Each year, there are predetermined readings for Lent. The readings are on a three-year rotation. In 2018, we are in Year B. In this third week of Year B, we find a reading which is one of the most common in the entire Bible but can often be taken out of context.
Ten is a fascinating number. It’s believed that the number ten is the highest number we can completely grasp. If you study the psychology of numbers, ten (in our culture) signifies completion. Anthropology would lead us to believe that ten is complete because it’s the number of fingers we have. We can count visually count to it and actually feel it.
Ten seems as though it’s a complete thought – nothing needs to be added nor subtracted from it. This is why David Letterman did a Top 10 List every night.
Nine seems incomplete. 11 is mysterious. In fact, when KFC was branding their famous herbs & spices recipe, they used the number 11 because it was mysterious and hard to grasp. But, 10 is understandable and complete.
Perhaps that’s why the Ten Commandments is such a remembered and revered piece of God’s Law. The Old Testament contains 613 laws, but this set of ten is made into posters, prints, and even plaques. Figuratively and literally, The Ten serves as a monument in our society.
Exodus 20:1-17, is the full account, but we have boiled these words down to their simplest form and given each one a number and a bullet point, they are said with much more nuance and context than we sometimes recall.
The first sentence is critical:
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…
God begins the commandments with His covenant.
or said differently
God doesn’t establish rules, without first establishing a relationship.
He’s reminding Israel that He rescued them and cares for them.
Often we disconnect The Ten from a relationship with God. We list the rules, the rites, the regulations without remembering that what God desires most from us is not compliance, it’s relationship. Because relationship makes compliance and easier choice.
In marriage, there are things with which I comply. I agree to a covenant, an agreement of behavior. We both do. But, the decision to abide by those agreed upon behaviors is not difficult because I have a relationship with my wife.
It’s not just a list of rules, it’s a loving relationship.
So, when God states:
we will put no gods before Him. (20:3)
we will have no idols we worship. (20:4-5)
we will not misuse His name. (20:7)
We could go way deeper into why that matters so much, but suffice it to say these rules are to honor our relationship with our rescuer.
we will honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)
For us to rest on the Sabbath, we’re showing we trust God’s provision. These are slaves who have worked for every day to have what little they do have. But, God wants them to rest because it’s not just an act of rest, it’s an act of reliance.
At this point, things take a turn.
honor your father and mother (20:12)
don’t murder (20:13)
don’t commit adultery (20:14)
don’t steal (20:15)
don’t lie about your neighbor (20:16)
don’t covet things that aren’t yours (20:17)
These commandments are about our relationship with God through our relationship with our neighbors.
Never forget God loves those you love.
God also loves those you hate.
God created you in His image. God created them in His image as well.
When you violate your relationship with them, you violate your relationship with Him.
In this Lent season, which of The Ten do you need to focus on?
Lent is a season of intentional incompletion. We choose to give something up, be it food or pastimes or media, but today, what do you need to complete? What of The Ten rules would make your relationship with God more complete?
Take some time, think it through and pursue it. If I can help, let me know!
KEVIN STAMPER | LEAD PASTOR | @KEVINSTAMPER