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The most important message I picked up from today’s readings overall is seek wisdom, trust God, and be vigilant in prayer.
My primary takeaway from each of the passages was this:
- Exodus 19-20 – There was no short takeaway from this passage because it was loaded. See the expanded commentary, below.
- Mark 7 – This passage is directly related to the passage from Exodus today (you can call this a coincidence, or you can remember that coincidence is God winking at us). When we honor human traditions over the natural laws (commandments) of God, we “take the name of the Lord in vain,” or misuse the name of God. Our behavior, not our beliefs, indicates whether we are actually following God and abiding by his commandments. When we submit all of our thoughts and actions to the scrutiny of the commandments at the level of the heart, we must behave differently than if we go with the flow of the crowd. Selfishness and lawlessness do not enter into our behavior if we align ourselves with God’s commandments.
- Psalms 35 – Pray for your enemies and do not resort to revenge. Trust God to be your champion when people maliciously speak and work against you. God sees all and will ultimately reward everyone according to their merits. Our job in such situations is to submit all of our concerns and troubles to God and remain in prayer, always. Then we should give credit and our gratitude to God when he delivers us because he will.
- Proverbs 4 – Seek wisdom and align with the natural laws of God. This is the way to protect ourselves and prosper.
This passage was loaded with significance. The Ten Commandments are frequently seen as a checklist of behavioral minimums to be skimmed and, well, checked. However, there’s a lot more to them than that, and they’re also brilliant in their simplicity. For example, though the list is strictly speaking ten items, I make an argument that there are really only four, with the last six being a sub-list of item four. Here’s what I mean:
- No other gods.
- What do you worship? Yourself? Money? Possessions? Status? Proper worship–putting your priorities in order–mean acknowledging something greater than ourselves in all its mysterious incomprehensibility and subordinating ourselves to that force.
- “No graven images” is a reminder o not forget that although we can see evidence of God manifested in all living things, and it is sometimes useful to represent the qualities and various aspects of God’s intrinsic nature through metaphors and symbols, focusing on those metaphors and symbols as God is to confuse the symbol with the Reality.
- Don’t misuse the name of God. To misuse the name of God–to “take the Lord’s name in vain”–is to say you are a servant of God while doing things in violation of his basic natural laws (which, at the level of ethics and morals can be drilled down to the Ten Commandments).
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Resting one day each week is a way we symbolically express our faith in God as a provider for all of our needs. To work excessively is to worship ourselves and our own ability to provide. In truth, we are merely harvesting the resources of the planet God gave us, a planet not of our creation. We are the offspring of the planet, not the other way around.
- These are the ways we keep from breaking the third commandment (item II: don’t misuse the name of God). If we violate any of these directives we are “taking the name of the Lord in vain,” or misusing the name of God.
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not give false evidence against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.
Later on, Matthew 22:35-40, someone asks Jesus which is the most important commandment. Jesus says this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Jesus was saying what I just told you, only I used more words to say it. A pastor I knew in the United Methodist Church preached frequently on this passage from Matthew and said that he firmly believed that Jesus was saying that in the end there is really only one commandment (the first thing he said), and the second commandment is just the way to keep the first one.
If you are not honoring your father and mother, you are murdering, you are committing adultery, you are stealing, you are lying, and you are never satisfied with what you have and always wanting what other people have, then you are not worshipping God because you are worshipping yourself and just taking whatever you want. You can call yourself a servant of God, but if you are doing all those things you are misusing the name of God and serving yourself.
Most of us can get through life without committing murder or committing adultery, but no one can get through life without making any mistakes. The good news is that God is a gracious, merciful, forgiving God who always wipes our slate clean when we cry out to him for help. There may be consequences for our actions, but there is always forgiveness and redemption. If the Ten Commandments were just a checklist we’d all be doomed. Thank God they aren’t.
That’s what I got out of it. What did you get out of the readings today?
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