The Ten Commandments1
Moses convened all Israel, and said to them:
Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. (At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
Neither shall you commit adultery.
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.
Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner,”
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
People have rules
All groups of people have rules. Even anarchists have the rule that there are no rules. Rules are a necessary part of making groups of people and holding people together. For example, I had no idea that the UK did not refer to a nation in Europe, but instead to a basketball team in Kentucky until I moved to Kentucky. It doesn’t even really refer to a university here (University of Kentucky) they have fans permeating the whole of Kentucky, even though they are not the only big sports team here, and then even more spread out across the entire nation. For Kentuckians, the Big Blue Nation is a really big deal and the whole state plans their events around those ball games.
Rules hold us together
Those rules promote loyalty within a group, and oftentimes, the stronger the rules, the stronger the bond between people. God didn’t care whether His people wore blue or red on a game day, but He did expect His people to treat one another with the love and respect that He was showing them. Our behavior, whether we intend it to or not, reflects back upon our leaders and the group as a whole.
Those rules tell us who we are and also, who we are not. Our God is a God of love, mercy, truth, justice, and grace. He is not a god of murder, strife, jealousy, exploitation, and wrath. Therefore, if we are going to be His people, we should not be people of murder, strife, jealousy, exploitation, or wrath. We should be people of love, mercy, truth, justice, and grace.
God is doing more than just saving individual people
Changing our character, through the rules and example (and power) set by God is just part of salvation. Salvation was never intended to be only about saving individual souls. From the beginning God has been in the business of transforming individuals to work through them and transform the entire world. From the beginning we have been blessed to be a blessing.
There is a story about a boy who walked the shore and threw starfish he found on the way back into the ocean. Among the millions of starfish, it appeared that he was able to make little difference in their lives. When questioned about making a difference in this impossible task, the boy calmly picked up one more starfish, threw it back into the ocean, and said:
“I made a difference for this one.”
It is the right attitude but the wrong metaphor. We do not throw people into heaven, and the world they return to after they meet Jesus is the same one they came from… dark, broken, and dangerous. Only a cruel God would throw us back into that and claim we were “saved”.
Instead, God goes back with us and transforms the dark, broken, dangerous world around us, by working in, around and through us.
God does this by transforming us from individual persons into His People: gathered together to transform the world with God. We are a people with a purpose. We go beyond just saving souls. We are working with God to remake the world in God’s image, and we do so starting with ourselves.
- (Ex 20:1–17) ↩