“And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:1-11)
We find that a rest day is a good thing, one of God’s good gifts for the welfare of mankind. It is a law rather than a recommendation because a recommendation would be no blessing at all. It is the binding aspect of the rest day that releases one for rest and worship. If the rest day is merely recommended, we are not free to rest from the pressures of life and turn without hindrance to joyful fellowship with God and His people. We must still face the pressures and frustrations of mundane obligations. But a required rest day sets us free.
If the teaching of Paul does not certainly bind the Christian to observe a special rest day, even less certainly does it annul the strong teaching of the balance of Scripture in setting a special day for rest and worship. Therefore, we positively choose that which certainly would please the Lord. To turn away from our daily occupation to spend a day in fellowship with Him and service for Him must certainly please Him even more than offering to Him a portion of all our possessions in token of the fact that all belongs to Him. The only way the careful observance of the rest day commandment could displease our Lord would be if a person looked to that obedience as a means of earning merit or as a way of salvation.
In light of God’s action in resting after work, His setting aside at that time a day of rest sacred to Himself, the subsequent commands of Scripture concerning a day of rest, the example and teaching of Jesus Christ in affirming and interpreting the Old Testament standard, and the observance of the first day of the week by the New Testament church as a special day of worship, we must recognize Sunday as a special day of rest, worship, and service to the Lord.
In a thoroughly humanistic age in which man is the center, “God first!” thunders from Sinai. The first table of the Decalogue proclaims this ultimate message: “Above all else, O man, guard your relationship to your God. If this relationship is right, you will live. If this relationship is wrong, you will die.”
Notice how every topic we study centers ultimately in God. We shall see as our reading continues that every standard for life is the same. Note also the outcome when God is not given first place in any standard, how quickly it disintegrates into meaningless and powerless, even destructive half-truth.
True love begins and ends with God. He defines it by His own character, and all other loves reach their potential only when yielding to love for God as supreme. Law is based on God’s character—His expressed will that we be like Him. Thus, to violate His law is to violate His person. Even human authority derives its authority from God and must give an account to Him for how that responsibility has been discharged. Those under human authority owe ultimate allegiance only to God. All sin is, in the final analysis, against God. This is seen in the fact that sin is falling short of God’s glorious righteousness, that sins of the mind and heart are crucial, and that sin is, above all, breaking the first four commandments. Lust is God-given appetite gone berserk, and covetousness is, at root, idolatry. Pride is the essence of sin against God, for in it man attempts to usurp the credit due God and establish his or her own autonomy. Of all failures, the most fatal is leaving God out in a horizontal-only personalism.
Thus, “God first” is far more than a theoretical, appropriately courteous starting point. It is intensely practical and, in fact, the only way to integrate all the other horizontal relationships. God in person is the beginning and ending point of all. Is your passion God first? Is your allegiance only to God? Do you leave God out? Let’s settle these questions today.