Bible in a Year – Day 24: The Ten
Here it is…the beginning of “The Law” that the people of Israel would follow from the days of Moses until the end of the world. Even people who are completely unfamiliar with church or the Bible know about the Ten Commandments. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what the commandments are – only that they exist and maybe a vague idea of what a few of them say. It’s probably a good idea then to take a glance at what in the world these commandments are about.
A not-so-quick synopsis of the commandments goes like this:
No other Gods – In a culture that was traditionally polytheistic, or at least open to the idea that there could be many gods, this was an important statement. For those of us today who live in a traditionally monotheistic culture, we tend to interpret our “gods” as anything that we make equal to or more important than God in our lives.
No idols – Again, this is a commandment that spoke directly to the common practices of the day, where people, having chosen their god or gods, would cast some kind of image out of gold or another material as not only a representation or symbol of their god, but as a god. My friend Vijay, who grew up in a culture where these kinds of statues are still commonly used, relates how, even after he became a follower of Jesus, it was difficult for him to remember that those statues weren’t god (or God) and weren’t in any way sacred. And so, it was important for God to literally write in stone that the people of Israel should not craft these kinds of idols (to him or any other god).
Do not misuse God’s name – this is a situation where the NIV (New International Version) translation of the Bible is very useful. Many of us have heard the commandment translated “Do not take God’s name in vain,” which is actually a somewhat paraphrased version of the old King James translation. The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense to us. Here, the NIV allows us to understand that we’re talking about misuse of God’s name – misappropriation, if you will. With that interpretation, I think it could be argued that there are plenty of us, myself included, that sometimes misuse the name of God (or, in our post-Christ era, misuse the name of Jesus). History is littered with victims of those who committed despicable acts in the name of God. God recognized the power and authority in his name and warned his people against the abuse of that power and authority.
Remember the Sabbath – The Sabbath day was and still is one of the most misunderstood of God’s commands to the people of Israel. This was God’s version of the classic parental exhortation that “I’m doing this for your own good.” If we take a couple of steps back and gain a new perspective, we’ll see that God institution of required rest among his people was simply a matter of appropriate management of people resources. If you don’t rest, you’ll get tired. If you get tired, you’ll lag behind, won’t be fit for battle and you’ll bring others down. Now, God was pretty harsh about what would happen to those who broke the Sabbath, but the principle spoken of here still exists today as we busy ourselves to the point of exhaustion and burnout rather than heeding God’s words to take some time to rest.
Honor your father and mother, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie – These are all fairly self-explanatory and all point back to the same idea: don’t think so highly of yourself that you disrespect or harm someone else. These are the “love your neighbor as yourself” portions of the law
Don’t covet – The final commandment also falls under the “love your neighbor” heading, but I want to separate it out here for this reason: Because covetousness speaks to an inward condition of the heart, rather than a visible action. You see, dishonoring your parents, killing someone, having an affair, stealing or lying – they are all outward expressions. They are actions. Covetousness, however, is something that lives inside of a person and festers. This one word, “covet,” contains within it ideas like jealousy, selfishness, greed and envy – the kind of conditions that will eat away at a person’s soul and that could ultimately drive them to one of the horrendous acts mentioned above. This final commandment is perhaps more important than many of those preceding it, but most people don’t give it much thought.
In short, the Ten Commandments were a quick version of God’s rules to live by. The longer version would be played out in the coming chapters of Exodus, as well as in other parts of scripture. At the end of today’s reading, we begin to catch a glimpse of the “longform” rulebook that the people of Israel would use as part of their religious and legal system. We will explore that a little further tomorrow.
- Bible in a Year – Day 358: Cheaters
- Bible in a Year – Day 323: One Nation Under Gods
- Bible in a Year – Day 319: Make the Most of It
- Bible in a Year – Day 282: Divorce Realities
- Bible in a Year – Day 262: Say It Ain’t Ho-sea!
- Bible in a Year – Day 226: A Long Post About Murder
- Bible in a Year – Day 224: From Child to Bride
- Bible in a Year – Day 218: Building Gods
- Bible in a Year – Day 195: Get Wisdom
- Bible in a Year – Day 174: A Change of Tone