Thursday, April 1, 2010

The First and Second Commandments

Calvin summarizes the first commandment in section 16.  The purpose of the first commandment is that "the Lord wills alone to be pre-eminent among his people and to exercise complete authority over them."  If He is not first in our hearts and lives, then we necessarily fall into the trappings of superstition and idol worship.  There are four things that Calvin listed that we "owe" God.  They are adoration, trust, invocation, and thanksgiving.  We must properly worship Him, believe in His care for us, call on Him only, and praise His name.  The opposite can be said about anything else in the universe.  We should worship nothing else, believe in nothing else, call on nothing else, and praise nothing else.  If we do, we are going against God's will for us. 

The last part of the first commandment is typically translated "before me," but in Calvin's Bible it reads "before my face."  We should not adore, trust, invoke, or praise anything but the one true God.  When we give what is rightfully God's to something else, not only is it like a bride becoming an adulteress, but it is like she is rubbing her husband's nose in the fact that she is unfaithful by betraying him right in front of him.  God sees all.  When we give what is properly God's to something else, it is right in front of him.  "To this boldness is added much impiety: man judges himself able in his desertions to pull the wool over God's eyes.  On the contrary, God proclaims that whatever we undertake, whatever we attempt, whatever we make, comes into his sight."

The second commandment is this, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:4-6 NKJV).  The commandment itself contains two parts.  "The first [up through "under the earth"] restrains our license from daring to subject God, who is incomprehensible, to our sense perceptions, or to represent him by any form.  The second part [up through "nor serve them"] forbids us to worship any images in the name of religion."  Calvin refers back to Book I and his discussion about idol worship there. 

There is a threat contained in this commandment (it is an idol threat, but not an idle threat).  The threat contains three parts: God's power (Calvin explains that it is shown in the use of His name "EL" which is derived from the word "might"), God's jealousy, and God's intention to vindicate His glory and majesty against idol worshipers.  And once again Calvin uses the metaphor of a faithful husband and an adulterous wife when describing the relationship between a faithful God and ourselves.  "The more holy and chaste a husband is, the more wrathful he becomes if he sees his wife inclining her heart to a rival.  In like manner, the Lord, who has wedded us to himself in truth [cf. Hos. 2:19-20], manifests the most burning jealousy whenever we, neglecting the purity of his holy marriage, become polluted with wicked lusts."

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember the Last Supper.  Judas betrayed Christ on this day for 30 pieces of silver on this day.  Judas put this money above the Lord.  This is an extreme example of the idol worship that God forbid because Judas trusted and adored money more than the Son of God.

I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.

                                  Hosea 2:19-20

Tomorrow's reading: 2.8.19-2.8.24

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