One Thing (#21)

Heart, by praying;
Soul, by obeying:
Mind, by dwelling;
Strength, by telling.

“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8, ESV)

The commandment that Jesus quotes is only indirectly related to the devil’s suggestion; that is to say, it is not a prohibition.But obedience to this command deters all mention of compromise.

Mockers bring scorn on the Ten Commandments by making them into a mere list of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! The whole basis of the Ten Commandments begins with a positively stated fact.

I was once visiting a church that had a life-size display of the tabernacle of the Book of Exodus, including a replica of the articles of the Holy of Holies. One of the kind men who was serving at the exhibit offered me a poster of the Ten Commandments. I accepted it with a smile, but I told him that it was missing the most important part. The first sentence of the Ten Commandments is:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2, ESV)

Only when we know and love God as Saviour can we follow the path of obedience, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. Grasping God’s character is the key factor to understanding and obeying his commandments.

F. W. Boreham masterfully divides the Ten Commandments:

“The Ten Commandments consist of three parts. 1. The preface—‘I am the Lord thy God!’ 2. The precepts—‘Thou shalt …’ 3. The prohibitions—‘Thou shalt not …’ Our New Year’s resolutions assume that we should put third things first. We are wrong. We must put the person before the precepts, and the precepts before the prohibitions.”

Even the two greatest commandments do not start with “thou shalt not.” They start with the person of God—”the Lord is one”—followed by “you shall.” Only when we know what it is we must do, do we see clearly what we cannot do. Jesus crushed the devil’s suggestion, not by telling him what he could not do, but by naming the one thing that he must do. He said no to the devil simply by saying yes to God. He must worship and serve the Lord only.

Agur son of Jakeh could not help but exaggerate. He would write down three things, but then think of a fourth. “There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand.” (Prov. 30:18, NLT) But Jesus could not help but simplify. He saw two or three things that need to be done—but quickly clarified that these are truly only one. He told Mary, “Few things are necessary—or only one.” (Luke 10:42, ESV)

Only Jesus could take all of life and lay it under one mighty command, one “master light of all our seeing,” one “integration point” from which radiate all other commands. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30)

Jesus, you placed all of life under just one heading. Show me how to focus all of life in the light of who you are first, and second in the light of what you have asked me to do.

Amen.

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