Psalm 119:143: “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”

King David loved the Lord, and He loved His law. In Psalm 119, he says (Psalm 119:62):

“At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.”

To be enthused with the law of God as much as King David professes it in his psalms strikes many of us as strange. Interestingly, the initial reaction at the time when the Ten Commandments were published was fear. Here is how people reacted as they witnessed God speaking from Heaven (Exodus 20:18):

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance.”

I believe fear can be a good thing if it keeps us from harm. The fear of getting hurt prevents us from touching fire. Kids learn that really quickly. Beyond that, however, we expect kids to grow into adults who can use fire to their benefit.

God is an eternal flame. He appeared to Moses in the form of fire, the burning bush. It seems that Moses had quickly grown past the fear of fire. A friendship developed between Moses the prophet and God Almighty that the Bible depicts as exceptional, although I’m not sure God wants friendship with people as an exception.

Life is more than just two-dimensional. Unless we want to live like cartoon characters, at some point in our lives we need to outgrow the idea that the world around us only falls into two categories: right and wrong; good and evil.

Ultimately, the Lord’s commandments, written in stone, represent the stepping stones towards God’s world that knows no commands and is entirely built on love. If we get hung up by His commands, then God’s law turns from stepping stones into a murderous weapon. A rigid, rule-driven life simply leaves us no room to breathe. God’s commands were not written to stone us, but to guide us. King David understood that profoundly. He didn’t lead a flawless life, but he is known to be a big believer in God’s mercies.

The law of God was written down to lay out righteous living. Stepping onto the building stones of human decency, we will step into God’s presence. And approaching Him, we’ll make a Friend for a lifetime.

Romans 13:9-10: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

If a robot asked us “what is love?” wouldn’t we need to download a descriptive manual to explain what love is all about? – I know this seems a little far-fetched, but just humor me for a minute. – The Ten Commandments are like a manual explaining that we show love when we do not steal, when we do not lie and refuse to take advantage of someone’s misfortune; all the while we help our neighbors, give generously, conduct fair businesses and show respect for ourselves and other people by upholding the so-defined love standard.

Granted, we are no robots and the word “love” should mean something to us; unfortunately, not all of us are born into very promising circumstances, and then love may not make a whole lot of sense. Looking at the people of Israel around the time when they received the Ten Commandments from God, they were refugees roaming the Sinai desert – escaped slaves. A slave is considered a prized possession at best and mistreated like an abused animal at its worst. All day push and pull; do this, don’t do that!

600,000 men of military age were counted when the Israelites left Egypt. Israel’s exodus may have ended for them the Egyptian tyranny, but a former slave now had to redefine his entire existence. Multiply this times 600,000 and we are looking at a major identity crisis of an entire people group.

I believe issuing the Ten Commandments at this point in history was extremely helpful. It turned a motley crew of refugees into the people of Israel who made it through the desert and are still around today. – What about now? Are the Ten Commandments still relevant today? – Well, does humanity still have issues with this thing called love?

While commandments written in stone are no replacement for love, they represent a road map showing us how to get there. Most importantly, the commandments all point to its Author – God Almighty – and finding Him, we find everything.