THE FIRST COMMANDMENT – I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods beside me. Deuteronomy 5:3; Tanakh Version
“THE FIRST IDOLATRY IS TO WORSHIP YOURSELF.” Anonymous
One of the criticisms of the Ten Commandments is that God Himself, the Great I AM, tells us He must be first in our lives and that he is a “zealous” (Jewish Tanakh) or a “jealous” (KJV) God. Some philosophers have equated God as a selfish being for His insistence that we worship Him above all else. Why would a God who loves His children say we must put Him first? Is He really a jealous God? Are we to be slaves to such a God?
To become a person of faith, we must first understand who we are, where we came from and where it is we want to go. We need to get a clear picture of our journey here on earth. Do you believe you have always been and there is a purpose for your existence, or do you think you are just another “animal”, a product of evolutionary chance with no clear reason for being? Which would be the most comforting and satisfying answer? Most importantly though, which answer is the truth?
As a youngster I had very little religious training, although my mother sent us to church on Christmas and Easter, and occasionally in between. My father at that time spoke against all religions. I was eight when my most beloved grandfather died. I saw him in the casket not breathing and went to bed that night and thought to hold my breath to see what not breathing would feel like. That’s probably where my claustrophobia began. I was terrified as I looked into the darkness thinking of my grandpa and wondering if someone would show him where to go. Otherwise how would he find his way?
For several years I thought only of the loneliness of death, the overpowering feeling of not being able to breathe. Then one day when I was about thirteen I knew to end my fear I had to find out if God was a reality. I went to my favorite “thinking spot,” a split rail fence where I often sat to gaze at the mountains. I looked at all the beauty around me and asked God directly if He lived. He didn’t answer right away but I stayed where I was just thinking and looking. I don’t know how long it was, but suddenly a still voice came to me that said, “Don’t you see how beautiful it is? Do you really think that happened by accident?” Warmth washed over my whole body and I knew beyond doubt that God is real and that he had created the earth and all of us for a purpose.
I also knew that every person who lives has always been and will always be. The Lord of Heaven and earth has a plan for you and me, but we are responsible for discovering that for ourselves. Life was not meant to be easy. We are the ones who must find our gifts and strengths, and to overcome our weaknesses. The only way we can accomplish our goals is to put God first. If we think only about our own desires we run the risk of becoming weak, becoming a law unto ourselves and losing our way completely. We are not to trust in the insecure “arm of flesh” lest it become our idol, whether that arm is our own or belongs to someone else.
There is a reason we call God our Father, for He created us in the beginning and then, when we were ready, He gave us the chance to progress by being born into this mortal existence to be tested and tried. To grow and become, as Jesus said, perfect, even as He is, that is the truth of existence.
Only with that knowledge can we be fulfilled and live without fear, giving our hearts and souls freely to Him as we follow the path home to Him, our true destiny.