Dear Friends through Christ:
For a while, I have thought about drafting a short paper, sharing the value of these ten most wonderful gifts. I guess now is a good time to start. All of humanity has “religion” embedded in their heart, soul, and mind. It is part of who we are. All human beings ask the depth questions of Who created all we have? Do I have purpose and what might that purpose be? Is this life all there is? Or is there something else? What does it all mean? All religions seek to answer those questions. The four major religions of the world Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the many more religions are asking those same questions. Who created all that is? Why? What is my purpose? Religion will never fade away because the questions will always be there.
What’s strange is that the religion in which these ten teachings originated; Judaism is one of the smaller religions of the world, less than 2% of the world’s population. What’s also odd is that all the different religions of the world have no problem whatsoever with the ten instructions. They all agree The Ten Commandments are good for society, most have similar versions, calling them something different. However, they do not incorporate these seemly natural laws into their understanding of God. These commands are given for humanity’s benefit and given out of Love, to all religions. Everybody has the same God. We may not believe in the Same God, but we have the Same God.
I have long pondered why a nation founded upon Jude-an/Christian principles, a nation that boldly and proudly claims in the Pledge of Allegiance, “One nation, Under God,” a nation, where our other god of currency states quite clearly, “In God We Trust,” why are these Ten Teachings/Ten Commandments being removed from our culture’s existence, especially in our court rooms where human law is administered and justice is to be served? This is beautiful country, with so much potential. Our makeup is not so different than the Hebrew slaves coming out of Egypt—misfits and slaves from all over the world. Imagine what we could do if we took the prophet’s advice and put God’s commands back in our world? “You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:9
Sorry to ramble, but can we learn that these instructions were not given to divide or conquer our human spirit, but to bring humanity together and set our spirits free.
Imagine a time some three thousand, five hundred years ago, that’s 3,500 years ago. Folks there’s not a lot of history before this time. We do know the world is a violent place. Children not born perfect, or even unwanted girls could be thrown upon the rocks into the sea. Women served as property and men as disposable resources. Egypt was the Almighty and All-powerful at the time, building massive pyramids and some of the most beautiful temples to all the different gods of the world.
The Egyptians were building this empire upon the backs of slaves, from all the conquered nations throughout the Middle East. However, amongst these slaves are distant relatives, people that have remarkable stories about their history and their faith in an Unknown God. This remnant of Hebrew slaves lifted their voices to the God of their ancestors, and God said, “Enough!” History teaches as many as 300,000-400,000 slaves started a long, hard journey to a homeland promised to their ancestor, Abraham. Abraham is now the Father of Faith for close to 4-1/2 billion people in the world today. Yes, the Ten Commandments should be written in our hearts and minds, but how did we allow such a small portion of society to make that decision for us? Odd, uh?
Back to the story. Allow me to ask, “How is God going to organize this bunch of misfits in a world that has gone completely nuts? What is going to hold a people together, who are supposed to make known this Unknown God?” So, in honor of Mel, my new Alzheimer’s friend, I give you The Ten Commandments. I will cover the first four today and the remaining six in the next letter. I will be using the Jewish order of these commands, seeing they originated from the Hebrew faith.
I am the Lord your God.
Think of nothing. Now think of everything. All of it, God! I was. I am. I will always be, God. There is something greater than yourself, creating a glorious universe and beyond. Remember that! God is your starting point.
You will have no other gods before me, nor shall you worship or serve anything more than God.
This command was given at a time where the gods of the world ran the daily lives of people. Festivals, sacrifices were given to gods too numerous to name. Elaborate temples built to Apollo, Zeus, Aphrodite, and host of others. Sure, these gods have faded into history, but their spirit remains alive today. Our gods of today are just as real because they are the gods that lure or tempt us away from our purpose— “To be fruitful! To take care of this planet, including one another, in whatever vocation you have chosen.” Nothing can take the place of God.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Here is a misunderstood teaching of God. Most of my life, the church taught me I shouldn’t curse, especially with certain words. Yet there is more to this third command. Do you remember the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? The very first words out of the fangs of our slithering temptation are, “Did God really say?” Throughout human history, we have used words of Scripture and put them back into God’s mouth to justify our sinful behavior. Did God really say if our children talk back to us, then we should take them among our elders and have them stoned. Did God really say woman brought sin into the world? Therefore, she should somehow be less than the man? Did God say that this or any war is just? Did God say slavery, the way we practiced slavery, is just fine? Did God say it was OK to judge any group of people we deem different? I will simply say, be careful. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.
The church used this command effectively for many years. It is a shame because the teaching clearly shows the love of our Creator. This teaching is for our own good, not God’s. It is a command to take care of ourselves and everything we care about. Sabbath means “time of rest.”
Take one day, set it aside and rest. All of creation needs a rest. It is part of the created order. Man has set up rules and regulations as to what this day of rest should look like, but the command is rather simple. Rest and thank God for life. Show God that thanks. How do you feel when your children simply say, “Thank-You?” The Hebrew slaves chose the seventh day through the story of Creation. We as Christians see a new creation in the first day of the week, but in either day, what better way to keep the world in working order, than creation resting together and giving thanks to the Giver of all these gifts. Think that’ll make a difference in our world today?
So, there you have the first four commands given to maybe 400,000 slaves, some 3,500 years ago. The first three deal with our relationship to God, and one thrown in for our own benefit. For us to claim any relationship to our Creator is huge step. Yet, as that relationship grows, you will begin to know this very same God can lead anybody out of bondage and give freedom. If we only listen and begin to obey. Jesus summarized his Father’s first four commands by simply saying, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, and soul.
You see, God is not trying to make our lives complicated or hard. We complicate and make matters harder just fine on our own. God is simply giving humankind the tools to live an abundant life on this good green earth. Be fruitful. Take care of what God has given, including each other. Keep these straightforward commands and the world God gave us will run much smoother.
So, until next month let’s hope we can all continue asking our “depth questions,” realizing the rules of life are quite straight forward. I also pray our nation will someday become that “One nation under God,” and we begin to put our money where our mouth is, “In God We Trust.”
In Christian Love,
Pastor David Trexler