Summary: God is no cosmic killjoy. His Ten Commandments were not given to limit and destroy the freedom of His people. The purpose of God’s law is deliverance not domination. Obedience does not subjugate; it saves! The Ten Commandments are God’s “statutes of liber
“THE STATUTES OF LIBERTY”
In New York Harbor the Statue of Liberty stands with torch held high. She faces the Atlantic Ocean and the old countries beyond, with her back turned toward the country she honors. She holds high the hope of liberty, not just to the United States, but to the entire world.
In 1986 the Statue of Liberty was refurbished. When President Reagan relit the torch of Liberty on July 3, 1986, massed choirs sang the words of Emma Lazarus’ tribute to our nation and the statue standing before our nation’s open door:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In The Gospel and the American Dream, historian Bruce Shelley writes, “In one hand Liberty holds the torch of freedom and in the other the tablet of law. The torch challenges the forces of darkness and tyranny. The tablet of law re-minds us that liberty degenerating into license is but another form of slavery. True freedom for others is only possible in a community of civic virtue.”
That is the message of the Ten Commandments. God brought a despised group of people out of bondage. They would not experience true liberty however, by merely trading one form of bondage for another. Deliverance from Egypt’s tyranny could easily be replaced by servitude to self and personal passions.
God is no cosmic killjoy. His Ten Commandments were not given to limit and destroy the freedom of His people. The purpose of God’s law is deliverance not domination. Obedience does not subjugate; it saves! The Ten Commandments are God’s “statutes of liberty.”
I. THE BACKGROUND FOR THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Four hundred years of bondage were ended. The children of Israel left one alien culture to enter another. Soon they would be surrounded by people who worshiped strange gods in strange ways. Sexual perversions were a part of this false worship. The temptation for Israel to compromise their beliefs, and to blend their faith with the false religion of the pagans would be constant.
God met His people at Sinai, in the desert between Egypt and Canaan:
And God spoke all these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or wor-ship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth genera-tion of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand genera-tions of those who love me and keep my com-mandments. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the sev-enth day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, nei-ther you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your an-imals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heav-ens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giv-ing you. "You shall not murder. "You shall not commit adultery. "You shall not steal. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:1-17).
The Ten Commandments are God’s gracious guidelines for human behavior and relationships. All over the world they forge a foundation for law and morality. Every culture founded on ethical standards includes injunctions such as these, whether expressed biblically or not. They have never been recalled, rescinded or reversed. They apply in a computer society as well as they did when written in stone at Sinai. They are valid among every race and strata of people.
The Ten Commandments tell us how to experience ultimate freedom. The first four show how to relate to God. The others teach us to relate with one an-other. They deal with the great issues of life and death, sex, family, work, neighbors, and honesty.