I hate it when I am driving somewhere and I have to deviate from my normal route. This past week has been a series of annoying deviations on the small island where I live. Utility poles are being replaced on the tiny, twisting three-mile road that connects us to the rest of the Outer Banks. This has caused a lot of delays, as we have to stop frequently to share a single lane with oncoming traffic. The turn lane onto this road from the busy by-pass has also been closed, causing a lot of confusion. Am I allowed to turn right from the straight-through lane? Do I have to go through the intersection and turn right at the next road, and then back-track? I just want to get home!
God understood that people needed pretty straightforward directions to follow, so he sent a list of ten very direct commandments to keep us on the straight and narrow. If you can manage to stay in the lanes of these laws, your life will be blessed. You will be keeping your part of the covenantal relationship that gives God the authority to be God, while you acknowledge that you are not God. Pretty simple, right?
The Encyclopedia of the Bible explains it this way:
The Ten Commandments can be seen only, like the rest of the law, against the background of the Covenant; this in turn rests on the salvation-history of the Exodus. Other codes within the law are basically an expansion and application of these principles to various facets of life, rather as the NT epistles apply the truth of the Gospel. Thus the Commandments became the root of all subsequent Israelite morality as well as of religion.
But we are prone to wander (as the hymn writer says) and prone to leave the God we love. We deviate from all the good things that God has prepared for us every time we chase after temptations and titillations that are unholy and unsafe. We replace God with the gods of self-interest, pleasure, lust, and distraction.
Deuteronomy 28 (Common English Bible)
1 Now if you really obey the Lord your God’s voice, by carefully keeping all his commandments that I am giving you right now, then the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and find you if you obey the Lord your God’s voice.
14 Don’t deviate even a bit from any of these words that I’m commanding you right now by following other gods and serving them.
“Don’t deviate even a bit!” Could Moses have been any more forthright than that?
While the Israelites struggled with the wood, stone, and metal-cast gods of the non-Hebrew people around them, we struggle with different gods of our own making. The list is endless, and the truth is, anything that you put in a place of priority over your relationship with God can become your god. Sports, greed, social media, pursuing wealth, substance abuse, and even cheating on your taxes can harm your relationship with the Lord. These deviations make us fall to the wayside and lead us down paths that are harmful and wrong.
Where is God calling you to align yourself once again with the heart of the covenant? Your relationship with God is cursed when you deviate from the Word and break the rules. We all just want to get home…is it time to turn around?