Today, in Deuteronomy, we see a vision of following the commandments cast in a new light. Here it is all built around remembrance. Keeping God’s commandments, his ordinances and his statues is a way of remembering God.
The last couple years there has been a lot of political hub-bub about the 10 Commandments. There are monuments erected at so many state capitols it is hard to keep up. Legislation to keep it. Orders to remove it. Legislation to put it back. And in the midst of it all, there is an implication that the 10 commandments somehow have to do with the moral fiber of a community. Yet, other than not murdering and not stealing, it is hard to find any of this on “the books” at the court house. Instead, most of them have to do with not coveting, or honoring God in appropriate ways.
It turns out, the commandments are driven not by “moral fiber” but by theological fiber. Here in Deuteronomy, the fullness of the commandments intent and impact are made known – that we “do not forget the Lord your God.”
It turns out we are doing more than remembering the Sabbath Day – instead these are all a vehicle to remember God’s place in our lives. And by treating one another with respect, we remember where God has placed us in his eyes.
In many ways, the 10 Commandments are simply an expansion of commandment number one: Love God. In another sense, the entire canon of the law is an expansion of that one principle. Jesus adds to it: Love God and love neighbor. (This is another way to summarize the 10 Commandments).
So the 10 Commandments are to put us in our place, in a theological sense. They are not for legislation, but for ways we can honor each other in relationships and in life.
I think the reason legislator fight over 10-Commandment statues is the same reason people angrily Tweet during the night about fake news items – to distract us from the real issues and the Real Law, God’s Law. For, when we fight over trivial matters and completely made up issues, it becomes easier to ignore God and neighbor.
Most of this comes back to idolatry – a violation of the first commandment.
The trajectory that God’s law lays forth is clear: “When you have eaten your fill and have built find houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God.”
For me, this is where the 10 Commandments really start to hit home. If in our observance, we fail to keep ourselves in check, vaulting ourselves above God, we have missed the point of them completely. We have traded in the truth of God for a lie. When we turn to greed and self-centeredness, we lose the ability to see clear theologically. We begin to see ourselves as gods.
“If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” I pray that our country turn and follow God’s way once again.