By Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier
As the baptized people of God, we have access to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Thus, at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy we gather before the face of God remembering our baptism in which we daily die to sin and rise again to walk in newness of life. Therefore, we are taught to go before God’s face in humility. We humbly confess to Him with fellow believers that we have sinned against the True God in thought, word, and deed. Then we petition Him asking that He would forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in His will and walk in His way. For the sake of Christ, we are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We gather together at the place of grace, that is, where Christ Himself is in our midst as the High Priest granting us remission of sins and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Through the message of the cross, the Holy Spirit is working in us to bring about new thoughts, new words, and new deeds. We have a new desire to be instructed by God. The Word of God is efficacious, that is, it effects a change in those who hear it. The Spirit of God enlightens us and guides us to walk in the Light. Our entire life of faith is depicted as walking with God through the wilderness of this fallen creation.
Without God’s Word as a Lamp unto our feet and a Light unto our path, we are left alone on an unfamiliar trail amid darkness. If you have ever walked around in the night without a light, you know about stubbing toes, banging shins, and even stumbling to the ground. If you have ever hiked on a trail when the sun goes down in the middle of the wildness where there are poisonous snakes, you know the importance of having a flashlight. However, if the batteries die and you wonder off the trail, then you risk being lost and even bitten by a snake.
When the Triune God originally gave the Ten Commandments to His people at Mount Saini, He was preparing them for the journey ahead through the wilderness into the Promised Land. He would guide them and lead them to safety. In fact, the Pre-incarnate Christ would tabernacle in their midst. He promised to be present with them in a pillar of cloud by day to show them the way and a pillar of fire by night to give them the light.
Yet, before they set out on their pilgrimage, God instructed them about the obstacles that would be found along their way. Thus, He gave to them the Ten Words. Notice that this instruction began with the proper identity of God and His people. The Triune God spoke and said, “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:1). The people of Israel did not make themselves God’s people by their thoughts, words, or deeds. In fact, they were slaves in Egypt and could not free themselves from their own captivity. They needed a Deliverer who would deliver them from the oppression of Pharaoh. God had freed them and liberated them from the house of slavery. To confess God as Yahweh, is to confess God as the One who redeemed them. Yahweh is their only Savior. They have been freed from slavery to Pharaoh and made servants of the One True God. They had been baptized in the waters of the Red Sea.
Thus, God began to instruct them by saying, “You shall have no other gods before me.” There is no need to have a different god who did not save them. There is no need to bring another god alongside the True God. There is no need to look for an alternative face for God. There is no need to try and win God’s favor with one’s own thoughts, words, or deeds. There is no need to worship God in the way of the contemporary corrupted culture.
Israel is taught that as soon as they begin to walk in God’s way, temptation will come trying to lead them astray. The land of Canaan will be filled with creative ways to worship God. The Ancient Serpent will be waiting for them along the path. The Deceiver deceives people into making gods in their own fallen images. The Tempter tempts people to form gods from the imagination of their own corrupted hearts. Such gods are false. They cannot save or redeem. Thus, the True God warns His people about false worship which is done without God’s Word and without faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Out of love for His people, God instructs them in what is pleasing to Him. The people of God do not need any other gods. Instead, they are to learn to fear, love, and trust in Yahweh above all things. The people of God already have the True God who redeems and saves them. The first commandment instructs us in true worship.
Now that Christ is incarnate, we confess Jesus as Lord, that is, Yahweh who redeems us. Jesus is our only Savior. There is no other name by which we are to be saved. We belong to Him. He is our God and we are His people who live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness
Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, NM