RULES TO LIVE BY
A Study of Deuteronomy 5:4-24
At times, it may seem that living up to God’s standards is just too demanding. Where’s the fun in never “letting go” in an age when everyone seems to be doing just that – and enjoying it? But in setting a path for us to follow, God is like a parent setting a course for his or her child. Any good parent aims not to constrain the child, but to make sure the youngster stays within bounds that ensure the greatest possible liberty. The good parent does this out of love for the child. Similarly, the text shows, God gave the Ten Commandments out of love. It contains the message that even the moralistic Commandments are as vital today as when Moses brought all ten down from Mount Sinai. Far from being orders that might make our lives miserable, the Commandments serve to protect our integrity and our unity.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
Ted Turner, founder of the powerful television news network CNN, declared the Ten Commandments obsolete. He said,
– “We are living with outdated rules. The rules we are living under are the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to them because they are too old. When Moses went up on the mountain, there were no nuclear weapons, and there was no poverty. Today, the Ten Commandments would not go over. Nobody around likes to be commanded. Commandments are out!”
The reality is that many stand with Mr. Turner; many hold to a philosophy of moral relativism. We can often hear statements like,
– What is right for you may not be right for me …
– If it feels good do it; anything goes …
– Nothing is right or wrong. There are just different opinions …
These and similar statements stem from a belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth. A recent survey found that approximately 62 percent of professed Christians said there was no absolute standard of right and wrong. I wonder how James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, would respond, considering he boldly proclaimed,
– “We stake the future of this country on our ability to govern ourselves under the principles of the Ten Commandments.”
It is unfortunate that Mr. Turner holds the view he does, but the survey findings indicate many more feel as he does.
Yet I submit that Mr. Turner and the others misunderstand not only the Ten Commandments, but God’s intent in giving them to the world by way of the Nation of Israel.
In the Ten Commandments, we see God’s expression of love for humanity and the world.
Only a God who cares would take the time to share Himself and His intimate thoughts and feelings with all who embrace His Words in the Ten Commandments.
Verse 4 of our text says,
– “The LORD spoke to you face to face.”
Verse 5 says,
– “And He said.”
In declaring the Ten Commandments, God was having a conversation with the people!
Conversing is how people share themselves, their thoughts, feelings and ideas with one another. So God was not commanding in the sense of insisting that you must do this or you must do that. He was building a relationship with a group of people He had delivered a few months earlier.
This is what the authors of statements declaring the Ten Commandments obsolete apparently fail to understand.
Laws are for those likely to break them. God was speaking to a free people.
It is important to keep in mind that the Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for a few centuries before God delivered them from the Pharaoh’s house of bondage. During that time, they had become heavily influenced by the Egyptian way of life. God took the initiative to reorient them, and offer them a new way of life.
As God engages them in conversation, He articulates His priorities for them. In the New International Biblical Commentary, Christopher Wright points out,
– “The sequence of commandments presents a scale of human values that reflect God’s design for human life.”
According to Mr. Wright, there are six priorities that God lays out for them and for us:
God – Unquestionably, God comes first. God is to be worshipped exclusively, without images and without abuse of God’s name
Society – The fourth commandment exhibits a concern for the health and benefit of society as a whole, with its specific benefit for workers. The Sabbath day is sanctified to the LORD your God, but observed for the benefit of human beings
Family – The fifth commandment shows the central importance of the family
Life – After the family, individual human life takes priority over all else
Intimacy and Sex – The seventh commandment protects sexual integrity
Property – The tenth commandment shows God’s concern for material property
The values and priorities embedded in the Ten Commandments underscore that, in God’s eyes, people matter more than things.
What can we say, then, about the Ten Commandments? I believe when viewed through the eyes of God, we are able to see His graciousness, mercy and love. Viewed through this lens, the Ten Commandments, or Ten Words spoken by God, are unlike any other law.
What makes them unique?
They are a gift from God to His people: These ten words spoken by God directly to Israel transcend time and continue to serve as a blueprint for living. In this, God’s gracious gift, God declares to all who receive these words You Belong to Me. And because you belong to me, I will not allow you to lose your focus or become contaminated and swallowed up by a culture that has lost its moral compass. To counteract the insidiousness of moral decline, God declares through the Ten Commandments that He is giving us ten principles that contain six core values. These principles will serve as the guideposts for our behavior and teach us how godly men, women and children should conduct and carry themselves in the world.
What makes them unique?
They are a “charter” for the people of God: Israel, upon leaving the house of bondage, was a nomadic people in search of identity and purpose. God, through the Ten Commandments, helped them to realize their identity. They were God’s possession. Since they belonged to God, they should value God’s values and adopt His priorities. Fast forward a few thousand years, and believers are God’s possession. We find our identity in valuing what God values. We incorporate God’s priorities into our lives. God called Israel – and calls us – to communal living. Our individual purpose is to place the good of the community over and above personal preferences of individual living. When the colonists first came to the New World, they lived and operated independently of each other. However, they soon realized they needed to become united in order to ensure their survival.
What makes them unique?
They help us with our vertical and horizontal relationships: Our vertical relationships focus on how we are to relate to God; our horizontal relationships focus on how we are to relate to each other. Problems occur when we place the horizontal above – or ignore – our vertical. When we learn to love God, and put God first in everything, He takes up residence in our hearts. He literally dwells within us. We are then filled with God’s power. God’s love flows through and in us, and we are better able to develop healthy, meaningful and productive horizontal relationships.
The Ten Commandments gave Israel the power to change their world. Today, the ten words that God communicated to them give us the power to be world changers.
If we want our world to change, we have to take the initiative and make the necessary changes within ourselves. This calls for a change in our perspective and our priorities.
We need to first to make it a priority to have a right relationship with God, our creator and provider. From this relationship will flow knowledge and insight into how to develop appropriate relationships with others.
Developing the right human relationships after we have embraced God will flow naturally because when we love God we automatically will love and respect each other’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Are you struggling to find your purpose in life? Do you feel as though the Ten Commandments are oppressive and impossible to live up to? I would encourage you to have a little talk with Jesus. Invite Him into your life and He will introduce you to the Father, who will help you to discover and fulfill your purpose, as well as empower you to follow His blueprint for living.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 25 October 2009
May God Bless You