Ten Commandments: Missing in #1 through #4?

Yesterday I gave you Jesus’ summary of the first four of the Ten Commandments.  At the end of the post, I observed that it seemed that something was missing from those four commandments – especially in the light of the way Jesus summarized them.  Did you think about what might be missing?  If not, consider again what’s in bold below – the first four of the Ten Commandments and their summary – and ask yourself what might be absent from them.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

What is missing is any explicit command that would directly benefit God.  Instead, the first four commandments sets us up to do things – but then the “things” get specified in the remaining six commandments, which directly benefit our neighbors and not God.

It’s as if the first four commandments are the Lord saying, “You have to be fully devoted to Me – more than to any other being in heaven or on earth” and the remaining six commandments are the Lord saying, “This is what I want to do with all that devotion you have for Me.”

If we stop and think about it, this is just what we should expect from a selfless Creator; He would not tell us to love unless He Himself loved.  It’s not as if God is going to preach something He doesn’t practice.  Therefore, He constructs the Ten Commandments by first making sure that we are devoted exclusively and wholeheartedly to Him (#1-#4) – and then He commands us to express that devotion by living for the welfare of those around us (#5-#10).

God’s not commanding us to do things that would directly benefit Him should not be hard for us to understand.  Consider this:

Ma and Pa Smith were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary.  All their children and grandchildren were excited and wanted to get Ma and Pa something very special in honor of the occasion.

The children:  “What gift or gifts can we give you?  We are all well off, so money is no object.”
Ma and Pa:  “We will tell you, but can we wait and tell you on our anniversary day?”
The children:  “Well, that’s a little unusual, but okay.”

The anniversary came and the whole family was gathered.

The children:”It’s time to tell us what we and our children can give you to express our love and appreciation to the two of you.”
Ma and Pa:  “What we want on this day is for all of you to love each other.”
The children:  “But we already love each other.”
Ma and Pa:  “We mean really love each other – deeply from the heart, forgiving every wrong one of you might have done to the other.  Love and accept each other as we have loved and accepted you.  If you believe in good conscience that you’re already doing this, fine; then just act as if this anniversary day of ours is going to last forever.  That is, never stop giving us this gift.  We have learned from experience that nothing else you could ever give us or do for us would make as much difference to our happiness as that you treat each other like you want to be treated by each other (not like you are being treated or have been treated by each other).  Show the greatness of your love for us by the greatness with which you love each other – even when we’re not looking, even when we’re long gone.

Through fifty years of family life, Ma and Pa Smith had learned that no gift a child – whether minor or adult – could give them mattered as much as each child loving the others.  Conversely, no gift from a child could compensate for the pain that came to the two of them from knowing that one of the children was at odds with another.  If flawed and human parents could learn this by the end, surely a good and holy God knew it from the beginning.

God does not need anything we have, and any love we express for Him sounds hollow if we’re harboring bitterness in our hearts toward each other.  Therefore, He asks for humanity’s complete and continual devotion in the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments that He might use the next six commandments to make each and every human being a blessing to the rest.

“God is love” and “We loved because He first loved us.”

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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