Moved by Love
Herman Bavinck said, “Humans serve God, not under duress or violence, but willingly, by their own free consent, moved by love to love in return.” It is fascinating to think about this when one places it in the context of modern life. Our service to God is to be willing and moved by love, but all too often this is not the case. Contemplating this tendency in my own heart (and the hearts of so many around me), I thought it might be helpful to spend the next few weeks (and really months) walking through the 10 Commandments. This week we will look at our motivation to serve God, and we will see that there is ample reason for loving-willing obedience.
The preamble to the commandments is a portion of Scripture that we so often skip. What does it say?
And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. - Exodus 20:1-2
In these words we find the rational and motivation for a loving-willing obedience. The preamble to the Law starts out with the words, "I am the LORD." In these four words we find that the Lord has claimed full authority. He must be obeyed. He is YHWH. Calvin, when commenting on this phrase says, "With this word alone we are sufficiently brought under the yoke of God's majesty. Because it would be monstrous for us to want to withdraw from his rule when we cannot exist apart from him." Here, Calvin explains that we simply cannot get away from God. For as Paul says, "from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom 11:36). With these first words, the Lord makes plain that he must be obeyed because of who he is. To disobey is to turn our back on the king of all creation.
However, he does not stop with a demand for obedience. The very next words are "your God." The Lord is not some aloof deity that has no connection to us. The second motivation to loving-willing obedience is that he is the God of his people. The Lord reminds his people in these here of the covenant promise, that is seen throughout the Old Testament, the promise "I will be their God and they shall be my people." Though he is infinitely separated from us because he is the creator and we are the creature ("I am the LORD"), he has deigned to be our God. He has joined himself to us in covenant. We can now say, he is our God.
The last point that this preamble makes to motivate us to loving-obedience is that he is the one, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." It is here that we see the benefits of the Lord being the LORD and being our God. He is the one who has all authority and all power. He is also for his people. This means that when his people were in slavery in Egypt he went and searched them out. He loved them and saved them when they could not save themselves. He did this for Israel and does the same for us. We were in the slave market of sin. We were completely handed over to it. Yet, the Lord purchased us out of slavery. He saved us from a spiritual Egypt.
If the Lord is your God and you are his people, he has released you from bondage to sin. It is because of these three things (1. He is the LORD, 2. He is our God, 3. He has released us from slavery) that we are able to respond to the Law in loving-willing obedience. Calvin once again put it well:
As all things take their beginning from him, it is reasonable that they should in turn determine and direct their end to him. There is no one, I say, who ought not to be captivated to embrace the Lawgiver, in the observance of whose commandments he is taught to take especial delight; from whose kindness he expects both an abundance of all good things and the glory of immortal life; by whose marvelous power and mercy he knows himself freed from the jaws of death.
What a way for the Law to be opened. We are reminded who God is. We are reminded that he is our God. And we are reminded what he has done. It is with these truths in mind that we then get what we ought to do. That is to say, before we know what our Lord calls us to, we need to know who our Lord is and what he has done.