Wrestlings With the Ten Commandments (Part 1 & 2) – by Rene Milner
I continue to wrestle with the Ten Commandments. Not the existence. Not that they are a word from God. Not the truth of them. My wrestle is with the understanding. When I was a child I thought like a child. As I grow those early thoughts often inhibit my ability to think clearly with my renewed mind. I am called to think more deeply and yet I often find myself in the knee jerk reaction of assuming that what I learned about God and the Bible as a child is necessarily true. Praise the Lord for these past four years which have taught me to look at God and the Scriptures in a renewed way. What I would call a God Only way. Not that God is the most important thing in my life. He is not the best thing in my life. He needs to be the only thing in my life. (Now having said I believe this does not mean I carry it out very well) The interesting thing about this is that most often the old way was not wrong but just partial and incomplete. I suspect that in many areas where I now feel that I have a deeper understanding, I likely am still only scratching the surface of the depths of the wisdom and the love that is contained in these holy words from our eternal Father. There is now however comfort for me in this as we know that God can fill in wherever I lack and that His Spirit can guide us when words fail us.
So what is it that makes me wrestle with the Ten Commandments? Well I would have to say in the past it was my flesh that did not want to be told what to do. Thankfully I am a pretty good guy and I have not murdered or stolen too much. I get to church on Sundays (sometimes) and so all in all they shouldn’t bother me right? Well it doesn’t take a read too far into the new covenant to realize that the intent of the old was much deeper than controlling the actual actions. Lusting after a woman, wanting my neighbors stuff (Don’t ask who is my neighbor cause it might just be anyone you stumble across that needs you and your possessions) being angry with anyone (yes that includes my children). Suddenly the Old Testament seems a whole lot more comforting. You know perhaps that is why many groups chase after rules and laws from the Old Testament. Give me a list. I can check it off and if it is not on the list and I want to do it for myself then all is good, right? The problem with this is that it is focused on what can I do for me that does not anger God, when we should be asking how can I live for God no matter what happens to me. This self-promoting understanding comes in many forms. We can even make it look good by saying, “I follow these laws because I love God and want to show this to Him.” Does He who can see into the heart of man need to be shown our love by our outward actions? If we owe Him life and breath and our current pardon from instant death resulting from our sin, how many actions can prove we love Him more than our disobedience proves our self-love? And if I am trying to prove my love of Him to protect myself, how pure is that love really? So no matter whether it is the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes, it cannot be about a list of things I must do. There must be something else. Something more. If this last five years has taught me anything it would be that there is always something more.
Strangely it was more than five years ago I began to wrestle with the Ten Commandments in a new way. I was in an airport in Chicago with a wait on my hands when I began contemplating the First of the Ten. You shall have no other gods before me. Written that way in the ESV just hit me odd. I always thought of that statement as a prohibition on chasing after other gods. On me putting other things first. Like there is a whole bunch of football teams out there and I should choose to put my team first. But at this moment it sounded different. Sort of like someone with authority telling me that there was only one football team. Sure there might be others (da Bears) that try to look like football teams and they may distract me if I let them but in truth there is only one football team. I shall have only one God. There is no other. Maybe it seems like I am splitting hairs, but it is all the difference in the world. One is a prohibition from a fearful leader that is trying to force me to sign on to his team. The other is a statement of fact from a secure omnipotent God that is a loving explanation of who He is. This is not a restriction on my action but a view into how things work. They are two different worldviews. One is a cosmic killjoy that wants to protect his image from tarnish and gather to himself as many humans as possible in a game where he is an equal competitor with others in the field. The other view is of a self-existent being with no parallel that is stooping to use limited human language filtered through limited human brains to communicate the very vastness of his Glory and Singularity. It’s not that we are not allowed to have other choices, it’s just that when it comes to who God is there just isn’t any other choice.
So, if this is true, how do we reconcile this with other “commandments”. I would argue that these are also statements of fact. They are not commands that we are to attempt to fulfill to add points to our scorecard or our God’s scorecard in some colossal game in which we could possibly lose and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. They are just the natural outflow of the communication from the only God. They are His perfect explanation of how things are and have always been, falling on our imperfect ears and minds. They are not separate but one and they all are explanations of the fact that He Is.
If what I say is true (The only reason I use “if” is to allow for our brains to argue it out inside) then all the rest of the commandments, and for that matter any other commandments in the scripture should follow the same pattern. They will be statements of fact, that point away from the competitor view and toward the one and only view. They will not be prohibitions on our actions but explanations of our hearts desire. They may result in action but that action will be somewhat unexplainable in the end.
If there is only one God what would you call worshipping anything else…A waste of time.
If there is only one God using anything to describe Him (any name or any other name) would fall short and make less of Him than HE IS.
If there is only one God and He only needed six out of seven days to make everything then with His strength we have enough time in our week to get things done that need to be done with the result that we have time to just BE with Him.
If He is the only God who created everything then likely traces of Him exist everywhere. Describing Himself as a Father will only work for us if we understand what the pure relation of a creator is to those they create. Thus we treat out parents in the way we should all treat our Creator. With honor and respect. As we do we follow the way things are set out and it goes well for us. Not an if you do this then I will give you this scenario but a statement of fact about how things work. A loving description of how honoring God will work, given to us in a real-life picture in the form of parents. If there is only one Creator of everything then everything that is created belongs to Him and is His stuff. That includes all others. If we believe that then we should keep our hands off His stuff. We should not harm His people. That includes the suffering and anguish that comes to them through, physical harm and hating, coarse words, sexual exploits or lusting, covetting or stealing, lieing, and theft. In the end it all points to just being, and being content with just being. If we truly know the One and Only God and we are His creation, then we rest in His care and are content. Any discontent just points out our lack of belief in who He is and as such is sin.
We just are His. We just do His will. There is no longer separation between our desire and our action they are the same. Yes we fall short. Yes we do not have the power to do this in our own strength. Never could, never will. This is what Jesus did. We can’t believe that a singular God can bring us to Him. We think we can and should do something to earn our way. This is the essence of unbelief. If we must do something then God has a weakness and God is not God. This is sin. Despite all the times that He tries to show us (The Heavens declare…) and tell us (You shall have no other Gods…) we don’t believe that He is all there is.
Hear, O people: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
To God Alone Be the Glory