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Clear Words

Clear Words – The unchanging law (Deuteronomy 5:22)

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 5-7

Today’s Reflection: Deuteronomy 5:22

These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

The entirety of the Pentateuch includes Moses sharing God’s instructions to Israel about how to conduct themselves.  But Deuteronomy 5 does something the Pentateuch doesn’t do often:  it repeats itself.  Extensively and in great detail.  In this chapter Moses repeats the 10 Commandments to the children of Israel, and while there are some changes (for reasons worth studying on your own) what is shared here is largely identical to the commandments given in Exodus chapter 20.  Because God is a God of purpose, this begs the question: what does this repetition mean?

I think it tells us something special about this particular part of the Torah.

There is a great deal of continuing debate over what constitutes God’s law today.  Jews and an increasing number of Christians acknowledge the Torah, the 613 instructions given to Moses by God throughout the Pentateuch as the law that is to be kept.  This is despite the fact that nearly two thirds of the 613 Mitzvoth cannot be kept without a temple of the Lord (which was destroyed in AD70).

Other Christian denominations believe the ceremonial laws are no longer valid after Christ’s sacrifice, while the moral laws are still binding.  The only problem is the distinction between ceremonial and moral laws isn’t biblical.  Theologians can’t even decide what constitutes ceremonial and moral.  Most agree that the 10 Commandments is a moral code, yet it contains the Sabbath which fits the criteria that most ascribe to ceremonial laws (and is included as one of the feast days in Leviticus 23, also considered to be a ceremonial concept).

Finally there are Christians who preach that the grace of Christ means that the law was done away with.  This is a common argument raised when the validity of Sabbath observance is raised.  However, these Christians agree that adultery, lying, stealing, coveting, and disrespecting parents are sinful.  So they agree with keeping some commandments, some instructions of God, but not all of them?

Today’s focus text highlights the one clear distinction God makes in His Torah, His instructions to Israel.  These 10 Commandments stand apart from everything else God instructed.  He spoke these words to Israel.  He carved them into stone, a symbol of permanence.  In fact, God’s writing of the commandments is one of only three instances of God actually writing something in His own hand (the other two being in Daniel 5 and John 8:3-11).

When the rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus doesn’t recite the entirety of the Torah.  He doesn’t talk about keeping feasts or making sacrifices.  He draws from the 10 Commandments (Luke 18:18-23).

Though Torah cannot be kept today, I believe the entirety of God’s instructions have lessons and principles that are still valid for us today.  Though I don’t believe we are required to keep the feast days, I believe that observing them can teach us insights into God and what He has done for us (I also believe observing the feast days is far preferable to keeping Christmas and Easter, both of which are pagan and idolatrous traditions which God abhors disguised in Christian clothing).  But upon examining the special treatment God has given the 10 Commandments, it is clear that He has marked them as His unchanging law for mankind. 

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