One of the books that a friend recommended to me to read which has since gone on to knock me sideways is Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott. I first read this book about two years ago, and it has thus far managed to inspire more than a few pages of journal notes and ideas. One of the reasons for that is not only does the book come across – to me – as an outstanding primer/”101” text for the Christian faith, but parts of the text manage to reframe my understanding of the Ten Commandments.
Yeah. Those ten. The ones which are hotly debated and contested about if they should be on public display, when the real argument is if those who argue so voraciously for them actually hold to the principles of them in their private lives.
Now, if you were to ask anyone who is a Christian what the Ten Commandments actually state, chances are they’d get most of them right. We’ve learned to say them by rote, boiling their essences down to one sentence each: “Thou shalt not kill;” “Thou shalt not have no other gods before me;” “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s whatever.” However, if you really stop to look at and read them in their entirety, they say (and infer) a lot more than “Thou shalt not.” They express more in each verse about WHY thou shalt not or shalt doest whatever rather than the actual “what” thou shalt or shalt not do.
Especially the Sabbath.
Looking at Exodus 20:8-11, there are four – count ‘em; FOUR – verses explaining about the Sabbath, why it is holy, why we should keep it, and how we should keep it. Four. Verses. This is such an important concept that God felt it necessary to go into more depth and explanation about the rest that we need more than anything else He felt we should or should not do.
Don’t kill? Simple enough commandment.
Don’t lie? Simple enough commandment.
Take a day and reflect? Whoa hey now.
Makes you wonder exactly what it must have been like out in the wilderness, and what the heck they were up to all the time.
It makes you wonder what was going on in a period that we would call simpler, less complicated, and less demanding that God would take so much time to explain why we need to take so much time away from letting time take up so much of our time.
If we think we’re busy now, then it must have been equally as comparatively simple to let time slip away from doing what matters – resting – while the Israelites were wandering out in the desert.
Without modern conveniences.
So the next time you convince yourself that you’ll rest “tomorrow,” or that you’ll do something for yourself “later,” or you’ll get around to reading the Bible or spending time with other people “sometime soon,” ask yourself what exactly is distracting you in your own wilderness.
And if you need me, I’ll be over here, holding a mirror up to my own face about this.