Love has rules. It is something we can gage. We can look into the life of a person and say, “That person loves well,” or “That person flopped in love.” Love is not happenstance; a luck of the draw; a chance meeting in a crowded room. God loves you. He did not fall in love with you. He sees all of you and decides to love you. And he asks that you love him right back. And he is kind of persnickety (a word that in this context means particular); he wants you to love him well. He has even laid down rules for loving him. Do we balk at love-rules? Ah, but these rules are kind of important, because there are some who have good, fuzzy feelings about God, but who have no clue how to honor God; how to go about the business of loving God. I am not speaking of a dry, go about your daily routine, business. I am speaking of the rock your world work of loving Yahweh; the one who loves you well.
Exodus 20:1-11 is about loving God. We have come to the first four of the Ten Words. It is important to keep in mind that Yahweh is speaking to the Israelites who have committed to being in a relationship with him. God doesn’t chuck these rules at people who have not made said commitment. So, he begins by reminding them that he is Yahweh their God or Judge. They have accepted him as their Ruler. He is the one who brought them out of Egypt. You know, that quaint land you might as well call the House of Slaves. No other god rescued them. No other god heard their cries of despair. Therefore the first rule of loving Yahweh is not to have any other gods before Yahweh’s face. Or literally, there shall be no other gods before my face. Loving well means making a choice. If you choose God, well then choose him and leave all the other gods in the dark where they belong.
The second love-rule is that they were not to make idols in their worship of Yahweh. You cannot love Yahweh well and insult him by limiting him. If you make a fish and say, “‘Pon my word, looky here, it’s Yahweh! Bow down everyone!” God will not be honored. You wouldn’t be honored. Yahweh is the I Am, the Creator of all things. No image can do him justice. And since making an image to represent Yahweh will always slide into worshiping other gods, these first two commandments are expanded or qualified together. God is jealous. He is jealous of his character; his identity. Any representation ends up being demeaning. He’s Yahweh, after all. And if you demean God and end up bringing other gods before his face, that is not only not loving well, that is hatred. And hatred of God will sail down through generations. It is an iniquity that will not stop with one love-flop. The next generation will be trained by it to hate Yahweh as well. Ah, but those who love well; those who honor and love God for who he is, not for who they want him to be, Yahweh will demonstrate his loyalty love; his mercy; his lovingkindness to thousands or maybe the idea is unending generations. O, and loving well apparently involves keeping God’s rules. Go figure.
The third love-rule is not to lift and bear the name of Yahweh in emptiness or unworthiness. This is more than using the names or titles of God inappropriately. To be sure the Israelites were careful how they used the name. But this rule is about bearing the name or reputation of Yahweh as if it were worthless. It is to say you belong to the name and then live as if that were an empty thing. It is about remembering whose name you wear as you traipse about in this world. God will not leave a person who tramples his reputation unpunished. The fourth love-rule is about holding a consistent and ongoing remembrance of the sabbath. The word “sabbath” means “rest,” or “cessation.” It is a day to rest from work and focus on Yahweh. Loving God well means moments of rest with him. And God gives a detailed list of who is not allowed to work, from children to servants to animals. One source said that this is not about God being humanitarian, but rather about God plugging up all of the loopholes. I disagree. Yes, he is making sure there are no loopholes, but he is also protecting those who have no choice in the matter. Loving God well means allowing the weak to also have moments of rest with God.
God loves you. He knows everything about you and loves you. And he wants the relationship to thrive. That means loving him well. Don’t parade other gods before his face. That’s just rude. Don’t demean him with images and preconceived ideas of who you want him to be. Don’t wear his name as if it were worthless. And create moments of rest within God’s embrace. And loving God well includes protecting the weak, making sure that they are also able to love well. Love well, then. Peace, Walter