Meditating the Ten Commandments

      28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, What commandment is the foremost of all? 29 Jesus answered, The foremost is, HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. 31 The second is this, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. There is no other commandment greater than these. 32 The scribe said to Him, Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONES NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF



The Ten Commandments and the New Law
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Our theme as you know is the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments. We wish in the present meditation to reflect on the Ten Commandments, but as found in the New Covenant since Christ. In today's world, which in one country after another widespread disobedience is almost the pattern of modern culture, it is well to remind ourselves that whatever else the spiritual life means, it means first, obedience to the commandments of God. Our main purpose in the present reflections will be to see that Christ did not, emphatically, did not eliminate the Ten Commandments. He not only confirmed them, but He elevated them, the Magna Carta, therefore, of New Testament morality, as recorded by Saint Matthew. Beginning with Christ's Sermon on the Mount and going on through the rest of the New Testament. Writing for converts from Judaism, we would expect the first evangelist to be at pains to show two things. First, and I cannot repeat too often, that Christ did not abrogate the Decalogue. He rather elevated it to heights that were unknown and in fact unattainable before. The evangelist therefore is at pains to show that the Ten Commandments remain intact. But secondly, that they have been sublimated and make such demands on Christ's followers that were inconceivable because they were impossible before Christ died on the cross, instituted His Church and conferred the grace without which the following of Christ the Lawgiver, hear it? Christ the Lawgiver would be impossible.

We will go through each of the Ten Commandments in sequence.

The First Commandment of the New Law becomes an obligation to recognize God is our Father Who loves us and Whom we are to love in return. More still, Christ identified Himself with the Father and declared, quote If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me. The implication is clear. The faithful of the new Israel, that's us, are to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their God and worship Him, have no other Gods beside Him. By their practice of sacrifice and the acceptance of whatever trials He, the God in human form, may send them.

What then is the first sublimation of the first commandment in the New Law? It is still, thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and Him alone shalt thou serve. That's Genesis. Thou shalt adore Jesus Christ, the Lord thy God, and Him alone shalt thou serve That's the first commandment of the New Law. This Jesus Christ, we believe is God. He therefore has a right to our worship and allegiance, and is made so clear obedience to his commands.

I never thought I'd have occasion to say this in the present conference. For the last two days, I have finished dictating by telephone to a reporter in California a refutation of a popular Protestant evangelist whose regular audience I'm told is over three million, who has been cutting down and tearing down the Catholic Church. And one of the principle accusations this evangelist has against Catholics is that they do not distinguish, they dare to equate God the Father with Jesus Christ. Well my dear evangelist, you're right! But its not we Catholics who make the equation, it is Christ Himself. He couldn't have been plainer than when He told the Jews in the tenth chapter of John's Gospel, the Father and I are One. First Commandment: Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God and Him alone shalt thou serve. And the God Whom you are to honor and worship and obey is the Son of God who faith tells us is also the Son of Mary.

Second Commandment: No longer does Christ merely forbid the irreverent use of God's name. Rather Jesus enjoins on His followers a litany of injunctions to prayer. Christ enjoins praying quietly. He commands prayer in private. He tells His followers to recite the perfect prayer, �The Our Father.� Christ emphasizes the necessity of asking and knocking. In other words to pray without ceasing in order to obtain the grace without which the following of Christ would be impossible. What does the second commandment order us Christians to do? It commands us to pray! Not only as in the old law, not to use God�s name irreverently, but to use God�s name reverently indeed, frequently, better constantly, because without prayer it is impossible to follow Christ.

Third Commandment: What had been the Sabbath in the old law, was suddenly changed by the resurrection. And the evangelist has it, (that�s Matthew) watch after the Sabbath and toward dawn on the first day of the week. That word, �after�, marks the beginning of Christianity. Consequently, the two Mary�s who came to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid and where the angel told them to tell the disciples He has risen from the dead, that took place on the day after the Sabbath. What�s that? Well, Sunday! From the early apostolic days, Christians understood the third commandment to be observed on Sunday. Why? Because Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, it was also on Sundays that the early church met to celebrate the Eucharist, as the most fitting way of keeping Holy the Lord�s day. When did the practice of attending Mass on Sunday begin? Oh that�s easy, it began shortly after Christ�s resurrection and ascension into Heaven. Sunday�s were the Lord�s day from the first century of the apostolic church. And no doubt even the very word Sabbath, meaning West, has been elevated with the coming of Christ. Because while we too, are to abstain from servile work on Sunday. While there is nothing like the Draconian legislation of the Talmud forbidding any physical work on Sunday. For us, the principle stress is divine worship on Sunday.

Fourth Commandment: In reply to the rich young mans question about what commandments he should observe to attain eternal life, the Savior told him, Christ quoted Deuteronomy, Honor your father and mother. But the Fourth Commandment under the aegis of Christ became not only a mandate for children to obey their parents; Christ went beyond this simple precept of obeying one�s parents, to command all the commandments. When? Just before His ascension into Heaven. Remember? Going therefore, proclaim the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all the commandments that I have given you. Oh how I wish this one sentence of mine will be burned into your minds. For us Christians, the Fourth Commandment means obedience to Jesus Christ, as the Church has been teaching her followers for 1900 years. It was no coincidence, that in the same Gospel of Matthew, it would be Matthew, a Jew converted to Christ, writing for Jews. He knew what sticklers his people were for the law. All right my friends, my fellow Israelites, let me tell you, what Yahweh told you in the old law, Yahweh become man is telling you in the New Law. It�s the New Law. Christianity is a religion of obedience. Of course, of course the motive force behind our obedience is love. Who doubts it? But we show our love by obedience. It was therefore not surprisingly the same Matthew, who gives us the narrative of Christ�s making Peter His vicar on earth. And giving him Peter and Peter�s successors the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Which means as we know, that by our submission to Peter, and the Bishops of Rome who follow Peter, by our submission to the Vicar of Christ, we will be submitting our selves, that�s the bottom line, to Christ. Anyone who claims to be obeying Christ, and is not willing to obey the Vicar of Christ is a hypocrite. And quoting the Savior, is a son of the devil. No matter how many academic degrees behind his name, or how many learned books he may have published. All of that and much more is locked up in the Fourth Commandment of the Christian Decalogue.

Fifth Commandment: In answering the rich young man, who asked Christ which commandments he was to obey, guess which one Christ started with? The fifth: you must not kill. Earlier in this same Sermon on the Mount, on which we are drawing so heavily to bring out Christ�s elevating the Decalogue, once more Christ began with this precept to explain how the new law was a sublimation of the old. It is the first of six antithesis which Jesus gives in which He makes a studied contrast between what the old law prescribed, and what He now, Yahweh in the flesh is prescribing. It�s a long quotation, but it�s worth making. It�s the Savior speaking. You have learned how it was said to your ancestors you must not kill. And if anyone does kill, he must answer for it before the court. But, yet that observed adversative but, I say this to you, anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court. If a man calls his brother a fool, he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin. And if a man calls him renegade, he will answer for it in hellfire. So then if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar. Go and be reconciled with your brother first. Then come back and present your offering. Unquote Matthew, quoting Jesus, his fifth chapter, twenty-first through the twenty-fifth verses.

How I�d like to spend the next three days, on this Fifth Commandment, now Christianized, as only Jesus Christ could do so. By now volumes have been written in commentary on this passage. But the central message of Christ is simple. Under the new dispensation, a narrow interpretation of the prohibition of killing is not enough. Not only are external acts of violence forbidden by the Fifth Christian Commandment, but angry words, insulting speech, and hear it, unkind thoughts are forbidden by the Fifth Commandment. Christ declared that His followers are to leave their sacrifice, typified in the Jewish ritual on the altar and go first to be reconciled with someone from whom they are estranged. We no longer have bloody sacrifices as had the ancient Jews. We have the un-bloody sacrifice of the Mass. Why, after all these years, no doubt thousands of Masses we have assisted at, and participated in, why have we not profited as much as God wants us to? I'll tell you why. And I�m using the first person plural: every stain of unkindness, every shred of resentment, every form of sometimes deeply hidden dislike of another person that we have not shaken off. In other words, what Christ is telling us in His Fifth Commandment is that we are first of all to interiorize our natural tendency to revenge or anger. That we are not only not to be angry and we�ve got more days to come, we are also to love. Only Christ, the Son of God, could demand what Christ asks us to do in the fifth commandment. Because only He can provide the strength we need to sacrifice ourselves, our self-love. And not only not to hate others, but how hard it is for me to say this, to love others, even, Lord, enlighten me to say the right thing, we are to love others even to the hatred of self.

Sixth Commandment: In the practical order, what Christ did to the Fifth Commandment, was I believe, the single most demanding condition for being a Christian. That�s a large statement. No wonder some twenty years ago, when I was teaching at a state university in Michigan and I happened just in passing to mention that in the Gospels, the founder of Christianity went way beyond the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue. After class, one of my Jewish students came up to me, �Dr. Hardon, did I understand you correctly? I�m sure I misunderstood you. Did you say that I, as a red blooded American, do wrong by looking at a woman and wanting relations with her?� Said yes.

�Well that�s impossible.�

So I said, �Would you please come to my office?� For the next two years, I counseled this Jew once a week. I use that just to illustrate what the Savior did to the Sixth Commandment. Christ�s teaching on chastity for everyone in every state of life is the main reason, I can prove it, is the main reason why there have been so many schisms and apostasies in the Church. There has never been the founder of any religion, and I�m safe in predicting there never will be, who will make monogamy for the married and control of even one�s willful sexual desires for the unmarried as a condition for salvation. Christ told the Jews, and were they ever staggered when they heard it, quote the Savior, �It has also been said, anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But, [there are six buts, and are they ever terrifying] but I say this to you, everyone who divorces his wife except for the case of fornication makes her an adulteress and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery,� unquote, Jesus. When I talk to my two prospective Jewish converts and I told him this, the man looked down. In the two millennia of the Church�s history, this teaching of Christ has been the single principle reason for whole nations being lost to Catholic unity. That was the main reason for the departure of millions in the thirteenth century. When as they call themselves the orthodox, broke with Rome. Their week bishops gave into the secular princes and allowed the divorced faithful to remarry. The price was ghastly. A whole civilization was torn from the Catholic Church and in 600 years the Catholic Church has not budged. In the sixteenth century the same formula. You can read through Luther�s 67 dreary volumes. I�ve taught for seven years at The Lutheran School of Theology. Puff. There�s only one real reason married Catholics in the sixteenth century wanted to divorce and remarry. Honest? Honest. And then the reformers placed authority over marriage in the hands of the state, where it has been ever since. No wonder our American society has the most unstable family life in the world. But Christ never retracted or even mitigated His teaching on chastity. Chastity for the married, which means fidelity until death, chastity for the unmarried, not even to deliberately, indulge sexual thoughts. And as we�ll see, He did the twice incredible thing of, say He would have followers who would not only remain chaste in marriage by being faithful or chaste outside of marriage by not indulging sexual pleasure, but who would even sacrifice marriage out of love for Him. All of that my friends, is locked up in Christ�s Sixth Commandment.

Seventh Commandment: In His conversation with the rich young man, the Savior identified the Seventh Commandment, again quoting from Deuteronomy, �You must not steal� as one of the conditions for salvation. For then throughout the Gospels, and most dramatically in His prediction (?) of the last judgement, Christ made it plain, that not stealing is not enough. Not only may we not take away what belongs to someone else to enrich ourselves. That is the Seventh Commandment of the Jewish Decalogue. But we, we Christians are to deprive ourselves, steal if you wish, from ourselves. We�ve got a right to it. In order to help others in need. There are few aspects of Christian morality that are more misunderstood than this one. Namely, that the practice of Charity in helping the needy is somehow optional. On the contrary, it is a grave obligation. So grave, that shortly before He died, Christ foretold who would be saved and who would be lost. Those would be saved who would keep His interpretation of the Seventh Commandment. Who, out of love for Him, would deprive themselves to help others in need, and who is in need, my friends, everybody.

Eighth Commandment: As with the preceding, so with the Eighth Commandment. Christ quoted it to the rich young man who asked Him, what he must do to save his soul. Christ said you must not bring false witness. Once again, Christ developed the meaning of this precept as not only forbidding deceit or falsehood but positively prescribing the profession of truth. There are some things you would like to just dwell on, this is one. There are things you pray that the Lord might make clear in my speech and clear in your understanding. This is one. What did Christ mean? As the Church, after nineteen centuries of interpretation of the Eighth Christian Commandment of the Decalogue tell us He meant? He meant several things. First, He told us He is the Truth. Which is the Wisdom of God in human form. He told us that mankind has desperate need to know this Truth which came into the world as the Light so that unquote everyone might believe in Him. Christ further taught that those who believe in this Truth, meaning who believe in Him, must profess Him before others if they wish to be acknowledged by Him in the world to come. Our principle responsibility as Christians is to profess Christ. And finally Christ taught that professing the Truth, which means professing Christ by word whenever we can, by example always. Because the world desperately to know this Truth and believe me, to profess Christ to the world has the heaviest price tag which Christ Himself attached. It is opposition, persecution. And most sadly, maybe from those we most love. All of this since the coming of Christ is now locked up in the Eighth Commandment of the New Law. No longer is it merely a prohibition of untruth, it is the positive, constant and often painful profession of the Truth Whose name is Jesus Christ.

Ninth Commandment: In Catholic moral teaching the Ninth Commandment is commonly associated with the Sixth. It forbids internal sins against chastity and is clearly expressed in Christ�s Sermon on the Mount. Rather remarkably, but yet logically, it was in this context that the Savior taught His uncompromising doctrine on avoiding the occasions of sin. The whole passage deserves quotation. You have learned how it was said you must not commit adultery, but I say this to you. If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it will do you less harm to lose one part of you, than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell, unquote, the gentle Jesus. What are we being told? Several astounding things, each of which is so distinctively Christian and Catholic as almost to identify those who profess the true faith. First, Christ is saying that His precept of chastity not only forbids the external sins of lust, but even deliberate sexual desires outside the sanctity of marriage. The degree of sacrifice that controlling sexual desires requires is common knowledge. Yet Christ could not have been clearer. No wonder, no wonder He told His disciples, enter by the narrow gate since the road to perdition is wide and spacious and many take it. But it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life and only a few find it. The doctors of the Church tell us most of those in hell are because of sins against the sixth and ninth commandment. And let me tell you, no one, and let me repeat no one here is safe. Bishop, priest, religious, lay person. Second implication, Christ is telling us that to practice internal chastity, hear it? Internal chastity of heart demands avoiding occasions of sin. Concretely this means mortification of the senses, especially the eyes and the sense of touch. Fidelity to this precept has never been easy. And in today�s climate of sexual license, it can require moral heroism. We try to get behind Christ�s teaching of the Ninth Commandment. It was in this context that the Savior compared His moral teaching with the philosophy of the world. He quite literally said that we have a simple choice. Either sacrifice sinful sexual gratification in this life or suffer the pains of Hell in the life to come.

Tenth Commandment: As found in the Old Law it forbids covetousness. But Christ stressed the need for internal self -denial as a condition for doing God�s will. The New Testament not only forbids greed but considers it a hindrance to true worship and faith in God. As He tells us, where a man�s treasure is, there is his heart. The one who loves material possessions cannot truly love God. Watch, He tells us, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind. For a man�s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs. I�ve talked to too many religious in thirty-seven years of the priesthood, two thousand, and I tell them, your vow of poverty does not mean merely, oh no, not externally possessing certain things. The essence of poverty is in the heart. I tell religious, by your vow of poverty you not only give up the abundant use or ownership of material goods, you give up the desire for whatever the world calls good. What which you know is incompatible with your consecrated life. Finally beyond anything in the precepts of the Old Law, more than anything that any prophet of Israel ever told the Jews, the Savior of Mankind urged on His followers, all of them, the spirit of poverty. To actually prefer to be without material possessions, well, that�s stupid. That�s madness. Maybe it is. Maybe it is, but not for a follower of Christ. If the infinite God, what verb shall we use about God who owns the universe, what a cheap verb! Yet He became a helpless child and during His public ministry could say, and no one could challenge Him, the Son of Man has not whereon to lay his head. If He was born in a stable, died naked on the cross, and was buried in a strangers tomb, if God as far as language allows us to say this, gave up everything, and we say we love Him, alright, alright, prove it. We are to want to become like Him in giving up not only around us, but inside of us, whatever we can. So that like Jesus we might empty ourselves for Him as He emptied Himself for us.

Dear Savior, You came into the world to do many things. But most fundamentally You came to teach us. You told us I am your teacher. There is no more difficult doctrine You are teaching than how You want Your followers to understand and live the ten commandments. Dear Savior, give us the light to see and the strength to do what you want those who love you to see and to prove by doing. Lord, we love You.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

A Divine Guide for Living

I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.
Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.


 

"YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Meditation; one-pointed focus on God)
God, who is the source of our life, ought to be at the center of our life. We focus on Him whenever we focus on useful service to others, with no thought of personal reward. But "other gods" have a way of diverting our attention. We may worry a lot about what other people think of us; we may believe that we can't function without our morning cup of coffee; we may feel furious when someone scratches our new car. Our worries, our coffee, our new car -- these are some examples of things that can become "idols" and "other gods," especially when we place them on the altar of our minds, giving them central attention. When we find ourselves dwelling on our own concerns, apart from the commandments of God and the needs of our neighbor, we may well be committing idolatry -- worshipping other gods. In this commandment we are reminded to keep our focus on our heavenly Father, meditating on His Word, and living according to His commandments.

TASK:
Identify the "idols" in your life. Make a list. (Note: it is suggested that for this and all subsequent tasks you carry a notebook in your pocket or purse. Our most important insights often come at the most unexpected moments.)

Our Father who art in heaven. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN..."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-critical self-examination)
Love and Wisdom are the essential qualities of God. We receive the Divine Love as affection towards the neighbor. It is a continuous inflowing desire to wish the neighbor well and to help him whenever we can. The Divine Wisdom comes to us as a desire to understand spiritual truth and to live according to it. These Divine Qualities -- Love and Wisdom -- are what is meant by the scriptural phrase "the name of the Lord." When God came to earth to reveal His essential nature to us, He took a name which stands for both His Divine Love ("Jesus" means "Saviour"), and His Divine Wisdom ("Christ" means "Anointed one," or "King"). We are saved by His Divine Love, and governed by His Divine Wisdom. But we sometimes take these tremendous blessings in vain. For example, He gives us the gift of forgiveness, and we tend to be unforgiving. He gives us the gift of patience and we tend to be anxious. He gives us perceptions of Divine truth, but we stick to our rigid opinions. When the cashier seems to take forever to ring up our items, we feel irritated and the thought comes in, "She should be fired." In refusing to extend mercy and understanding, we take the Lord's name in vain.

TASK:
Observe how you take the Lord's name in vain (by not using what He gives you). Do this by non-critical observation of your thoughts and feelings.

. . . hallowed be Thy name.


 

"REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Prayer)
"Sabbath" is a Hebrew word which means "rest." We rest in the Lord whenever we trust in Him, confident that He provides all things. We may still experience conflict and loss on the plane of natural life, but we can rest in full confidence that there is perpetual peace in the Lord, even amidst the storms of life. The "Sabbath" is not so much a day of the week as it is a state of mind. It is prayer to the Lord, acknowledging that the battle is His, and that He is in total control. Then He gives us His power to do our part. In hurrying to complete a project the thought comes in, "I'll never finish this project on time. I'm so nervous I can't even think straight." But we turn to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to grant us the Sabbath state of peace: "O, Lord, lead me beside the still waters. Calm my restless mind. Grant me Thy peace." (Note: for more on this subject see the commandment against coveting.)

TASK:
Observe anxious and restless thoughts and feelings in yourself. Then pray for the Sabbath of inner peace.

Thy Kingdom Come...


 

"HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Openness; teachability; willingness to be led)
Our "father" in the highest sense is our heavenly Father. We honor Him most when we read, listen to, and meditate on His Divine teachings and then seek to use them in our lives. Our "mother" represents all those people and organizations which receive what the Lord gives directly and pass it on to others. Our "mother" is the church, our local support group, our family and friends, and the many fine books -- all of which provide useful information about the Lord, and nurture us on our spiritual journeys. We honor our mother by utilizing these indirect avenues of the Lord's nurture and care for us. As a result we honor God who is with us directly through the heavenly teachings of His Word (the "Father"), and indirectly through the earthly care of others (the "mother").

TASK:
Be open to receive positive influences -- directly from the Lord through reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture, and indirectly through the care and insights of others.

Thy will be done, on the earth as it is in heaven,


 


"YOU SHALL NOT Kill."
(Spiritual Skill: Love for enemies)
When Jesus deepened this commandment, He taught that we can murder others by our cutting comments and ridicule. He warned us not to hate our brother, but rather to love one another. When He gave bread to His disciples, it was a symbol of the love He was extending to all mankind. He said, "I am the bread which cometh down from heaven" (John 6:33). He came to give the gift of love in place of hatred; to give the gift of life in place of death. He called us to examine our thoughts and our words, and to avoid saying anything critical about others. "Whoever says 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22). You have just been cut off on the turnpike, and the thought comes in, "I can't believe it! What an idiot!" But then you ask the Lord for a more loving attitude, and the thought comes "Oh, well, maybe he needs to be somewhere in a hurry."

TASK:
Observe, but do not express your critical thoughts. When a critical thought comes up, ask the Lord for a more loving attitude.

Give us this day our daily bread...


 


"YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY."
(Spiritual Skill: Forgiveness)
When we begin to understand the Sacred Symbolism of the Word, we perceive that each of us is invited to a Divine Marriage in which God is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. This marriage is consummated when we first begin to accept His seeds of truth. But if we turn away from Him, we are like a married woman who runs off to play the harlot. This can happen to us whenever we succumb to the allurement of negative emotions. Every negative emotion has its own set of delights, and we can be seduced by them. For example, you may feel the delight of self-pity setting in. You may be tempted to embrace it, and to wallow in the self-importance of sorrow. You may feel unforgiving towards someone who has hurt you terribly, and you feel a certain hardness of heart. But the Lord calls out to you, asking you not to commit adultery with these negative emotions. "Return to Me," He says. "Return to Me . . . for I am married to you" (Jeremiah 3: 7,14). In this commandment we are called to return to the Lord, to refuse to submit to the allurement of negative emotions -- hard- heartedness, self-pity, revenge --and once again receive the seeds of mercy and truth that He gives to us.

TASK:
Notice the allurement of a negative emotion, but do not succumb to it's embrace If it involves another person, If it involves another person, try to counter it by seeing a similar tendency in yourself.

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..


 

"YOU SHALL NOT STEAL."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-attribution of merit or blame / pride or guilt)
To "steal" is to take what does not belong to us. It is the temptation to become prideful about our accomplishments and guilt-ridden about our failures. Ancient wisdom has always taught that we are not to claim merit for the good we do; nor are we to condemn ourselves for our mistakes. If we do, we are attributing to ourselves that which is not really ours. This is because all good flows in from God, and all evil flows in from hell.

Though it may feel like we are the origin of good and evil, this is an illusion. The reality is that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. We are recipient vessels, given free will to choose what we will dwell on and what we will allow to just pass through. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man" (Matthew 15:11).

This commandment against stealing cautions us not to attribute thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Rather, we are to give glory to God for all the holy thoughts and feelings He gives us. Similarly, we need to observe the unholy thoughts and feelings that come our way and let them pass through, without attributing them to ourselves. We must not take credit or blame for that which does not belong to us.

TASK:
Observe the thoughts and feelings that come to you and notice the temptation to attribute them to yourself. Separate yourself from the negative ones, and thank the Lord for the positive ones.

Lead us not into temptation. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR."
(Spiritual Skill: Refuting false ideas)
When we report an event as we have seen it, or heard it, it is called our "witness." The witness we give ought to be true and accurate. Many of us have experienced the destruction that half-truths and distortions of the truth can bring to human relationships. That is why those who take the witness stand are asked to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They must not bear false witness against their neighbor.

At the level of our inner spiritual world, we discover that there are unseen spiritual forces that continually bear false witness to reality. They suggest that God is absent, when the truth is that He is inmostly present. They suggest that success is based upon the accumulation of worldly goods, while Scripture teaches us to "Seek first the kingdom of God."

In this commandment we are told to refute the false ideas that come to us. We are to refute the justifications and rationalizations that prevent us from doing what we know is right. For example, we may feel a heavenly impulse to forgive an old enemy, when suddenly a barrage of false witnesses appear to argue and defend our original hard-heartedness. "You have every right" they say. They might even quote from the Word. They are clever, but evil. We must refute their false witness.

TASK:
Set yourself a physical task like reading the Word, or exercising, or writing a friendly letter to someone you have difficulty with. Observe the rationalizations that flow in to prevent you from doing the task, and refute them with an appropriate passage from Sacred Scripture. (See Matthew 4:1-11 for an example.)

but deliver us from evil.


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE"
(Spiritual Skill: Trust in God)
The commandment against coveting calls us to overcome anxious desire with trust in God. We are to develop the ability to accept circumstances as they come to us, trusting that whatever happens is vital material for our spiritual development and eternal happiness. The rain may not fall on our garden, and the sun may not shine on our parade, but we are to trust that God is in total control of all circumstances, and He gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

TASK

Accept all circumstances (whether you perceive them as good or bad) as opportunities to do inner work.

For yours is the Kingdom...


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S WIFE, NOR HIS MANSERVANT, NOR HIS MAIDSERVANT, NOR HIS OX, NOR HIS DONKEY..."
(Spiritual Skill: Giving up the desire to control others)
The first part of this commandment deals with inordinate longings to possess the things of this world, and to have circumstances turn out in our favor. But this second part of the commandment against coveting takes us into a type of longing that is the most evil of all, and is at the root of all other evils. It is the inordinate desire to satisfy our self-love by controlling, manipulating, and dominating other people.

There are many forms of domination -- some obvious and some not so obvious. For example a person may whine, or complain, or use the "silent treatment" until the other person gives in. Whenever we attempt to impose our will over the will of others - either by direct force or in subtle ways - we are dominating over others, trying to overpower them. Inevitably, when people strive to assert their own will, rather than seek the Lord's will, there will be a power struggle. It is true, of course, that certain forms of external behavior must be controlled: traffic violations, thefts, murders, etc. Also, parents must discipline their children. But such power must not be abused. And, above all, no one should try to control what another person thinks or believes.

Even the Lord, who has all power, refuses to use His power to compel people to believe in Him. Although His dominion is over all, He never dominates. He never forces or manipulates. He leads us gently -- as quickly or as slowly as we are willing to go.

TASK:
As you give up the desire to control others, notice the wiser and more loving attitudes which flow in from the Lord.

the power and the glory, forever.
Amen.


The Laws of Nature and Morality

Among the innumerable ethical laws and rules that regulate human behavior the most concise, clear and important are the Ten commandments. Although they were written many thousands of years ago when social conditions were drastically different from ours, their importance and authority has not diminished. To the contrary, the more our lives are entangled with contradictory opinions about what is right and what is wrong, the more we need the clear and unambiguous guidance of our Creator and Law-Giver.

Morally sensitive people have always regarded God's commandments with great esteem and considered them to be an inexhaustible source of wisdom and inspiration. "Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies ... Great peace have those who love Thy law, and nothing causes them to stumble," we read in the book of Psalms (Excerpts from Psalm 119:1, 77, 97, 98, 165). For a believing Christian the commandments of God can be likened to a bright star which guides him to the Kingdom of Heaven.

When comparing the commandments of God to the laws of nature, we can discern some interesting similarities and differences. For instance, they both originate from the same Divine Source and complement each other, with one set of rules regulating physical events and the other set governing the behavior of moral beings. The difference lies in that, while the laws of nature are compulsory, the moral laws appeal to the will of a free and intelligent spirit. In endowing us with the freedom of choice God has elevated us above all other creatures. This moral freedom gives us an opportunity to grow spiritually, perfect ourselves and even to become like our Creator. On the other hand this freedom places on us great responsibility and may become dangerous and destructive if misused.

A conscious violation of God's commandments leads moral beings (angels and humans) to moral degeneration, spiritual bondage, suffering and even to complete social destruction. Thus, for example, even before God created our visible world, a great tragedy occurred among the angels when one of them, the proud Lucifer, rebelled against his Creator and incited other angels to disobedience. Then many angels left their heavenly abodes to establish their own kingdom. After this Lucifer became known as Satan and his angels demons, and their kingdom, now called hell, became a place of eternal darkness and suffering.

Another tragedy occurred in the life of mankind when our ancestors Adam and Eve violated God's commandment regarding the tree of knowledge. Because of their transgression, human nature became sinful, and the life of their descendants became filled with crime, suffering and misfortune. Catastrophes of a lesser degree belong to the deluge during Noah's time, the devastation of the perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorra, the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea, and the fall of many ancient empires. Historians strive to find external causes which contributed to these calamities, but the Bible reveals to us that the ultimate cause was in the moral degradation of the people. Comparing further the laws of nature with the commandments of God, it must be said that the former are temporary and conditional because they are bound to this transient physical world. Moral laws, on the other hand, are eternal because they reflect the perfection of the Creator, who is eternal and unchanging.


Historical Circumstances of the Ten Commandments

The reception of the Ten commandments is one of the most significant events of the Old Testament. With this event is connected the very formation of the Jewish nation and the beginning of the covenant with God that ultimately led to the creation of the New Testament. Before the reception of the Ten commandments there lived in Egypt an obscure and illiterate Semitic tribe, enslaved to build cities and monuments for the pharaohs; after it there arose a great nation called upon to serve God and to spread among other nations the true faith in Him and salvation in His Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The circumstances surrounding the receipt of the Ten commandments are related in the book of Exodus (chapters 19-20 and 24). In approximately 1500 B.C., following the great miracles performed by Moses in Egypt, the pharaoh was compelled to free from slavery the Hebrew people. Led by Moses, the Hebrews miraculously crossed the Red Sea and went south across the desert of the Sinai peninsula, setting their course towards the promised land. On the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews arrived at the foothills of Mount Sinai and encamped nearby. As Moses ascended the mountain, God appeared to him and said, "Thus you shall tell the children of Israel: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My Covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'" When Moses repeated to the people what God just said to him, they answered, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do" (Exodus 19:5-8).

Then the Lord instructed Moses to prepare the people for the receipt of the commandments by abstinence, fasting and praying. Moses again ascended to Mount Sinai. On the third day, as a dense cloud covered the mountain, it started shaking. After this, bright lightning flashed, thunder roared and the loud sound of trumpets was heard. All the people from far away observed these events with trepidation.

It was during this awesome appearance that the Lord proclaimed to Moses His Ten commandments and inscribed them on two stone tablets. After descending from the mountain, Moses gave these commandments to the people, and they promised to observe them because they all witnessed the glory and power of God. Then the covenant between God and the Hebrews was established: the Lord promised the Hebrews His mercies and protection, and they in turn promised to Him that they would live righteously. Moses once more ascended the mountain, remaining there for forty days while fasting and praying. Here the Lord gave Moses other laws, both ecclesiastical and laic, and commanded him to erect a transportable temple-tent, and gave him maxims regarding priestly service and sacrificial offerings. The two stone tablets with the commandments were placed in the "Ark of the Covenant" (a gilded chest depicting cherubim on the lid) as an everlasting reminder of the covenant between God and the Israelite people.

Comment: The whereabouts of these stone tablets is unknown. In the 2nd chapter of the second book of Maccabees it is mentioned that during the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C. the prophet Jeremiah hid the stone tablets as well as some other belongings of the temple in a cave on Mount Nebo. This mountain is within twenty kilometers to the east of where of the mouth of river Jordan on the Dead Sea. Just before the entry of the Israelites into the promised land (about 1400 years B.C.) the prophet Moses was buried on this same mountain. Repeated attempts to find these stone tablets with the Ten commandments have been in vain so far.

Here is the text of the Ten commandments: (Note that between the Ten commandments presented in the book of Exodus 20:1-17 and the book of Deuteronomy 5:6-21) there is an insignificant difference with brief comments added to them. These little amplifications are omitted here.

1. I am the Lord your God ... thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2. Thou shalt not make for thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his field ... nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

During the subsequent forty-year-long journey through the desert, Moses gradually recorded what God was revealing to him as well as many historical events in the life of the Jewish nation. Ultimately these writings formed the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The Significance of the Ten Commandments

The Old Testament books contain many laws which regulated not only the religious life of the Hebrews but their civil life also. With the beginning of the New Testament, the majority of these civil laws as well as many religious rituals had lost their significance and were discarded by the Apostles at their council in Jerusalem (see Acts chapter 15). However, the Ten commandments, which contain the most fundamental principles of moral life, without which the very existence of human society becomes impossible, were retained and even reinforced in the New Testament. It was because of such importance and inviolability that the Ten commandments were written not on paper or some other perishable material but on stone.

As we shall see, the Ten commandments follow a specific plan. They start with the most important and obvious and go to the less important and less obvious. The first four define duties towards God, while the following five define duties towards other people. The last commandment speaks of controlling one's thoughts and desires.

Some similarities can be found between the Ten commandments and laws of ancient nations that inhabited the northwestern part of Mesopotamia (well-known laws of the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (2050 B.C.), the Amorite king Bilalam, the Sumer-Akkadian ruler Lirit-Ishtar, the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1800 B.C.), and the Assyrian and Hittite laws composed around 1500 B.C. ). These similarities and common elements between the God-revealed and natural laws are due to the fact that the moral law is ingrained by God into the human soul, so human beings, even when they don't know God, have a good natural feeling of what is right and what is wrong. If our nature were not corrupted by primordial sin, it is most likely that just the voice of conscience would be sufficient to regulate our personal and social life.

The Ten commandments express moral duties in a minimal and most general form, thus allowing maximum freedom in the arrangement of one's life's affairs. They are aimed at setting those boundaries which, when transpassed, can damage family and community life. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sermons often referred to the Ten commandments and explained their deep spiritual meaning. We now shall turn our attention to each commandment successively and comment on them in the light of the New Testament.


A Royal Law of Love
 

 Can You find a proven source for lasting standards and values? God revealed the heart of His standards�the Ten Commandments�long ago at Mount Sinai. But what sets them apart from man-made rules and guidelines? What do they reveal about nature of God Himself. In this booklet you'll discover the answers to these questions and more.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Jesus Christ founded the Christian faith on the principle of love�Christians wholeheartedly loving God and each other. John, one of Christ's disciples and closest friends, penned these words near the end of his life: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16, emphasis added throughout unless otherwise noted).

But what is love?

Ask your friends to explain it to you. See whether they all portray it the same way. Will they describe it as a feeling? Or will they define it as deeply caring for others but leave you to figure out what "caring" means? How many will equate love with some form of sexual attraction?

It quickly becomes clear that the word love doesn't always mean the same thing. One person may say, "I love ice cream," simply meaning he enjoys it. Another will say, "Oh, I love your outfit," meaning she admires�or desires�the clothing you are wearing.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could use a consistent definition of love, especially when we are speaking about the love God has for us and the love we should have for each other?

Sadly, such consistency is lacking in the world. Most people will acknowledge that love, or at least some degree of respect, is essential for personal relationships. A great deal of caution is in order as we consider the definitions of love. Some are so vague they excuse almost any type of behavior. At times, love is merely a code word to encourage the acceptance of unconventional, destructive patterns of conduct.

Many religious people embrace the idea of loving others as themselves but remain blissfully unaware of how the Bible defines love. As a result, they do not understand the necessity of putting into practice the biblical principles that determine the success or failure of their relationships.

The Ten Commandments define love

For love to be meaningful it must be accurately defined and understood. That is the purpose of God's law, especially the Ten Commandments.

Do you know the ultimate purpose of God's law? Jesus Christ defined the purpose of God's law as teaching us how to apply the two great principles of loving God and loving each other. He made this clear when someone asked Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" How did Jesus respond? "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:35-40).

With our explosive increase in knowledge, why is it that so few understand this fundamental biblical truth? Why can't everyone grasp that "all the Law and the Prophets," those scriptures we know as the Old Testament, first teach us the right way to love, then vividly depict the problems and penalties that arise from a lack of love? Why do so many people believe that godly love is taught only in the New Testament?

Love in the Old Testament

Love is the centerpiece of all the Scriptures, of both the Old and the New Testaments. Amazingly to most people, it is in the Old Testament that we first find the instruction to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

It is there also that Moses wrote, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Every commandment of God is for our good. Did you notice in the preceding passage that obeying God's commandments and practicing love are irrevocably linked together in God's eyes? This is because the commandments define the love that is the foundation for all godly relationships.

Love simply summarizes the intent of the Ten Commandments. Paul wrote: "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet'; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Romans 13:9, New Revised Standard Version).

God's love for mankind

From the beginning, God's interaction with human beings has been motivated by His love for us. As Jesus said: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

God wants us all to live forever�to attain eternal life. But first we must learn how to get along with each other, how to love one another. That is why love is so important.

Peace and harmony are impossible without respect and love. If God were to grant us eternal life without teaching us how to love each other, He would be committing us to live forever in confusion and chaos.

God will not allow the present resentments, jealousies, hostilities and selfish desires of human nature to carry forward into eternity. We must learn the real meaning of love or we cannot receive eternal life. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren," wrote the apostle John. "He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:14-15).

So we come again to the question: What is love? John gives us the answer. "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments . . ." (2 John 1:6).

The apostle Paul tells us that "love is the fulfilling of the law"

Another biblical writer, James, shows us clearly that God's royal law of love specifically includes the Ten Commandments. "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said [in the Ten Commandments], 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:8-11).

What is sin?

Notice how the Bible defines sin: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Or, as the King James Version puts it, "sin is the transgression of the law." According to the Bible, sin is simply breaking any of God's commandments.

How does sin affect one's relationship with Jesus Christ? "But you know that [Jesus Christ] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:5-6, New International Version).

Sobering statements, indeed.

John continues, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother" (verse 10, NIV).

How do we know that we know God and can have a right relationship with Him? "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:4-6, NIV).

How did Jesus walk? He told us, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).

"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (John 12:49-50, NIV).

In Jesus Christ's own words, "abiding in"�or maintaining the practice of�godly love is accomplished by keeping the commandments of God. His example teaches us that obedience and godly love are inseparable. Sin is simply violating love by transgressing the commandments of God. Sin is lawlessness�neglecting or refusing to be bound by God's rules that define true, godly love.

Law and liberty

God does not give us the liberty to behave any way we please. Though the Bible portrays God's law as a law of liberty, it plainly defines liberty as freedom from sin and its devastating consequences, not freedom to satiate selfish desires.

Our sins inflict upon us horrible penalties. Decrying the sinfulness of mankind, Paul wrote, "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:16-17). He compares the effects of sin to slavery�the opposite of liberty. "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" (Romans 6:20-21, NIV).

Sin, the transgression of God's law, not only enslaves us but, if continued, makes it impossible for us to receive eternal life (Matthew 19:17). That is why James tells us, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:12). God's commandments set the fundamental standard by which He will judge us.

Only when we repent, by ceasing to transgress God's law, can we be liberated from sin's consequences through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which alone can cleanse us from our sins (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:7). Paul explains that this true freedom from the bondage of sin is available only to those who sincerely obey God's instruction. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Romans 6:17).

John ties it all together, explaining that obeying God's commandments is putting into practice the love of God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Instead of being an encumbrance, the commandments of God light the path to godly love and liberty. This truth is poignantly illustrated in Psalm 119:98-105: "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

No wonder Jesus reminded us, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Ten Commandments are the backbone of all the inspired words of God. Paul tells us, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything" (1 Corinthians 7:19, NRSV).

A guide to conduct

If you think of the Bible as a guidebook for human behavior, the Ten Commandments serve as the main headings in its table of contents. By themselves, the commandments do not tell the whole story, but they clearly summarize it.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). By "fulfill," He meant that His teachings would fill out or expand the application of the commandments of God. The Greek word pleroo, which is translated "fulfill," means "to make full, to fill to the full" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Fill"). Other appropriate phrases for pleroo in this context are "to fill to the brim," "to level up," "to make replete."

Jesus Christ emphasized to His disciples that His mission and purpose was to add to or fill to the full the intended meaning of the Ten Commandments�not to annul or take away from them. To make this point, in this same passage He affirms some specific commandments and then greatly expands their application.

He first focuses on the commandment forbidding murder. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (verses 21-22).

Jesus Christ showed that the principle embodied in this commandment goes far beyond the taking of human life. It includes the destructive effects of anger and bitterness. Christ explained that condemning and hating someone in our hearts could prevent us from inheriting eternal life. In other words, Jesus showed that His teachings amplify and explain the required behavior summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Relationships and the Ten Commandments

When Jesus explained that everything written in "the Law and the Prophets" falls under the two major headings of love for God and love for neighbor, He was emphasizing the importance of relationships (Matthew 22:35-40). He was telling us that every command of God defines an aspect of the exemplary relationships we should have with each other or with Him.

When we look closely at the Ten Commandments, we see that the first four define how to relate to God�how to show proper love and respect for our Maker. The other six define the essentials for right relationships with each other. This is fundamental to understanding God's laws and their importance.

They are not mere regulations or rituals. Those who cast them in this light misunderstand God's intent and purpose in giving us His law.

God plainly tells us that all of His commandments are for our good. They have a purpose. They are to be a blessing and benefit to humankind. They define the relationships that produce respect, cooperation and stability within any society that fully understands and applies them.

 


 

"YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Meditation; one-pointed focus on God)
God, who is the source of our life, ought to be at the center of our life. We focus on Him whenever we focus on useful service to others, with no thought of personal reward. But "other gods" have a way of diverting our attention. We may worry a lot about what other people think of us; we may believe that we can't function without our morning cup of coffee; we may feel furious when someone scratches our new car. Our worries, our coffee, our new car -- these are some examples of things that can become "idols" and "other gods," especially when we place them on the altar of our minds, giving them central attention. When we find ourselves dwelling on our own concerns, apart from the commandments of God and the needs of our neighbor, we may well be committing idolatry -- worshipping other gods. In this commandment we are reminded to keep our focus on our heavenly Father, meditating on His Word, and living according to His commandments.

TASK:
Identify the "idols" in your life. Make a list. (Note: it is suggested that for this and all subsequent tasks you carry a notebook in your pocket or purse. Our most important insights often come at the most unexpected moments.)

Our Father who art in heaven. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN..."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-critical self-examination)
Love and Wisdom are the essential qualities of God. We receive the Divine Love as affection towards the neighbor. It is a continuous inflowing desire to wish the neighbor well and to help him whenever we can. The Divine Wisdom comes to us as a desire to understand spiritual truth and to live according to it. These Divine Qualities -- Love and Wisdom -- are what is meant by the scriptural phrase "the name of the Lord." When God came to earth to reveal His essential nature to us, He took a name which stands for both His Divine Love ("Jesus" means "Saviour"), and His Divine Wisdom ("Christ" means "Anointed one," or "King"). We are saved by His Divine Love, and governed by His Divine Wisdom. But we sometimes take these tremendous blessings in vain. For example, He gives us the gift of forgiveness, and we tend to be unforgiving. He gives us the gift of patience and we tend to be anxious. He gives us perceptions of Divine truth, but we stick to our rigid opinions. When the cashier seems to take forever to ring up our items, we feel irritated and the thought comes in, "She should be fired." In refusing to extend mercy and understanding, we take the Lord's name in vain.

TASK:
Observe how you take the Lord's name in vain (by not using what He gives you). Do this by non-critical observation of your thoughts and feelings.

. . . hallowed be Thy name.


 

"REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Prayer)
"Sabbath" is a Hebrew word which means "rest." We rest in the Lord whenever we trust in Him, confident that He provides all things. We may still experience conflict and loss on the plane of natural life, but we can rest in full confidence that there is perpetual peace in the Lord, even amidst the storms of life. The "Sabbath" is not so much a day of the week as it is a state of mind. It is prayer to the Lord, acknowledging that the battle is His, and that He is in total control. Then He gives us His power to do our part. In hurrying to complete a project the thought comes in, "I'll never finish this project on time. I'm so nervous I can't even think straight." But we turn to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to grant us the Sabbath state of peace: "O, Lord, lead me beside the still waters. Calm my restless mind. Grant me Thy peace." (Note: for more on this subject see the commandment against coveting.)

TASK:
Observe anxious and restless thoughts and feelings in yourself. Then pray for the Sabbath of inner peace.

Thy Kingdom Come...


 

"HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Openness; teachability; willingness to be led)
Our "father" in the highest sense is our heavenly Father. We honor Him most when we read, listen to, and meditate on His Divine teachings and then seek to use them in our lives. Our "mother" represents all those people and organizations which receive what the Lord gives directly and pass it on to others. Our "mother" is the church, our local support group, our family and friends, and the many fine books -- all of which provide useful information about the Lord, and nurture us on our spiritual journeys. We honor our mother by utilizing these indirect avenues of the Lord's nurture and care for us. As a result we honor God who is with us directly through the heavenly teachings of His Word (the "Father"), and indirectly through the earthly care of others (the "mother").

TASK:
Be open to receive positive influences -- directly from the Lord through reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture, and indirectly through the care and insights of others.

Thy will be done, on the earth as it is in heaven,


 


"YOU SHALL NOT Kill."
(Spiritual Skill: Love for enemies)
When Jesus deepened this commandment, He taught that we can murder others by our cutting comments and ridicule. He warned us not to hate our brother, but rather to love one another. When He gave bread to His disciples, it was a symbol of the love He was extending to all mankind. He said, "I am the bread which cometh down from heaven" (John 6:33). He came to give the gift of love in place of hatred; to give the gift of life in place of death. He called us to examine our thoughts and our words, and to avoid saying anything critical about others. "Whoever says 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22). You have just been cut off on the turnpike, and the thought comes in, "I can't believe it! What an idiot!" But then you ask the Lord for a more loving attitude, and the thought comes "Oh, well, maybe he needs to be somewhere in a hurry."

TASK:
Observe, but do not express your critical thoughts. When a critical thought comes up, ask the Lord for a more loving attitude.

Give us this day our daily bread...


 


"YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY."
(Spiritual Skill: Forgiveness)
When we begin to understand the Sacred Symbolism of the Word, we perceive that each of us is invited to a Divine Marriage in which God is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. This marriage is consummated when we first begin to accept His seeds of truth. But if we turn away from Him, we are like a married woman who runs off to play the harlot. This can happen to us whenever we succumb to the allurement of negative emotions. Every negative emotion has its own set of delights, and we can be seduced by them. For example, you may feel the delight of self-pity setting in. You may be tempted to embrace it, and to wallow in the self-importance of sorrow. You may feel unforgiving towards someone who has hurt you terribly, and you feel a certain hardness of heart. But the Lord calls out to you, asking you not to commit adultery with these negative emotions. "Return to Me," He says. "Return to Me . . . for I am married to you" (Jeremiah 3: 7,14). In this commandment we are called to return to the Lord, to refuse to submit to the allurement of negative emotions -- hard- heartedness, self-pity, revenge --and once again receive the seeds of mercy and truth that He gives to us.

TASK:
Notice the allurement of a negative emotion, but do not succumb to it's embrace If it involves another person, If it involves another person, try to counter it by seeing a similar tendency in yourself.

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..


 

"YOU SHALL NOT STEAL."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-attribution of merit or blame / pride or guilt)
To "steal" is to take what does not belong to us. It is the temptation to become prideful about our accomplishments and guilt-ridden about our failures. Ancient wisdom has always taught that we are not to claim merit for the good we do; nor are we to condemn ourselves for our mistakes. If we do, we are attributing to ourselves that which is not really ours. This is because all good flows in from God, and all evil flows in from hell.

Though it may feel like we are the origin of good and evil, this is an illusion. The reality is that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. We are recipient vessels, given free will to choose what we will dwell on and what we will allow to just pass through. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man" (Matthew 15:11).

This commandment against stealing cautions us not to attribute thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Rather, we are to give glory to God for all the holy thoughts and feelings He gives us. Similarly, we need to observe the unholy thoughts and feelings that come our way and let them pass through, without attributing them to ourselves. We must not take credit or blame for that which does not belong to us.

TASK:
Observe the thoughts and feelings that come to you and notice the temptation to attribute them to yourself. Separate yourself from the negative ones, and thank the Lord for the positive ones.

Lead us not into temptation. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR."
(Spiritual Skill: Refuting false ideas)
When we report an event as we have seen it, or heard it, it is called our "witness." The witness we give ought to be true and accurate. Many of us have experienced the destruction that half-truths and distortions of the truth can bring to human relationships. That is why those who take the witness stand are asked to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They must not bear false witness against their neighbor.

At the level of our inner spiritual world, we discover that there are unseen spiritual forces that continually bear false witness to reality. They suggest that God is absent, when the truth is that He is inmostly present. They suggest that success is based upon the accumulation of worldly goods, while Scripture teaches us to "Seek first the kingdom of God."

In this commandment we are told to refute the false ideas that come to us. We are to refute the justifications and rationalizations that prevent us from doing what we know is right. For example, we may feel a heavenly impulse to forgive an old enemy, when suddenly a barrage of false witnesses appear to argue and defend our original hard-heartedness. "You have every right" they say. They might even quote from the Word. They are clever, but evil. We must refute their false witness.

TASK:
Set yourself a physical task like reading the Word, or exercising, or writing a friendly letter to someone you have difficulty with. Observe the rationalizations that flow in to prevent you from doing the task, and refute them with an appropriate passage from Sacred Scripture. (See Matthew 4:1-11 for an example.)

but deliver us from evil.


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE"
(Spiritual Skill: Trust in God)
The commandment against coveting calls us to overcome anxious desire with trust in God. We are to develop the ability to accept circumstances as they come to us, trusting that whatever happens is vital material for our spiritual development and eternal happiness. The rain may not fall on our garden, and the sun may not shine on our parade, but we are to trust that God is in total control of all circumstances, and He gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

TASK

Accept all circumstances (whether you perceive them as good or bad) as opportunities to do inner work.

For yours is the Kingdom...


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S WIFE, NOR HIS MANSERVANT, NOR HIS MAIDSERVANT, NOR HIS OX, NOR HIS DONKEY..."
(Spiritual Skill: Giving up the desire to control others)
The first part of this commandment deals with inordinate longings to possess the things of this world, and to have circumstances turn out in our favor. But this second part of the commandment against coveting takes us into a type of longing that is the most evil of all, and is at the root of all other evils. It is the inordinate desire to satisfy our self-love by controlling, manipulating, and dominating other people.

There are many forms of domination -- some obvious and some not so obvious. For example a person may whine, or complain, or use the "silent treatment" until the other person gives in. Whenever we attempt to impose our will over the will of others - either by direct force or in subtle ways - we are dominating over others, trying to overpower them. Inevitably, when people strive to assert their own will, rather than seek the Lord's will, there will be a power struggle. It is true, of course, that certain forms of external behavior must be controlled: traffic violations, thefts, murders, etc. Also, parents must discipline their children. But such power must not be abused. And, above all, no one should try to control what another person thinks or believes.

Even the Lord, who has all power, refuses to use His power to compel people to believe in Him. Although His dominion is over all, He never dominates. He never forces or manipulates. He leads us gently -- as quickly or as slowly as we are willing to go.

TASK:
As you give up the desire to control others, notice the wiser and more loving attitudes which flow in from the Lord.

the power and the glory, forever.
Amen.


The Laws of Nature and Morality

Among the innumerable ethical laws and rules that regulate human behavior the most concise, clear and important are the Ten commandments. Although they were written many thousands of years ago when social conditions were drastically different from ours, their importance and authority has not diminished. To the contrary, the more our lives are entangled with contradictory opinions about what is right and what is wrong, the more we need the clear and unambiguous guidance of our Creator and Law-Giver.

Morally sensitive people have always regarded God's commandments with great esteem and considered them to be an inexhaustible source of wisdom and inspiration. "Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies ... Great peace have those who love Thy law, and nothing causes them to stumble," we read in the book of Psalms (Excerpts from Psalm 119:1, 77, 97, 98, 165). For a believing Christian the commandments of God can be likened to a bright star which guides him to the Kingdom of Heaven.

When comparing the commandments of God to the laws of nature, we can discern some interesting similarities and differences. For instance, they both originate from the same Divine Source and complement each other, with one set of rules regulating physical events and the other set governing the behavior of moral beings. The difference lies in that, while the laws of nature are compulsory, the moral laws appeal to the will of a free and intelligent spirit. In endowing us with the freedom of choice God has elevated us above all other creatures. This moral freedom gives us an opportunity to grow spiritually, perfect ourselves and even to become like our Creator. On the other hand this freedom places on us great responsibility and may become dangerous and destructive if misused.

A conscious violation of God's commandments leads moral beings (angels and humans) to moral degeneration, spiritual bondage, suffering and even to complete social destruction. Thus, for example, even before God created our visible world, a great tragedy occurred among the angels when one of them, the proud Lucifer, rebelled against his Creator and incited other angels to disobedience. Then many angels left their heavenly abodes to establish their own kingdom. After this Lucifer became known as Satan and his angels demons, and their kingdom, now called hell, became a place of eternal darkness and suffering.

Another tragedy occurred in the life of mankind when our ancestors Adam and Eve violated God's commandment regarding the tree of knowledge. Because of their transgression, human nature became sinful, and the life of their descendants became filled with crime, suffering and misfortune. Catastrophes of a lesser degree belong to the deluge during Noah's time, the devastation of the perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorra, the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea, and the fall of many ancient empires. Historians strive to find external causes which contributed to these calamities, but the Bible reveals to us that the ultimate cause was in the moral degradation of the people. Comparing further the laws of nature with the commandments of God, it must be said that the former are temporary and conditional because they are bound to this transient physical world. Moral laws, on the other hand, are eternal because they reflect the perfection of the Creator, who is eternal and unchanging.


Historical Circumstances of the Ten Commandments

The reception of the Ten commandments is one of the most significant events of the Old Testament. With this event is connected the very formation of the Jewish nation and the beginning of the covenant with God that ultimately led to the creation of the New Testament. Before the reception of the Ten commandments there lived in Egypt an obscure and illiterate Semitic tribe, enslaved to build cities and monuments for the pharaohs; after it there arose a great nation called upon to serve God and to spread among other nations the true faith in Him and salvation in His Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The circumstances surrounding the receipt of the Ten commandments are related in the book of Exodus (chapters 19-20 and 24). In approximately 1500 B.C., following the great miracles performed by Moses in Egypt, the pharaoh was compelled to free from slavery the Hebrew people. Led by Moses, the Hebrews miraculously crossed the Red Sea and went south across the desert of the Sinai peninsula, setting their course towards the promised land. On the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews arrived at the foothills of Mount Sinai and encamped nearby. As Moses ascended the mountain, God appeared to him and said, "Thus you shall tell the children of Israel: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My Covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'" When Moses repeated to the people what God just said to him, they answered, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do" (Exodus 19:5-8).

Then the Lord instructed Moses to prepare the people for the receipt of the commandments by abstinence, fasting and praying. Moses again ascended to Mount Sinai. On the third day, as a dense cloud covered the mountain, it started shaking. After this, bright lightning flashed, thunder roared and the loud sound of trumpets was heard. All the people from far away observed these events with trepidation.

It was during this awesome appearance that the Lord proclaimed to Moses His Ten commandments and inscribed them on two stone tablets. After descending from the mountain, Moses gave these commandments to the people, and they promised to observe them because they all witnessed the glory and power of God. Then the covenant between God and the Hebrews was established: the Lord promised the Hebrews His mercies and protection, and they in turn promised to Him that they would live righteously. Moses once more ascended the mountain, remaining there for forty days while fasting and praying. Here the Lord gave Moses other laws, both ecclesiastical and laic, and commanded him to erect a transportable temple-tent, and gave him maxims regarding priestly service and sacrificial offerings. The two stone tablets with the commandments were placed in the "Ark of the Covenant" (a gilded chest depicting cherubim on the lid) as an everlasting reminder of the covenant between God and the Israelite people.

Comment: The whereabouts of these stone tablets is unknown. In the 2nd chapter of the second book of Maccabees it is mentioned that during the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C. the prophet Jeremiah hid the stone tablets as well as some other belongings of the temple in a cave on Mount Nebo. This mountain is within twenty kilometers to the east of where of the mouth of river Jordan on the Dead Sea. Just before the entry of the Israelites into the promised land (about 1400 years B.C.) the prophet Moses was buried on this same mountain. Repeated attempts to find these stone tablets with the Ten commandments have been in vain so far.

Here is the text of the Ten commandments: (Note that between the Ten commandments presented in the book of Exodus 20:1-17 and the book of Deuteronomy 5:6-21) there is an insignificant difference with brief comments added to them. These little amplifications are omitted here.

1. I am the Lord your God ... thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2. Thou shalt not make for thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his field ... nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

During the subsequent forty-year-long journey through the desert, Moses gradually recorded what God was revealing to him as well as many historical events in the life of the Jewish nation. Ultimately these writings formed the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The Significance of the Ten Commandments

The Old Testament books contain many laws which regulated not only the religious life of the Hebrews but their civil life also. With the beginning of the New Testament, the majority of these civil laws as well as many religious rituals had lost their significance and were discarded by the Apostles at their council in Jerusalem (see Acts chapter 15). However, the Ten commandments, which contain the most fundamental principles of moral life, without which the very existence of human society becomes impossible, were retained and even reinforced in the New Testament. It was because of such importance and inviolability that the Ten commandments were written not on paper or some other perishable material but on stone.

As we shall see, the Ten commandments follow a specific plan. They start with the most important and obvious and go to the less important and less obvious. The first four define duties towards God, while the following five define duties towards other people. The last commandment speaks of controlling one's thoughts and desires.

Some similarities can be found between the Ten commandments and laws of ancient nations that inhabited the northwestern part of Mesopotamia (well-known laws of the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (2050 B.C.), the Amorite king Bilalam, the Sumer-Akkadian ruler Lirit-Ishtar, the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1800 B.C.), and the Assyrian and Hittite laws composed around 1500 B.C. ). These similarities and common elements between the God-revealed and natural laws are due to the fact that the moral law is ingrained by God into the human soul, so human beings, even when they don't know God, have a good natural feeling of what is right and what is wrong. If our nature were not corrupted by primordial sin, it is most likely that just the voice of conscience would be sufficient to regulate our personal and social life.

The Ten commandments express moral duties in a minimal and most general form, thus allowing maximum freedom in the arrangement of one's life's affairs. They are aimed at setting those boundaries which, when transpassed, can damage family and community life. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sermons often referred to the Ten commandments and explained their deep spiritual meaning. We now shall turn our attention to each commandment successively and comment on them in the light of the New Testament.


A Royal Law of Love
 

 Can You find a proven source for lasting standards and values? God revealed the heart of His standards�the Ten Commandments�long ago at Mount Sinai. But what sets them apart from man-made rules and guidelines? What do they reveal about nature of God Himself. In this booklet you'll discover the answers to these questions and more.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Jesus Christ founded the Christian faith on the principle of love�Christians wholeheartedly loving God and each other. John, one of Christ's disciples and closest friends, penned these words near the end of his life: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16, emphasis added throughout unless otherwise noted).

But what is love?

Ask your friends to explain it to you. See whether they all portray it the same way. Will they describe it as a feeling? Or will they define it as deeply caring for others but leave you to figure out what "caring" means? How many will equate love with some form of sexual attraction?

It quickly becomes clear that the word love doesn't always mean the same thing. One person may say, "I love ice cream," simply meaning he enjoys it. Another will say, "Oh, I love your outfit," meaning she admires�or desires�the clothing you are wearing.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could use a consistent definition of love, especially when we are speaking about the love God has for us and the love we should have for each other?

Sadly, such consistency is lacking in the world. Most people will acknowledge that love, or at least some degree of respect, is essential for personal relationships. A great deal of caution is in order as we consider the definitions of love. Some are so vague they excuse almost any type of behavior. At times, love is merely a code word to encourage the acceptance of unconventional, destructive patterns of conduct.

Many religious people embrace the idea of loving others as themselves but remain blissfully unaware of how the Bible defines love. As a result, they do not understand the necessity of putting into practice the biblical principles that determine the success or failure of their relationships.

The Ten Commandments define love

For love to be meaningful it must be accurately defined and understood. That is the purpose of God's law, especially the Ten Commandments.

Do you know the ultimate purpose of God's law? Jesus Christ defined the purpose of God's law as teaching us how to apply the two great principles of loving God and loving each other. He made this clear when someone asked Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" How did Jesus respond? "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:35-40).

With our explosive increase in knowledge, why is it that so few understand this fundamental biblical truth? Why can't everyone grasp that "all the Law and the Prophets," those scriptures we know as the Old Testament, first teach us the right way to love, then vividly depict the problems and penalties that arise from a lack of love? Why do so many people believe that godly love is taught only in the New Testament?

Love in the Old Testament

Love is the centerpiece of all the Scriptures, of both the Old and the New Testaments. Amazingly to most people, it is in the Old Testament that we first find the instruction to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

It is there also that Moses wrote, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Every commandment of God is for our good. Did you notice in the preceding passage that obeying God's commandments and practicing love are irrevocably linked together in God's eyes? This is because the commandments define the love that is the foundation for all godly relationships.

Love simply summarizes the intent of the Ten Commandments. Paul wrote: "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet'; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Romans 13:9, New Revised Standard Version).

God's love for mankind

From the beginning, God's interaction with human beings has been motivated by His love for us. As Jesus said: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

God wants us all to live forever�to attain eternal life. But first we must learn how to get along with each other, how to love one another. That is why love is so important.

Peace and harmony are impossible without respect and love. If God were to grant us eternal life without teaching us how to love each other, He would be committing us to live forever in confusion and chaos.

God will not allow the present resentments, jealousies, hostilities and selfish desires of human nature to carry forward into eternity. We must learn the real meaning of love or we cannot receive eternal life. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren," wrote the apostle John. "He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:14-15).

So we come again to the question: What is love? John gives us the answer. "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments . . ." (2 John 1:6).

The apostle Paul tells us that "love is the fulfilling of the law"

Another biblical writer, James, shows us clearly that God's royal law of love specifically includes the Ten Commandments. "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said [in the Ten Commandments], 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:8-11).

What is sin?

Notice how the Bible defines sin: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Or, as the King James Version puts it, "sin is the transgression of the law." According to the Bible, sin is simply breaking any of God's commandments.

How does sin affect one's relationship with Jesus Christ? "But you know that [Jesus Christ] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:5-6, New International Version).

Sobering statements, indeed.

John continues, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother" (verse 10, NIV).

How do we know that we know God and can have a right relationship with Him? "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:4-6, NIV).

How did Jesus walk? He told us, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).

"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (John 12:49-50, NIV).

In Jesus Christ's own words, "abiding in"�or maintaining the practice of�godly love is accomplished by keeping the commandments of God. His example teaches us that obedience and godly love are inseparable. Sin is simply violating love by transgressing the commandments of God. Sin is lawlessness�neglecting or refusing to be bound by God's rules that define true, godly love.

Law and liberty

God does not give us the liberty to behave any way we please. Though the Bible portrays God's law as a law of liberty, it plainly defines liberty as freedom from sin and its devastating consequences, not freedom to satiate selfish desires.

Our sins inflict upon us horrible penalties. Decrying the sinfulness of mankind, Paul wrote, "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:16-17). He compares the effects of sin to slavery�the opposite of liberty. "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" (Romans 6:20-21, NIV).

Sin, the transgression of God's law, not only enslaves us but, if continued, makes it impossible for us to receive eternal life (Matthew 19:17). That is why James tells us, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:12). God's commandments set the fundamental standard by which He will judge us.

Only when we repent, by ceasing to transgress God's law, can we be liberated from sin's consequences through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which alone can cleanse us from our sins (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:7). Paul explains that this true freedom from the bondage of sin is available only to those who sincerely obey God's instruction. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Romans 6:17).

John ties it all together, explaining that obeying God's commandments is putting into practice the love of God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Instead of being an encumbrance, the commandments of God light the path to godly love and liberty. This truth is poignantly illustrated in Psalm 119:98-105: "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

No wonder Jesus reminded us, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Ten Commandments are the backbone of all the inspired words of God. Paul tells us, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything" (1 Corinthians 7:19, NRSV).

A guide to conduct

If you think of the Bible as a guidebook for human behavior, the Ten Commandments serve as the main headings in its table of contents. By themselves, the commandments do not tell the whole story, but they clearly summarize it.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). By "fulfill," He meant that His teachings would fill out or expand the application of the commandments of God. The Greek word pleroo, which is translated "fulfill," means "to make full, to fill to the full" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Fill"). Other appropriate phrases for pleroo in this context are "to fill to the brim," "to level up," "to make replete."

Jesus Christ emphasized to His disciples that His mission and purpose was to add to or fill to the full the intended meaning of the Ten Commandments�not to annul or take away from them. To make this point, in this same passage He affirms some specific commandments and then greatly expands their application.

He first focuses on the commandment forbidding murder. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (verses 21-22).

Jesus Christ showed that the principle embodied in this commandment goes far beyond the taking of human life. It includes the destructive effects of anger and bitterness. Christ explained that condemning and hating someone in our hearts could prevent us from inheriting eternal life. In other words, Jesus showed that His teachings amplify and explain the required behavior summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Relationships and the Ten Commandments

When Jesus explained that everything written in "the Law and the Prophets" falls under the two major headings of love for God and love for neighbor, He was emphasizing the importance of relationships (Matthew 22:35-40). He was telling us that every command of God defines an aspect of the exemplary relationships we should have with each other or with Him.

When we look closely at the Ten Commandments, we see that the first four define how to relate to God�how to show proper love and respect for our Maker. The other six define the essentials for right relationships with each other. This is fundamental to understanding God's laws and their importance.

They are not mere regulations or rituals. Those who cast them in this light misunderstand God's intent and purpose in giving us His law.

God plainly tells us that all of His commandments are for our good. They have a purpose. They are to be a blessing and benefit to humankind. They define the relationships that produce respect, cooperation and stability within any society that fully understands and applies them.

 


 

"YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Meditation; one-pointed focus on God)
God, who is the source of our life, ought to be at the center of our life. We focus on Him whenever we focus on useful service to others, with no thought of personal reward. But "other gods" have a way of diverting our attention. We may worry a lot about what other people think of us; we may believe that we can't function without our morning cup of coffee; we may feel furious when someone scratches our new car. Our worries, our coffee, our new car -- these are some examples of things that can become "idols" and "other gods," especially when we place them on the altar of our minds, giving them central attention. When we find ourselves dwelling on our own concerns, apart from the commandments of God and the needs of our neighbor, we may well be committing idolatry -- worshipping other gods. In this commandment we are reminded to keep our focus on our heavenly Father, meditating on His Word, and living according to His commandments.

TASK:
Identify the "idols" in your life. Make a list. (Note: it is suggested that for this and all subsequent tasks you carry a notebook in your pocket or purse. Our most important insights often come at the most unexpected moments.)

Our Father who art in heaven. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN..."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-critical self-examination)
Love and Wisdom are the essential qualities of God. We receive the Divine Love as affection towards the neighbor. It is a continuous inflowing desire to wish the neighbor well and to help him whenever we can. The Divine Wisdom comes to us as a desire to understand spiritual truth and to live according to it. These Divine Qualities -- Love and Wisdom -- are what is meant by the scriptural phrase "the name of the Lord." When God came to earth to reveal His essential nature to us, He took a name which stands for both His Divine Love ("Jesus" means "Saviour"), and His Divine Wisdom ("Christ" means "Anointed one," or "King"). We are saved by His Divine Love, and governed by His Divine Wisdom. But we sometimes take these tremendous blessings in vain. For example, He gives us the gift of forgiveness, and we tend to be unforgiving. He gives us the gift of patience and we tend to be anxious. He gives us perceptions of Divine truth, but we stick to our rigid opinions. When the cashier seems to take forever to ring up our items, we feel irritated and the thought comes in, "She should be fired." In refusing to extend mercy and understanding, we take the Lord's name in vain.

TASK:
Observe how you take the Lord's name in vain (by not using what He gives you). Do this by non-critical observation of your thoughts and feelings.

. . . hallowed be Thy name.


 

"REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Prayer)
"Sabbath" is a Hebrew word which means "rest." We rest in the Lord whenever we trust in Him, confident that He provides all things. We may still experience conflict and loss on the plane of natural life, but we can rest in full confidence that there is perpetual peace in the Lord, even amidst the storms of life. The "Sabbath" is not so much a day of the week as it is a state of mind. It is prayer to the Lord, acknowledging that the battle is His, and that He is in total control. Then He gives us His power to do our part. In hurrying to complete a project the thought comes in, "I'll never finish this project on time. I'm so nervous I can't even think straight." But we turn to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to grant us the Sabbath state of peace: "O, Lord, lead me beside the still waters. Calm my restless mind. Grant me Thy peace." (Note: for more on this subject see the commandment against coveting.)

TASK:
Observe anxious and restless thoughts and feelings in yourself. Then pray for the Sabbath of inner peace.

Thy Kingdom Come...


 

"HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER. . ."
(Spiritual Skill: Openness; teachability; willingness to be led)
Our "father" in the highest sense is our heavenly Father. We honor Him most when we read, listen to, and meditate on His Divine teachings and then seek to use them in our lives. Our "mother" represents all those people and organizations which receive what the Lord gives directly and pass it on to others. Our "mother" is the church, our local support group, our family and friends, and the many fine books -- all of which provide useful information about the Lord, and nurture us on our spiritual journeys. We honor our mother by utilizing these indirect avenues of the Lord's nurture and care for us. As a result we honor God who is with us directly through the heavenly teachings of His Word (the "Father"), and indirectly through the earthly care of others (the "mother").

TASK:
Be open to receive positive influences -- directly from the Lord through reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture, and indirectly through the care and insights of others.

Thy will be done, on the earth as it is in heaven,


 


"YOU SHALL NOT Kill."
(Spiritual Skill: Love for enemies)
When Jesus deepened this commandment, He taught that we can murder others by our cutting comments and ridicule. He warned us not to hate our brother, but rather to love one another. When He gave bread to His disciples, it was a symbol of the love He was extending to all mankind. He said, "I am the bread which cometh down from heaven" (John 6:33). He came to give the gift of love in place of hatred; to give the gift of life in place of death. He called us to examine our thoughts and our words, and to avoid saying anything critical about others. "Whoever says 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22). You have just been cut off on the turnpike, and the thought comes in, "I can't believe it! What an idiot!" But then you ask the Lord for a more loving attitude, and the thought comes "Oh, well, maybe he needs to be somewhere in a hurry."

TASK:
Observe, but do not express your critical thoughts. When a critical thought comes up, ask the Lord for a more loving attitude.

Give us this day our daily bread...


 


"YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY."
(Spiritual Skill: Forgiveness)
When we begin to understand the Sacred Symbolism of the Word, we perceive that each of us is invited to a Divine Marriage in which God is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. This marriage is consummated when we first begin to accept His seeds of truth. But if we turn away from Him, we are like a married woman who runs off to play the harlot. This can happen to us whenever we succumb to the allurement of negative emotions. Every negative emotion has its own set of delights, and we can be seduced by them. For example, you may feel the delight of self-pity setting in. You may be tempted to embrace it, and to wallow in the self-importance of sorrow. You may feel unforgiving towards someone who has hurt you terribly, and you feel a certain hardness of heart. But the Lord calls out to you, asking you not to commit adultery with these negative emotions. "Return to Me," He says. "Return to Me . . . for I am married to you" (Jeremiah 3: 7,14). In this commandment we are called to return to the Lord, to refuse to submit to the allurement of negative emotions -- hard- heartedness, self-pity, revenge --and once again receive the seeds of mercy and truth that He gives to us.

TASK:
Notice the allurement of a negative emotion, but do not succumb to it's embrace If it involves another person, If it involves another person, try to counter it by seeing a similar tendency in yourself.

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..


 

"YOU SHALL NOT STEAL."
(Spiritual Skill: Non-attribution of merit or blame / pride or guilt)
To "steal" is to take what does not belong to us. It is the temptation to become prideful about our accomplishments and guilt-ridden about our failures. Ancient wisdom has always taught that we are not to claim merit for the good we do; nor are we to condemn ourselves for our mistakes. If we do, we are attributing to ourselves that which is not really ours. This is because all good flows in from God, and all evil flows in from hell.

Though it may feel like we are the origin of good and evil, this is an illusion. The reality is that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. We are recipient vessels, given free will to choose what we will dwell on and what we will allow to just pass through. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man" (Matthew 15:11).

This commandment against stealing cautions us not to attribute thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Rather, we are to give glory to God for all the holy thoughts and feelings He gives us. Similarly, we need to observe the unholy thoughts and feelings that come our way and let them pass through, without attributing them to ourselves. We must not take credit or blame for that which does not belong to us.

TASK:
Observe the thoughts and feelings that come to you and notice the temptation to attribute them to yourself. Separate yourself from the negative ones, and thank the Lord for the positive ones.

Lead us not into temptation. . .


 

"YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR."
(Spiritual Skill: Refuting false ideas)
When we report an event as we have seen it, or heard it, it is called our "witness." The witness we give ought to be true and accurate. Many of us have experienced the destruction that half-truths and distortions of the truth can bring to human relationships. That is why those who take the witness stand are asked to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They must not bear false witness against their neighbor.

At the level of our inner spiritual world, we discover that there are unseen spiritual forces that continually bear false witness to reality. They suggest that God is absent, when the truth is that He is inmostly present. They suggest that success is based upon the accumulation of worldly goods, while Scripture teaches us to "Seek first the kingdom of God."

In this commandment we are told to refute the false ideas that come to us. We are to refute the justifications and rationalizations that prevent us from doing what we know is right. For example, we may feel a heavenly impulse to forgive an old enemy, when suddenly a barrage of false witnesses appear to argue and defend our original hard-heartedness. "You have every right" they say. They might even quote from the Word. They are clever, but evil. We must refute their false witness.

TASK:
Set yourself a physical task like reading the Word, or exercising, or writing a friendly letter to someone you have difficulty with. Observe the rationalizations that flow in to prevent you from doing the task, and refute them with an appropriate passage from Sacred Scripture. (See Matthew 4:1-11 for an example.)

but deliver us from evil.


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE"
(Spiritual Skill: Trust in God)
The commandment against coveting calls us to overcome anxious desire with trust in God. We are to develop the ability to accept circumstances as they come to us, trusting that whatever happens is vital material for our spiritual development and eternal happiness. The rain may not fall on our garden, and the sun may not shine on our parade, but we are to trust that God is in total control of all circumstances, and He gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

TASK

Accept all circumstances (whether you perceive them as good or bad) as opportunities to do inner work.

For yours is the Kingdom...


 

"YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR'S WIFE, NOR HIS MANSERVANT, NOR HIS MAIDSERVANT, NOR HIS OX, NOR HIS DONKEY..."
(Spiritual Skill: Giving up the desire to control others)
The first part of this commandment deals with inordinate longings to possess the things of this world, and to have circumstances turn out in our favor. But this second part of the commandment against coveting takes us into a type of longing that is the most evil of all, and is at the root of all other evils. It is the inordinate desire to satisfy our self-love by controlling, manipulating, and dominating other people.

There are many forms of domination -- some obvious and some not so obvious. For example a person may whine, or complain, or use the "silent treatment" until the other person gives in. Whenever we attempt to impose our will over the will of others - either by direct force or in subtle ways - we are dominating over others, trying to overpower them. Inevitably, when people strive to assert their own will, rather than seek the Lord's will, there will be a power struggle. It is true, of course, that certain forms of external behavior must be controlled: traffic violations, thefts, murders, etc. Also, parents must discipline their children. But such power must not be abused. And, above all, no one should try to control what another person thinks or believes.

Even the Lord, who has all power, refuses to use His power to compel people to believe in Him. Although His dominion is over all, He never dominates. He never forces or manipulates. He leads us gently -- as quickly or as slowly as we are willing to go.

TASK:
As you give up the desire to control others, notice the wiser and more loving attitudes which flow in from the Lord.

the power and the glory, forever.
Amen.


The Laws of Nature and Morality

Among the innumerable ethical laws and rules that regulate human behavior the most concise, clear and important are the Ten commandments. Although they were written many thousands of years ago when social conditions were drastically different from ours, their importance and authority has not diminished. To the contrary, the more our lives are entangled with contradictory opinions about what is right and what is wrong, the more we need the clear and unambiguous guidance of our Creator and Law-Giver.

Morally sensitive people have always regarded God's commandments with great esteem and considered them to be an inexhaustible source of wisdom and inspiration. "Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies ... Great peace have those who love Thy law, and nothing causes them to stumble," we read in the book of Psalms (Excerpts from Psalm 119:1, 77, 97, 98, 165). For a believing Christian the commandments of God can be likened to a bright star which guides him to the Kingdom of Heaven.

When comparing the commandments of God to the laws of nature, we can discern some interesting similarities and differences. For instance, they both originate from the same Divine Source and complement each other, with one set of rules regulating physical events and the other set governing the behavior of moral beings. The difference lies in that, while the laws of nature are compulsory, the moral laws appeal to the will of a free and intelligent spirit. In endowing us with the freedom of choice God has elevated us above all other creatures. This moral freedom gives us an opportunity to grow spiritually, perfect ourselves and even to become like our Creator. On the other hand this freedom places on us great responsibility and may become dangerous and destructive if misused.

A conscious violation of God's commandments leads moral beings (angels and humans) to moral degeneration, spiritual bondage, suffering and even to complete social destruction. Thus, for example, even before God created our visible world, a great tragedy occurred among the angels when one of them, the proud Lucifer, rebelled against his Creator and incited other angels to disobedience. Then many angels left their heavenly abodes to establish their own kingdom. After this Lucifer became known as Satan and his angels demons, and their kingdom, now called hell, became a place of eternal darkness and suffering.

Another tragedy occurred in the life of mankind when our ancestors Adam and Eve violated God's commandment regarding the tree of knowledge. Because of their transgression, human nature became sinful, and the life of their descendants became filled with crime, suffering and misfortune. Catastrophes of a lesser degree belong to the deluge during Noah's time, the devastation of the perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorra, the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea, and the fall of many ancient empires. Historians strive to find external causes which contributed to these calamities, but the Bible reveals to us that the ultimate cause was in the moral degradation of the people. Comparing further the laws of nature with the commandments of God, it must be said that the former are temporary and conditional because they are bound to this transient physical world. Moral laws, on the other hand, are eternal because they reflect the perfection of the Creator, who is eternal and unchanging.


Historical Circumstances of the Ten Commandments

The reception of the Ten commandments is one of the most significant events of the Old Testament. With this event is connected the very formation of the Jewish nation and the beginning of the covenant with God that ultimately led to the creation of the New Testament. Before the reception of the Ten commandments there lived in Egypt an obscure and illiterate Semitic tribe, enslaved to build cities and monuments for the pharaohs; after it there arose a great nation called upon to serve God and to spread among other nations the true faith in Him and salvation in His Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The circumstances surrounding the receipt of the Ten commandments are related in the book of Exodus (chapters 19-20 and 24). In approximately 1500 B.C., following the great miracles performed by Moses in Egypt, the pharaoh was compelled to free from slavery the Hebrew people. Led by Moses, the Hebrews miraculously crossed the Red Sea and went south across the desert of the Sinai peninsula, setting their course towards the promised land. On the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews arrived at the foothills of Mount Sinai and encamped nearby. As Moses ascended the mountain, God appeared to him and said, "Thus you shall tell the children of Israel: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My Covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'" When Moses repeated to the people what God just said to him, they answered, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do" (Exodus 19:5-8).

Then the Lord instructed Moses to prepare the people for the receipt of the commandments by abstinence, fasting and praying. Moses again ascended to Mount Sinai. On the third day, as a dense cloud covered the mountain, it started shaking. After this, bright lightning flashed, thunder roared and the loud sound of trumpets was heard. All the people from far away observed these events with trepidation.

It was during this awesome appearance that the Lord proclaimed to Moses His Ten commandments and inscribed them on two stone tablets. After descending from the mountain, Moses gave these commandments to the people, and they promised to observe them because they all witnessed the glory and power of God. Then the covenant between God and the Hebrews was established: the Lord promised the Hebrews His mercies and protection, and they in turn promised to Him that they would live righteously. Moses once more ascended the mountain, remaining there for forty days while fasting and praying. Here the Lord gave Moses other laws, both ecclesiastical and laic, and commanded him to erect a transportable temple-tent, and gave him maxims regarding priestly service and sacrificial offerings. The two stone tablets with the commandments were placed in the "Ark of the Covenant" (a gilded chest depicting cherubim on the lid) as an everlasting reminder of the covenant between God and the Israelite people.

Comment: The whereabouts of these stone tablets is unknown. In the 2nd chapter of the second book of Maccabees it is mentioned that during the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C. the prophet Jeremiah hid the stone tablets as well as some other belongings of the temple in a cave on Mount Nebo. This mountain is within twenty kilometers to the east of where of the mouth of river Jordan on the Dead Sea. Just before the entry of the Israelites into the promised land (about 1400 years B.C.) the prophet Moses was buried on this same mountain. Repeated attempts to find these stone tablets with the Ten commandments have been in vain so far.

Here is the text of the Ten commandments: (Note that between the Ten commandments presented in the book of Exodus 20:1-17 and the book of Deuteronomy 5:6-21) there is an insignificant difference with brief comments added to them. These little amplifications are omitted here.

1. I am the Lord your God ... thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2. Thou shalt not make for thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his field ... nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

During the subsequent forty-year-long journey through the desert, Moses gradually recorded what God was revealing to him as well as many historical events in the life of the Jewish nation. Ultimately these writings formed the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The Significance of the Ten Commandments

The Old Testament books contain many laws which regulated not only the religious life of the Hebrews but their civil life also. With the beginning of the New Testament, the majority of these civil laws as well as many religious rituals had lost their significance and were discarded by the Apostles at their council in Jerusalem (see Acts chapter 15). However, the Ten commandments, which contain the most fundamental principles of moral life, without which the very existence of human society becomes impossible, were retained and even reinforced in the New Testament. It was because of such importance and inviolability that the Ten commandments were written not on paper or some other perishable material but on stone.

As we shall see, the Ten commandments follow a specific plan. They start with the most important and obvious and go to the less important and less obvious. The first four define duties towards God, while the following five define duties towards other people. The last commandment speaks of controlling one's thoughts and desires.

Some similarities can be found between the Ten commandments and laws of ancient nations that inhabited the northwestern part of Mesopotamia (well-known laws of the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (2050 B.C.), the Amorite king Bilalam, the Sumer-Akkadian ruler Lirit-Ishtar, the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1800 B.C.), and the Assyrian and Hittite laws composed around 1500 B.C. ). These similarities and common elements between the God-revealed and natural laws are due to the fact that the moral law is ingrained by God into the human soul, so human beings, even when they don't know God, have a good natural feeling of what is right and what is wrong. If our nature were not corrupted by primordial sin, it is most likely that just the voice of conscience would be sufficient to regulate our personal and social life.

The Ten commandments express moral duties in a minimal and most general form, thus allowing maximum freedom in the arrangement of one's life's affairs. They are aimed at setting those boundaries which, when transpassed, can damage family and community life. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sermons often referred to the Ten commandments and explained their deep spiritual meaning. We now shall turn our attention to each commandment successively and comment on them in the light of the New Testament.


A Royal Law of Love
 

 Can You find a proven source for lasting standards and values? God revealed the heart of His standards�the Ten Commandments�long ago at Mount Sinai. But what sets them apart from man-made rules and guidelines? What do they reveal about nature of God Himself. In this booklet you'll discover the answers to these questions and more.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Jesus Christ founded the Christian faith on the principle of love�Christians wholeheartedly loving God and each other. John, one of Christ's disciples and closest friends, penned these words near the end of his life: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16, emphasis added throughout unless otherwise noted).

But what is love?

Ask your friends to explain it to you. See whether they all portray it the same way. Will they describe it as a feeling? Or will they define it as deeply caring for others but leave you to figure out what "caring" means? How many will equate love with some form of sexual attraction?

It quickly becomes clear that the word love doesn't always mean the same thing. One person may say, "I love ice cream," simply meaning he enjoys it. Another will say, "Oh, I love your outfit," meaning she admires�or desires�the clothing you are wearing.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could use a consistent definition of love, especially when we are speaking about the love God has for us and the love we should have for each other?

Sadly, such consistency is lacking in the world. Most people will acknowledge that love, or at least some degree of respect, is essential for personal relationships. A great deal of caution is in order as we consider the definitions of love. Some are so vague they excuse almost any type of behavior. At times, love is merely a code word to encourage the acceptance of unconventional, destructive patterns of conduct.

Many religious people embrace the idea of loving others as themselves but remain blissfully unaware of how the Bible defines love. As a result, they do not understand the necessity of putting into practice the biblical principles that determine the success or failure of their relationships.

The Ten Commandments define love

For love to be meaningful it must be accurately defined and understood. That is the purpose of God's law, especially the Ten Commandments.

Do you know the ultimate purpose of God's law? Jesus Christ defined the purpose of God's law as teaching us how to apply the two great principles of loving God and loving each other. He made this clear when someone asked Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" How did Jesus respond? "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:35-40).

With our explosive increase in knowledge, why is it that so few understand this fundamental biblical truth? Why can't everyone grasp that "all the Law and the Prophets," those scriptures we know as the Old Testament, first teach us the right way to love, then vividly depict the problems and penalties that arise from a lack of love? Why do so many people believe that godly love is taught only in the New Testament?

Love in the Old Testament

Love is the centerpiece of all the Scriptures, of both the Old and the New Testaments. Amazingly to most people, it is in the Old Testament that we first find the instruction to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

It is there also that Moses wrote, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Every commandment of God is for our good. Did you notice in the preceding passage that obeying God's commandments and practicing love are irrevocably linked together in God's eyes? This is because the commandments define the love that is the foundation for all godly relationships.

Love simply summarizes the intent of the Ten Commandments. Paul wrote: "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet'; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Romans 13:9, New Revised Standard Version).

God's love for mankind

From the beginning, God's interaction with human beings has been motivated by His love for us. As Jesus said: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

God wants us all to live forever�to attain eternal life. But first we must learn how to get along with each other, how to love one another. That is why love is so important.

Peace and harmony are impossible without respect and love. If God were to grant us eternal life without teaching us how to love each other, He would be committing us to live forever in confusion and chaos.

God will not allow the present resentments, jealousies, hostilities and selfish desires of human nature to carry forward into eternity. We must learn the real meaning of love or we cannot receive eternal life. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren," wrote the apostle John. "He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:14-15).

So we come again to the question: What is love? John gives us the answer. "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments . . ." (2 John 1:6).

The apostle Paul tells us that "love is the fulfilling of the law"

Another biblical writer, James, shows us clearly that God's royal law of love specifically includes the Ten Commandments. "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said [in the Ten Commandments], 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:8-11).

What is sin?

Notice how the Bible defines sin: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Or, as the King James Version puts it, "sin is the transgression of the law." According to the Bible, sin is simply breaking any of God's commandments.

How does sin affect one's relationship with Jesus Christ? "But you know that [Jesus Christ] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:5-6, New International Version).

Sobering statements, indeed.

John continues, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother" (verse 10, NIV).

How do we know that we know God and can have a right relationship with Him? "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:4-6, NIV).

How did Jesus walk? He told us, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).

"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (John 12:49-50, NIV).

In Jesus Christ's own words, "abiding in"�or maintaining the practice of�godly love is accomplished by keeping the commandments of God. His example teaches us that obedience and godly love are inseparable. Sin is simply violating love by transgressing the commandments of God. Sin is lawlessness�neglecting or refusing to be bound by God's rules that define true, godly love.

Law and liberty

God does not give us the liberty to behave any way we please. Though the Bible portrays God's law as a law of liberty, it plainly defines liberty as freedom from sin and its devastating consequences, not freedom to satiate selfish desires.

Our sins inflict upon us horrible penalties. Decrying the sinfulness of mankind, Paul wrote, "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:16-17). He compares the effects of sin to slavery�the opposite of liberty. "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" (Romans 6:20-21, NIV).

Sin, the transgression of God's law, not only enslaves us but, if continued, makes it impossible for us to receive eternal life (Matthew 19:17). That is why James tells us, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:12). God's commandments set the fundamental standard by which He will judge us.

Only when we repent, by ceasing to transgress God's law, can we be liberated from sin's consequences through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which alone can cleanse us from our sins (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:7). Paul explains that this true freedom from the bondage of sin is available only to those who sincerely obey God's instruction. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Romans 6:17).

John ties it all together, explaining that obeying God's commandments is putting into practice the love of God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Instead of being an encumbrance, the commandments of God light the path to godly love and liberty. This truth is poignantly illustrated in Psalm 119:98-105: "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

No wonder Jesus reminded us, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Ten Commandments are the backbone of all the inspired words of God. Paul tells us, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything" (1 Corinthians 7:19, NRSV).

A guide to conduct

If you think of the Bible as a guidebook for human behavior, the Ten Commandments serve as the main headings in its table of contents. By themselves, the commandments do not tell the whole story, but they clearly summarize it.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). By "fulfill," He meant that His teachings would fill out or expand the application of the commandments of God. The Greek word pleroo, which is translated "fulfill," means "to make full, to fill to the full" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Fill"). Other appropriate phrases for pleroo in this context are "to fill to the brim," "to level up," "to make replete."

Jesus Christ emphasized to His disciples that His mission and purpose was to add to or fill to the full the intended meaning of the Ten Commandments�not to annul or take away from them. To make this point, in this same passage He affirms some specific commandments and then greatly expands their application.

He first focuses on the commandment forbidding murder. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (verses 21-22).

Jesus Christ showed that the principle embodied in this commandment goes far beyond the taking of human life. It includes the destructive effects of anger and bitterness. Christ explained that condemning and hating someone in our hearts could prevent us from inheriting eternal life. In other words, Jesus showed that His teachings amplify and explain the required behavior summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Relationships and the Ten Commandments

When Jesus explained that everything written in "the Law and the Prophets" falls under the two major headings of love for God and love for neighbor, He was emphasizing the importance of relationships (Matthew 22:35-40). He was telling us that every command of God defines an aspect of the exemplary relationships we should have with each other or with Him.

When we look closely at the Ten Commandments, we see that the first four define how to relate to God�how to show proper love and respect for our Maker. The other six define the essentials for right relationships with each other. This is fundamental to understanding God's laws and their importance.

They are not mere regulations or rituals. Those who cast them in this light misunderstand God's intent and purpose in giving us His law.

God plainly tells us that all of His commandments are for our good. They have a purpose. They are to be a blessing and benefit to humankind. They define the relationships that produce respect, cooperation and stability within any society that fully understands and applies them.

 

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