Exodus 24:12-18: Gift for Instruction

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Image via Wikipedia

[Reflections on the Old Testament Lectionary Reading for Mar 6, 2011]

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.'” (Ex, 24:12 NRSV)

Why did God give us the law and commandments? According to this passage, God gave them to us for our instruction. Notice first that they are a gift not a burden. Notice second that they are for our instruction rather than for our condemnation.

So why should we obey God’s laws and commandments. It is surely not to avoid condemnation. Yet many follow the rules set forth in Scripture and their congregation out of fear. They have been taught that in order to avoid the condemnation of hell they must give their life to Christ. They are taught that they are saved by grace rather than works. But then they judge their own and others “faith” by the degree to which they measure up to these rules.

If these rules are a gift for instruction, then perhaps they were given in order to enhance our lives rather than to threaten us for our transgressions. Perhaps God has given us the law as an owner’s manual from our maker. Perhaps the law was meant to instruct us in how to live more fully on earth. Who better than our creator to show us what manner of living is consistent with our design and purpose?

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • sailorfeeney  On February 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Amen!

  • Jim Wheeler  On February 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    JH,

    “Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns – so they can listen and learn to FEAR the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to FEAR the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” –Deuteronomy 31:12-13 (All-caps emphasis added)

    As a doubting Thomas I am inspired by your post to ask these questions:

    Is the Bible always to be taken literally, or is it always subject to interpretation? Are some parts of the Bible more authoritative than others? Is the Old Testament as valid as the New? Is the concept of Hell real? If belief is the sole criterion for a ticket to Heaven, can a mere mortal force herself to believe something, or is belief mainly a work in progress? If belief is enabled by fear, is it still valid?

    Honest test now. Without further reference beforehand, can you at this moment take a sheet of blank paper and write down all ten commandments?

    Jim

    • jwhester  On February 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm

      Is the Bible always to be taken literally, or is it always subject to interpretation?

      Taking the Bible literally is one way of interpreting. A literal interpretation stands in contrast to one that sees the words as an allegory (or some other figurative mode). So I would say it is always subject to interpretation.

      Are some parts of the Bible more authoritative than others?

      It all has equal authority, but it may not all have equal weight or applicability.

      Is the Old Testament as valid as the New?

      Yes

      Is the concept of Hell real?

      I believe so, but some people’s notions about hell are not biblical, so some of their concepts may not be real.

      If belief is the sole criterion for a ticket to Heaven, can a mere mortal force herself to believe something, or is belief mainly a work in progress? If belief is enabled by fear, is it still valid?

      This is a more complex set of questions, and I am not sure I have a definitive answer. But I have some comments. The motivation for belief in Jesus is not a ticket to heaven, although I certainly understand why some would get that impression from a lot of Christians. There is a great deal of tension between faith and works in the bible, so I am uncomfortable viewing “belief” as a work. If some come to belief through fear, I think it can still be valid, but I would hope that their faith would take them past fear pretty quickly.

  • Jim Wheeler  On February 27, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Certainty is most easily achieved by youth, being derived from rote and cushioned by time.

    Certainty is more easily simulated by age and is motivated by addiction to power, however subtle.

    Questions become more visceral with one’s years.

    And the answers? They are but wishful thinking at best, and pretense at worst.

    Good luck to you, John.

    PS – I never mentioned “motivation” for belief in Jesus. The message of the NT is clear: belief is the criterion and motivation has nothing to do with it. Based on that message, Charles Manson might honestly repent before he dies and go to heaven, and Mother Teresa, who admitted doubts in her waning years, might well land in eternal torment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: