Exodus 19:16-21:21; Matthew 23:13-39; Psalm 28:19; Proverbs 7:1-5
Pretty iconic stuff today, huh? Even people who have never read the Bible are familiar with the Ten Commandments. The first movie my 76-year-old father ever saw in the theater was Charlton Heston's The Ten Commandments. Now days, it seems unlikely they would make a movie about the Ten Commandments, but the subject matter is still very familiar.
Still, I was struck afresh today as I read because for as ancient as these commandments are, they are still so valuable and relevant to today. Let’s look at a few –
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 3), the first and greatest commandment. God knew this would be a temptation for the Israelites as they made it into the Promised Land and began to interact with different cultures who had different gods. And it is still a huge temptation for us today, one that we need to keep up a constant vigil against. Sure, we may not be tempted toward Pantheism or Hinduism (though certainly Christians have abandoned their faith to follow these ideas) but how easy is it to worship our time? Or our money? Or treat our smart phone like it’s an idol we can’t live without? I love this about God’s word – it is timeless.
Let’s look at another one. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (20: 8-10). As Christians, we have different views about the Sabbath than Orthodox views, but the reason behind the commandment is still as pertinent to us as to Moses’ original audience. In fact, I might argue that the need for a Sabbath is even more important today, as constant working has become so commonplace. A recent article by the Atlantic quoted a 2014 Gallup survey that showed that 80% of employees check emails at home, including weekends. This is a staggering number. We are always “on” and the pressure to produce, produce, produce is almost overwhelming. In the midst of that, God calls us to rest. He calls us to trust him to provide. It really is a matter of trust. We have to believe that God will take care of us, just as he took care of the Israelites. This means we believe that God will help us to gain favor with our boss, even if we take a day of the weekend to not check emails. This means that if we’re a student, we trust that our studying has been productive on the other 6 days of the week and we rest on the 7th. I don’t believe it matters what day we rest; just that we rest. In that resting, we proclaim to the world that God is enough.
One more, and I’ll try to be quicker. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (20: 17). I don’t think I need to go into detail about the importance of this commandment today. In the broken world in which we live, I’m sure we’ve all see tragic examples of where envying leads – so much overspending to keep up with your neighbors that you end up losing everything; so much competing (in our own hearts) over whose kids are better are soccer that we drive a wedge between our friends and cause our kids to hate the sport; lust the leads to broken marriages. I know we’ve all seen examples of what happens when we don’t follow God’s good and perfect commands.
This theme is even present in our New Testament reading today, as Jesus calls out “Woe to you…” to the hypocrites, blind guides, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus’ language to them is very strong, as it should be, given that they are no longer following God’s commands, and are leading others astray, all in the name of God. Thank goodness for the breath of fresh air in the Psalms – “Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (Psalm 28:6-7).
Blessed be the LORD, indeed!
- Esther McCurry
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