There is a common caricature of God as “the big man in the sky” who barks down orders for humanity to obey. “Obey or burn!” On this view, God is the megalomaniacal dictator of Richard Dawkins’ dreams.
Perhaps this view of God is consistent with some religions, I do not know. However, I know for certain this is not the biblical picture of God.
As an illustration, I think of when I was a kid and my parents would tell me to do something. “Go clean your room.” My contrarian nature, or perhaps just my rebellious nature, would ask “Why?” Often, the response would be “Because I said so.” Well, that isn’t an answer is it? For sure, you should obey your parents because they are your parents and you owe them everything, including your life! But surely there is a reason one should clean one’s room.
There is. But how many kids grew up wondering “What is the reason for cleaning my room?” If the only answer you got was “Because I said so,” then you never really understood why you should. This isn’t an article about explaining yourself to your children, although that might not hurt. But consider the illustration to God.
God gives commands. Think of the ten commandments: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet, etc. I would suggest that God doesn’t give these commands because “I said so.” Again, God is the ultimate authority and as he says in Job 38:2 “Who are you to question my wisdom?” But there are at least two problems that come to mind when considering that God would give commands simply because he is in charge.
- God is not bored. God is wholly satisfied in his eternal self. He did not need to create humanity, let alone command humanity. To say that God gives commands because he can, gives me the impression that God is bored, wanting something to do, so he just commands lesser beings. I don’t see this in the scriptures and it certainly doesn’t hold up philosophically.
- God’s commands are not arbitrary. To say “God gives commands because he is God” also gives me the impression that God is arbitrary. If God told you to fly an airplane into a building would you say, “Well, he is God.” I think you would be justified in saying, “Wait a minute.”
God’s commands stand in need of a reason. We are certainly in no position to question the Creator of all, as Job quickly learned, but that doesn’t mean God acts or commands without reason. Luckily, we don’t have to guess as to why God commands, he tells us himself.
God’s Good Commands
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The testimony of Scripture is clear: God wants and works for the good of those who love and obey him. God’s commands, if obeyed, lead to human flourishing. God doesn’t give commands because he maliciously enjoys being the boss. No, he gives commands because he knows in his infinite wisdom what is best for humanity. His commands are a code to human flourishing.
With this understanding, it is no wonder that the first command is to have no other God besides God. Loving God with all of our hearts is the only thing that will satisfy us, the only thing that will cause us to holistically flourish as human beings. We will always be incomplete and unsatisfied unless we submit to the God who loves us and redeemed us with the purchasing blood of his only Son.
God’s commands are for our good.