Part II - Laying Down the Law
Try and remember growing up as a kid back to the times when your parents or parent "laid down the law." My parents were very much like Moses and the Israelites - there was never a shortage on laws. The one difference was certainly that I didn't need a tablet or book to remember the Isaac family laws - they were recited and retold every day. Make no mistake I knew the law - they had real and lasting consequences. I can remember most of them like it was yesterday.
No disrespect or talking back. No bad words or words that sounded bad. No lying or stealing. No fighting with or antagonizing siblings. No misbehaving at school or at church. No wearing shorts or jewelry in public. No going to the movie theatre. No swimming with girls. No dancing. Eat everything on your plate before you can leave the table. No play time without homework and chores completed. No talking around adults unless first spoken to. No Rock Music. No TV movies that had any swearing or bad language (apparently God gave some special dispensation for a John Wayne movie). Absolutely no PDA with girlfriend or girls who were good friends. No dating non-Christians. Absolutely no talking during church. There were a litany of lesser-laws that are not even worthy of honorable mention that lay just beneath the surface of my life-path waiting for me to step on them like a land mine - and I did. Before my teenage years I had already intellectually and emotionally reasoned why every last one of the Isaac Family Laws were wrong and unnecessary. So, the law became my enemy and those who enforced it. Eventually, even though I knew the law, I became embittered and shamed by the law, because I knew that I had to break it before it could break me. I knew my parents loved me and that they loved God, but could not understand how their laws supported or helped that. I also in my heart knew that they laid down the law so that I would have a good chance at becoming the person they hoped I could become. But for me back then the law was just that - law. Rules, principles, guidelines, expectations, warnings, moral codes and behavioral beliefs brought into existence by a mixture of Judeo-Christian ideology, Biblical belief systems, and a limited understanding of emotionally healthy and rational parenting. The Isaac Family Law. There to remind me, there to slow me down, there to make me think of someone other than myself, there to make me reason and grow up, there to frustrate and anger me, there to humiliate me, there to break me - to break my pride and my stubborn will and rebellious ways.
In retrospect, whether the Isaac Family Laws were completely right or wrong is no longer relevant. All these years later, I know that they existed to keep me from ruining myself before I could discover myself - so that I could have a future before I had my end. To help me through the wilderness - reminding me each day who I was, who I could not let myself become, and how desperately I needed to get where I needed to go. I guess the true value of the Isaac Family Law wasn't that I always kept or obeyed it, but more importantly that I would remember and never forget it. Who it was that gave it, and why...
Laying it Down - Hebraic Traditions
On the morning of 6 Sivan, 49 plus 1 days (Pentecost) after having left Egypt, and six days after they camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, the people of Israel awoke to thunder and lightning and a deep, powerful horn (shofar) blast. As they approached Mount Sinai, they saw a pillar of fire, a thick cloud at its peak. Trembling in awe and fear, they gathered at the foot of the mountain as Moses ascended alone to the top. According to the Hebrew oral tradition the Nether of Mt. Sinai moved up and over the people and covered the people.
Against and apparently under this incredible backdrop, God spoke in an audible voice the entire Ten Commandments all together in one moment. He then went on to repeat them to the people one commandment at a time. After the first two commandments, He enabled Moses to transmit the remaining eight commandments to them in a Godly, powerful voice of authority. After each commandment, the entire Jewish people fell as if dead from the intensity of the Divine voice, and God subsequently brought them back to life. After that, the people asked that Moses act as an intermediary for them, communicating with God on the mountain and then conveying God’s will to them.
The reverberations of this communication went much further than Sinai. The Hebraic tradition proclaims that the whole earth itself trembled as God communicated His presence and commandments to mankind.
(Significance of mountains being moved, the symbolic covering for the Hebrew wedding and marriage covenant, 50 days from resurrection of Christ the fulfillment of the law to the covering of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)
Why Ten Commandments?
God created the world with ten utterances (Genesis). There were then 10 generations from Adam to Noah, and another 10 generations from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham, whose progeny (descendent) would be saved from Egypt by 10 plagues and go on to accept the Ten Commandments at Sinai. See the pattern there? The entire purpose of creation was to set the stage for the performance of precepts and principles, as represented by the Ten Commandments.
The Symmetry of the Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments were carved on two tablets, so let us visualize them as being laid out as follows:
TABLET ONE TABLET TWO
1. I am the Lord your God. 6. You shall not murder.
2. You shall have no gods before Me 7. You shall not commit adultery.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 8. You shall not steal.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. 9. You shall not bear false witness.
5. Honor your father and mother. 10. You shall not covet.
Note that we can read the commandments down each tablet, or we can read them from side to side. This Midrash (Hebrew Scripture attached to Biblical Text) provides the connection:
Commandments 1 and 6: Every human is created in the image of God, so murder is an offense to the Creator.
Commandments 2 and 7: When one worships a deity other than God, it is as akin to adultery (infidelity or unfaithfulness). God is our loving spouse (and much more).
Commandments 3 and 8: A person may feel that stealing is only between him and the victim, but it is also a crime against God, whose name will ultimately be taken falsely.
Commandments 4 and 9: Through keeping Shabbat, we testify that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. When one disregards Shabbat, he testifies falsely about the Divine origin of the universe.
Commandments 5 and 10: The juxtaposition of jealousy and honoring parents tell us that one who lusts after that which is not his, will ultimately give birth to a child who curses his parents and honors others instead.
God is in the Details
Looking at the two tablets, you’ll notice that in addition to the commandments on the second tablet being much shorter, the subject is different than the commandments on the first tablet. The commandments on the first tablet are about spiritual matters, between man and the Creator. The commandments on the second tablet, however, seem to be about material matters, with no apparent connection to God or spiritual pursuits. In fact, while every one of the first five commandments includes God’s name, His name is not mentioned once in the second set of five.
Yet all the commandments are given equal weight, because embedded in these simple acts of decency is the formula for God’s plan for the world. Indeed, if you add up all the (Hebrew) words on the second tablet, you’ll arrive at the number 26, the numerical value of God’s ineffable name. Below the surface, God is as present in this set of commandments as He is in the ones where He is overtly mentioned.
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