By Dr. Mike Murphy
As the man entered the kingdom he saw a sign, “There are only three laws in this kingdom, but they are strictly enforced.” As he travelled a little farther, he saw the sign again. By the time he had reached the city, he had seen the sign hundreds of times. As he made his way through the city, he saw the sheriff and approached him about the signs.
He introduced himself and began to ask the sheriff about the meaning of the signs. The sheriff answered, “Ah yes, the signs! Our laws are quite simple, we just expect you to obey them and to know the laws well.” So the man asked the sheriff, “What is law one?” The sheriff replied, “All laws and judgments are by order of the king, and his decisions are final.”
“Easy enough.”, the man said. “So what is law two?” “You must always follow without question the first law”. the sheriff quickly answered. “So law two tells me to only read law one”, the man said with a smile. Then with a smirk on his face, the man asked, “Then what does law three say?” “You are under arrest!”, the sheriff immediately yelled. “Law three tells us that anyone who needs more laws than one and two are to be arrested immediately!”
Man has often created laws and rules for the strangest of reasons. In the United States alone, we have created laws that the lawmakers cannot even explain! In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. In Delaware, it is against the law to whisper in church(If I lived in Delaware I would by now be serving a life sentence!). In Colorado, it is unlawful to lend a vacuum cleaner to your next door neighbor. Owners of flamingos are not allowed to have their pets in barber shops in Alaska. In my state of Tennessee, it is illegal to use a lasso to catch a fish. No one can sing the alphabet on the streets at night in Kansas. And in North Carolina it is against the law to sing off key(Remind me to never sing in North Carolina)!
We often create laws without even knowing what purpose we are creating them for. Without logic, or without even thinking, we create rules that our society must scratch its’ head at in order to follow. Like the kingdom above, we create rules two and three because we had no clue what we were doing when we created rule one!
But there is a place where only one rule is needed. Where we can read the first rule and have full understanding. Where rules two through ten only make sense if we fully understand and follow ‘Rule Number One’!
“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3. Rule Number One! Everything starts and ends with this law, the first of the Ten Commandments. When we do not honor and obey this law, then none of the other laws hold purpose and meaning. Without ‘Rule Number One’ the rest of the Ten Commandments become meaningless, nothing more than suggestions for our world and our society to live by.
Jewish history and tradition is built around the Ten Commandments, and these laws were built around and based upon the first of these commandments, “You shall have no other gods before Me”. When we acknowledge and confess the there is no other god but the Lord God, we place all power in His hands. By doing this we accept that He alone created all things. That He gives all things purpose, and that everyone and everything is sustained by and through Him. It then goes without saying, that if He creates and sustains all, then He knows best what laws and rules we should be governed by.
The Founding Fathers believed and took these very words to heart. Many stated the Ten Commandments as the bases for our civil and municipal laws. Twelve of the original thirteen colonies incorporated the entire Ten Commandments into their states criminal and civil codes. This was why the Ten Commandments are found on the very structure that governs our laws, the Supreme Court. And it is by no mistake, that in order to view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the National Archives, you must first pass by the Ten Commandments.
We know these standards that we use to rule our society and our lives, because we know the One who gave them to us. The reason we know that murder, theft, adultery, and lying are sinful, is only because the One who created and sustains us all tells us they are sin. Paul tells us in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, You shall not covet.” Paul tells us that were it not for the Law, the Ten Commandments, we would never have known what sin is.
So if only through us knowing and recognizing the Lord as God can we know sin, that how would we know sin if we did not acknowledge the Lord God? The simple answer is, we would not! Sin would be nothing more than what we wished for it to be. Unfortunately, this is where we find our society heading today. When we take God out of the equation, sin becomes subjective. Sin is then decided in the mind of man, not instructed in the Word of God. So today,our society finds itself trying to define sin without the instruction of the One who defined it.
So what happens when man, not God defines sin? Right and wrong becomes a matter of personal opinion. Sin becomes abstract, a matter of perspective. Man quickly comes to the conclusion, that if right and wrong is a matter of personal opinion, then whatever I deem as right in my situation, cannot be denied me. This is the slippery slope we find ourselves on today, and we when we look closely at our society we can quickly see where this will lead us.
We only need to look at a few of the Ten Commandments to begin to understand the impact of not following ‘Rule Number One’.
“You Shall not make for yourself an idol.” Our spirit is born with a natural inclination to worship, to lift up and honor the Lord. But when we remove God from this equation, we will replace Him by putting greater value on those things around us. By removing God, we seek answers to our most difficult questions from the strangest of places. And we place man on a higher level, often placing those we see in society on a pedestal.
Nowhere can this be seen in our society more than in Hollywood. We watch as popular actors and actresses are all but worshipped. We wait in lines mindless hours so that we can get their signature on a page, or their picture can be taken. We pay endless dollars so we can have a piece of clothing they have worn, or a prop from a movie they have made. Our government calls them to testify as experts, based only on a character they have played on screen. Society holds them up as idols, worshipping at their feet and hanging on their every word. And when they fail us, society quickly replaces them on the pedestal with the next star to emerge.
And where has this gotten us? Our society lies in decay, as Hollywood tells us that God is not needed, that man holds in himself all the answers. We watch as Hollywood’s defiance and ego rises like the tower of Babel. But when we look closely at the direction they would lead us, we find the same answers those did at Babel that day, complete confusion.
“You shall not murder.” “You shall not steal.” “You shall not commit adultery.” These commandments not only define sin, but protect society itself. When God’s Word is removed, chaos will always follow. Looking at our society today, we see chaos raising its’ ugly head. Crime is on a rise in many of our major cities. Events we once watched on the news in shock and horror, now get little more than a passing glance. Marriage and the family have been all but gutted, left in pieces by society on its’ operating table. Divorce is at an all-time high, and the very definition of marriage itself is being defiled by our society daily. And where has this lead us? Pornography and abortion have become multi-billion dollar industries. This last year, in New York City alone, more black babies were aborted than born, Think about that statement for a minute. If this continues, we will watch whole sections of our society disappear. Chaos will not only rule, it will be all that is left. This is why it is often said, no civilization can survive without God.
“You shall not covet.” Covet is actually not what most think. Covet is actually much stronger of a word in its’ meaning than greed and envy. Covet implies a sense of entitlement, and we will do anything necessary to get it. Covet is not a desire, it is a demand. In order to get what we want, covet says we will lie, cheat, steal, or even murder to have what we feel we are entitled to. While murder, lying, adultery, and theft are sins of action, covet is a sin from within. James 1:15 tells us that sin originates from within, from our desire. Covet is at the very heart of that desire. A society without God, is a society that is emerged in covetousness. Satan’s favorite slogan, ‘to thine own self be true’, is the rallying call of a coveting society. Selfishness becomes the standard of any society that makes covetousness it’s god.
This is where we see our society moving today. We watch as so many around are only concerned with themselves. We watch daily as our society justifies its’ actions in the name of covetousness. ‘Love thy neighbor’ is quickly being replaced with ‘love thyself’.
So how far does our nation now find itself from ‘Rule Number One’? To find this answer, I did a little experiment after church this past Sunday. I stopped to eat at a popular restaurant chain with family, and in doing so observed all those around me. I watched as families couples, and friends all gathered. I watched as they ordered, chatted, laughed, and eat their meals. I watched as they did all but one thing, pray! I did not see one table take even the slightest of moments to thank the Lord for their meal and for all He was doing in each of their lives. As I watched many that day gather to eat after the services of churches in the area, I soon began to realize one thing. They had left God on the pews as they walked out of the church doors. I could not help but wonder, has this nation forgotten ‘Rule Number One’? Sadly, I walked away with more questions than answers.
To my earlier question, “how far does our nation now find itself from ‘Rule Number One’?” I truly wish I had an answer. Whatever that answer may be, I do know it is way too far. I pray the words of Christ will echo through the walls of our churches and in the homes of this nation. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38. History is full of the examples that show us, no society can survive that does not follow these words. I just pray our nation will once again come to its’ senses and begin to realize again, all that matters is ‘Rule Number One’!
Praying this nation once again remembers to spell God with a capital ‘G’!