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 interviewed you, and the robot asked you “what is love?” – What would you say?

It’s a weird question, I know, but please bear with me! I was just wondering why we have 613 commandments in the first five books of the Bible when God could have just written one word: Love!?

Now let us pretend just for a minute: If you were a robot and you knew little or nothing about love, wouldn’t you need a handbook explaining what love is all about? So here is “Love 101”, it comes in this great edition called Torah, and it says something like this: We show love when we don’t steal, when we don’t lie, when we don’t take advantage of someone’s misfortune; all the while we are reaching out, helping our neighbors, giving generously, conducting fair businesses, taking a break from the daily grind on Sabbath, and showing respect for ourselves and other people.

Granted, we are no robots, so the word “love” should ring a bell, but let us be realistic too. We are born into various circumstances, not all of them very promising. For instance look at the people of Israel around the time when they received those 613 commandments in the Sinai desert. They were refugees, 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! – And the taskmaster was around all day long to tell them what to do.

After the exodus there was this great void: A former slave had to redefine his entire existence. Welcome to a hefty identity crisis! Multiply this crisis times a million – because 600,000 men of military age were counted when the Israelites left Egypt – and now we have serious issues. Did 613 commandments come in handy at the time? I believe so. It turned a motley crew of refugees into the people of Israel who made it through the desert and are still around today. Do 613 commandments still come in handy today? Well, does humanity still have issues with this thing called love?

While the commandments penned down in the Torah are not a replacement for love, they are a road map how to get there. Most importantly, the commandments point to its Author, the Lord Almighty. Finding Him, we find everything.