Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:14 (day three)

“You shall not commit adultery.”

Children are the most vulnerable beings on earth. Other creatures will survive and thrive on instinct. A child will survive and thrive to the degree she is formed in spirit, mind, body, and social context. Marriage—for all of the attention paid to communication, sex, Mars, Venus, love language, etc., etc.—is a vocation ordered to the creation and raising of children. A mother and a father form the body and the character of a child, and whenever there is a disruption of that order, the child’s life bears the imprint of that disruption. Every family knows disruption in one form or another due to the general depravity of man. This commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not be fallen.” That’s now out of our hands. But it does say, “Mind the things you can indeed control.”


Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:13 (day three)

Thou shalt not kill.

The word translated “kill” is often—very often—translated “murder” instead. That makes it easier to digest. Who of us would murder someone? Of course, people do indeed commit murder, but that occurrence is, predominately, far-removed from all but the most violent strata of our society, and although arguments abound for the classification of abortion as murder, that’s not the legal reality in which we currently live. The broader word “kill”, though, which the original language would convey—what do you do with that? You might immediately envision exceptions to the commandment: capital punishment, warfare, etc. The problem is that exceptions tend to multiply. If you thought about exceptions in light of the commandments, though, instead of thinking about the commandments in light of exceptions, how would that change the way the you live, if at all?


Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:12 (day three)

“Honor your father and your mother.”

After establishing the necessity of a rightly-calibrated life with God, the Ten Commandments locates a society’s robustness in the family system. One could imagine a law code that teaches societal order by starting with something other than family: “Honor the state” or “Honor the king” or “Honor the traditions” or even “Honor the religious precepts.” None of these other things, though important and influential, brings to human life what “father and mother” brings. Contained within that construct is nurture, biological attachment, shared history, and mutual formation of the inner life (adoption’s highly-cherished status arises precisely from the willingness to extend love despite the absence of biological attachment). Principles or codes or offices establish ideology, not character. Only the parent-child nexus will produce societies with the empathy that makes peace and progress possible.


Re:Verse passage – Exodus 2:8-11 (day three)

“You shall not do any work.”

Some work needs to be left undone. The work you leave unfinished creates a space for someone else to think, to speak, to act. When that happens, continued work becomes a shared engagement instead of a solo project, shaping character in ways that isolation cannot. Work done in isolation invites pride, while shared work cultivates humility. Isolation encourages denial of painful flaws, while shared work necessitates honest conversations. Isolation propagates your own weaknesses, while shared work builds robustness. Isolation convinces you of your indispensability, while shared work reveals to others your worth. Heeding this command results in a less lonely work space.


Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:7 – (day three)

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

There’s a difference between magic and prayer. Magic relies on mechanistic recitations of formulas whose only purpose is get done exactly what you want to get done. Prayer is a kind of life in which you and God have access to one another, and the purpose of that life is not to get stuff done—though that might indeed occur—but to transform you into the kind of person who lives like God lives. In which of those contexts are you speaking about God and to God? The answer to that question will tell you whether you are using the name of God in vain.


Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:4-6 (day three)

“You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

There are some things, like the second commandment, that are not self-evident, and therefore warrant an explanatory passage—hence Moses’s presentation to Israel of God’s reason for the injuction against graven images. Idolatry is not a neutral phenomenon. Its effect is a closing of the mind and of the will to the unseen side of reality, the spiritual realm. It will never be the case that where idols exist they will not overtake the thinking and the affections of the human person. In a matter of three or four generations, one’s descendants aren’t just uninterested in God, but outright hostile to all things divine. These verses encapsulate the history of Egypt in a few words. In the land of idols, Pharaoh set himself up as an enemy of the Almighty. A destitute people resulted.


Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:3 (day three)

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Whole lotta gods out there—you know, those concepts or people or things that you’ve organized your life around, made concessions to, or given up dreams for so that they could make your life secure. We’ve all been there over and over. Those gods will claim to shield you from suffering, be it pain or hardship or loss or sickness or famine. The actual God will shield you from no such thing. Instead, the actual God will teach you to live the kind of life that suffering will not destroy. If your god has convinced you that it can separate you from suffering, your god has not prepared you for reality. Only the God who actually is will lead you to know how to live in the universe that actually is.


Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:1-17 (day three)

“And God spoke all these words.”

John Ortberg relates an incident from the life of philosopher Dallas Willard: Someone once asked Willard, “What is reality?” He responded, “Reality is what you can count on.” The questioner followed up with, “What is pain?” Willard answered, “Pain is what happens when you bump into reality.” These words God spoke in Exodus 20—they’re not rules. Neither are they laws in the way we are often accustomed to thinking of laws. That is, they do not exist in order to make life run a certain way. These words of God exist in order to make life possible in the first place. They are laws in the sense that gravity is a law, or that the speed of light is a law. Reality: It’s the way the universe works.


Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 24 (day three)

“Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

We recognize David least when he is behaving most like a clichéd tyrant—employing his power to bend the world to his will. The writer of 2 Samuel makes apparent that God has established and nurtured the nation for his own purposes. David now behaves as if he has outgrown those purposes, and he moves Israel to a war footing to expand his geopolitical influence in the region. David had determined to take action, and the Lord said, in effect, “Okay, your will be done.” When human beings speak that phrase to God, the final result is good, always. When God speaks that phrase to human beings, things will not end well.


Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 20 (day three)

“We have no share in David.”

For every instance of soldiers’ and priests’ loyalty to the crown, murder and treachery from the top down poisoned the monarchy. For every battle won in the field, a skirmish on the home front caused paroxysms of family suffering. For every season of righteous ruling, rebels hostile to Judah threatened to fracture the kingdom. That’s some golden age. Turns out hindsight does not guarantee clear vision. We want to celebrate David as the ideal king. The real King David is far less worthy of laud and honor. What we’re left with as a legacy worth pursuing is not his exploits, but his question arising from the tattered remains of every disaster in his lifetime: Where is God?