A Retelling of The Ten Commandments: Moses tells the people to Love God, Love People
Moses had come full circle back to Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God, the place where God once spoke to Moses telling him to go and tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” And now it’s not just Moses standing here. The people of God, the Hebrews freed from Egypt, they’re here at the base of this mountain too.
They’ve been delivered. They’ve been set free. They’ve been released from captivity and the God who delivers has delivered yet again. Moses has come off the mountain to give the Israelites word from God about a new way to live life. And this new way of life, we often call them the Ten Commandments. But to be honest, Moses never called them the Ten Commandments and maybe that means there’s something more to the story than most of us realize.
You can’t really understand what the commandments are about without understanding that they were given to a people freed from slavery, freed from what seemed impossible. The Commandments takes on new life when you understand they were given to a people who had been through rough times. The Commandments were a way for the people to respond to their salvation.
So as Moses tells the people of these commandments, two things begin rising to the surface. The first half of the commandments begin telling us what it means to love God and the second half begin telling us what it means to love people.
Worship God only. Don’t speak God’s name in vein. Honor the day of rest that God has given you. Commandments that at their deepest levels help us love God fully.
Honor your father and mother. Stay faithful to your spouse. Don’t steal or murder. All commandments that are more or less common sense about loving your neighbor liked you’d want to be loved yourself.
God was giving them instruction on what it meant to Love God and Love Neighbor because at the very core of our ancient faith, Loving God and Loving Neighbor is what defines how we’re to live in this world.
But as time would go on, we’d get carried away like we always do. We’d overcomplicate things. We’d come up with a list of over 600 commandments, as if we could keep all of them. We’d become so obsessed with the letter of the law that we’d forget that these were originally letters of love actually and Jesus would eventually come into the world to set this straight, to bring clarity to it all.
While Jesus went around teaching and healing people, a religious teacher would ask him, “What is the most important commandment in the law?” It wasn’t meant to be a simple question. It was meant to trip Jesus up because everyone thought the law was complicated. There were rules for everything but Jesus wouldn’t approach the commandments as rules. Jesus would respond, “To Love God with all of you heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And that there is a second like it, “To love your neighbor as yourself.”
And in that moment, Jesus takes us back to the mountain where it all started, where half the law was about loving God and half of it was about loving your neighbor. Jesus wouldn’t just give a summary of the law, he’d wrap it up in just two things as it was originally intended. All of the law, this way of life, it simply pointed to two things:
Love God with all that you are and love your neighbor with all that have because this is our truly our fullest response to deliverance, to our salvation.
Storyline Commentary on Deuteronomy 5:1- 21; 6:4-9
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting God, speaking through Moses, is calling the people of Israel to one understanding, laying before them the law. Later in Mark we learn of a teacher of the law who asks Jesus what the most important command is and Jesus responds by telling him that the entire law can be summed up in one command. To Love God. And that there is a second equal to it, to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Characters God the establisher of the covenant, Moses who delivers the covenant, the Israelites who receive the covenant, Jesus who brings clarity to the covenant, and a teacher of the law who asks the question.
The Tension The law in its fullest form seems overwhelming.At first sight, it seems like there’s so much to keep up with.
The Resolution Jesus ultimately brings clarity to the law. The law really points to two things. Love God, Love People.
The Through Line There is a way of living life that can bring us life. It’s to Love God, Love People. It’s been like this from the beginning.
Why has this story endured? The Ten Commandments are iconic. It’s the birth of old covenant law that happens in these scriptures and stories of beginnings always matter.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? At the core of the commandments is the idea that loving God and loving your neighbor is the call of God’s people.
How does this story help us love God? It reminds us of our deliverance and salvation both Jew and Gentile alike.
How does this story help us love others? It calls us not to take advantage of our neighbors. It’s common sense stuff, treat others as you would want to be treated, if not better.
Reflections based on Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9; Mark 12:28-31;