“I shall give you my laws and you shall give them to my people,” God commands Moses in the Mel Brooks move History of the World Part 1.
“Yes, Lord,” Moses replies as lightening flashes in the distance.
The great leader walks behind a rock and then reappears, holding three stone tablets in hand.
“Lord, I shall give these laws unto Thy people.”
Moses walks forward and addresses the children of Israel:
“Hear me, O hear me. All pay heed. The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen…”
Suddenly one of the tablets slips out of Moses’ grasp and crashes to the ground.
Oy, he whispers. “These Ten…Ten Commandments for all to obey.”
And ever since, the Ten Commandments have generated intense controversy. Some Christians claim the Ten Commandments no longer apply to the Christian faith because Jesus fulfilled the Law. Others declare that our country is a mess because we don’t stress the Ten Commandments enough. Still others spend their lives re-crafting the lost Five Commandments that everyone must follow.
In today’s reading, we’ll take a closer look at the Top Ten…
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
The Ten Commandments play such a significant role in Scripture that I’m going to make it the sole focus of this section today. Since we’ll return to this subject later in Deuteronomy, I’m only going to explore the first four commandments, which help us understand how we can love God.
Exodus 20:1-17. The Ten Commandments aren’t merely a list of rules. They actually form a covenant that God made with his people. The elements of this passage follow the format of a covenant that kings would enter into with each other (on behalf of their countries) or that people would enter into with their god. In this list, the commandments are listed in importance.
- Verses 1-2 stipulate the parties of the covenant: God and the people he delivered from slavery in Egypt.
- The command “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me” was a significant departure from the religions of the surrounding nations. Most, if not all, countries in that day believed in the existence of multiple gods. Considering the meaning of his name, Yahweh (which means “I am”), God was saying, “I want to be everything you want and need.” And he is! This is the most difficult command to obey, even today.
- “You shall not make for yourself an idol”—or “graven image” in other Bible translations—wasn’t the prohibition of art, like Michelangelo’s Creation. Through the use of spells and incantations (which utilized idols), people sought to manipulate their gods. The God of the Bible, however, resists any form of control or manipulation.
- “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” concerned how we exercise power over other people. This would apply to hexes and curses. Updating this 1500 years, it would probably address the tendency among some people to throw God’s name around, like “God told me…” or “God wanted me to tell you…” Lastly, it meant that people shouldn’t take vows, oaths, and treaties in God’s name. Hmmm. Interestingly enough, this command wasn’t addressing blasphemy or foul language.
- “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” is probably the most controversial of the first four commandments because it’s the only command that isn’t affirmed in the New Testament. This command had no parallel in the cultures of that day. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “The legislation does not require rest as much as it stipulates cessation, interrupting the normal activities of one’s occupation.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
“You shall not make for yourself an idol”
Thousands of years ago, people fashioned their gods in images of wood or stone. Today, we fashion our gods in images of wood, stone, plastic, glass, or metal. If we’re desperate, we just look ourselves in the mirror.
The moment I began researching today’s topic, my heart started to burn. Not from dinner last night, but from conviction.
Quite often, I convince myself that once I get that Mac laptop, or I replace my 1997 Toyota Corolla, or my congregation grows beyond a certain number, then I’ll be happy. My wife doesn’t make it any easier, because the moment she sees that unmistakable look in my eyes, she asks me, “Do you think that’ll fill the hole in your heart?”
“Obviously not,” I reply. But still, I continue my search.
Today’s reading reinforced to me that nothing and no one will fill that hole in my heart but God. And my attempts to fill it with anything and anyone else are frustratingly futile.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What idols tempt people today?
- What idols tempt you?
- Why do we return to these idols when we know they won’t fill the hole in our hearts?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.