.  Our “walk” is the way in which we live. It is the direction and pattern of our lives.  So this means that God is the one who sets the direction and establishes the pattern of our lives.

You shall fear him.  We sometimes see fear when men or women encounter God or an angel of God. They fall to the ground, they withdraw from what seems terrifying, until the Lord says, “do not be afraid.” Synonyms for “fear” are revere respect.  You shall  fear, revere and respect the Lord.  Maybe we should think of this as our bended knees or if your knees are stiff, your bowed heads before the presence of God.

You shall keep his commandments.  We use our eyes to read the word of God, but we can see without seeing.  We need to see them as they are written and then keep them.  If we don’t keep them they will soon slip from our minds like the forgotten jokes and quotes of last week’s newspaper.  These are commands to keep.

You shall obey his voice.  So our ears hear the very voice of God.  We believe that the Bible is not only a historical record and a collection of great literature. Yes, we can start with that idea, but we soon come to realize that it contains the voice of the Living God and we need to obey them.  For us it is not in one ear and out the other. It is in the ear and down to the heart where decisions are made.

You shall serve him. The word for serve can mean to worship him.  We worship in church, and in private devotions, but we also worship him with any part  of our time or treasure that we give to him.

You shall cling to him.  This is the real definition.  We do not have faith when we stand far off with abstract knowledge. We have faith when we cling to him, as if we are holding on for dear life.   Cling to him the way a new born clings to his mother.  Like that newborn, we have no way to live without the strength of the mother and father.


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