Welcome! We are going to set off on a journey to understand each commandment of the salvation covenant.
Before we start, I want to remind you again that the Ten Commandments, our salvation covenant, was intended be followed according to the spirit and intent of each individual commandment not just to the “letter of the law.” It takes much more faith to obey God to the fullest degree for which His commandments were intended. Obedience at a minimum or only to the “letter” is a good starting point, but as our knowledge grows and His purposes are further understood, our obedience will grow, according to the measure of our faith, to encompass the whole intended dynamic of each commandment.
His commandments are intended to transform us into a people after His own heart, but He also made each of us unique! He wants us to serve Him in a way that shows Him that our heart, mind, and strength belong to Him. In other words, we are to live out His commandments according to our uniqueness, our own individual understanding, and the strength of our faith.
We serve Him with our obedience and our love in a very personal way. As we grow as followers of His, we grow in the knowledge of His Word, but also in the understanding of how to serve Him and those around us best. Our obedience is, at the same time, our gift to Him and His gift to us.
The First Commandment
‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me’ (Exodus 20:2-3).
This is the first commandment.
This commandment is critically essential. It forces us to do several things:
1. Recognize the one true God of Israel as our only authority, our king and our deliverer.
2. To listen to this same God as our only authority.
3. To fear God as our ultimate authority
4. To trust God as our authority.
The first part of the first commandment:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
We are to get to know the One true God of Israel as our king, our deliverer, and our only authority.
The very first part of the very first commandment says it all. Do we know whom we say we serve?
‘I am the Lord, your God…’
Do we know Him?
What He loves?
What He hates?
What is His nature and character?
What is the intent of His word?
Who He says He is in His Word?
To be His we must get to know Him personally.
This type of knowledge about God is not something that we can get from a preacher, teacher, priest, or rabbi. This is the knowledge that we can only get by spending time in His word by ourselves, seeking His truth without outside human bias and in our experiences of serving Him personally.
For many of us, this is the deal-killer.
So, you might as well hear it now: If we are not willing to do this, we cannot be His people. If we do not have any desire to personally get to know whom we claim to serve, we are not being honest about wanting to serve Him. A preacher, teacher, priest, or rabbi cannot do this in our place.
We need to invest time to get to know the One we claim to want to spend eternity with.
This is the first message of the salvation covenant. God wants us to get to know Him and then to recognize Him as the authority over the whole earth.
In the Book of Jeremiah, we know that Jeremiah prophecies about Judah’s judgment at the hands of Babylon. There is a parallel prophecy that runs alongside that judgment, a future judgment that we see ultimately fulfilled in the Book of Revelation. In other words, Jeremiah’s prophecy has not been completely satisfied.
There are two overriding themes of why the people of Judah and, consequently, the people of Revelation are the subject of God’s wrath.
1. The people don’t know God.
2. The people do not heed His word like God is their authority.
1. The people don’t know Him.
God addresses this first problem of those who want to be His in the first part of the first commandment. This is obviously a big problem with those who claim to be His. We, also, see this problem addressed throughout His word.
Jeremiah 4:22: “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good, they do not know.”
We would be wise to listen to His warnings if we want to be His people.
As I was reading through Jeremiah preparing for this blog, it became obvious to me that one of the reasons that the people of Jeremiah’s day would not listen to Him was because of the priests and false prophets. It is the same today in our churches: much of the “church body” simply ignores Jeremiah along with the entire Old Testament, and perhaps even the words of Jesus Himself, because it is the preachers, pastors, and the priests of our churches that have become the “authorities” whom we are following, and collectively we do not even know God on a personal and experiential level beyond what are being told.
Preachers and pastors
This is interesting because God tells us in Jeremiah 2:8 that the priests did not seek Him or know Him: “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; the rulers also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal and walked after things that did not profit.”
Why is God telling us this? It is because we were not meant to discover the truth without searching for it personally for ourselves. It cannot be just handed to out us without a faith strong enough to lead us to it’s discovery. We cannot expect to find so great a treasure without diligently seeking for it.
Jesus Himself warned us about this:
Matthew 7:15: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Consider a similar description in Ezekiel 22:26-27:
“Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain.”
These are part of the continuous warnings that we have from God in His word. Are we listening?
Preachers and pastors have no more access to God’s word than we do.
We can know God for ourselves. His word tells us so. John 16:13 says: ‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…’
I am not saying you should never listen to your pastor. However, it is essential, to measure everything against God’s Word. It is each of us individually that must have a faith strong enough that we become compelled to seek Him out for ourselves.
What a preacher is saying must always reflect what God’s word itself is saying in proper context and intention. If not, we might just find that we are learning more about the preacher himself than about God.
About these prophets and priests, Jeremiah 23:16 has this to say: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.'”
We must think for ourselves and question discrepancies. We must listen carefully and try to understand – through God’s eyes. More importantly we must find within ourselves an overwhelming desire to know God for ourselves as honest seekers of His truth.
‘I don’t have time.’
To know God personally, we must pick up our Bibles and study it. The Holy Spirit will help and guide us. Even if we can’t read, someone can read the Bible to us or we can listen to it on audio.
We must be willing to do this. Yes, it is time-consuming, but if we want to be His, we must be willing invest in our relationship with Him.
If we really think about it – how much time do we devote to watching movies and series on television? Do you play computer games or follow a lot of people on Instagram and Facebook?
We spend far too much time on the temporary and silly things of the world and not enough time on the eternal. God is the founder and creator of everything eternal. One day, all these other temporary things will fall away.
Look at what it says in James 2:19-20:
“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”
The number one deed we have, according to His commandments, is to get to know God for ourselves.
No more preconceived ideas
Some people say that they have faith, but they hide behind a god that they’ve created for themselves. They have a picture of who they want their god to be.
Isaiah 29:11-14 states:
“The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, ‘Please read this,’ he will say, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, ‘Please read this.’ And he will say, ‘I cannot read.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”
There is no way around it: We need to get to know God personally. If we don’t, we won’t be able to discern what is right and what is wrong. We will continue to fall for the lies of the world. (The delusion of “gender reassignment” is a perfect example of people losing their ability to discern between lies of the world and the truth of God’s eternal word.)
Jesus confirms this sentiment in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
How to really get to know Him? Pray that He will strip away all the man-made doctrines and our preconceived ideas. Pray that He will disclose Himself to us. Make time for His word. Experience the impact of living out His ways according to His word.
It is only then that we will get to know Him in an authentic and personal way. It is only through this profound inward faith that we will find the desire to live according to His ways.
This is what Jeremiah 15:16 says about getting in His word: “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
The second part of the first commandment:
“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 2:3).
The word ‘gods’ here is the Hebrew word Elohim. Elohim is translated as someone who has authority over another as a ruler or magistrate (Strong, 430).
It is anyone, including our inward wants and desires, to whom we listen to and live accordingly in place of God’s word.
This brings me to the most often reason for God’s judgment on humanity in the Book of Jeremiah.
2. The people do not heed His word like God is the authority.
The question is, after we recognize God as the authority, how do we treat God as the authority?
* We listen to Him as the authority
* We fear Him as the authority
* We trust Him as the authority
We must listen to Him as the authority.
Nominal Christianity and Judaism alike are religions of contradiction claiming to follow God while at the same time often rejecting God’s actual words.
This will be a problem for those who are claiming to be His people.
In the Book of Jeremiah, I counted at least 30 times where the wrath of God was the result of people not listening to God as the authority. Plain and simple: we must listen to God as the authority above all others even above our own hearts, minds, and flesh.
We can see the reason for His wrath in Jeremiah 13:10: “This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.”
It is important for us to understand that if we are not listening to God’s word then God is not listening to us. We can see this plainly in John 9:31: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.”
Again in Proverbs 28:9: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
Of course, that makes sense according to Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
If we listen to Him He will listen to us; pressed down, shaken together, and running over…
Listening to God’s word must come first. Everything else must be subject to this. We cannot say that God is our authority and then turn around and listen to a preacher who tells us not to follow God’s word or listen to ourselves and act according to the desires of our flesh.
We must fear Him as the authority.
I do not know how Christians have gotten into our heads that we are not to fear God when He tells us to fear Him. The reason we begin to follow His commandments is because we fear Him. After we experience His love for ourselves inside of His covenant only then can we follow His commandments because we love Him. If we have no fear of God we act according to whatever we conceive as a benefit to ourselves.
Deuteronomy 13:4 tells us as much: “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.”
When we fear God, we will keep His commandments.
Jeremiah 5:21-22 asks us: “Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear. ‘Do you not fear Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence?’”
About what our priests tell us, God says in Jeremiah 5:12: “They have lied about the Lord and said, ‘Not He; misfortune will not come on us, and we will not see sword or famine.’”
We must not forget that God will positively carry out His wrath against all unrighteousness, all we have to do is read the Book of Revelation.
Jeremiah 44:10 agrees with Deuteronomy 13:4: “But they have not become contrite even to this day, nor have they feared nor walked in My law or My statutes, which I have set before you and before your fathers.”
When we fear God as the authority, we see Him as someone to be revered and obeyed. Only those who fear Him will keep His covenant.
Palms 25:14: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.”
We must trust Him as authority.
To trust is to have faith. To not trust is to not have faith.
It is vital that we can distinguish between the mental belief that God exists as opposed to someone who trusts Him with their very lives and sees God as the One who dictates their actions. This is the difference between someone who might believe God exists and someone who is His people.
We must be able to trust Him that He knows us better then we know ourselves! That He knows how to give us the things we need.
It is this trust that is paramount to us even to be able to look to God and to be able to recognize Him for who He is. He is the All-knowing Creator who is exceptionally concerned with us and wants to bless us, have a relationship with us, and eventually live with us for all eternity.
It is only He who knows how to get us from where we are to the inside of His presence.
It is imperative that see Him how He actually is and then to trust our lives to Him and the plans He has for us.
It is interesting that in Jeremiah 5:3-4 Jeremiah says about the people: “…But they have refused to take correction…. For they do not know the way of the Lord….”
In Jeremiah 5:6 the reason is given: “…because they rebel so often and they become more and more unfaithful.”
The more obedient we are the more faithful we become. The more we rebel against His word the more unfaithful we become.
They refuse to take correction and they do not know the way of the Lord because they lack faith. Simply put they do not trust in God or His word even though they might believe He exists.
It can be hard for us to comprehend that God knows what brings us joy and fulfillment more than we know what will bring us joy and fulfillment especially inside of the understanding that we are to “deny ourselves.” However, this is exactly what we are called to do and must do and it takes quite the measure of faith to accomplish this.
The question becomes do we trust the word of God or rather do we trust in the authority of the deceptive word of men or the authority of our own flesh telling us what to do.
We can see a warning to this effect in Jeremiah 7:3-4: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words….’”
It is a pure pleasure being able to see God for who He is, according to His Word. It is wonderful to trust ourselves into His care, knowing that one day, we will be standing in His presence. We will not be only a servant to our king and deliverer, but, when we truly get to know Him, His faithful friend.
Next week we will look at the second commandment.