Thursday, November 4

No Other Gods Before Me

I, the Lord, am your God,
who brought you from the land of Egypt,
from the house of bondage.

You shall have no other gods before me.


This is the first and greatest commandment. Of course, all of God's commands are important, but this is numero uno. I wonder if we consider enough how well we keep it.

Implicit in this command is the necessity of knowing our God. To the extent that our knowledge of God is incorrect, the idea we form of God will be off-base. If our idea of God is skewed, then it isn't quite the one true God we are holding in our minds when we worship and serve him. And if we get enough wrong in our thinking about God, we run the risk of worshipping another god altogether: we may be putting our own wrong idea of what God must be like before the true God who reveals himself to us in the created order and in his word. We are, to the extent that we are wrong in how we see God, exchanging the truth of God for a lie. The more true things we know about the Creator God that is, the closer we can get to keeping the first commandment perfectly.

There are a couple of things I learned from writing all those pieces on the attributes of God. The first one is that it's really important to understand God rightly. Not only does our keeping the first commandment depend on it, but if we fall short in our knowledge of who God is, we will never get close to the standards of behaviour demanded of us, for where our pattern is off, our copied image will be off. We cannot be good imitators of someone we don't really know.

The second thing I learned (Well, maybe I knew this already, but I certainly was reminded of it over and over!) is that I will not (not now, anyway) have a view of God that is exactly right. I know that I fell short in every one of those pieces I wrote. I desired to get it right, so I worked hard on each post. I felt like I'd been in a week long wrestling match by the time I posted each piece, but I was never quite satisfied, because I always knew it wasn't completely right.

That doesn't mean that writing those pieces wasn't rewarding! It was, because after every one, I felt that I knew more right things about God than I had before I started, and that my view of him was nearer to the correct one than it had been. There was less of the "other gods before me," and more of the "Lord... your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt" in my understanding of God.

And I hope to continue learning more, getting more of it right. Nothing works better for this than reading (and studying) the whole of scripture. Different sections, different stories, emphasize different aspects of God, and as we read the whole thing--all of it--we can begin to get a more integrated picture of the whole of who God is. Every couple of years I try to read Knowing God by J. I. Packer, too, and each time I make adjustments in my thoughts of God. Yep, I have no doubt that it'll be a whole lifetime of adjusting my thinking.

I am glad to be done with the weekly wrestling matches, though. Now maybe I can move on to something easier, like who exactly was Melchizedek, or what is the absolutely guaranteed perfectly correct eschatological viewpoint. Or something.

Anyway, here they are--the whole shebang:
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