Instructions can be important sometimes. I remember several years ago at Christmas time I got a DVD/VHS recorder. I got it with one purpose in mind. This machine was designed to take your old VHS movies and record them on to DVD disks. I was very eager and I started recording all our analog movies in digital format.
When they were done I would put the video cassette tapes in a box to be disposed of. Some were given away. Some went in a garage sale. Then one night we went to my parent’s house and brought a DVD copy of a discarded VHS movie. However it didn’t work. No matter what we did it said “Error. Cannot Read Disc” which was weird, because I had tested it at home just before we left and it worked fine.
When we got home later that night I did what I likely should have done from the beginning: read the instructions. Apparently I had missed a few steps in the process of recording, one of which was ‘closing’ the disk. Without closing the disk the DVD would work, but only on my machine. I guess the instruction manual can be pretty important some times.
Some people might be inclined to ignore the instructions God has given based on their vintage. After all it’s been a long time since Moses went up on Mount Sinai. Some would argue God’s list of commandments has passed its best before date. But to be honest I don’t think time is our real issue. No, I think our resistance isn’t because a long time ago God told us what we should do – it is just because someone told us what to do, period. Some of us will refuse to do things – regardless of whether they are a good or bad idea – simply out of principle. The fact that someone told us we had to do it is enough cause to boycott.
Our culture and society completely support the view that no one has the right to tell you what to do. There is no shortage of voices telling you that no one, not even God, has the authority to tell you what you can or cannot do. We have developed an instinctive dig in your heel response to the suggestion of any list of incontestable commandments. So whenever we see a list of “thou shalt not’s” we immediately we automatically think “Someone is trying to tell me what to do … and no one tells me what to do!”
In some ways, commandments seems like an appropriate word in that these instructions from God are not meant to be optional. They are not pick and choose. This is God’s code of ethics and I do not in any way intend to suggest that the code is really more like guidelines than actual rules. After all, it is GOD who is speaking here and therefore it’s a pretty safe to assume that it is an authoritative statement. The God of the universe doesn’t descend on a mountain in smoke and fire, making the ground tremble just to say, “You know, if it’s not too much of a bother, if you feel like it, it would be kinda neat if you would … but, hey, it’s up to you, you know, whatever.”
On the other hand, because the word “commandment” carries a lot of baggage for some of us, maybe we’d be better off ignoring the subtitle and the labels and just sticking with the words of the actual text:
And God spoke all these words: (Exodus 20:1 NIV)
These are the ten God Words. The ten sayings, declarations, instructions. This is the guy who made it saying, “Here’s how it works. When you do it this way, life is good, right and how it was meant to be. When you don’t do it this way things break, fall apart and stop functioning properly.”
God is not trying to take all the fun out of life, He’s trying to take all the hurt out of it. God speaks these words because, if you don’t follow the instructions of this list, someone is going to get hurt. Probably you. Possible someone else as well. So don’t do them!
You see, as much as God loves people (and He loves them A LOT), God hates sin. He has to. There is no way around it. Because sin is just not an arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts
Sin is sin because God said, “That hurts the people I love so don’t do it!” God doesn’t randomly pick things and say, “Let’s call this a sin just for kicks.” These ten words from God are not meant to be an electrified barbwire fence around the playground. They are the buoys marking the outer limits of the swimming area. They are the baby gate at the top of the long flight of stairs. They are the “Warning Radiation” sign on the nuclear reactor door. They represent not God’s tyrannical attempt to keep us from the really good stuff, but God’s loving attempt to get us to the really good stuff.
(Did you know: Even though they are commonly known as the Ten Commandments, the actual Hebrew words could be translated something more along the lines of the ten words, the ten sayings or the ten matters. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, uses the word dekalogos – which also means ten words. In fact, it wasn’t until about 500 years ago in 1560 (roughly 2900 years after they were first given) that the Geneva Bible was the first to apply the term ‘commandments’.)