The Ten Commandments have slipped from people’s attention these days. Yet these commandments have an essential quality that we should not lose. This review is to help you recognise something of the essential and broad-based importance of the Ten Commandments.
It’s Not a Rock Group
Many years ago I saw a report about English children who were asked if they knew what the Ten Commandments were. Most had no clue and the funniest answer was, “Is it a Rock Group?”
When I was a boy the Ten Commandments were taught as part of the secular school curriculum, along with Jesus’ Golden Rule and the Biblical events of Christmas and Easter. Much of the community was impacted by an awareness of the Ten Commandments and their moral standard.
Today, sadly, most of the population has little awareness of these commands. Even in the church world it is not popular to speak of them. Reference to commandments carries overtones of legalism and judgmentalism, which are both unpalatable.
The Ten Commandments
When Moses reached Mt Sinai, 3,500 years ago, as he led the Israelites from Egypt to their Promised Land, God gave him Ten Commandments. They were specifically for the Israelites and they convey to us God’s holy standards. They are the most profound set of moral rules ever created and they have been adopted by cultures and individuals with great moral effect for thousands of years.
These Commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17. They are: Have no other Gods; Have no idols; Don’t blaspheme God’s name; Observe the Sabbath Day; Honour your parents; Do not kill; Do not commit adultery; Do not steal; Do not lie; and Do not covet.
What to Leave Out
Let’s assume that you do not like all of these commands. Which one would you leave out? Which ones could be left out without having moral impact on society?
I will list each commandment and make a short comment about why it might be necessary to leave in. You will find that all of the Ten Commandments are Essential.
No Other Gods
As soon as we allow another God we allow people to reject the true and living God. The True God is our creator, our Father and Master, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, the one who loves us totally, and the unity of Father/Son/Holy Spirit.
To have another God is to reject who God is, suggesting that He is just one of several, or many. It rejects God’s ownership of us and rejects our moral responsibility to live by His standards, making all of the commandments of no value.
No Idols or Images – No Bowing to Idols
God is beyond representation. To make an image for worship is to demean God – denying His unknowableness and eternal qualities.
An image of God: denies God’s limitlessness; challenges the reality that God is a Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit (John 4:24); and awakens superstition (charms, etc).
To worship an idol is to defy God and to undermine our commitment to all of His commands.
To mock God, by using His name cheaply, or by bringing discredit to Him, is to set ourselves up over God. “Out of the heart the mouth speaks”. Speaking blasphemy is defying God in our words.
It undermines our whole commitment to the rest of the commandments.
Keep the Sabbath Rest Day Holy
By ignoring God’s blessing upon the Sabbath Day we are defying God in our actions, just as blasphemy defies God in our words. A rest day is God’s gift to us and we honour Him by honouring His gift to us.
If we dishonour the Rest Day we declare that we will not live as God planned for us to live.
Honour Your Father and Mother
God has placed us under authority. If we will not honour the authority and place of our parents over us then we are rejecting God’s authority over us as well.
Do Not Kill
Life has value and we are not to take the life of another, except in divinely approved punishment for crimes or in warfare.
If we assume the right to kill, then we are devaluing life itself and seeing it as something over which people have power. We did not create life and we have no right to take it.
Do Not Commit Adultery
The unique bond between a man and his wife is a divine privilege of moral sexual intimacy. Any sexual intimacy outside of that bond is sinful. It mocks the very bond itself, demeaning the whole estate of marriage and the moral miracle that happens when a man and woman are joined together by God.
Do Not Steal
God upholds property rights. Property is not a trivial matter in God’s morality, but a personal preserve which is to be protected and respected.
Where theft is allowed, then personal right of ownership is demeaned and the value of individuals is also cheapened. When we honour a person’s right to possessions we acknowledge increased scope of personal existence.
Do Not Lie
Truth is a moral reality. Deception brings people under a moral cloud, where people are denied the freedom which truth brings (the truth will set you free!). Lying, in its various forms, mocks the truth, and demeans it. Jesus Christ is truth, so lying is a personal attack on His person.
Do Not Covet
Greed, lust and covetousness draw people into obsession and lead them to do violence against the property and person of others. Covetousness also robs a person of their own contentment and happiness, so society is agitated and families are troubled by the wrong passions it awakes.
You will see in this quick summary that all ten of the commandments bring moral worth into people and societies. If any one commandment was missing and allowed to be violated, the society would be damaged.
I am not trying to sell you on the commandments here, but I want to bring your attention back to them. We cannot afford to lose them from our personal and community experience.
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