A Relook at the Ten Commandments

I learned about the Ten Commandments long before I became a believer. I studied in a Catholic School that required us to take examination in Religion Study. But since Jesus had saved us and there is no need to follow the Laws for our salvation, I did not pay any particular attention to it. It was considered outdated. It is in the OT isn't it?

However, since Ten-commandments were given by God to man, teaching man how to live a blessed life, we need to go back to study them. Jesus said he did not come to do away with the Laws but came to fulfill them. He gave us the essence of Laws as "Love God first" and then "Love others as ourselves".  Ten commandments actually tell us the details for loving God and loving others. It is with this mindset of loving that we take a re-look at the Ten-commandments.

In wikipedia on Ten-Commandments, we can find much details; the origins Exo 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, and the versions of the Jews, Reformed, Orthodox and Catholic Christians.

The Ten Commandments - Key Points.

Know the true God and the Lord (Exo 20:2  I am the LORD thy God) and hence
  1. No other gods
  2. No idols
  3. No wrongful use of God's name
  4. Keep the Sabbath holy
  5. Honor your parents and live long on earth.
  6. No murder.
  7. No adultery.
  8. No stealing.
  9. No false witness.
  10. No covet neighbor's
Worship of God Begins with Sabbath Keeping  The starting point of the Ten-Commandments is "I am the LORD thy God", Exo 20:2. It is about how we relate to God as our Lord. The first four shows us how to love God and ends with the good practice of Sabbath Keeping - A day separated out from the other six days of the week for resting and in particular for reflection and worship of God. A day to enjoy the creation created by God and appreciate, worship and enjoy the Creator. 

Relationship Begins with Honoring and Respecting Others
The next six commandments teach man how to live with one another. It begins with honoring our parents. It is about respecting the elders and one another. If we cannot respect the ones who give birth to us and who take care of us, how could we ever respect and live well with others? Honor parents teach us about appreciate our sources, God and our parents. It teaches us about obedience, learning from the elders, being loyal and faithful to them. These are the foundations for building trusting and lasting relationship with others. Chinese Classics places filial piety as the first and most important virtue. It matches well with the Ten commandments given by God. Filial Piety is the foundation for lasting relationship. Confucius teaches "入孝出悌“ (《论语·学而》:“子曰:‘弟子入则孝,出则悌。’”)meaning at home honor our parents and at outside the home respect others.

Once we can honor and respect others, then we shall not commit murder, not committing adultery (being unfaithful to one's spouse and others' spouses or children), not stealing, not lying or not taking others' possessions.

What about taking good care of God's creation and particularly the environment. This can be extended from not using the Name of God in vain. God tells us, in Gen 1:28, to take good care of the whole earth. Let the abundances increase and not to destroy it. This also comes from giving the creation rest , resting of the fields (covered in later commandments) or an extension of not coveting others', including God's things.

The Progress - From Exodus to Deuteronomy
Exodus is the first version, given in the early part of the life in the desert. Deuteronomy is the revised version, the second generation, preparing them to enter the promised land. Most of the wordings are the same. The slight differences show us the change in emphasis for the 2nd generation, mostly born in 40 years wandering in the desert. People that did not missed the exodus! So here are the differences:

On Sabbath:
  1. Keeping Sabbath is emphasized with "as the Lord your God commanded you" Deu 5:12b.
  2. More details on who should be resting on Sabbath - added were ox, donkey. May be man happily modify the Laws and work their ox and donkey on Sabbath. Man argued that ox and donkey are not livestock. Livestock are the chicken, goats and lambs. Man not only ignore the spirit of the Law but play with the definitions to legalize and justify their wrongful actions.
  3. An added explanation on the purpose of Sabbath "So that your male and female slave may rest as well as you". This is added again to prevent man from excluding slaves fro the day of rest. 
  4. An extra verse to remind them they were slaves too in Egypt and another reminder that "God commanded you to keep the Sabbath".  Hence we know keeping the Sabbath not only important but also man tend not to do it or cheat it.
  5. Of the 16 verses of Deu 5:6-21, Sabbath takes 4 long verses, 25%, more than any other commandment. That is how important it is. Idol has 2-3 verses.
  6. In the earlier version, Exo 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day... is left out. The attention has shifted from God to Man. God set the example for man to follow but man does not seem to care. God has to make it more explicit. Sabbath is not for God but for the benefits of man. This was what Jesus emphasized. (Mar 2:27  And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: )
On Honoring Parents:
  1. Emphasized with "as the Lord your God commanded you"
On Neighbors':
  1. The order is changed - wife comes before house, field is added (in desert no one own any land, but they will own land in the promised land).
We can see that in times of abundance in the promised land, man tends to forget keeping the Sabbath, forget honoring their parents, and to covet neighbor's wife and fields and other things. Aren't these reflective of our present generation, myself included. In what Francis Schaeffer spoke of a the idols of Personal Peace and Affluence, we have forgotten about God, committed the sins that God has warned us long ago in the Ten commandments.
(Schaeffer's Personal Peace : I want to be left alone, my lifestyle to be undisturbed by anyone. I don't care what happen to others. Affluence : I want things and more things and we are busy getting more things.)

The progress, clarification of the ten commandments, reveals man's tendency of putting oneself as God and replacing the true God and ignoring the others. A study on ten-commandments will hopefully awake us once more that we are not God and not alone. Keeping Sabbath is important for us to reflect and understand that we have a true God as Father, a Jesus Christ who saved us and bring us back to God and a reminder that we are all members of the Body of Christ, and the need to bring others into this Body of Christ. Believing and receiving Christ into our lives as Savior and God is our act of acknowledgment and worship of God and in turn enables us love others with the love that Christ has put into our hearts.

The Ten-commandments are actually the principles for living a meaningful life with fruitful relationships on earth.  The world will be greatly blessed when man follow the Ten-commandments. There is a God and there are others for us to enjoy together.

See also Principles & Insights from the Ten Commandments

No comments: