So your child is playing at the side of the street, and the ball bounces out of his reach. As “Little Johnny” turns and starts to run after the ball, you see a car speeding down the road in his direction. You holler “STOP!” Now, what do you want Johnny to do? Stop right then, or keep running for a bit while he thinks about whether or not you know what you’re shouting about? After all, you’ve told him things before and then changed your mind, right? Didn’t you promise just last night that if he didn’t quit playing with his food, he would go to bed without supper? But then you felt bad when he said he was hungry, so you went ahead and reheated his dinner in the microwave.
Of course, this scenario plays out in millions of households day after day because love covers a multitude of sins, and we want our children to be happy. But if we are teaching them to not take our word seriously, then what will be our cost when it really matters, like when a car is headed right to part of the street where the ball bounced?
In today’s reading from Exodus 19:20 through Exodus 20:14, we see God laying down a way of life for this new people of His; this treasure He loves and wants to protect. He sees the future, and He knows that they must see Him as one who means and keeps His word if He wants them to listen when it matters the most. As God talks to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai, God tells him to warn the people to not force their way up the mountain to see Him. Even the priests, He says, must remain holy and must not force their way through.
In Chapter 20, it says, “Then God said all these words,” as it begins the count of what is typically known as The Ten Commandments. I used “suggestions” in the title because many people, even those who claim to love God, live as if they are just that. But unlike human parents, God does not make suggestions because that would make Him wishy-washy. On the other hand, even though He is strong on the rules, He is even stronger in His mercy. In the first commandment, as He states that people should have no other gods before Him, He says He is a jealous God who will punish those who hate Him up to the 4th generation, but He will show grace to the thousandth generation of those that love Him and keep His commandments.
The best analogy I ever heard for comparing God’s rulings to His grace is that of the criminal who ends up in court in front of a judge who was also his best friend. The friend thought he had it made when he saw who was on the bench, but he was greatly surprised at the turn of events. The judge, as a judge, issued the harshest sentence available for the crime. But, just as his friend stood watching in utter astonishment, the judge stood up, removed his robe, walked down from the bench, and–as a friend–paid the fine.
Most of us know the commandments, so I will end this by simply paraphrasing the remainder of them…
2. Don’t create any images you would call a god and bow down and worship them as you would Yahveh.
3. Don’t think of God’s Name as just another word in your vocabulary. Value it as you value Him.
4. Remember the seventh (Shabbat is Hebrew for “seventh”) day to keep it holy. God rested on that day and set it aside from the beginning of creation. (It was Sabbath before there were Jews, so it is not just a Jewish thing.) Bless it as God did by remembering to do what Yahveh did and resting from your human works as He did from His creative works. In other words, WWYD?
5. Honor your parents to live long in the promised land from God.
6. Do not murder. (Just a simple reminder to value life as something God made.)
7. Do not commit adultery. (A couple together represents God’s unity. If we bring others into the relationship, it defiles that unity. Even liberal physicians will tell you that you keep cells from former partners for years after. Purity is truly freedom.)
8. Do not steal. (If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it. Just like you don’t want someone taking from you something that does not belong to them. Simple.)
9. Do not lie against your neighbor. (Just like you wouldn’t want your neighbor to lie against you.)
10. Do not covet. (Wouldn’t you rather other rejoice with you over your blessings than curse you because you have them and they don’t?)
All of these commandments really bring about a simpler life. If we live by them, we will be living by the golden rule without even trying. Why should people want things to be any different than common care and love for fellow human beings? Me, I prefer the simple life of living in the light of God/Love in all things, so as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.
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