Thursday, 14 April 2011

Lining up with reality

I have been doing some study of the ten commandments lately.

One point I've seen is this: that the first "table" (commandments 1-4) are in part about lining up with reality.

If I said to you, "You shall have no other gods before me" or "Do not take my name lightly on your lips, or you will be guilty", you'd justifiably take me for a raging egomaniac. I'd be asking you to live out a lie. I have no worthiness, either inherently or through my inglorious actions, to receive such treatment from you.

But when God gives such commandments, there is no fault in him. He is calling us to reality - to recognise the true order of the universe. He is calling us to live according to how things really are.

In the first commandment, he calls us to have no other gods before him: because he is the one true living God. We are summoned to worship him, because worship of our Maker, Sustainer, Saviour and Judge is the foundation for a right view of all reality. There is no other like him: therefore we should not give any that place either.

In the second commandment, he tells us to avoid use of our imaginations in worship, and to worship him strictly according to his revealed will; and in particular, not to imagine that he is adequately represented by any part of the material creation. He is far more glorious and exalted than we can conceive. His excellence cannot be captured in any created thing. Our lives should reflect this wonderful truth and testify to it.

In the third, he tells us that his name is highly exalted and should be rightly hallowed. There is nothing common about him; everything to do with him is holy. In all of worship (and thus in all of life), he must be given unique and unceasing honour - and not to do so is a serious error. He deserves a dignified, awe-filled approach to life in his world from us, because of his awesomeness.

I have not moved on to my study of the fourth yet, but it is easy to see how it carries out - I will leave that to you! But the point is this: the "first table" of the law lays down, amongst other things, the true order of reality. Unless your life reflects it, you are not simply sinning, or breaking a command that's hard to keep, but you are living in God's world in an unreal way; you are living a delusion, a lie. God does not call us to worship him because of some emptiness or need in himself; he calls us to build on the one true foundation for life - the only route to true joy. He tells us of the foundations that he built our world upon: his own glory. A man who thinks his wife is a tree or that his cat is his son is hardly likely to enjoy the true joys of marriage or family. Neither can a person who neglects the ten commandments.

And when we see this depth in the commandment, we face a fact: how far short we must have fallen, and how gracious the Lord Jesus Christ must be. How he must have suffered to bring us back to God in the face of our neglecting of these holy requirements!

1 comment:

Ned Kelly said...

Thank you for a very interesting perspective. It has long occurred to me that too often we view the commandments as a list of do's and dont's without seeking the wisdom behind them. God is not arbitrary or capricious, so everything that He tells us has a purpose and meaning beyond the simple fact of the commandment itself. Diligently observing the commandments leads us into a way of life that has additional benefits in our relationships with both God and each other, consistent with Jesus' words in Matthew 22:37-39. 22:40 confirms this, that all of God's commandments are based on establishing loving relationships. We have the commandments to love God and one another, the other commandments tell us how to love, they provide the guidelines for what it means to love.