Read an Excerpt
from Chapter 1
God's Ten Commadments—and You
What Do the Commandments Mean to You?
What do these ancient biblical laws mean to you, a young person living in exciting, yet turbulent, times? Do you think of the Commandments as really old and outdated, or do you see them as incredibly pertinent? How do the Commandments serve you on a daily basis—from the moment you get out of bed, until your jam-packed and stress-filled day of dealing with others and fulfilling your obligations and responsibilities is over? How do the Commandments apply to the real-life issues young people face, such as a relationship with a special someone, or getting along with family members, friends, educators, employers and others you meet and greet throughout your day? How do the Commandments provide direction for the decisions you face and define the boundaries for your choices—such as staying healthy and fit, choosing or losing friends, attending college, choosing a career or setting goals for your future? How do the Commandments support you in coping with the problems in life, such as stress, depression, wealth or debt? How do the Commandments both motivate and sustain you in times of crisis—such as the loss of a loved one, a personal setback, or confronting a disability, even a terminal illness? These are important questions, to be sure.
Do the ancient laws really speak to you?
So, do these ancient laws—written 4,000 years ago—speak to you, a young adult living in today's time? You bet! Certainly this is a time in life in which you're hard at work discovering who you are and where you fit in. You're making some incredibly important decisions about everything from "getting a life," to managing a very full and fast one. From making, keeping and losing friends, to "finding" and believing in yourself, you've got your hands full. And you're beginning to know it—which is why you're starting to wonder about a lot of things. For example, you're willing to learn and follow the "rules" so as to be accepted and fit with your peers—but you also know there is a limit on how far you'll go, on just how much you'll compromise, because you intend to stay true to yourself. But who are you? You're busy uncovering your strengths, talents and interests, knowing how important these are to being all you can be. But what should you do and how will you know if you've chosen correctly? Just when you thought you had all the answers, you discover a mountain of puzzling, even baffling, questions.
It's all part of God's plan.
Finding Your Wings: Do You Feel Hopeful, Optimistic and Invincible?
Up to now, you've been part of a "home family," and while that will always remain your "roots," you're finding your "wings" and discovering just how high and far you can fly. You naturally feel hopeful, optimistic and invincible. If you didn't feel this way, you might never venture into the world, where it awaits—even depends upon—your good will, your love, your youthful strength and energy, and most of all, your help and support. And your love of God.
No doubt about it: Life is unfolding for you and taking on shape. More and more, you're beginning to see yourself as not just a bystander in life, but as an active participant—and maybe even a leader. This, too, is all the more reason you will want to understand the laws—governed by love to God and to our neighbor—and see why God shines a spotlight on showing you the way to a glorious life, one that is pure, strong and victorious.
The "Old" Commandments: Still Relevant in "New" Times
Even though God gave the Ten Commandments thousands of years ago, they're still as relevant today as they were back then. Why? Because, though times have changed, people have not. Science continues to make advances that make our lives easier. Technology has transformed our world. Imagine how astounded the Israelites wandering on foot in the wilderness would have been if they could have seen the way we live today with our electrical conveniences and cars and airplanes and rockets and satellites and computers! However, even though our way of life is totally different, the common needs of people to have safety, shelter and emotional security remain the same. The Ten Commandments speak to us in the same way today as they did to the Israelites many centuries ago. God's voice is still providing the guidance and direction we need to maneuver through life—successfully negotiate its ups and downs, its challenges, frustrations and temptations. Throughout it all, we still can know where "the hand of God is that we might know how to live according to His will."
Why Did God Enter into a Covenant with His People?
At Mount Sinai (you'll get an overview of what happened there in the next chapter), God entered into a covenant with His people of Israel. A covenant is a contract that guarantees the fulfillment of what has been promised. You're probably familiar with the covenant God made with Noah. He put the rainbow in the sky as a sign that if Noah would build the ark and do all that God asked of him, then God would never again send a flood to destroy the Earth: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the Earth. It shall be when I bring a cloud over the Earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud" (Gen. 9:12–14 NKJV). Imagine, the beautiful rainbow comes to us as a promise of protection from our Heavenly Father—how totally cool is that?
At Mount Sinai, God pledged to make the Israelites a holy people whom He would use to bring salvation to all mankind. As a sign of acceptance and in celebration, Moses sacrificed an ox to the Lord, taking its blood and sprinkling it upon the altar. (This particular covenant is called "the blood of the covenant.") The people pledged to trust God and keep His word: "We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey" (Exod. 24:7). As a sign of "sealing" the covenant, Moses said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Exod. 24:8).
If we ask what moved God to enter into a covenant with His people, there is only one answer—His love. He created us. We are made in His image. We are His heirs. To God, each life—each soul—has eternal value. And so because of His love for us, He teaches us how to live a godly life. When we transgress—when we mess up or go astray—He offers us forgiveness of sin through the Savior, and He leads us to faith in Jesus Christ that we might know eternal life. We are His children. He wants us to return to Him, to live with Him eternally. But God must live in us before He can work through us.
The love that moved God to give us the gospel also moved Him to give us His holy law. God first inscribed His law in the heart of man at creation; later He gave the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. We call the law inscribed in our hearts the conscience. "The Gentiles . . . show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Rom. 2:14–15 KJV). The conscience is always on the side of what we believe to be right. Unless instructed by the Word of God, the conscience may be on the side of what is wrong because we believe it to be right. In order that we may know what is right, God has given us the written law.
The Commandments—Two Tablets "Inscribed by the Finger of God"
The Bible says that the Commandments were chiseled on the front and back of two stone tablets by God's own hand, "inscribed by the finger of God" (Exod. 31:18). Jesus divided the law into two parts—love for God and love for other people. The first four Commandments teach about love for God, and the last six Commandments address love for our neighbor. In the New Testament, when Jesus is asked which law is most important, he sums them all up into two parts, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first Commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:37–39 KJV).
As we learn in Romans 13:10, "Love is the fulfillment of the law." The purpose of the law is threefold:
To teach His people how to live. "The Commandment is a lamp; and the law is light" (Prov. 6:23 kjv). We're born here on Earth, but we're not without direction on how to live here. Through the word of His Commandments, our Heavenly Father takes us by the hand, inviting us to walk through life together with Him.
To teach us that we are not perfect—we sin. Yes, we try to be good and decent people, but our hearts are not as pure as God would like. The Commandments provide the baseline for what is "perfect," and so by comparing ourselves against each standard (i.e., "do not steal"), we know where we stand in God's eyes. If we are off base, our conscience accuses us and we know we've done wrong. "Through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20 RSV).
To direct us to Christ. When we realize we have much to do in perfecting our nature, we try to do better. But even when we put all our willpower into the task of improving ourselves, we will be unable to produce the purity of heart that God asks of us in His law. Only forgiveness can bring peace to our conscience. Forgiveness of sin is the gift of Jesus Christ. "The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ" (Gal. 3:24).
In Each Commandment, God Guards Something That Is of Great Importance to Our Welfare
In much the same way that a loving parent provides rules so as to look after the safety and happiness of his child, so does our loving Heavenly Father provide rules—laws—for His people. To this end, the Commandments are loving, not limiting. In each Commandment, God guards something that is of the greatest importance to our welfare. Because each is a guideline for the way we should live, each addresses what we MUST do and MUST NOT do.
Each Commandment then, is a blueprint, a cornerstone used to govern our behavior. Even aside from the spiritual aspect, each is perfectly formulated "common sense," directing us as to how to live in peace, harmony and safety with each other. They are the basis for moral and spiritual conduct, as well as the foundation of peace and prosperity for the individual and for the entire world, both then and now—and for always.
¬2004. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Living the 10 Commandments in New Times by Bettie B. Youngs. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.