Summary: A look at the first commandment and why it is pivotal to the other nine.
Do Not Worship Any God Except Me.
I was probably 7 when I first heard about them, the next time they came to my attention, I was 15. The first time was in a religious ed class in grade 2, it was at the Canadian Armed Forces School in Soest, Germany. The next time was in grade 10 history. I’m not sure that either encounter had much of an impact on my life. I would be willing to venture out on a limb here and say that most everyone knows something about them, even if they are irrelevant to their everyday life.
They used to be posted in classrooms and courtrooms, they used to be required reading growing up, they even provided the basis for one of the most remembered films of all time. But that’s the used to bes. What about today, November 16, 2003. What relevance do the Ten Commandments have for today?
Once there was a time when if nothing else they were a great way to skip over talking about religion, you could always say “Well I keep the Ten Commandments”, now we’d be hard pressed to find people who could even claim to know the Ten Commandments. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, well that’s three!
And if people stop to consider the Ten Commandments at all they certainly don’t consider following them. Why? For a couple of reasons. Some people consider them as simply “old”. Kind of like getting new CD’s and there isn’t any space on your rack so you take your old CD’s and Tapes and put them away. You know they are there but you never take them out. In the same way we’ve relegated the Ten Commandments into the basement of our life. They might have some sentimental value but just aren’t relevant for today.
Other people think that the Ten Commandments aren’t all that useful for Christians because we aren’t under the law but under grace. And some others don’t particularly like the Ten Commandments for a very obvious reason, they enjoy breaking them. And breaking them doesn’t take any special talent; you don’t have to be a dirty rotten sinner. Consider the words of Isadora Duncan whom some people called the founder of modern dance: “We may not all break the Ten Commandments, but we are certainly all capable of it. Within us lurks the breaker of all laws, ready to spring out at the first real opportunity.”
So maybe it’s a good time to take a new look at the old commandments. The first question is why? Why did God give us the Ten Commandments? The short answer is: Sin. After Man had been created by God as perfect being he was given an incredible gift and that gift was free choice. You see God created animals to act by instinct. In every sense they were pre-programmed to “do their thing”. They don’t do it so much because they choose to do it they do it because they have to do it. But Adam and Eve were created when God breathed life into them. What was it that he breathed into them? It was his image, his likeness. This gave them personality and with it came “Free Choice”. God could have made humanity marionettes with invisible strings, coming down from heaven and dancing to every word and whim of God. But that isn’t what God had in mind for his ultimate creation.
God didn’t want the artificial and shallow devotion that would come from a robotic creation. He knew that he would lose the allegiance of many who would opt for the easy way in order to have a few who would choice to follow him. He wanted a relationship that would lift people higher then any animal could reach.
So God allowed humans to have a choice and Adam and Eve choice disobedience over obedience, and traded freedom for slavery, beauty for ashes, life for death. And their choice has influenced mankind ever since. That’s why from that day forward we have not had to teach our children to sin, no mother has ever told her little boy, “Kick your sister, pull her hair! Get mad and talk back to me, rebel when you are a teenager.” No Father has to take his daughter aside and teach her how to throw a tantrum or how to be moody.
And so God needed a way that would stop the downward pull of sin’s whirlpool a way to reverse the downward slide of self respect. He had to have a way of not only forgiving the sin that had been committed but also a way of protecting his children from the consequences of sin. And so in the Old Testament he instituted a set of laws to live by.