God is the standard by which humanity is measured. He defines goodness. Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “No one is good – except God alone.” Human claims of holiness must be evaluated by comparison to God’s holiness. Leviticus 19:2 says, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” God has set the bar at perfection. Jesus made this crystal clear in Matthew 5:48 when He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
If God Himself is humanity’s standard for living, then why did He give the Ten Commandments? God is invisible. It is difficult, at best, to emulate someone you cannot see. In giving the Ten Commandments, God set forth more than a civil and moral document; He gave word pictures of Himself. God described His values and character through the precepts of the law. The Ten Commandments show us what God is like so that we may know how to display Him for His enjoyment and for light to a world of darkness.
The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” is not merely first numerically, but also foundationally. It reveals what God values most, which is God. While mankind is the beneficiary of His grace, mercy and kindness, God’s end goal is His glory. The Israelites received deliverance through the plagues with which God afflicted Egypt. However, God expressed His purpose for the plagues in Exodus 9:16. He told Pharaoh through Moses, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” God graciously offers salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Yet, our salvation is not the ultimate goal of Jesus’ death. After Jesus told Andrew and Philip of His imminent death in John 12, He said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (verses 27 and 28). God is God-centered.
It is good and just and right that God is God-centered. If God were to deem anything as greater or more valuable than Himself, then either His judgment must come into question or this greater thing is God. God must value that which is most valuable. He must seek glory for that which is most glorious. It is also loving that God is God-centered. God is the greatest good. When He calls us to seek His glory, He is calling us to pursue that which is most satisfying to the human heart. When we find our joy and satisfaction in God, He receives glory in being the source or our greatest joy and satisfaction. In seeking His own glory, God is satisfying His creation.
While self-centeredness in God is righteous, it is wicked in men. The universe was created to work with God as the center and creation in orbit around Him. When people attempt to place themselves at the center, it upsets creation’s balance. As long as Adam and Eve were in right relationship with God, depending upon Him for everything, all of creation dwelt in harmony. The serpent’s temptation offered Adam and Eve “wisdom” of their own. They would no longer need God to be their source. When they chose the path of self-direction, creation was thrown into disorder. The universe will not recover until God sets everything back in its proper orbit. In the meantime, Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” The whole creation is awaiting the day when God is the center again.
Even though God is the greatest good, it is a difficult matter to live God-centered. The world is full of shiny trinkets that catch our eyes and draw our attention from Him. In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis said, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” It is just easier to settle for readily attainable pleasures that shout their demands for our affections than it is to hold out for that which whispers sure promises of true and eternal satisfaction.
God’s command to forsake all other gods and honor Him as superior to all else is the basis for the rest of the of the commandments. Since God is infinitely superior to anything and everything in creation, then there is nothing in existence that can materially represent Him. Misusing the name of God trivializes His supremacy. Observing the Sabbath is the discipline of trusting God as the One who satisfies all our needs. Parents are the conduits of God’s care and guidance in the lives of children. To dishonor parents is to reject God’s sovereign leadership. Murder does violence against the Source of all life. Marriage is to be a living, breathing illustration of the love between God and His people. Adultery is the scorning of the lover of our souls. Theft is denying God’s faithfulness in providing for our needs. In giving false testimony, man attempts to usurp the flawless justice of God. When we covet we express dissatisfaction with God’s gifts to us and seek our satisfaction outside of Him.
God demands that we join Him in His God-centeredness. The sad result of fixing our orbit around anything other than Him is the forfeiture of the only satisfaction for the deepest longings of our souls now and for eternity.