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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, October 19 2023

The first commandment

The first of the ten commandments listed in Exodus 20 states: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2-3).

United Church of God

When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus Christ responded by emphasizing the first commandment and the importance of our relationship with God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:35-38, Deuteronomy 6:5).

Developing and maintaining a personal relationship with the true God is the most important commitment we can ever make, and the purpose for which we were born. The prophet Isaiah chided the ancient Israelites for failing to grasp the significance of honoring their Creator. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things… by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power…The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:26-28).

Everything we have, ultimately comes from one source—God. It is His desire that we enjoy and appreciate His gifts, but we must never direct our worship toward anything He has created, or regard it as the source of our life and blessings. Only the Creator—never the creation—is to receive that honor.

Man’s worship of nature has been the basis of many idolatrous religions. Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible explains the underpinnings of religions that were contemporary with, and geographically close, to ancient Israel: “The great idolatrous cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia … like that of their neighbours the Hittites and Canaanites, focused on nature. They had no real concept of a single, all powerful Creator-God. And so they accounted for the vagaries of climate, agricultural events and the geography of the world around them by means of a whole array of gods” (1973, p.10).

This superstitious worship of the sun, moon and stars as well as “mother” earth and most of its natural forces, such as lightning, thunder, rain and fire, persists to this day in some parts of the world. Ironically, this underlying concept has also been adopted by modern-day religions that teach God is more or less the sum total of the natural powers of the universe. All have one thing in common—they fail to distinguish the Creator from His creation.

Many people place their confidence in astrology, attributing divine powers to the creation—the stars—rather than to their Creator. God warns against this practice. “And take heed…lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them…” (Deuteronomy 4:15-19). Astrology is a way of looking to the creation instead of to the Creator for supernatural guidance.

The theory that life evolved from inert matter is also an attempt to explain the creation without the intelligence of a Creator. Research demonstrates cells, the building blocks of life, are made up of so many intricate and interactive complex systems that the possibility of life originating spontaneously defies the laws of probability.

Michael Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, writes: “The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell—to investigate life at the molecular level—is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’” (Darwin’s Black Box, 1996, pp. 232-233). Dr. Behe refutes even the possibility that life could have evolved. Solid scientific evidence now makes it clear that the existence of the creation necessitates a Creator.

Some 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul explained the tendency to attribute intelligence and life-giving powers to the physical creation was a major source of superstition and religious blindness. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him …they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator— who is forever praised” (Romans 1:21-25).

The powerful message of the First Commandment is that we are to worship and serve our Creator, and to credit our existence and blessings to no other source. David describes his enthusiastic admiration for God’s care and concern for His creation: “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness.” (Psalm 145:5-6).

To know God, we must study the Scriptures. Christ tells us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The relationship God wants with us is that of children with their Father. “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). The Apostle John also stresses the importance of this special relationship: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God….(1 John 3:1).

Our highest priority in this life is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our Heavenly Father gave us this lifetime to establish a permanent relationship with Him so we can receive eternal life as His children.