Now, get on a winding road, tall trees all around, with the road barely built into the side of the mountain. You may WANT to drive at 75 miles per hour so you'd get to your destination faster, but there are all kinds of barriers in your way. There is the line of cars in front of you, "crawling" at a mere 50 miles per hour (the posted speed limit for this stretch of road). Then there are the hairpin turns which serve to not only present some pretty significant "maneuvering" obstacles, but also block clearly what lies beyond. In these instances, we may not want to obey the rules, but we are certainly safer when we do!
I think of the Ten Commandments as a set of rules, laid all out nice and neat, in one "tight package". Are they the only "rules" God sets out for his people - no, but they really encompass a great deal of expectations for our safety. Rather than looking upon the "rules" God establishes as burdensome and restrictive, we might do well to consider them in the light of how they are intended to keep us safe. Here's a quick look at the first of the Ten:
3 “You must not have any other god but me."
(Exodus 20:3 New Living Translation)
You may be more familiar with this in the traditional King James, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." As we break this one down a little, let's first look at the imperative here:
- You MUST not have any other god BUT me. Two words stick out: MUST and BUT. Both are quite strong words. No other option exists - no other person, object, or "great man or woman" must have the place we give to God in our lives. The place within us designed to house God's Spirit is not to be filled with any other.
Next, we must look at what it means to not have any other god. See the little "g" there? The instruction is NOT to have any other God (as there is only one God). The instruction is to not have any other god. What is the difference? Plainly put, any other "god" would be anything within our attention or affections which occupies the place designed for God. Let's break this down a little further:
- Anything which captures our attention has the ability to move upon our affections. It has the ability to draw us in. Therefore, focusing on what captures our attention the most is a starting place in evaluating if anything or anyone else has moved upon our affections!
- When we hold anyone or anything else in this important place of affection in our lives, we become consumed by the time and energy it takes to maintain this affection. Affection is built when it is cultivated - therefore, if we invest in the right things, we build the right affections. The instruction to us is to have but one object of our affection - God himself. Why? When he has this focus in our lives, he is free to direct our course, keeping us safe in the "hairpin turns" of life!
We may resist the "rule" of having but one object of both attention and affection, but when we get this right, all other relationships we have fall into line. They actually get a little easier! The problems we seem to focus on the most seem to be a little less significant, almost with new energies to work them out. This is why God tells us of the importance of keeping him first. If we get this right - the rest will work itself out!