While no one that I know actually prostrates themselves before carved idols and national demi-gods as in ancient times, I have always been aware of how relevant the first commandment still is in today’s Western society. We would all probably agree that this commandment is applicable to anything that relegates God to a position of lower priority in our life, but I was never aware of how much of our life that God seems to wants us to dedicate to Him.
It’s one thing to go to church Sunday morning, read the Bible once a week, say a prayer before bed, all the while spending the largest portion of the day at work, the rest of the day watching TV and the weekend engaged in sport. But it’s something entirely different to sincerely focus and dedicate one's life to God as Scripture teaches.
“Blessed is the man …. his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
“Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase” Proverbs 3:9
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” Psalm 62:5
The closer that God draws me to Him, the less imperative that the rest of life becomes. Sure, I still have my hobbies and pursuits, but the focus on my Father is central and dominant in my new life. All other things are peripheral and merely complimentary. And that is how I now see that God wants our lives to be.
It’s not just that God takes a higher priority in my life, but that the portion of my life that I give to Him is equal to what I give to all other pursuits combined, 50/50. 50% to God and 50% to the world, well that’s the ideal anyway, I’m not quite there yet. But what I’ve noticed is that the more of God that I get, the less of worldly pursuits that I want. The less fulfilling these worldly pursuits actually are.
Is it wrong to want to spend all my time in pursuit of God alone? Is that just an unrealistic fantasy, something impossible and even irresponsible in this hectic modern world? What is the right balance between the world and God? Does God actually want us focused on a career which the modern world considers all-important? Whether that career is a mundane labouring job, or serving others in social welfare or as a pastor; it seems to me that our main goal in life should be our personal relationship with God. This may sound like a platitude to modern Christians, but how many from within the church actually practice it? Many people even make the same mistake that the Pharisees made in worshipping and serving the church rather than God Himself.
Even marriage is discouraged because it takes our focus off of God:
“But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:33-34
I have always been fascinated as to why God’s chosen people,
never really seemed to achieve much. History holds no special place for them. They
never conquered the world like the Romans, they didn’t build magnificent
structures like the Egyptians, they never produced amazing trade products like the
Far Eastern lands, they never explored the furthest parts of the planet like the
English or French. Surely being God’s people they should have left an awesome
mark on history commensurate with the awesomeness of their God? Israel
But I realised that these things are only great in the eyes of humans, God wants something more, something greater than merely worldly achievement. God only wants a relationship with us, and this is was what the Israelites were better at than anyone else. They were a priestly people, a people dedicated to their God alone. In fact God designated them as a nation of priests for the whole world; “ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:5-6
God didn’t want
to waste their time focused
on pursuing worldly achievements, rather He wanted them to be focused on Him
alone. And only when they did, then did God richly blessed them with the wealth
of the world: “So king Solomon exceeded all the
kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom…..And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and
cedars made he to be as the sycomore trees that are in the vale, for abundance.”
1 Kings 10:23,27 Israel
Looking at all the things that humans have achieved in modern history, I wonder what God thinks? We understand the mechanics of the planets, the workings of the biological cell, we have put man on the moon, built magnificent structures, designed amazingly complex computer systems; but is this of any significance to God? I tend to think that God sees all our pursuits as nothing more than detrimental distractions from our real purpose as humans; to know God.
Maybe the Amish have it right in their rejection of technology?
I see now that worldly achievement isn’t to be our focus, but rather God alone. It is only then that God will bless us with wealth and the things that the world desires above Him. Seek God first, and richness will follow. In fact Jesus stated this principle perfectly: “But seek ye first the
and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matthew 6:33 kingdom of God
So when God asks us not to serve any gods other than Him, He is asking more than just belief in Him, more than spending Sunday morning worshipping Him, more than a prayer before bed. He seems to be asking for something that is antithetical to our modern life, something that the first Christians joyfully did; solely focus on God:
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple” Acts 2:42-46
Maybe I’m just turning into a hippie! A Christian hippie!