The Scriptorium

The First Three Commandments

It's all about God. Deuteronomy 5.6-11

The Ten Commandments: Deuteronomy 5 (2)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 119.1-4.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.

Psalm 119.1-4
(Ode to Joy: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee)
Blessed are they whose way is blameless, all who walk within God’s Law,
who, His testimonies keeping, seek Him, filled with joy and awe.
These are they who, no wrong doing, ever walk within God’s ways.
Lord, Your precepts You command us; we would keep them all our days.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 5.6-11


1. What do you learn about God from these three commandments?

2. What are some examples of the kinds of sin these commandments proscribe?

The Law of God begins with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are to the rest of God’s Law – all the statutes, precepts, testimonies, judgments, and rules – as the United States Constitution is to the state constitutions and case laws and civil statutes that have been created over the years. The Constitution defines the broad parameters of American law; all other laws refine our understanding and application of the Constitution to specific instances. So also with the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s Law.

Fittingly, the Law of God begins by directing our attention and obedience to Him. God does not need us, or anything else (Acts 17.24, 25). God is complete within Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He knows infinite and unchanging fellowship, joy, and pleasure, and His great desire is that we should share in that with Him. This is what we are made for as His image-bearers. God, Augustine wrote, has made us for Himself; and our souls are restless and ill at ease until we find our rest in Him.

The Law shows us how to do this. The first commandment instructs us to focus all our attention, desire, devotion, worship, and obedience on God alone, for He alone is God. He is the LORD, the eternal I AM, the Maker of all things and Savior of His people. We must look only to Him, to increase in the knowledge of Him, which is eternal life (Jn. 17.3).

The second commandment warns us against deferring or redirecting any devotion to created things, whether false gods, carved idols, or man-made dreams and schemes, as though these were the ultimate values and truth. Idolatry is always the great distraction for people, because it promises a shortcut to happiness without the requirement of holiness. God will have none of this, because not only does this do injustice to Him, idolatry also short-circuits our true happiness and fulfillment.

By believing in God, we take His Name upon us: We are the people of God. And in New Testament terms, we are Christians. We must not take this Name upon us to no effect. This is the true meaning of the third commandment. Yes, of course, we must not use God’s Name in vulgar speech. But even beyond that, if we say we are the people of God, then we must live as He intends, according to His commandments.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
We are to love God most, always, wholeheartedly, and unflinchingly. And if we don’t, or won’t, God says that we hate Him. He is a jealous God. He says to us, “Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you” (Jer. 25.6). This should make us so horrified and sad that we long for nothing more than to make Him know for certain that we love Him. Jesus says to us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15). It is the same requirement, Old and New. The same yesterday, today, and forever. Holiness demands our love priority must be to God.

1. Why did God direct the first three commandments toward Himself?

2. What do the first three commandments require of us?

3. Why is God so adamant against idols?

God is here set before us in the character of a husband, who suffers no rival; or if it be preferred to extend the meaning of the word, He is called the assertor of His rights; since His rivalry is nothing more than retaining what is His own, and thus excluding all the rivals of His honor. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 5.9

Help me daily, Lord, to renew devotion to You, to grow in love for You, and to…

Closing Prayer: Pray Psalm 119.5-8

Ask the Lord to keep you in all your ways within the loving parameters of His Word. Pray specifically about the day ahead.

Psalm 119.5-8
(Ode to Joy: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee)
Let my ways steadfastly keep to all the statutes of Your Word.
Then shall I, no shame enduring, fix my eyes on You, O Lord!
With an upright heart I praise You; in Your rules will I abide.
I will keep Your statutes wholly; keep me ever by Your side.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore