Devotion for March 6-8, 2018

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:2

The 10 Commandments are an important piece of culture in Western countries. We see the inscribed into courthouse walls or on important civic monuments. They are one of the building blocks on which our whole legal system is built. More than that, Christians have studied them, memorized them, and applied them to their lives since the day they were brought down from the mountain by Moses on stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.

But the 10 Commandments are also some of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. I remember finding a children’s book called, 10 Steps to Z-z-zing!, with Moses holding the 10 Commandments on the cover. They wrote that the 10 commandments are there to help you succeed in life like millennia-old self-help book.

Others use the 10 Commandments as a guide to making God happy. This has some resonance with the Bible. When the rich young ruler came Jesus, he asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” and Jesus responded, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19). Jesus is right, of course. If we keep the commandments we will live. But we can’t keep them, because every one of us breaks them on a daily basis. While the promise is there, it’s out of our reach.
So how do the commandments work for Christians? One way the help Christians is that they point out our sin. They show us how we fail at following God’s law, how we disobey him with every thought, word, and deed. We deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. They’re not there, however, to cause us to despair. Instead, God wants to use them cause us to fall at Jesus’ feet and ask for mercy. They drive us to the one who can save us by his death and resurrection. Through them, we see that we have no strength to save. Only Jesus can give us life.

They also help us by describing the life we should live as saved Christians. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that everyone who is baptized is united with Christ’s death and resurrection. We are raised to new life, in Christ, now. God has created, through baptism, a perfect human being capable of doing his will. But we also have our old sinful nature dwelling inside us. Because of that, the 10 Commandments help to remind us what it looks like to live as God’s people who follow his will in thanksgiving for salvation.

The 10 Commandments can also give us an image of what life will be like when Jesus returns and raises us from the dead. Right now, we struggle terribly with following the commandments, failing every day. Our failures can weigh down on us. But these commandments remind us how we will act when we are made perfect on the last day. When Jesus returns, we will love God perfectly, and we will love our neighbors as ourselves. We will be able to follow everything that God commands, and it will be joy rather than a burden.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Through your law, you show us our sin and turn us to our savior, Jesus Christ. Grant that we may examine ourselves, repent of our sin, and turn to you for forgiveness and peace. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen