Q. What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?
A. First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.
The first and second commandments establishes biblical religion as an either-or, not a both-and proposition. When it comes to choosing whom we will serve as God, there is no middle ground (Josh. 24:15). Jesus was simply reminding his disciples of the First Commandment when He warned them, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). Israel’s problem was frequently syncretism. They thought they could have the priests and Levites, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, be worshipers of Yahweh, and worship Baal or Asherah on the side (in hopes of securing the favor of the gods or to please a foreign spouse).
We too, are to have no loves or ultimate allegiances above the one living God. Loving God is as exclusive as loving your spouse. Traditional marriage vows includes the phrase “forsaking all others” for a reason. Because the nature of the relationship is one of exclusivity. The same is true in our relationship with God. He is to be the one and only.
The third commandment forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. God does not want us to empty His name of its meaning or use it in a careless or debasing way. It is broader than just forbidding the use of foul language (though it does include that). It is a warning not to take lightly or thoughtlessly the name of our Creator and Savior. It is also a warning, I think, that we ought to act, think, feel, and speak as befitting those who are called Christians. As Christians, we bear the name of Christ. So when we live lives that do not reflect Christ, we besmirch the name by which we are called. So let us exhort one another to live lives that honor the name of Christ our Lord, instead of taking it in vain.