DEUTERONOMY 5: COWBOY TEN COMMANDMENTS
What if we listened again to the Ten Commandments, the "Ten Words" literally, with the next generation of Israel who Moses spoke to in his second speech in Deuteronomy? Here in Deuteronomy 5 is where we find a second placement of the Ten Commandments in the Torah.
Obeying God is worth hearing these again, because obedience to the God who lifted Israel out of slavery is what these words are concerned with. I know this from what God says to Moses (5:29). Moses had been telling the "youth group," the next generation that did not die the law again, and he's recounting the story of giving the law in Deuteronomy 5. He remembers how scared Israel was and how they pushed Moses out to approach God, and when Moses came back alive, they were surprised and learned something about this God: approach doesn't always kill you. They said they'd obey all the words Moses spoke from the Lord (5:27).
That's when God says to Moses (5:29-33),
The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.” You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.
God seems concerned that Israel hear, not just speak! God seems concerned they have "spoken" their agreement but won't actually do what they've agreed. "I have heard the words . . . if only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and keep all my commandments always . . ."
What does it mean to have a "mind such as this" toward keeping God's commands?
Having a mind such as this begins where God and Moses do. The prologue of the Ten Commandment, here as in Exodus 20, is the rescue of God of Israel from slavery. Laws are not arbitrary and given by an unknown. The God who saves also calls for obedience to divine commands on the basis of that graceful salvation.
I like the Cowboy Ten Commandments, but like nearly every re-writing of the commands, God's salvation that the commands are based on in the Torah is pretty much left out. Whoever wrote the Cowboy Commandments would do well to write a prologue, but since they probably won't, here's my cowboy prologue:
"Dance with who brung ya to the cowboy ball. God saved yer hide, so you best listen when the Lord speaks and this here's them commands."
Help us first hear about and remember your salvation, then learn to keep your commands. Help us remember it is you who has "brung us" out of slavery of this world, and for many physical slavery, to physical, spiritual, emotional freedom.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.