Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who Are You? Hoo Hoo – Hoo Hoo

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for  7.9.11

Pretty much from the moment Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, God has had to demonstrate who He is.  Every now and then we get it, but it’s like the Camelot thing – “one brief shining moment” – and then, POOF! it’s gone.

I mean, Adam and Eve had it for a little while, and then Eve got distracted and started listening to the serpent. Enoch got it, and managed to hang on.  Noah and his family seemed to understand who God was, right up until the time they got off the ark.  Things went haywire again.

The book of Genesis tells one story after another about the trouble people had hanging on to any understanding of who God is.  By the time Moses meets God at the burning bush, most folks really didn’t have any idea who God was.  Thankfully, Moses understood, so God took him back to start the arduous process of re-introducing Him to the Children of Israel.
The Children of Israel proved to be very difficult to teach (not unlike us), but God didn’t quit trying.  He used miracles, manna, water from rocks, pheasants, and the Ten Commandments.

Yes, you read that right.  I believe the Ten Commandments are God’s self-portrait, maybe even His autobiography.  I believe that they say more about Him than they do about us.

Now, I know lots of folks are going to disagree with me.  Most people who think of the Ten Commandments at all, think of them as a list of restrictions that God put out so He could catch people breaking the rules and then punish them.  Or, probably more accurately, rules that some people threw together to control other people. 

In fact, Haddon Robinson implies that if there were no rules, people wouldn’t think to break them. 
“The law can prompt us to sin. I am told that several years ago a high-rise hotel was built in Galveston, Texas, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, they sank pilings into the gulf and built the structure out over the water. When the hotel was about to have its grand opening, someone thought, What if people decide to fish out the hotel windows? So they placed signs in the hotel rooms, "No fishing out the hotel windows." Many people ignored the signs, however, and it created a difficult problem. Lines got snarled. People in the dining room saw fish flapping against the picture windows. The manager of the hotel solved it all by taking down those little signs. No one checks into a hotel room thinking about fishing out of the windows. The law, although well-intentioned, created the problem.”[1]
Is Robinson really saying that the Ten Commandments are what make us sin?  That’s what it seems like to me, but I could be wrong.  I’d love to know what you think.

On the other hand, there’s Randy Cohen who’s comments seem to imply that people only need a suggestion of the appropriate behavior.
“In New York at 33rd and Broadway, it's a big transportation hub. Penn Station's right there. A lot of commuter trains stop there, a major subway stop. Thousands and thousands of people pouring out…and what everybody wants more than anything else is: They want a taxi.
“And the most appalling episodes of violence I've seen since I've been here—and I've been in New York for 30 years—were committed there. People did just terrible things.
“Then about 10 years ago, someone—I guess, the Taxi and Limousine Commission—they did something very simple. They painted a yellow strip down the sidewalk and they stenciled two words on the sidewalk: Cab Line. It utterly transformed behavior there. It's the most astonishing thing. Nearly everyone, almost all the time, simply waits in line. It's magnificent. It's never enforced—there are no "line" police there. But we changed the physical conditions and made it possible for people to behave, invited them to behave, and they do![2]
The thing is, that however we feel about them as rules, I believe that the Ten Commandments are the clearest representation that the people who lived between Eden and Jesus had of just who God is. 

“You shall have no other gods before me.”  Exodus 20:3 God is loyal to His people and asks for theirs in return.  “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

“You shall not make for yourself an image…” Exodus 20:4  God knows how fruitless it is for us to put our faith in anything other than the God who created us.  He wants to spare us the heartbreak that would inevitable come from worshiping the wrong thing.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God…”  Exodus 20:7 God respects and values every human being who has ever or will ever live, regardless of gender, wealth or race.  He wants to teach us how to extend that respect to each other by learning to respect Him.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”  Exodus 20:8 God has put time with us on His calendar.  He knows He can spend time together anytime, but He wants to make sure we have that fenced off, uninterrupted time together so we don’t grow apart.

“Honor your father and your mother,…”  Exodus 20:12 God wanted us to experience the relationship that He has with Jesus and the Holy Spirit – individuals who are unified by their love for one another.

 “You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”  Exodus 20:13-16 God wants everyone to know that each of us is valuable to Him.  When we injure each other, whether it’s physically or emotionally, He experiences that pain too.  His heart is broken when our hearts are broken.

“You shall not covet…”  Exodus 20:17 God longs to give us the desires of our hearts, but if we allow ourselves to want wrong things, He can’t give them to us.  When our hearts are aligned with His, we will want only what He can give us.

The Ten Commandments can’t just be rules to us or we’ll begin to worship the rules and not the Ruler of the Universe.  Rules for the sake of having rules are about power and control.  The Ten Commandments are about love and protection.  If you think about it, the Ten Commandments are the rules of Heaven.  If they feel like bondage now, how will they feel for eternity? 

Satan works really hard to make sure that people believe that the Ten Commandments are God’s way of controlling the population of Heaven; that they’re the barbed wire around eternity.  He wants us to feel pricked and chafed by them.  But that’s not what God intended.  He wants us all there.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

The question is, do you want to be with Jesus for eternity?  I do. 

[1] Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching (Baker Academic, 2001), p. 100
[2] From an interview with Randy Cohen, "Jesus Has a Lot of Explaining to Do!" Homiletics (September/October 2004) p. 67

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