Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9
Where do our laws come from? Some may read this passage from Deuteronomy and say Moses is the commander. Some have the idea that all law comes from the King or the State, so whatever it says is legal is right. But an honest reading of the Bible, we clearly see that the Commander, the Lawgiver is God.
How important is it for us to see that God is the One giving us these commands? If it were just an individual’s opinions, they could be challenged, like Korah challenged Moses in Numbers 16. If it were the State, then the laws would change with the whim of the ruling class. This means there is no lasting morality to guide the legislation of new laws. But with God as the giver of these commandment, we have a moral system that does not change and a judge that administers the law fairly. The good are rewarded and the evil are punished.
These 10 Commandments (or Hebrew “Words”) are given particularly to Israel, but in generally to the whole world. God intends for them to be a guide for human relationships, morality, and civil order. God gave these commands not for us to think we can earn our way to heaven. God gave them so that we may live a happier life as God’s children.
For me, one interesting aspect of the review of the giving of the commandments here in Deuteronomy is that God is described as the One that set the slaves free and delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. These commandments were for the purpose of humans to live as a free people. Then with the Sabbath command God says that the Sabbath is to be observed because the people were once slaves in Egypt. A slave is seen as a worker, the value is only in the work that can be extracted from the slave. This speaks directly to our model of industrialization used to organize our society. The purpose of the modern school system (based upon the Prussian public education) is to produce workers for industry and consumers for the products. The individual is valued only for the work.
Yet if our God, the Giver of our law, is the God who created male and female in God’s own image, then liberated them from bondage and toil, this means that God sees humans as meant for more than work. And Sabbath is the space that God commands people to be fully human.
With God as the Giver of the Commandments, humans are elevated to a purpose higher than the tillers of the ground or the assemblers of widgets. In the Sabbath, all economic and social levels are the same as we enjoy the freedom provided for us in God’s commands.
Next Week The book of Ruth and a view of a different type of family.