IBL01: The First Commandment (Craig Press)
The First Commandment
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Deuteronomy 6. The first commandment and the Shema Yisrael.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:12 “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it. That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:54 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:37 And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:09 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:31 Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers. To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the Lord hath spoken. And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean these, the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:37 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this date. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us. The sixth chapter of Deuteronomy is one of the great chapters of scripture. Our Lord, during his temptation quote it twice in his responses to Satan. Verses four and five are the Shema Yisrael, the morning and evening prayer of Israel. The term Shema Yisrael is the first two words, “Hear, O Israel.” This chapter is exceedingly important in the understanding of the law of scripture. In particular of the first commandment. The prologue to the law declares, “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Then the first commandment, ” Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:37 In this declaration God identifies himself as the self existent one, the absolute one, the Lord. His name, which is variously given in translations as Jehovah and as Yahweh means I am that I am, that is the self-existent one. The one who is beyond definition. He who is. He in terms of whom all things are defined and created. [inaudible 00:06:18] God in this declaration reminds Israel that He is their savior, by God, and that the relationship is therefore one of grace. The law is given therefore to the people of grace, to those saved by grace, and it is their way of life. The first response therefore of grace as well as the first principle of law is this: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:20 In Deuteronomy 6, in the first three verses, the implications of the first commandment are cited by Moses. They are told that they are to fear the Lord and to keep all His statutes. Now, fear in our day and age is regarded as something defective religiously and spiritually. It is presented throughout the scripture as something clean, healthy. The fear of the Lord is clean. We are again and again told that it is the hallmark not of something that is mentally defective, or spiritually defective, but of sanity, of wholeness of mind.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:17 Since God is God, the absolute Lord of Heaven and earth, it is the mark of a sane and healthy mind to fear Him. We are fearful of those who have power over us. We would be fearful if tomorrow we knew that an enemy power had sufficient force to destroy us at will and threatened to use that against us. How much more then is it a mark of health to fear the absolute and sovereign God and to know that we are totally in his hands. The fear of God is therefore a healthy thing, and fear we are told by Moses should prompt obedience. Those who fear God and obey Him will move in terms of obedience, and their days shall be prolonged.
R.J. Rushdoony: 08:27 Then, in verses four through nine, we have first the Shema Yisrael, and this is four and five, and then the implications of it. The Shema Yisrael, “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God is one God. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and will all thy soul, and with all thy might.” This is one of the most central declarations in all scripture. It affirms the unity of the godhead. The Lord our God is one Lord. Now this in itself not only affirms indirectly the doctrine of the trinity, but also the oneness of the trinity. Because when it speaks of the Lord our God, the word God there is Elohim, plural, so that the plurality of God is used in the very word. The word used is not El, singular, but Elohim, plural. God is more than one person. But the Lord our God who is more than one person is one God. One Lord. Thus there is one God and one unity of the godhead.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:08 The implication of this very definitely is since there is one God, there is one law. Because one sovereign God governs and orders as well as has created all things and heaven and on earth. Therefore there is one law system for the entire universe. One God, one law. Now the old expression that characterizes polytheism was lords many, gods many, laws many. Our modern worldview is polytheistic. That is, it implicitly believes in many gods. Because with our pragmatic-
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:00 … and many gods. Because with our pragmatic relativism, what our modern philosophers say is all religions and all systems are equally good. Buddhism is good for the Buddhisms, and it’s true for the Buddhists. Mohammedanism is true for the Muslims, and it’s good for them. Shintoism is good for the Japanese, and it’s true for them, and so on around the world. In other words, there’s no one God, one truth, one law. Now, if you have such a perspective, and this is the modern perspective, how then are you going to have one world order because this is what they want at the same time? Not by conversion. We who believe in one God seek to convert others to that faith because we believe it to be the truth, but if you say, “All are equal,” how are you going to bring all into one? Only by coercion. Only by imperialism.
R.J. Rushdoony: 12:18 Now the UN Charter at one and the same time declares it wants a one world order and also declares that there is no distinction between religions. All are equally true and equally false. How then can it bring about a one world order except by coercion? If you deny the one true God, then you deny a one true law … and there’s no possibility of converting anyone to truth, since the truth is denied. The only way you can bring the world together then, and people together, is by coercion. In terms of the faith given here, the world can be brought together not by coercion but by faith, not by an enforced unity, but by being one in the Lord.
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:22 Our modern world perspective is polytheistic. It denies any one true God. It affirms that all are equally valid, lords many, laws many. One God, one law, is our faith. Because there are lords many and laws many in the modern worldview, at the one and the same time that they are talking about one-worldism, they are engaged on the most fearful program of coercion that the world has ever seen. There is no escaping that coercive perspective apart from a return to the faith. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, Elohim, who is many, more than one person, is yet one Lord, one God. Moreover, it follows because God is one, truth is one. It is the same in every age. There is therefore no evolutionary progression, no different dispensation. It is the same doctrine in every age, the same program of salvation in every age.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:08 The people of the Old Testament were saved by the grace of God, which the whole sacrificial system set forth. Their salvation depended upon the atonement affected by the lamb who was a substitute for the one who was to come. The only difference between the Old and New Testaments is that that which was set forth symbolically in the lamb was openly and fully set forth in Jesus Christ, that the same doctrine of salvation, the same God, the same truth. Because God is one, truth is one. As God declares, “I am the Lord. I change not,” those who set aside the law, who are antinomians, [anti nomos 00:16:11], law, are polytheistic, and the sad fact is that a vast portion of the Christian church today is polytheistic. It actually worships many gods because it denies the law of God, the one unchanging law, because it falls into dispensationalism, which is a polytheistic point of view.
R.J. Rushdoony: 16:39 One of the leaders of Campus Crusade has said the law was given by Satan, when scriptures says God spake these words, then the law was given. Is this not only antichristian but polytheistic? It goes back to the [Marcionite 00:17:05] heresy, which saw the God of the Old Testament as one god and the God of the New Testament as another god. It is antichristian to the core. One absolute God means one absolute, unchanging law and one absolute, unchanging truth. Neo-orthodoxy, or Barthianism, which is sweeping the church today, which governs virtually every protestant seminary, which governs the Vatican Council, holds to the freedom of God, that is God can be different tomorrow from what he is today, and so it is inescapably universalistic. Because every truth is equally good and equally bad, then anybody can be saved by any idea of truth and by any religion, and so Cardinal Bea says, “Everybody is going to be saved their own way,” and so Karl Barth says, the Swiss theologian, “Everyone is going to be saved.” They have no truth. Every man’s truth is equally good.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:41 “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:22 At another point in the Mosaic law, the requirement also is for the blue thread on the fringes or tassels of the garments. Here we have a statement that the law is to be written upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates and the signs upon thy hands, so that as a tape with the law written upon it, it shall be upon thine hand and as frontlets between thine eyes. Now, there are some who say that this statement, and the related ones elsewhere in the law, are to be taken as spiritual, that we already have them as it were on our gate posts and upon our eyes and arms, but this is nonsense. The requirement is very specific and very literal. This was required of Israel. It was the covenant sign of the Old Testament period, even as circumcision was then the covenant sign of the Passover. It has been replaced for us by the covenant signs of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but this does not mean there was anything wrong with it or ridiculous about it.
R.J. Rushdoony: 20:55 We conform our styles to the world regularly. We dress as the world requires that we should dress. What was wrong in God requiring that Israel should dress as he required in these [inaudible 00:21:11], to show forth that they were a people separated unto him and conforming unto him? There was nothing ridiculous about it. In fact, it was a beautiful and a marvelous sign of the covenant. God has not asked it of us, but it does not mean that there was anything lesser or lower about it than our covenant signs … At the same time, the declaration is, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children,” and the concluding verses, 20-35, have the same requirement: ” When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, ‘What-
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:00 When thy son asked of thee in time to come sing what means the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you, then shalt thou say unto thine son, “We were Pharaoh’s bondsmen in Egypt and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord showed signs and wonders great and sorrow upon Egypt, and upon Pharaoh, and upon all his councils, before our eyes he brought us out from thence, and the Lord commanded us to all leave [inaudible 00:22:36].”
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:37 This is a declaration that education is basic to and inseparable from total obedience, with the Law, and to worship. Indeed, it puts education even before worship. That without education, we cannot worship God. This means Christian education. It means teaching such as we are having right now, because this is education that we might know the Law of God in order to worship Him properly. Education is therefore specified as basic to true worship and true obedience.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:25 Where there is no vision, the people perish. That is vision, sight, knowledge of God, the Law, Word. Therefore, this is to be taught diligently unto thine children.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:45 Moreover, in verses 10 through 15, we have a very important declaration. The essence of which is, ye shall not go after other gods, or the gods of the people which are roundabout you, for the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you. Let the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the Earth. The jealousy of God. This is repeatedly stressed throughout the Scriptures. It is especially stressed at this point. And the doctrine of the jealousy of God is one of the most beautiful and one of the most important in Scripture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:37 It declares unto us that God is personal. He is not an impersonal force. The doctrine of karma of India sees God as an impersonal force, so that everything you do wrong, you pay for. And so you spend untold generations in reincarnation to work out your karma. But because God is a person, the whole of our relationship to Him is not an impersonal thing, but highly personal.
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:23 A charge of electricity affects you impersonally. If you touch a live wire, certain things happen given certain conditions, and it doesn’t make any difference whether the person who touches it is the President of the United States or a criminal. The electricity is impersonal. It moves in terms of impersonal laws. But God is a person. And therefore he declares unto us, that His reaction is one both on the one hand of grace and forgiveness, and on the other hand of wrath. Because He knows the heart, and he moves in terms of his Law which governs not only the heart of man, but his actions, the totality of man.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:26 Although the doctrine of the jealousy of God is important, it also declares that God manifests a love to his people. Because it is impossible to have love without jealousy. An illustration which I have used before, and is worth using again and again, that it might stay in your minds, is the one of a husband who after being out all night turns up at 7:00, when his wife is at the breakfast table, and says to his wife “My dear, I’m sorry to be late for breakfast, but I’ve spent the night with Mrs. Jones.” And she says “Well sit down dear, I forgive you. Quickly, sit down, that you might had your breakfast before it gets cold.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:15 Now this illustration illustrates the absurdity of love without jealousy. It’s an impossibility. Any woman who so responded would have no love, because love is jealous. And God is here declaring “I am a jealous God. Because having called you by My grace, and having put My love upon you, I am jealous where My love is manifested. And therefore, you shall be of both My love and My jealousy at anything that transgresses against Me and My relationship with you.” Then in verses 16 through 19, the declaration: Ye shall not tempt or try or test the Lord your God, as ye tempted Him in [inaudible 00:28:19]. Ye shall diligently keep the Commandments of the Lord your God and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee, and thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord that it may be well received. That thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord swears unto thy father, to cast out all thine enemies who are before thee, as the Lord hath spoken.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:50 Thou shalt not tempt, test, or try the Lord your God. What does this mean?
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:58 It means putting God to the test. Why is this so fearful of sin? Because God is God, and we cannot test Him. God tests us by His law. The whole law is given as a test, a trying of man. And therefore, man cannot presume to be God and put God and his law word on trial, saying “Lord, here is my law, and I’m putting you to test in terms of my law.” This is turning the whole order upside down. Man declares himself to be God, and God to be his creature. Therefore, ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:50 This is our law’s master, Satan. Because this is the great temptation. The temptation of Satan to evil. Ye shall be as God, knowing that is determining for yourself what is good and evil. Every man his own God. Then, put God to the test. Make Him jump over the hurdles you’ve established. This man is the great sin.
R.J. Rushdoony: 30:39 But against this, the people of God are commanded. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thine soul, and with all thine might. At this point, an interesting play of words appears in the Talmud, because with the simple transposition of a single letter of the word “might” can be rendered as “money.” And so, as the [inaudible 00:31:25] Yisrael was used, the rabbi said the test is with all thy heart, soul, and money. An amusing, but nonetheless good point. Because the requirement is that with all our being and with all our substance, we love, serve, and magnify the one true God. Let us pray. Our Lord and our God, we thank Thee that Thou hast called us to be the people of the law. And we thank Thee that by Thy grace, Thou hast made us who are lawbreakers and lawkeepers. Bless us, Our Father, in Thy service, and in Thine obedience, and grant the day by day we shall forfeit greatness of Thine greatness, and that we bring all things into captivity to Jesus Christ, and subject all things to Thy Law Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder