The Ten Commandments….Why?
A preface to the Lord writing The Ten Commandments was the Israelites leaving Egypt and entering the wilderness. I think that this is important to remember to help us to relate to what the Israelites may have been facing. Many of us have both an “Egypt” in our lives — times of bondage and servanthood to something other than God – and we also have the wilderness we wander through after breaking free from that from which held us back from living fully and holy in God’s will and purpose for our lives.
Prior to God writing The Ten Commandments he said the following to Moses,
“Give these instructions to the family of Jacob, announce it to the descendants of Israel. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all peoples on the earth; for all of the earth belongs to me.” Exodus 19:3-5
God knew what the Israelites would be facing, and he was setting up standards that would keep them pure, keep them aligned with his will and his ways before they had they chance to be tainted by the world. The Ten Commandments were not intended for the faint of heart, or the partially committed Christian.
These rules and principles were set up to distinguish the Israelites as God’s chosen people, his Covenant Community. In reading back through The Ten Commandments, it both makes me grateful and appreciative in God’s ability to believe in his people; and, also saddened to know the future of failure that was to follow the Israelites. It was few and far between that were able to adhere to the strict list of rules God had given them. Unfortunately for us, believing in a God we cannot always see if difficult enough for the ordinary human, but following His biblical rules and principles in a world that mostly does not believe in God or his Word has proven to be even harder throughout the centuries.
The Ten Commandments are set right in the center of Exodus, which is one elaborate planning session from God for his chosen people. I believe His intentions was to keep them pure and set apart from the world. It is clear that God knows these regulations will be difficult for the Israelites, therefore he goes into great detail of His expectations about how to carry out each plan.
In the chapter titled “the Golden Calf” (at the very moment God was writing the commandments on the tablets for the people) they had already become bored and listless, saying to Aaron, “Come on. Make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” It was but a moment before Aaron gathered all of the gold from the people and created an idol for them to worship (already breaking commandment #1 and #2 before they had already been written). Then the people got up the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry. Exodus 32: 1 and 6
I wish I could say I am surprised and shocked by this reaction of God’s chosen people, but history, and my own life has taught me too much to be even mildly surprised. We are people of instant gratification and short memory. We almost instantly forget God’s miraculous rescue of us from bondage and pain, and are quick to look elsewhere for fulfillment and fun.
God’s anger and disappointment with his people’s failures was evident, and they were to have consequences due to their disobedience. Mostly, they were further separated from direct contact with God, and His best hopes and blessings were further distanced from them. But (thankfully) God continues to be a God of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness (Exodus 34.6).
The only way I can understand God’s unfailing ability to give up on the Israelites, and for us in fact, is my love for my children. I set up rules and principles for them, not because I want to restrict or limit them. I set them up to protect, guide, and create a path for a future filled with hope and prosperity. All the rules I read in the Bible as a young person seemed silly, limited, and possibly not necessary.
But as an older person looking back, and as a parent looking ahead, I realize that even God’s rules that I do not understand have a purpose. God can see far ahead, and far behind, my own comprehension.
I believe those were the purposes of God in His strictness and regulations of the Old Testament. He could see all the way to the Garden of Eden, and Eve and Adam’s inability to follow even the simplest of rules. And he could also see to 2018, where we live in a world wrought with pain, disillusionment, and confusion to a lack of Truth, a lack of belief in Right and Wrong, a world gone awry due to having no God to follow and no principles to adhere to.