Items posted on 2 January 2012
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2 Chronicles 33.1-7 and Ecclesiastes 12.13 – The First Duty of Man
Posted: 2 January 2012 in 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever.”

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”

If the first duty of man is to worship God (which it is), there can hardly be a more serious offence in his eyes than idolatry. That is why Jesus mentioned the commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” as being the first and greatest commandment. Atheists are sometimes heard to complain that it would be unfair of God (if he existed) to condemn them to hell if they had led a good life. There are a number of possible responses to that, but one of them is that they have simply ignored the first and greatest commandment. It matters not at all if they have their own ideas about what the first commandment ought to be, because it is not a decision which is theirs to make. That does not mean (of course) that the second of the two great commandments can be ignored; it is, after all, one of the two great commandments – just not the first.

Unlike atheists, liberal Christians are not guilty of ignoring the first of the two great commandments. Nevertheless, they show every sign of wanting to reverse their order, and doing that runs the very real risk of turning Christianity into a social program – with God maybe getting a look in on Sunday morning. With that ordering of priorities it is not difficult to see how Christianity might be transformed first into deism, then into a practical atheism, and finally into a full atheism. That, of course, is precisely what has happened in Europe during the course of the last three centuries or so, with humanity, and the accompanying philosophy of humanism, being the idol which has displaced God from his throne.

So the question finally comes down to whether we truly believe that this jealous and holy God exists, and, if we do, just how seriously do we take his worship as being our first priority? It has been well said that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17.9).

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