How we worship and honor the Lord will determine how we relate to each other in marriage. And God gives us specific instructions in His Word on how to do this.
Last week, we began looking at the first four of the Ten Commandments. These directly refer to our relationship with God. In Part 2: Making God First, we saw the first and greatest commandment–to love the Lord our God above all.
God must be first and foremost in our lives and marriages. And this week we examine the second and third commandments, which spell out actions we must take in order to keep God first. They are found in Exodus 20:4-7:
4 “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. 5 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, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
Have No Idols
The first way to make God most important in our lives and marriages is found in Exodus 20:4-5: “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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
When God’s people first heard this, they would have thought about physical idols made from stone or wood. We don’t usually think in those terms today, especially in America. But an idol can be anything that we make more important to us than God.
In our present time, one of our biggest idols is materialism. The acquisition of things is part of our culture.
Another modern day idol is often a result of our materialism–our jobs. We often sacrifice time with our families, giving up even our weekends and church attendance to spend an average of 60-80 hours a week working.
God warns us about this in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23: “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.”
Does that sound familiar?
Work is important, to be sure. When God created humans, He intended for us to work. Genesis 2:15 tells us about mankind before the fall: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”
The bottom line is that we must not let anything become more important than our relationship with God, our spouse, or our families. We must not allow anything to come between us and them. If we do, then God warns us that our lives will be “meaningless.”
A third twenty-first century idol is self. We often worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs. Our culture tells us that we must love ourselves first. We must take care of ourselves first. And therefore, others–including our spouses—come second.
This goes in direct opposition to what Jesus told us is the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
We must put God ahead of ourselves, and before anything or anyone else. And when God is first in our lives, we will put others ahead of ourselves.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 22:39: “‘And the second [commandment] is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”’”
So, we must die to self and live for others, beginning with our spouses. Matthew 16:24 says: “‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”
William Barclay, in his commentary on this verse, writes: “To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God.”*
It is only when we deny self for the sake of God and our spouses that we can have the marriage He intends for us.
God warns us of the terrible consequences in disobeying this command. He says in Exodus 20:5 that not following it leads to “punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Putting anything above God is showing hatred toward Him. Not only will we suffer the consequences, but so will our families.
God does not want to harm us. He loves us. But He knows not following His commands will be harmful. Not only does it hurt us, but it harms our marriages, and our children for generations to come. God created us to be influenced by our parents and spouses. So disobeying His commands will have a destructive impact on those we love.
But there is great news in this commandment as well—a beautiful promise from God. In Exodus 20:6 we’re told God will show “love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
To love God first and follow His commandments brings great blessing to our families both now and far into the future.
Honor the Name of the Lord
The second way we are to make God most important in our lives and marriages is found in Exodus 20:7: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
This is perhaps the most disregarded command of all the Ten Commandments. Watch any television show (except maybe one on a Christian network) and count how many times God’s name is used in an irreverent manner.
Unfortunately, even many of us who say we are Christians are guilty of this.
Why is this so important? Why is this even one of the Ten Commandments?
In the Jewish culture, a name is given to a person for more than identification purposes. It describes the very nature of that person.
This is why David wrote in Psalm 20:1: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.” A mere title will not protect us. But the all powerful, all loving God–that His name represents–will.
A name in Jewish understanding also represents what a person stands for, believes, teaches, and lives by. This is why the prophet Micah said about God and His people in Micah 4:5: “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.”
It is also why Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples in John 17:6: “‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.’”
If we use God’s name in an inappropriate way, we demean the one and only God. If we use His name in any way except to honor and glorify Him, we belittle the true and living God of the universe. This is never acceptable.
We must be careful to take God–all that He is and all that He stands for–seriously. We must honor Him. And we must honor His name and all it represents.
Only when we love God first, honor His name, and worship Him alone will we be able to love each other with the kind of love that a wonderful marriage requires.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. What stands out to you? How does it apply to your life and marriage?
♦ Have you thought about an idol as being anything that you value ahead of God, your marriage, or your family?
Take an honest inventory your lives. Is there anything in your life that would qualify as an idol, using the definition discussed in this week’s teaching? Confess it to God and to your husband or wife. Ask their forgiveness. Ask them both to help you remove this idol from your life.
Remember Jesus’ radical remedy for sin in Matthew 5:29-30: “‘If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.’”
♦ Have you considered the importance of a name before? Have you thought about the importance of the name of God? Do you show honor and respect for His name and Who it represents? Or have you misused it and shown dishonor and disrespect to God? If you have done so, ask His forgiveness. Commit to show God the honor He deserves with the way you use His name. Ask Him to help you with this. You can be certain He will.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Pray the things we have mentioned in the questions above. Commit to God that you will work together to make and keep Him first and foremost in your lives and marriage. And ask God to help you faithfully obey His commandments.
Next week we will continue our study of The Ten Commandments with another way to make God first and foremost in our lives and marriages.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,