You shall have no other gods.
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
If you grew up in the faith, you might recognize that starting statement as God’s First Commandment. The second statement is the answer to Martin Luther’s famous question, “What does this mean?” that he asks over and over again in the catechism he wrote (good thing the printing press had just been invented, am I right?). Here’s another question for you: How do you feel you are doing with that commandment?
When I look at all the commandments, at first glance this one seems like one I can keep, and maybe you feel the same way. After all, I don’t have any bronze statues in my house that I pray to or different temples I attend to bow down at the feet of a pagan god or offer sacrifices to it. I think I got this one down. You too? High fives all around! But when I look at the answer to Luther’s question above, I’m faced with another question: What is my first love? What things or people or activities do I love the most? What am I giving most of my time to in a week? Is God on the top of my list? Oof. Maybe I’m not doing as well as I thought. You either? (High-five hands slowly dropping down to our sides awkwardly.)
Sobering, right? But here’s the good news. God put that commandment first for a reason. It’s not because he’s arrogant and needs our attention. It’s not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy other things. It’s not because he’s petty and wants to be the big shot. Nope. It’s because he wants to bless us the most. It’s because he knows that his love is the only love that satisfies and his love is the only love that will not fail us. If our top love is (fill in the blank with anything or anyone that is not God), then we are setting ourselves up for failure. People will fail us. Our minds will fail us. Our bodies will fail us. Governments fail us. Cars fail. The stock market fails. We cannot possibly be fully satisfied by anything on this earth.
To be satisfied, all desires, expectations, needs, and demands need to be fulfilled. Think back to the best meal of your life . . . delicious appetizers, main course, drinks, decadent dessert . . . I bet you woke up the next day and were hungry again. Our spouses and friends aren’t perfect and don’t always meet our needs or desires. The perfect angels that are our children will not think about our expectations and satisfy them. Our sports records from high school will probably not last until our 20-year reunions, and neither will our joints. Our favorite jeans will get holes in them (although that’s all the rage now, I suppose), and our hair will go gray or fail to cover our heads or remain in the appropriate places. Basically, if our top love is earthly or human, we’re in trouble. And God knows that. He wants what’s best for us. And what is best for us is to keep him at the top of our list of loves. Only then will we be satisfied.
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).
“The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:14-19).
Do you know who wrote these psalms? Moses and David. A couple of guys who were pretty close with God but didn’t always keep God as their top love. A couple of guys who struggled mightily with earthly issues but realized they could only be satisfied by God and his unfailing love. A couple of guys who trusted in the promise of a Savior.
In God’s unfailing love, he sent his Son to fulfill the law perfectly for us. All of God’s expectations were fully satisfied on that cross. But it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead so we too could be fully satisfied in him. God is so good, and he shows us time and again that he deserves to be at the top of our list of loves. It is so good for us to keep him there and to put all the earthly things in their places.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).