Posts Tagged ‘Ten Commandments’

charlton-heston-as-moses-in-the-ten-commandments

We can never separate God from His word. 

God’s word is not like a file sitting on a server somewhere that we can download and listen to at whim without direct interaction with God Himself.  We are used to interacting with words in a way that dissociates them from the speaker or writer; we read books written by dead people, and we listen to mp3 talks and songs spoken or sung by people on the other side of the world whom we will never meet, and who don’t even know we exist. When God speaks, ‘… he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.’

When we hear Him speak we encounter not just words, but God Himself; His words are always accompanied by His personal presence. When we read the Bible we can not only be sure that God is speaking as we read, but that we are in a sense coming face to face with the Living God.

The theologian S. Lewis Jones said, ‘In the 19th century, first Scripture died, then God died, than man died.’ What he meant was that the authority of the Bible was undermined by liberal European ‘Bible’ scholars who saw human reason and science as the ultimate authority. This led to a cultural revolution in which the church was no longer the main influence in society, which led to Frederich Nietsche’s observation:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

 It was thought that this social revolution would bring great freedom and progress for the human race, but instead, as Dan Phillips says:

‘It left man with no authoritative word about his origins, with no authoritative word about his meaning, with no authoritative word about his purpose, or even about the guidelines for life; and so what he hoped for was great joy and freedom, instead what he found was great despair, because he found that he had sawn of the very branch that he was sitting on…’

 We cannot reject what God says and think that we can somehow retain God apart from His word. If God were to stop speaking both this universe would cease to exist, and God would cease to be God.

God speaks in order to bring about relationship. Exodus 20:1-17 is an outline of the Ten Commandments, a summary of God’s moral code given to ancient Israel. Before we read it as a list of rules to follow, we need to read the introduction in vss 1&2:  ‘And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’ When people say ‘I keep the 10 commandments – by which they mean the last 6 of the 10 – it is meaningless unless they do so in the context of a relationship with God – ie. The first 4, and that they understand the God to whom they relate as the One who has redeemed them from slavery (ie. to sin and death).

In the course of receiving the Law, Moses was on Mt Sinai, and was talking with God about the need for His presence to go with them. He had just taken the Ten Commandments to the people, discovered them worshiping a golden calf, and had smashed the stone tablets on which the commandments were written. He had come back up the mountain to plead with God not to abandon them. After hearing God’s promise of faithfulness and grace, he asked, ‘Please show me your glory.’ (Exodus 33:18). God instructed him to re-carve another set of stone tablets, and then did as Moses has asked: he revealed Himself and gave him a glimpse of His glory. What is remarkable about Moses’ experience is that it wasn’t what he saw, but what he heard. God ‘proclaimed his name’ (Exodus 34:5) – He made Himself known by words:

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)

If you want to know God, you need to be prepared to listen as He speaks, because He is The God Who Speaks.

How do you approach the Bible? Is it just another document, with interesting information and rules to follow? Do you actually expect to have an encounter with the Living God when you open it and read? Do you think that God is somehow absent when you don’t have a warm fuzzy when reading?

What follows is not a detailed Bible Study; it contains no Bible references as prooftexts. Rather, it is an attempt at a broad overview of the issue, trying to capture the trajectory of the Biblical story and the unfolding revelation of God’s purpose. It started as a facebook comment, but then got too big for its boots, and so it ended up here instead.

In the Old Testament, God gives Israel specific sexuality laws, including the prohibition of homosexual intercourse/relations. For this, the penalty is death by stoning. This is an outworking of the 7th commandment ‘Do not commit adultery’ (Which Jesus shows us in the sermon on the mount is not kept by a simplistic not having sex with someone else’s spouse, but even includes lustful thoughts and possibly the M word), and this 7th commandment is itself founded on the creation of human beings in God’s image as male & female. We also see now that this commandment is much bigger than ‘That’s the way God designed us’ – in that marriage reflects Christ and the Church and God’s big goal for all of history, something that is also hinted at throughout the Old Testament narrative.

So sexual purity is first and foremost about truly reflecting the glory of God, something about which God is extremely jealous, and will defend above everything else. The personal morality and societal benefit is not an end in itself, but a means to a higher, much more glorious and liberating goal. That’s why those things that defaced true marriage received such a harsh penalty. Break the 7th commandment and you essentially slap God in the face. Slap God in the face, and you will get what you deserve: the penalty of death, and the community will clearly understand that God not only defends HIs honour, but He also so loves His people that He will purge evil and injustice from among them.

Then we come to the New Testament. Jesus repeatedly affirms the principle of the 7th commandment, going to Genesis and the creation of man and woman and in some quite strong teaching about divorce. While he does not specifically refer to homosexuality (neither does he mention incest, bestiality, rape etc.), his affirmation of this command shows he affirms all the other applications of it, including the prohibition of homosexuality. ‘Sexual Immorality’ then is a term that covers all the prohibitions of the Torah, not just our modern way of thinking of it as ‘promiscuity’. He makes it clear that God’s standard has not dropped, by even applying extreme measures like cutting off your hand and gouging out your eye – which are given in the context of sexual sin – not as penalties for breaking it, but as examples of how far we must go if we think that we will be able to overcome temptation and sin ourselves. (If you think that the sermon on the mount is the rulebook for Christians to follow, think again. Apply it literally, and you’ll be one eyed and left-handed).

In doing this, Jesus is demonstrating that this commandment is not fulfilled by him in the sense of being made ‘obsolete’ (such as, for example, food laws), but in the sense of him, as the second Adam, perfectly keeping it on our behalf. It’s like he said, ‘Here’s the standard of the law: I’ll raise it to where it truly sits, at a height that you must realise you will never be able to reach because you are sinful, and then I will both keep it on your behalf, and come under the penalty you deserve for not keeping it yourself.’

The Apostles reflect this in their teaching (the Epistles). Paul in Romans uses homosexuality as what seems like the ‘ultimate’ sin in his discussion of humanity’s sinfulness, implying that same sex relations are virtually the lowest we can sink in defacing God’s good design. This is connected to his presentation in Ephesians of human marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church – deface marriage, and you slap God in the face and trash His purpose in Christ. We are called to sexual purity, and the honouring of marriage and family, and to distance ourselves from the world’s expressions of sexuality that are more about personal pleasure and ritual idol worship than they are about loving God and our neighbour.

A Christian is one who seeks to do all things to the Glory of God; as one who loves God they seek to obey His commands, not simply for pragmatic purposes, but in order to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has redeemed them. Homosexuality is abhorrent for a child of God, not because they fear stoning, or even because it may damage the wellbeing of society, but because it trashes the Gospel of the Son who laid down His life for his beloved bride, and who invites those who live by faith in him to attend the ‘wedding supper of the lamb,’ which will be in the new Heavens and new Earth.

So the 7th commandment has been transformed from a prohibition mandating stoning, to a glorious expression of the goodness and faithfulness of a Husband who will never commit adultery against his Bride, and a Bride who so loves the Husband who laid down his life for her that she desires to honour and respect Him by remaining pure in every way.