Don’t Deviate

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. 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?

Straight and Narrow by Kathy Schumacher

The Big Ten

No, this isn’t about football, although your girl here is a fan of her college team, which happens to be in the Big Ten…which has fourteen colleges in it. Strange math, if you ask me! But it lays the foundation for today’s devotional, which starts with the premise that God created a big ten of his own, to which Jesus effectively added an expansion that enhances, but does not eliminate, the original. I am talking, of course, about the Ten Commandments.

Some people have the mistaken idea that Jesus came to eradicate the original ten. They are wrong. While Jesus spoke against the minutiae of the many laws that were extra add-ons made by the rabbis of the day, the sanctity of the original ten remains paramount to this day.

Exodus 20 (Contemporary English Version)

 God said to the people of Israel:

I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

Do not worship any god except me.

Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.

Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.

12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.

13 Do not murder.

14 Be faithful in marriage.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not tell lies about others.

17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? In Matthew, Jesus states that he has not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Then he says this:

John 13:34 (Common English Bible)

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.

Think for a moment what the world would be like if we obeyed everything on this list. Think for a moment how different things would be if we just obeyed the new commandment given by Jesus. Wouldn’t the rest of the ten simply fall into place?

Imagine how changed your conversations would be with your family if all of the world lived under these commandments. What would your office “water cooler” conversations sound like? Not being able to lie or covet would certainly change the neighborhood. Sundays would be reverent again. Marriages would stay intact, or die trying. False idols would be forbidden and not tolerated, let alone revered. Our reverence for God would increase, as would our witness in the world. If we loved each other the way Jesus loves us, harmony would reign.

As you continue along on your Lent journey, take a look at this passage again and see how you measure up. God’s Big Ten (plus) still speak to us today. Where is God calling you to obey?

Just as I Have Loved You by Deena Sharp

Top Ten

Some people consider the Ten Commandments to be an outdated model for lawful living. Some people would be wrong. When Jesus said that there was a “greatest commandment” he was in no way trying to say that the rest no longer applied. Indeed, he remarked that the commandments to love God and neighbors were the foundation for all the other commandments:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22 New International Version)

Yet we somehow overlook teaching and learning all ten. We have removed them from our courthouses as though the mandate of separation of church and state is a good reason to deny the fact that our judicial system was built on the commandments. So today we will dive into them again.

As you read through these, use them as a mirror. Do they reflect your life? Are you living out each one with your words, actions, thoughts, and deeds?

Exodus 20 (New International Version)

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

I use a “ten finger way” of teaching the commandments to children. It is an easy way for kids to remember all ten by holding up the corresponding number of fingers and making an association with it. For example, if you hold up three fingers on one hand it looks like a W. The third commandment tells us to “watch your words.” You get the idea.

It got a little tricky when I landed on the 7th commandment on adultery. That one is challenging to teach to five-year-olds! Suddenly I realized that to make a seven with your fingers, you have five on one hand and two on the other. AH HA! I explained that the two separated fingers were two people who were married to each other, and the five on the other hand were all the other pretty people WHO THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO DATE. Problem solved.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Scripture records that when the first people received the Ten Commandments they trembled with fear. How much better off would society be if we had the same respect for God’s law today?

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses assured them that they had nothing to fear. God’s law is given as a safety net that was delivered to save us and keep us from sinning.

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Even in this, we are reminded of God’s saving grace and his activity in our deliverance. Thanks be to God!

Nothing to Fear by Michelle Robertson