Years ago I was asked what God’s purpose was in giving the Ten Commandments to Moses and his throng wandering in the wilderness. What do you think? I have chewed on that question a long time and the best I have been able to come up with is that God gave them in love. The way I see it, those Children of Abraham needed all the help they could get. They weren’t so much a community as they were a rag-tag group of escaped slaves. They weren’t a family, or a tight knit band of pilgrims setting out for a new life in a new land. They were strangers in a strange land and so God decided to offer them a bit of help in what they needed to do to survive and even thrive.
I guess I think of the Ten Commandments, at least in part, as God’s “Surviving in the Wilderness 101”. I invite you to read the commandments with that in mind:
1. You must have no other gods before me.
2. Do not make an idol for yourself – no form whatsoever – of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3. Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.
6. Do not kill.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
10. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.
It strikes me that each of those ten are lessons I have tried to pass on to my children, maybe not in the same words, but hopefully with the same intent. I have made rules, offered direction, encouraged particular behaviors and discouraged others not so much as to restrict or control as to help them learn to survive and thrive.
Which brings me to #4 “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.”
I don’t know about you, but I have found this past week to be trying physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually… How about you? Are you sleeping OK? How about your diet? Maybe you are like me and are finding your fuse to be a bit short. What about hope and compassion and joy? In the face of all that God says, “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.” “Let those things rest, put them aside for this day as my gift to you. Find renewal, embrace a place of quiet, drink deeply of all you need to survive and thrive, for I your God command it for your well-being.”
How does that feel? As I let it sink in I feel my shoulders relax and my mind shift to a different way of holding all I have been carrying. It is holy water, holy breath, this gifted counsel from God offered to all us weary wanderers in this strange land.
So let us remember the Sabbath and treat it as holy.