We often look at God’s 10 Commandments as those things which we are or are not to do, and they certainly speak clearly in that way. They are more though. In this series of articles, we’ll look at these Commandments functioning like a fence. A fence protects valuable gifts from being harmed. A fence prohibits what’s inside from becoming abused or lost into the abyss of all that exists outside its boundaries. A fence promotes the value of that which exists within.
Using this three-fold function of a fence, we’ll begin taking a look at God’s familiar 10 Commandments.
A fence promotes the value of that which exists within.
Have you ever been given the cold shoulder – the silent treatment – by someone you care about very much? Maybe it was spouse, a son or daughter, possibly a mother or father? If you have, you understand the meaning of the saying, “The silence was deafening.” I want you to think of all the things that you considered doing or saying with the hopes that you might cajole your loved in into speaking to you – anything to you – again. You were like a court jester just hoping to woo the favor of your master back in your direction.
What if our knowledge of God stopped at His existence and His name? What if all we knew was that the One who made us and remains our master exists and that He has a name by which we can call out to Him? What if, as far as we knew, He hadn’t spoken and wasn’t in the business of speaking to us? Could we ever be comfortable with that scenario? Would we be conﬁdent with our standing, our place… or would we be nothing more than that court jester, dancing and performing with the hopes that we might muster some word – any word – out of His mouth?
There is really One God, One God who created all that you see with your eyes: the spring bloom, the summer green, the fall colors, the winter dormancy. And that One who created all things preserves them and supplies beneﬁts through this creation to all the earth. And that One has a Name by which you may call on Him and speak to Him. But even more, that One calls out to you! He does not leave you as a desperate, dancing court jester hoping to draw a kind word or a happy smile out of His silence.
In fact, His speaking is where this creation came from. “And God said…” is the construction implement of the world’s creation! What God said, is. And even when the crown of His creation betrayed Him and deiﬁed themselves, the One God with a Name did not revert to be a cold-shoulder God. He remained the God who speaks. He spoke compassionately of His redemption and reclamation of His beloved inﬁdels. He spoke to His people through Moses, through Aaron and his sons, through priests and the blood of animals, through prophets’ warnings and words of promise. And that One God who is and who has a Name remains the God who Speaks.
The Devil, try as he might, can’t make the true God a mute. But he does his damnedest to deafen your ears or dull my hearing. “Did God really say?…” – that wasn’t a one-timer. The Devil is an old dog with “old” tricks, as time-tested as they are treacherous to you and me. If he can confuse or convolute God’s immutable speaking, that will serve his crafty and hellish purposes just ﬁne.
And worse, the Devil has allies. He uses your words and the words of the culture around you to muddy up God’s speaking as well. Just as a little child is far more interested in you hearing all they have to say to you than what you are speaking to them, so is our fallen ﬂesh with God. Our ﬂesh is most happy when God “gets all His words” from our thoughts and wills and ways.
So when God gives us the 3rd Commandment – “You shall keep the Day of Rest Holy” – He’s doing more than giving us a requirement to meet (one which we fail at daily and hourly). He’s also setting up a protective fence around something invaluable to us and to the world – His speaking. This protection shows us just how vital and necessary His word is for us. It means to protect that Word in our midst even from us and our despising (devaluation) of it.
This command locates where the God who is and who has a Name, is for us and for our beneﬁt! What the law of Moses etched as requirement, Jesus states in gift form: “These Words I am speaking to you, they are spirit (breath) and they are life” (John 6:63). God means to spare the whole blood-bought humanity from devilish delusion or self-induced suffocation. He desires that all those whom He has redeemed with the blood of His Son would breathe deeply on the “breath” of His Word and live fully on the Life gifted in the promises of that Word. To consult our feelings, hoping to “sense the spirit” somewhere, somehow, is to underestimate how God has promised to speak to us. To rely on dreams or profound private visions to “assure” our faith is to look past God’s kind and compassionate Word already speaking to you. The God who is and who is Named, is the God who speaks to you through His written Word for your reading and His Word preached and proclaimed through servant mouths for your hearing and believing. Jesus the Christ is that Word and He is breath and life for you.
The Third Commandment
You shall keep the day of rest holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.
Rev. Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Norseland Lutheran Church
St. Peter, MN
Norwegian Grove Lutheran Church