Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

THE GIVING OF THE LAW, AND THE ENTRANCE INTO CANAAN.

 

WHAT IF GOD…

 

…had not given the first commandment?

                             …had not given humanity a Sabbath rest?                            

…had not condemned coveting?

…had included only the first four Commandments in the Great Code?

…had not shown special concern for widows, orphans, and strangers?

…had allowed partiality toward the poor?

…had not given the land-rest law?

…had not made the Sabbath a sign between Him and his people?

…had not ordained sacrifices, and offerings?

…had not given the laws of sexual morality?

…had destroyed Israel, and had made Moses a great nation?

…had not made tithing a requirement?

…had not elevated the serpent?

…had not given the law regarding cleanliness of the campsite?

 


WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT GIVEN THE FIRST COMMANDMENT?

     One of the greatest events in human history took place during Israel’s exodus to the Promised Land. Once Mount Sinai was reached, God asked Moses to climb it and there He gave him the greatest set of laws humans had ever known: The Ten Commandments. The first of these Ten Commandments asserts the total supremacy of Yahweh as the one and only God. Thus, in one fell swoop all the myriads of gods worshipped on earth were declared nothing but an illusion.

            But what if God had not introduced Himself to humanity as the only Supreme Being who alone is worthy of worship? What if humanity had never been blessed with this revolutionary concept?

         Throughout its history, humanity was cursed with the worship of a multitude of fearsome and cruel Gods. The only known example of an attempt at monotheism happened in Egypt where Pharaoh Akhenaton set up Sun worship.  His attempt proved to be short lived and futile for, after a brief while, he was overthrown and all his efforts at elevating monotheism were erased.

            Few people fully understand how revolutionary the introduction of this commandment truly was. Up to Moses, human beings, with the exception of the few that God had revealed Himself to, had been slaves to horrific beings who had to be continually appeased in manifold ways, including human sacrifices. The manifestation of the one true God marked the beginning of the end of all the ancient gods. Joy Davidman eloquently captures this dramatic overturn in her book Smoke on the Mountain.   

               ... the belief in one God slew a host of horrors:

               malign storm demons, evil djinns of sickness,

               blighters of the harvest, unholy tyrants over life  

               and death; belief in God destroyed the fetishes,

               the totems, the beast-headed bullies of old times.

               It laid the axe to sacred trees watered by the blood

               of virgins, it smashed the child-eating furnaces of  

               Moloch, and smashed the gem-encrusted statues of

               the peevish divinities half-heartedly served by  

               Greece and Rome.

 

     Unlike Pagan gods, the God of Israel was neither cruel nor immoral. He insisted on faithfulness to Him alone, but He also demanded righteousness and love toward one's neighbor.

The old gods fought among themselves, loved and hated

without  reason, demanded unspeakable bribes and

meaningless flatteries. While they were worshipped,

a moral law was impossible, for what pleased

one deity would offend another.

                                    Then came the knowledge of God. An almost

                                    unimaginable person -- a single being, creator of

Heaven and Earth, not to be bribed with golden

images or children burned alive; loving only

righteousness. A being who demanded your whole

heart. 5

 

                              

          The first commandment was, therefore, the grand opening to a brand-new era that was to last perennially, and that would bring about freedom from psychologically oppressive and socially destructive ideas that had enslaved humanity for generations.  It also introduced to Israel, and later humanity, to a supreme God that is outside of the physical creation, and who will not bear the worship of other gods.

          Therefore, if Monotheism had not been introduced, humanity would have continued to worship and to endure the oppression of a multitude of ghoulish gods that gave little and demanded much. Most of all, humanity would not have known the true God, a being who desires and practices holiness and who only has the best of humanity at heart.

 

WHAT IF GOD…

…had allowed idolatry to continue?

…had allowed representations of Himself but not other gods?

…had not insisted on the holiness of His name?

 

            WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT GIVEN HUMANITY A SABBATH REST?

 Before God thundered the Sabbath commandment, humans had no God-imposed, cyclical, weekly pause to restore them spiritually, mentally and physically. No doubt, there were "almost universal customs of keeping days of rest,"14 but it's difficult to know to what extent they were kept, or how they were kept. Some have speculated that the Sabbath finds its roots in the Babylonian "Dies Nefasti" that were kept on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of some months.  This hypothesis is weakened by the fact that the Babylonians had "five-day" week cycles, and by the fact that Babylonian tablets indicate that work projects had no interruption on the seventh day.15 The Sabbath was a day of rest and joy,16 while the Babylonian "Dies Nefasti" were days of prohibitions, especially for kings17.  Any supposed similarity with the Akkadian "shappatu/shapattu" holds little weight, as it was the fifteenth day of the month, the day of the full moon.18 This day is now believed to have been a propitious day in which the king sought to appease the gods, but there is no evidence that it was a day of cessation of work.19

           God thundered, “You will keep the seventh day holy” and He insisted that the Sabbath be a day of rest for strangers, for slaves and even animals.  The God who made all life knew that a cyclical day was critical for the well being of all human beings and even for animals that toiled for them.

            But what if the Sabbath Day had never been given? What if humanity had not been introduced to the concept of a cyclical rest?

Let’s first of all look at the reasons for the giving of the Sabbath and it will become quite clear what its absence would have led to, and, most of all, where disregard of its value will finally lead societies that refuse to sanctify it.

            The Sabbath was to remind Israel that Yahweh, who created all things, and who had delivered them from Egypt, was their Savior and God, and that they had to set aside sacred time to "reconnect" with Him weekly so as to maintain a strong spiritual relationship. Today it is meant to remind all of humanity that God is the only One that can give humanity freedom from the toil and illusions that it continually and vainly pursues.

            The keeping of the Sabbath was to be a day that celebrates the dignity of man, the epitome of Gods physical creation.  Among all living beings, man has been given the privilege of knowing God and of enjoying a special relationship with Him.  This physical being also has the special opportunity to meet with His Creator weekly so as to be instructed in His ways and thus deepen his knowledge of Him.

            The Sabbath is to be a day of joy, not a gloomy day of bad omen, as celebrated by the Babylonians. It is especially a day of joy for the weak and the oppressed, such as workers and even animals (Exodus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:14). God demands that employers allow their workers to take a breather, one day a week. This is not an "only-if you see-fit" principle. It is a divine command from the highest power of all.

            Can we see how benevolent and how divine that is?  Forcing everyone to stop and rest; commanding families to rest together a full day a week and be recharged; stopping all trade and commerce so as to give everyone, rich and poor, master or slave, a chance to be refreshed, is both revolutionary and powerful in impact.  

           Author, Samuel H. Dresner effectively emphasizes the equalizing power of the Sabbath: "Although one Jew may have peddled onions and another may have owned great forests of lumber, on the Sabbath all were equal, all were kings, all basked in the glory of the seventh day. . .  On the Sabbath there were neither banker nor clerk, neither farmer nor hired hand, neither rich nor poor. There were only Jews hallowing the Sabbath." (Samuel H. Dresner, The Sabbath. New York: 1970. P. 43).

 

            Sabbath scholar, Samuele Bacchiocchi, eloquently captures the worth of the Sabbath in the following reflection: "The Sabbath (gives) a chance to our souls to catch up with our bodies to give a change to our souls, through worship and meditation, to be enriched with new moral and spiritual values. This spiritual renewal that comes to us on the Sabbath through worship and meditation enables us to turn a new page in our life, to start a new week with a fresh provision of divine wisdom and grace.” (Bacchiocchi, S. "Rediscovering the Sabbath." http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/sabbath/bacchiocchi.htm). 

 

            The Sabbath is a gift to from God to all humans--no one excepted--to contribute to their mental, physical, and social well-being. As Christ reminds us in the New Testament, "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27). It was made for our benefit not as a limit to our potential. This is, undeniably, a manifestation of divine love.

            Yet there are powerful forces in our Western World that see the Sabbath as an economic impediment to be gradually faced out. Unfortunately, their arrogant plot is coming to pass as more and more businesses operate seven days a week and more and more workers are manipulated or coerced to work on weekends. The result: more families will come asunder, more mental and physical illness due to stress, and most of all, more spiritual deterioration.

            Therefore, if God had not given the Sabbath to mankind we would have remained slaves to seven day a week labor with no pause and relief. The weekly spiritual rejuvenation that accompanies a proper keeping of the Sabbath would not be experienced and materialism would have been first and foremost in our minds. Christians would have had a very tough time maintaining the necessary closeness that the Christian family must maintain and spiritual growth would have been much more difficult. Most of all, the cyclical reminder that God is supreme, that He created all things and that He is worthy of praise and worship would not have existed. 

           The Sabbath is a great gift God gave to humanity to address its fundamental physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Hopefully humans will come to see that rejecting it can only lead to great damage to individuals and society. Keeping it, on the other hand, will bring about great blessings on the individual, his family and to society.

 

WHAT IF GOD…

…had not commanded honoring one’s parents?

…had not condemned murder?

…had not condemned adultery?

…had not condemned lying.

 

WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT CONDEMNED COVETING?

            One of the greatest evidences of the divine origin of the Ten Commandments is the last commandment. While the first nine focus on what man should not do, the last one focuses on what he must not think.  The tenth commandment forbids lusting after anything that belongs to others. Thus, to God not taking what is not ours is not enough; the very desire is condemned as well.

            But what if God had not included coveting in the Ten Commandments? What if He had included another commandment in its stead?

            Upon reflection, one is overwhelmed by the profound wisdom inherent within this commandment. The forbidding of coveting reveals not only a profound understanding of the human mind but, also, an astonishing understanding of how many sins originate. In the New Testament, the Apostle James explains the steps that precede sin: “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” (James 1: 14-15). Therefore, sin has a psychological starting point, and lust is one of its major driving forces. God, the great designer of the human mind, knew that forbidding actions was not enough. For sin to be dealt with effectively one must, first and foremost, address its origins. In trying to control evil action, not dealing with coveting means almost certain failure.

                 Coveting is what precedes a multitude of sins. Before stealing, one must desire the object he or she is stealing. Before committing adultery, one must lust after someone else’s wife. Lying is often used to get what is lusted after. God knew the steps and taught us the need to deal with sin at its origins. His great wisdom becomes evident, because of the last Commandment.

                 Christians must understand this principle in their battle against sin. They must always be on guard by monitoring their thoughts and attitudes. We have been given a great gift directly from God on how to win the life-long battle against temptation and Satan, and we must gratefully accept it -- and use it.

            It is also very meaningful that God included this principle in the Ten Commandments. God doesn’t simply teach us about the need to deal with coveting -- He commands us to do so. We are commanded to search and destroy any form of illicit desire, so as to stay a safe distance from sin.

            Some Christians fail their battle against sin, because they have never understood, or because they have never given heed to the importance of dealing with first steps. God has made it perfectly clear that resisting coveting is of utmost importance. Christ also reinforced this reality, by stressing that adultery is not just the action -- it is also the desire that precedes the action. He stressed,“ You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You Shall not Commit Adultery; But I say to you That whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28).

            The battle with sin is very hard, but it can be made much easier, if we fight it at the source when the temptation is still at its inception. If God had not added this commandment to the Great Code, we would have been deprived of a most critical and powerful tool in fighting sin. Therefore God, in His great wisdom, made sure the Ten Commandments included coveting and, by making the battle against it central to our spiritual warfare, we can be victorious over sin.   

 

WHAT IF GOD…

…had used a less frightening approach to introduce Himself to Israel?

…had written the 10 Commandments on a scroll instead of stone?

…had simply included the Ten Commandments in the Book of the Law?

 

WHAT IF GOD HAD ENGRAVED ON THE TABLETS ONLY THE FIRST FOUR COMMANDMENTS?

            The first four commandments address man’s relationship with God. God is to be the sole object of worship, and He will not allow idolatry. His name is to be revered, and the Sabbath is to be a sign that God is Creator, and that man is His special creation. The other six commandments deal with man’s relationship with man.

            But what if God had only engraved the first four Commandments on one tablet and had made the last six simply a part of the Book of the Law?

            The fact that God made man’s relationship with man a part of the Great Code is exceptionally significant. First of all it reveals that God is not a self-absorbed creator. He could have placed only the first four Commandments in the “Great Code,” and He would have been totally justified in doing so. He is “The All,” and He deserves all the focus, being the source of everything. But He didn’t. By including the last six as well, He demonstrated that we, His children, have a high level of importance. The last six commandments follow the first four, showing that what pertains to God is, obviously, primary. Nevertheless, the last six are on the same tablets showing that our well being has a top priority as well.

            By commanding man to abide by the last six commandments, God made clear that the welfare of His children is very important to Him. He is not a being that is merely  interested in obtaining man’s worship; He wants humans to treat each other with utmost dignity. God wants humans to recognize that they are equally important before Him, and that He demands that no one take advantage and abuse the other.

           Of course there is a need to emphasize that even the first four Commandments were given to humans not because God needs our worship, but because man needs to be properly focused on His Creator, if he is to escape foolish religious ideas and be blessed.

             Every time we read or think about the Ten Commandments, therefore, let’s not forget, that the fact that the last six commandments are included in the Ten Commandments yells out that God loves humanity deeply and expects that each and every human to do the same.


                                HOME              TABLE OF CONTENTS 

                                             © Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2004