A few years ago as the congregation entered the church service, we were handed a test on the Ten Commandments. Most of us would have received a failing grade if we’d been in a classroom. Anticipating these results, our Pastor asked us to concentrate on learning the Ten Commandments over the next month. We all made a much higher grade on the next test.
Prior to God giving Moses the commandments on Mt. Sinai, the people lived under 613 Levitical Laws covering everything from personal relationships, health and worship. The people were overwhelmed by the number of rules they had to remember, let alone live by. God narrowed the list from 613 laws to just ten. The condensed list gave the Israelites a breath of relief even though all of the previous laws were rolled into those ten..
The Ten Commandments are both vertical and horizontal.
The first four are vertical, detailing our relationship with God.
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
The last six are horizontal, helping us live peacefully with our neighbors.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
13 “You shall not murder.”
14 “You shall not commit adultery.”
15 “You shall not steal.”
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Many people are put off by the “You shall not” language in the commandments. In God’s dealings with His people, He found them to need specific instructions about what they could and could not do. He could not assume they would take His teachings and know innately what was required.
By the time Jesus came along, the people and their understanding had changed somewhat. When Jesus was being tested by the religious leaders to name the most important commandment, He felt he could narrow even the ten down to just two: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
The result is the same, whether you have 613, 10 or 2 laws to live by to please God. It calls for a desire to love God and love your neighbors. It calls for actions that demonstrate that desire in our everyday life.
Are you one of those who gets turned off when told you can’t do this or that? Join me next week as I turn the negatives into positives. I think it will give you a new way to look at the commandments God gifted us with.
Going out with joy today-