My whole life I have had a distorted view of Gods law (as I have mentioned in many posts before). I cannot pinpoint exactly when the transition to seeing the law in a new light started to happen, but over a year or so I have found myself falling in love with it. As odd as that sounds, let me make my case for seeing Gods law as a blessing instead of an oppressive set of rules.
I wholeheartedly believe the way we view the law handed down to Moses from God all comes from who we understand God to be. You cannot separate the law from the lawgiver… The perspective you have of the lawgiver changes the way you view the law they give. Let me give an example: The way a child views the rules given in their home changes depending on the perspective they have of their parent’s character AND the relationship they have with their parent(s)… A parent who has a loving relationship and has proven their concern for the well-being of their children can show its through law/rules they love and protect them. A parent who is often harsh, distant, selfish, etc cannot show the same, and therefore the rules/law are probably viewed as oppressive or unfair (unless you are a teenager, then throw this example right out the window). Same is with God, if we view him as harsh and distant his law will seem oppressive, but if we put the law into context of his proven love and devotion we can begin to love Him for the protection, love, and security he wishes to give us.
WHO I KNOW GOD TO BE: I know God is fully love and fully just because 1. He tells us AND 2. He couldn’t be holy apart from these two characteristics. Love without justice is shallow, and Justice without love is harsh… Neither outcome is holy. And although He must by His character be just and punish wrongdoing (we see this within ourselves, seeking justice for wrongs people commit against us or others), He proves over and over through scripture how much he desires to forgive and love us regardless of our sinful nature. That doesn’t sound like a harsh and oppressive God to me, but a God who has the ultimate love and concern for his creation… A perfect Father.
In this light, it is easier to see the law, specifically the 10 commandments, as a blessing instead of a curse. I want to break down each commandment briefly, and show how my faith in these laws has been transformed by my understanding of who God is:
CONTEXT: I have found in my life, that context is key in just about every situation… if you don’t understand why something was said or why something was done then it is easy to misinterpret.
The Bible gives us context to the 10 commandments. It is hard, because most of us don’t read the Bible front to back, but we study different scriptures, bouncing around… which is fine… but sometimes we need to know what has happened before to fully grasp what we are reading. There is a whole book of the Bible that precedes God giving the law (Genesis- two blogs on this book found here and here) where God graciously allows us to see where humanity got its start, how He pursued humanity in our wickedness, and how He purposed His chosen nation in a family that descended from Abraham called Israel (named after Abraham’s grandson who was Jacob, but then renamed Israel).
In Exodus, 450ish years have passed between when Israel and his family moved to Egypt (reference the story of Joseph and widespread famine) and Moses. When God gives Moses the 10 commandments (and many other laws) He is speaking to His chosen people whom He just rescued from slavery- They were enslaved, were helpless in their own power, and God intervened by sending Moses to deliver them. God has proven His love by serving and setting them free… just as He has for us.
So, for each of these commandments I believe it is God not telling us that in order for Him to be able to love us we must obey… just like when I am asking Linden, my daughter, to obey, I am not doing so in order to be able to love her. I already love her, just as God already loves us. I believe it is God saying, I have set you free from your sin so that you may live free and be able to have relationship with me… let me open your eyes to how to see your sin by showing you who I am (the ultimate standard for holiness). Without the law we would not have a clear understanding of a standard for holiness, we wouldn’t be able to see our sinful behavior for what it is (and the difference between God and ourselves), and we wouldn’t know we need Jesus.
(I listened to some of this sermon series on the 10 Commandments… its recommended, but not as the only way to study the law… but I did LOVE the series trailer:)
Commandment 1, Exodus 20: 1-3, Have No other Gods before Me. (God is God- he is the only holy being, therefore we should not have any other being we follow lest we be severely deceived.)
Here God is plainly saying, I AM and there are no others- don’t be deceived by demons who try to pose as me, they are not me, and they cannot give you life… worshiping or following anything else in life will lead to destruction. How amazing is it that God, who created and controls everything, wants to share with us who He is… if He didn’t speak and tell us, there is no way we would know Him. And I believe this is the commandment where God says, “I AM- your God, your loving Father, your Creator and Sustainer, your freedom.” Everything in life is centered around whether you believe this point or not. We were created to worship- its not a matter of whether you worship, but what you worship. And God is telling us here, there is nothing worthy of worship but himself… and to worship anything else will lead to destruction… which leads into Commandment 2…
Commandment 2, Exodus 20:4-6, You shall not worship anything besides Me. (God is holy, and therefore the only being worthy of worship.)
Here God is commanding his people not to worship anything other than himself- you worship the Creator not what he created. We are foolish to believe we aren’t worshiping something, all the time… we were created for it, therefore we do it, even if the object of our worship is not what it was intended to be. We so easily worship our bodies, our work, our materials, the nature around us, our talents/abilities, etc… and if we are not following this commandment our idols enslave us.
Finding out our own idols is very simple- just think about what you fear losing the most in life… the things that, if you lost them, would make you want to cease living. That is where our idols are… and breaking their hold over us takes time and Jesus. What we worship controls us… its how this world works. Think on it.
We should not worship idols because it leads to death. Only God through Jesus Christ can give us life and freedom from idols. And he gives us this truth, while also telling us in verse 5 that he is a jealous God- one who wishes to be the only object of our affection, just like I want to be the only object of Ben’s affection. It is beautiful to feel wanted in this way… other idols don’t care if we worship other things… I feel so loved by knowing that God doesn’t want to share me.
Commandment 3, Exodus 20:7, Do not take My name in vain. (God is our holy authority, and therefore should be honored as such through our speech/actions/thoughts.)
I don’t believe this is exclusive to people saying “GD” or “JC” out of frustration or anger (although, isn’t it interesting that no other gods get used here… like Allah or Buddha?). I believe God is telling us that his name is Holy, that he is truth, and that using his name should only be used in those contexts, or else you are defaming him. And how we speak about God shows how we view Him- and ultimately whether we worship Him. We should speak of him out of reverence for His holiness.
I believe how we treat others also comes into play here- like when we promise to do things, following through, and how we share when God speaks to us (and being careful not to give false prophecy). It seems to be all about using our speech and actions to be honoring to God… any other speech is sinful and should be stopped.
Commandment 4, Exodus 20:8-11, Remember the Sabbath. (God gives purpose to our work and He is our rest.)
God commands that we rest one day a week- which means two things to me- 1. God intends for us to find rest in Him by being intentional with planning for one day a week to be still, and 2. God intends for us to work and labor the other six days. This must mean that work is good for us just as rest is. AND if you remember context, these Israelites have been in slavery for generations, which means they have probably never had a day off (whew, isn’t that a tough pill to swallow for us who demand our weekends and vacation days). I believe the Sabbath is a gift, that most of us feel is oppressive- we forget that one day out of our seven days has been freely given to us to find comfort and rest. And what a gift that is!
Commandment 5, Exodus 20:12, Honor your Father and Mother. (God is our Heavenly Father and our authority, we should honor those he puts in earthly authority over us, specifically our parents.)
Here we see a shift from the commandments which command us to love and honor God, to now love and honor each other (our neighbors). And God starts with our parents. And we are to honor our parents in all stages of life, regardless of their “honor-ability”… which does not just mean “obey” (and I believe definitely does not mean obey when its counter-gospel), but respect them, using kind and truthful speech to them and about them, obey as a child but take care of them as an adult.
I believe this is a commandment to teach us about authority, but also about how we can show Jesus’ love and share his gospel through our willingness to be honorable to our parents.
Commandment 6, Exodus 20:13, Do not murder. (God created us in his image, showing he values human life (and separates us from animal life), and therefore human life should be valued.)
God commands us to love our neighbors- and part of that is valuing their lives. There are many instances in the Bible where killing a man is authorized by God, but murder and killing are two different words, with two different meanings. For instance, killing can seemingly be justified if a man has forfeited his life by murdering another, if its truly self defense, if someone is engaged in a justified war, if there is an accident where no one is necessarily at fault but someone is killed… whereas murder is about hearts intention- intentionally taking someones’ life, whether that is through killing out of emotion, calculation, or aborting a child. Yes, I believe aborting a child is murder.
Jesus also talks about this commandment in the Sermon on the Mount- where he clarifies… even if you are harboring anger towards a brother you are breaking this commandment. He is clearly preaching to the crowd that murder is about your hearts intention, and even if you have not physically carried the act out, you may be breaking the commandment by how you are allowing your thoughts and emotions to control your view/value of someone’s life.
Commandment 7, Exodus 20:14, Do not commit adultery. (God is faithful to his covenants, and therefore we should be faithful in ours with our spouse.)
What a clear commandment that our culture has turned its back on- remaining faithful in our most important covenant we enter into with another human being, marriage. We not only enter into this covenant relationship with our spouse (if you choose to get married) but Christians invite God into this covenant to seal it. Marriage is not about making us happy, but instead choosing a person to walk through life with, that helps sanctify us and gives us a companion for all of life’s blessings and sorrows.
This is my favorite commandment, not because I am married, but because of how God shows himself through it. God is so faithful even when I am an adulterous fool- and believe me, I have been, many times with different idols. Regardless of my selfishness, my sin, my idols, God has remained faithful to me, my whole life. Through Jesus, I know that just as a sheep can wonder off, my shepherd will always find me and bring me home.
Commandment 8, Exodus 20:15, Do not steal. (God is the giver of blessings, therefore we should love our neighbors by leaving their possessions alone.)
God commands us to not steal from our neighbor (which is every one around us) just as he commands us to love our neighbors… if you have ever been stolen from, you know how vulnerable and empty it makes you feel, especially if it is an item that had tremendous significance to you. And stealing is everywhere- its not just taking a item that doesn’t belong to you, but time/money from employers, money by cheating on taxes or not being good stewards with what God has given us, etc…
God has decided what to give each of us, dependent on his will for our lives. To steal is to take what God has given someone else, and distrusting what God has given to us. It is to be ungrateful for our own blessings. And ultimately, it is very unloving to our neighbor.
Commandment 9, Exodus 20:16, Do not bear false witness. (God is truth, trustworthy, honest, and reliable; therefore we should be truthful, trustworthy, honest, and reliable.)
This is another favorite law of mine, because it reveals to us how important truth is to God. He is truth and because He is holy He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). How comforting that is- to know that God will never lie to us. Everything He says and does is rooted in truth. Therefore we should always seek to be truthful in our speech, actions, and thoughts.
This includes telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about every circumstance. To not tell the whole truth is to be deceptive, which is one of the enemy’s main weapons. Jesus calls Satan the Father of Lies. Its important for us to understand how much telling the truth, or not, affects our lives, our witness, our relationships, etc.
Commandment 10, Exodus 20:17, Do not covet. (God is everything we need and gives perfect provision, therefore we should find our full satisfaction and contentment in Him and what he chooses is good for us.)
God commands us to be content with what He has chosen to give us. And this commandment, which is primarily an internal command, examines our hearts desires not our outward actions. Obeying this commandment will lead to obeying the others, because ultimately the desire to have something someone else has leads to the behaviors that break the other commandments.
God wants us to be content with what He has given us- materials, circumstances, wisdom, etc… Every good and perfect gift is from the Lord (James 1:17), and to covet is to say, “What you have given me is not what I want…”. If I think about saying that to Jesus I cringe… but ultimately that’s what my actions say when I covet. I am telling Him that his gifts to me are not good enough, and in essence telling Jesus I know better whats good for me than He does (although He created me and has given my life purpose).
Wrap Up: I am so thankful that Jesus has revealed these truths to me- and that He has given me eyes to see how these laws are given from a loving and gracious Father. AND, I am thankful that salvation and righteousness comes from faith instead of works, because I break each of these commandments daily… I cannot live up to God’s standard of holiness.
How amazing is it that we have the ability to worship a God like this?! A God who seeks not to oppress us but to adopt us into Him family. He wants to be our loving Father- he seeks us out and carries us orphans enslaved to sin home to His palace, where he instructs us and helps us change to be more like Him. And, after seeing what holiness is through these laws, who wouldn’t want to be more like Him?!