About a year ago my daughter and I were cruising the winding curves and hills of Grove Road. We were exploring a new route to the Mt. Zion Wal-Mart. I always appreciate a new landscape and that you don’t have to leave town to see one. You can pretend you left town, even if it is just for 7 minutes and 25 seconds.
In this particular exploration, a bone brick L-shaped ranch caught my eye on the right side of the road. It wasn’t the home itself that grabbed my attentions, but the landscaping. The new fencing, the framing trees, the full shrubs, and clean edging all had a professional’s touch. At the front left corner of the driveway, displayed upon a bed of quarried rocks and perennials, were two stone tablet replicas of the Ten Commandments.
It struck me as an unusual choice for a lawn ornament, and I wondered to myself, “What was this family’s intention anyway?” Was it a self-righteousness demanding all men to live up to the commandments, or was it a compassion inviting all men to know the benefits of living for the God Who wrote the originals? Could it have been an aloof pride challenging all men to be like them as though they have “arrived” or more of a memorial to their own humility in effort to appeal to man’s need for a Savior?
Then my thoughts took another turn: What about me? Would I ever display the Ten Commandments in my yard? (That’s to say if I actually had a yard.) What would motivate me to do such a thing? Easy. My motivation would be praise. We call them the Ten Commandments. God’s introduction, in the book of Exodus 19:5, was more like a proposal, “If you listen to My voice and guard my union with you, you will be Mine and I will be yours.”
Sounds like a wedding vow
Well, in a sense it was. Traditionally we understand the Ten Commandments as a list of demands to prove one’s love. I, however, have had another thought: what if they were more like a profile of one who loves? Could God have voiced the words that best described the characteristics of one who walked with God in love? God longed to be in a covenantal relationship with Israel similar to a marital union. He wanted man to walk in union with Himself once again like they did in the Garden of Eden.
So, were the Ten Commandments set in stone to demand men to prove love, or were they a promise of love’s proof? Answer: Yes. Okay, hang in here with me … We have to keep in mind that God knows the end from the beginning, so let’s consider the end first. Jesus Christ would come to a sin-filled humanity, die, resurrect, and ascend. His death paid our debt of sin. His resurrection opened the way to a new life, a second life. His ascension made it possible for God’s Holy Spirit to penetrate and live in union with our own, the same union God had in the Garden of Eden with man.
Since Christ, it is possible for the very Spirit of God to live in union with our spirits. Yeah! What was impossible for our biblical ancestors is now possible for us. Because His Spirit lives in union with our spirits, we love Him, and because we love, we guard this union. Because of His Spirit we can worship Him alone and honor His name; we can rest and enjoy life with Him. Because of His Spirit we can honor our parents and live a long life; we can choose life and purity in our relationships. Because of His Spirit we can be generous without stealing; we can love truth and not lie; we can rejoice with those who rejoice without lusting for what they have. That was just a paraphrase of the “Big 10” in case you didn’t catch it the first time.
Who is a lover
In John 14:21, Jesus said we would be able to identify those who love Him by their obedience to His commands. In other words, you will know them by their fruit: their obedience to His voice that supernaturally grows from their union of love. We don’t obey in order to prove love. Our obedience is the proof that we love. In other words, Christians are a race of people who obey from a place of being love not the people who obey in order to gain love.
Okay, now hit reverse and come back to the beginning: It was necessary for God to propose this covenant of ten “I Do’s” before Christ came. It was a necessary work of mercy on God’s part to prove we needed Jesus to help us fulfill our part of the vows. Without the hope of Christ it was only possible to see these vows as a to-do-list for proving love. What it really proved was that we can’t—we can’t love God without Jesus. Shortly after God made His proposal Israel said, “I do.” Then immediately she had an epic failure. She broke the very first commandment and then lived out a history of breaking them all over and over again.
The divine love story continued. God gave them the laws, the judges, and the kings they thought they needed to help them be holy. God also sent His prophets. Jeremiah declares that God wanted a divorce; later, Hosea declares He can’t stop loving His people, even in their unfaithfulness. In that same book God proposes again but this time all the “I do’s” are on Him, and all we have to do is believe He is that good and receive His gifts.
God sending His Son and their Spirit would turn the nature of obedience from “have to’s” into “want to’s.” The Apostle Paul said, in Romans 7, living without God’s Spirit was like doing the wrong things he didn’t want to do and not doing the right things he really wanted to do. We can all relate, right? Then he went on to ask who could save him from this destructive and disobedient nature? The answer was and still is: the very Spirit of God Who can now finally live in us.
He promised I would love Him
The Ten Commandments are no longer what I do. They profile who I am and who I am becoming. Sometimes I like to imagine what it would have been like to watch God writing out those Ten Commandments. I imagine Him with that kind of smile only true love can bring, a smile even the best kept secret can’t resist. I imagine Him full of patience writing out these impossibilities with the future in His mind. His finger gently etching each vow one by one as He looked past the inevitable failures and locked His gaze up the inevitable successes. I imagine Him writing, quietly humming a comforting tune like, “You will l-ov-ov-e Me, You will l-ov-ov-e Me.” I imagine the ancient weathered laugh lines around His kind eyes deepening with each wave of Self-assurance knowing, “Yes, there is coming a day when it will be possible for you to love Me like I already love you.”
For me, the Ten Commandments would make a better song of hope and celebration than a strategically planted lawn ornament. I too am smiling as I write. I too have a song humming in my heart. I hope you can hear it in your own heart. If you are one who finds it impossible to keep the vows, just ask Jesus to come and live out the vows in you. That’s what He died to do … and then sing! He is that good!!