“Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,” (Exodus 20:1 – 5)
Somewhere along the way, humanity slipped up on this way. Not, beloved reader, our generation nor the generation before us. Not even my grandparent’s generation (who some days feels like centuries old – because I feel old.) Not even the generation that my family came over from Europe. Not the medieval generation nor the generation my Anabaptist forebearers broke from the Catholic church. Not EVEN, beloved reader, the generation that established the Catholic church and set up icons and saints that through veneration came to be looked upon for hope and salvation. This slippage and confusion of whence our salvation comes a few generations down from those entered the promised land. This is a liberal understanding of what it meant to have another “god” before the Lord God. Not placement or location, but place in the stead of the Divine other concerns and consideration. A “sin” deeply steeped over time
“ . . . . but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Verse 6)
The sacredness of the Divine is to be unquestioned. Devotion to the Divine is to imprinted on every human heart. At least, that is the way it is supposed to be.
“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Verse 7)
The translation, “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” always amused me. From the people I heard using the Lord’s name in improper ways seemed to do it with great intent and vehemence! There was nothing wimpy or weakly done about it! [In vain – “without success or a result”, “to no avail or useless”] What I was taught is that you do not use the Divine’s name as a curse word. Additionally, great care was taken in speaking or writing the name of the Divine lest the speaker or writer diminish the name.
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Verses 8 – 11)
The conversation and debate of which “weekend” day is more holy is an interesting one. Each side has their good points. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for humanity, and not humanity made for Sabbath. I remember Sabbath (Sundays) from my childhood. That day was a “strict” day and certain expectations were to be kept. As time went on, the restrictions loosened up. It is a shame, really, that the day of rest got flattened down to an ordinary day under the weight of our society. We need rest, beloved reader, we need rest! Saturday or Sunday are the days I write about the psalm passages, and that feels like a good “restful” thing to do.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Verse 12)
Honor, beloved reader, is a word whose meaning has a whole spectrum of definitions and understandings related to this verse. Suffice to say, if you honor your parents you will have defined it for yourself. And if you dis-honor your parents, you probably have created multiple levels and intensity of definitions of the word “honor.”
“You shall not murder.” (Verse 13)
Okay, let us be clear here. Murdering a living thing is making its life stop. Now, how you define a worthwhile life is even more tricky and slippery than worshiping idols, using the Divine’s name with poor judgment, filling Saturday/Sunday/Sabbath with unholy pursuits & intents, and dis-honoring & disrespecting your parents – combined. I am not going to take or make the time to parse it all out. I just want to remind you of how closely and strictly Jesus the Messiah defined this commandments; and then leave it to your conscience, beloved reader.
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Verse 14)
As I thought about what to say, it occurred to me – you should be as faithful to your life partner as you are to the Divine. Interesting interpretation, isn’t it?!
“You shall not steal.” (Verse 15)
In the movie, “The Ten Commandments”, Moses (as played by Charlton Heston) winced and cowered a bit each time a commandment was etched on the stone tablets – because the Lord God (interestingly enough voiced by Charlton Heston) was displaying full wrath in “laying down the law”. If it ain’t yours, beloved reader, just leave it alone!!
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Verse 16)
You remember the part, beloved reader, where the law says not to take the Lord’s name in vain? And honoring your parents? Well, don’t besmirch your neighbor’s name, reputation, & honor either!
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Verse 17)
Again, if it ain’t yours – leave it alone!! Let that apply both to touching, thinking about touching & using as if it were your own!!
Lent is the time of year (and a good time but not the only time) to think back over the sins you may have committed thoughtlessly and/or intentionally. And if these ten admonitions are too complex (insert dismissive sound) or too hard (insert another dismissive sound) just do this – Love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as you love & care for yourself! Shalom & Selah!