Commanding Unity: The Ten Commandments

Posted: July 25, 2013 in 2.4 Israel, the Law and the One God
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The purpose of this post is to use the ten commandments to show how the behaviour the law demands is consistent with being union with God, while addressing actual behaviours inherent in fallen humanity (inherent in disunity). Therefore the Ten Commandments dictate the terms of God’s relationship with Israel.

Firstly, God states who he is and his claim over Israel. He declares “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Exodus 20:vs2) God identifies himself to Israel as their God, the one who through many signs and wonders liberated them from Egypt. He is claiming his right to command loyalty and dictate the terms of their relationship (unity). God liberated Israel for a purpose, to be in relationship (union) with him, no one else. Mankind was created to be in a union with God, the terms of which were rightly set out by him as creator. Now God has redeemed Israel for himself, to live in union with him. Therefore God gives them the Ten Commandments as his binding covenant with them.

The first three commandments require Israel to put God first in everything, in recognition of his headship. This is the same requirement that was placed on Adam and Eve, implicitly, in the order of creation. In any union the head is due all honour and respect from all members of that union, in turn it is his role to provide all good things for those who are under his authority.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

The second commandment is specifically targeted at maintaining the order of creation. The sin of Adam and Eve was that they subjected themselves to a lower creature, holding it in greater esteem than God. To ensure that this “worship” or submission to creation does not continue God explicitly forbids the manufacture and worship of idols resembling anything in creation.

2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The third commandment is like the first two. If God is head of this union then it is under his name that all Israel is to be unified. To take his name in vain is to show contempt for the entire union, expressing disunity.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

The forth command is a throwback to God’s act of creation, where he rested on the seventh day, making it a pattern in creation. This is a union under the God who created all things and as such he is head of all things. This is not a new command, the fact that it is explicit is. To be in union with God is to live in a way that is consistent with how he originally created all things (in union).

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The remaining 6 commandments are concerned with the union of mankind (human relationships). In light of God’s headship the requirements he places on human relationships are again consistent with the way he originally created man (in union), while also addressing specific behaviours inherent in human disunity.

To obey your parents is a sign of a working family union, which is the basis of human unity.

5. Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Murder is one member of a union destroying another, making it one of the strongest acts of disunity imaginable. The hatred that produces murder is in direct opposition to the love of God in unity. This is why Cain was cast into exile when he murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4). This is also why God demands blood for blood (Genesis 9:6). Murder cannot exist at the same time as love in unity. Cain’s sin represented the first of many abhorrent acts of disunity (Genesis 4:23-24). Similar things can be said for theft, adultery, false witness and covetous desire, they are disunity “made flesh”.

6. You shall not murder.

Adultery is destruction of the marriage union established by God for the good of all mankind. Adultery not only weakens a marriage union but the entire union of mankind (community).

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Theft would not even make sense in a perfect union. In the order of unity all things are given by the head for the good of all so that all things are common, with each person seeking the good of other members and the entire union. Where the concept of personal ownership becomes ridiculous and the idea of amassing personal fortunes, to lord over others, is counterproductive to a healthy community.

8. You shall not steal.

Bearing false witness (lying) against another member of the same union is destructive, where one member seeks to destroy another using the human “justice” system. It may even lead to murder, using others to carry it out.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Covetous desire is very often the evil motivation behind commands 6-9. Much like theft it does not make any sense in unity when all things are given by God for the common good.

10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”
(Exodus 20:1-21 ESV)

The Ten Commandments reveal that living a righteous life means keeping the minimum requirements of being united in God. While these set out the requirements of living in union with God the story of the Old Testament proves that the law was unable to affect real change in Israel, let alone the world.

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