Does life seem out of balance? Are you confused about what you should be doing? Do you freeze when you need to make a decision? A.W. Tozer once said, “When we take to ourselves the place that is God’s, the whole course of our lives will be out of joint.” That’s why we feel out of balance. It’s why we become confused and conflicted when we need to make a decision. The key to resolving all this is to get our priorities in order.
Last week we began looking at Ten Words that Will Change Our Lives. We’re examining what the Bible calls, The Ten Words or what most English translations call the Ten Commandments. The first word that we talked about was Believe (Exodus 20:2)! The second word, that we’ll look at today, is prioritize! The passage it’s from is Exodus 20:3-6, which says, Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth ëgenerationsû of those who hate Me but showing faithful love to a thousand ëgenerationsû of those who love Me and keep My commands.
These verses are about getting our priorities in order, and there are three steps we need to take to do that. The first is, Put God first in our lives. Israel’s great temptation would be to take the false gods of Canaan, and put them before the one true God. Therefore, God commanded them, “Do not have other gods besides (or before) me.” So often we struggle with a list of priorities, God, family, faith community, service, job. I think a better way is not to make a list and put God at the top of it but to put the Lord first in every aspect of our lives. To see what I mean, think of the word, FIRST. We must put God first in our Families, at the top of our Interests, at the head of our Relationships, of most importance in our Schedule, and the One we turn to first when we are in Trouble. Instead of making a list, think of life as a bicycle wheel with God as the hub. He is in the center, and all the spokes of life emanate from Him, giving the Lord our first priority in life.
Second, if we want to bring order to our lives, we need to reject all substitutes for God. So Israel was commanded “Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.” These are all God substitutes. They used to be Baal, Mammon, and Molech but today they consist of stuff, or work, or technology. Idols are appealing because we think we can tame them and make them do whatever we want. But, as C.S. Lewis remarked about the Christ figure in the Narnia Chronicles, “Aslan is not a tame lion.”
What’s so bad about God substitutes? Scripture says they will damage us in three ways: They will deceive us (Jeremiah 10:14 says “molten images are deceitful”), they will dominate us (1 Cor 12:2 says “you were led astray by dumb idols”), and they will destroy us (Psalm 115:8 says, “those who make [idols] will become like them”). This is the nature of addictions, whether to controlled substances, pornography, our even the internet. Addictions, our form of idolatry deceive, dominate and ultimately destroy us. That’s why, for an ordered life, we must reject all God substitutes.
And finally, to have an ordered life, we must worship God alone. This text says, “You must not bow down to them[God substitutes] or worship them.” Why, because God is passionate about us (that’s what it means when it says He is “a jealous God.” He is also just in punishing sin (so that the consequences of sin affect generation after generation). Most importantly, God is loving, showing faithful love to a thousand generations.
Haddon Robinson once pointed out that one old recipe for rabbit stew started out with this injunction: “First catch the rabbit.” Says Robinson: “The writer knew how to put first things first. That’s what we do when we establish priorities — we put the things that should be in first place in their proper order.” So what’s the second word that will change our lives? Prioritize! Put the Lord Jesus first in our lives, rejecting all substitutes and worshiping only Him.