Commands for Life
As we have been studying the book of Exodus, we recently went over the Ten Commandments. I have encouraged my Bible Quizzers to memorize the verses that go with those commands. I have known the Ten Commandments for a long time, but I’m not sure I could’ve listed them all correctly. Now after learning them along with my kiddos, I not only know them completely, but I can even put them in the right order! (Though I may have to sing them to you in order to do that!) Now the exact order may not matter really, but I do think it is important to know them and to understand why they were (and still are) so important. They were the first laws God gave his people the Israelites. And they are the foundation of any successful society.
The first 4 commands have to do with our relationship with God:
*You shall have no other gods before me
*You shall not make for yourself an image – in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth beneath or in the waters below
*You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God – for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name
*Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
They are as relevant today as they were 4,000 years ago! We have all been guilty of having other “gods” in our lives. Sometimes it is another person, the pursuit of a job, relationship, wealth or something else that consumes our thoughts. Sometimes it is our children. Whatever it is, unless we put God first, we have completely missed the point of our life on this earth. We may not make idols to bow down to, but anything that represents a hold on our heart before God can be easily made into one.
The misuse of God’s name has become a huge disease in our culture. You can hardly watch anything on TV anymore without hearing it. It’s become so “normal” that it doesn’t even bother most people anymore. I heard someone speak the other day about another way we misuse the name of God that I had not thought of before. He said when we call ourselves Christians and say or do things that are anti-Christ, we misuse his name. While I may not have trouble saying God’s name inappropriately, I know I have certainly caused him pain by some of my actions.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is becoming harder and harder in this fast-paced day in which we live. But it has never been more essential. We must make ourselves stop, rest, reflect, remember, and honor. Without that time, we lose sight of who we are, who our God is and our purpose on this earth.
The other 6 commands have to do with our relationship with those around us:
*Honor your father and your mother that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you
*You shall not murder
*You shall not commit adultery
*You shall not steal
*You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
*You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor
God knows our relationship with him must be first and so those commands are listed first. But he also knows our relationship with others is important to our being whole. By following these six commands, our society is kept safe, strong and whole. Unfortunately, they are largely unkept and we have all suffered because of it. Be respectful. Know that life is sacred. Marriage is to be honored. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. Don’t lie. Be content with what you have. Sounds like a lesson our world desperately needs doesn’t it?
Disrespect has become rampant in our culture. Children learn this early on. Movies and TV shows often portray parents – especially fathers – as incompetent idiots or non-existent. How we expect our children to respond to us and how we treat our parents says a lot about us. God gave this command with a promise — it is the ONLY command with a promise – “so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you”. When we honor our parents, there is life. Society cannot last for long with the breakdown in the family and in the values contained within it. And I must note that this commandment does not say “Honor your father and mother if they are worthy”. No – it says to honor them – period! That doesn’t mean we have to accept abuse or agree with their choices, but it does mean being respectful in how to talk to them and about them. That pleases God and says a lot about our character.
The last five commandments can be summed up by saying — be content. People who are content do not murder. They accept life and embrace it. They put up with people who think differently. Contented people do not look for fulfillment outside of marriage. If they are unmarried, they are content to wait for the satisfaction and joy granted by God in marriage. If they are married, they rejoice in the mate God has blessed them with. Even in the difficult times, contented people are willing to wait. Contented people do not feel the need to lie to get what they want or to cover their tracks. Contented people see the blessings of others and rejoice with them – they do not scheme to get those blessings for themselves. What a different world we would live in if we would all just be content! When we do not follow these commands, not only do we suffer the consequences, but so does everyone around us.
Jesus simplified the concept behind these commands when he was asked which was the greatest. He said simply, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). You know, if we all did those two things, we would absolutely keep ALL of the Ten Commandments and we would be immensely content and full of life! God isn’t really about a list of rules, he’s about LIFE and life is only found in following the commands he gives us. Like a good parent, there are boundaries for protection. It doesn’t take a genius to see the results of not following his commands in the world around us!
My quizzers may not yet understand the reason behind all of the things we study, but I try to help them see that behind everything in the Bible is a loving God who wants so much to be in relationship with us. These controversial commands are no different. It is my hope that more people will chose to live by them and be an example to others. As one little girl said, “Everyone I know takes God’s name in vain. I’m the only one in my class who doesn’t”. I told her that she has the opportunity to show by example what is right. I pray that that little girl will be one of many that impact our city and county for God by how she chooses to live.
Thank you God, for loving us enough to give us boundaries and guidelines to live by. May we take them seriously and be thankful that you love us enough to protect us so. Amen
“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7