Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Seriousness of the First Commandment

In Exodus 20:3, we read the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me" - period. This commandment is first and we see in Deuteronomy 13: 6-11 how serious God takes the breaking of this commandment. Deuteronomy 13 deals specifically with individuals who seek to lead the people of God to "go after other gods" and serve them. It deals with the specific violation of the first commandment. In Deuteronomy 13:6-7, we read of those who are closest to us tempting us to follow other gods.

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other . ."

Notice the description of some of these people. The wife "you embrace." The friend "who is as your own soul." You son and daughter and your brother. These are the closest friends and family members. These are the ones a person greatly love. But, these are the ones described as enticing the people "secretly" to go and serve other gods. How did God tell the people to respond to these closest to them when they tempt them to follow other gods? We have the answer in Deuteronomy 13:8-11:

"you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you."

The people are told not to yield to or listen to the one tempting them to go after other gods. They were not to pity him, spare him, or conceal him. But they were instructed to kill him. In fact, it says that the one being tempted by these close friends and family were to be the "first against him to put him to death." This is amazing. Imagine being the first one to throw the killing stone against the wife "you embrace" or "cherish" (NASB), your daughter or son, or friend "who is as your own soul!" Again, what we see is that God in the nation of Israel would not let anyone draw His people away from Him. The first commandment is serious and the nation of Israel was to treat it as so. God alone is God and there is no other. This was done so that "all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do such wickedness as this among you."

We do not practice this in the church today, but God still takes the breaking of the first commandment as serious. The church today practices discipline such as found in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. We are still called to not listen to those false teachers who would lead us to other gods for they can do serious damage to the faith. We are called to "contend for the faith" (Jude 3), not to yield to them (Galatians 2:4-5), and even consider them as "accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9). "Vengeance" is the Lord's (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30) and one day he will judge those who seek to lead His people toward seeking and serving false gods. Indeed, this is a serious commandment. May we pray that God would give us discernment and wisdom to see false teachers even when they may be our closest friends. God is our supreme love and deserving our full devotion and exclusive loyalty. May He also give us grace never to become one of these individuals that "secretly" leads others to serve false gods. Thank God that He is a merciful God always forgiving those who in Christ come, confess and ask (1 John 1:9).

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