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Make no mistake

"You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20.3

The first commandment! Some might argue that it betrays Yahweh's tyranny, even insecurity. But we wouldn't say that in the context of marriage, would we? We expect the same mutual exclusivity: no other man, no other woman, only you. Yet the fact is that the Bible does not invite us to understand God's exclusive claim on our loyalty as illustrated by marriage. It's the other way around: marriage is to be a reflection of the exclusive relationship between God and his people - Israel originally and now the "new Israel" which includes the Church. The point is that God's claim on our total and undying commitment is unique and unprecedented. Yet nor is it unfounded. That first commandment is prefaced by the reminder: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

God should not have to prove himself of course. But he does and that means that our devotion is based both on respect, for who he is, and gratitude, for what he has done. Indeed we might extend the latter to embrace what he is doing and what he will do because the Bible is full of reassurances of God's presence among his people - guiding, healing, disciplining - as well as being full of promises and, yes, warnings too about what he will accomplish in the future - by way of redeeming and judging, restoring and destroying.

Putting God first is to assert our most important priority, from which everything else flows and upon which everything else depends. Some argue that God, in his benevolence, would prefer us to prioritise the poor, our families, truth. Not true! In his wisdom, God knows that the ability to fulfil our nobler aspirations with integrity depends entirely upon our trust in him and so, in his benevolence, he requires that we put him first. Then everything else becomes possible and finds its proper place...

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