The reason I prefer the word endearment to the word commandment is because commands are often viewed as a form of oppression or military might. As a result, we tend to think of God demanding and booming a list of rules at Moses. This creates a wrong image of God. If we look at a passage in Deuteronomy 6, God’s intention is made clear.
“And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear [reverence] the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24).
Moses said God’s statutes are for our good. God has given us these words not because He is sitting up on the mountain saying, “I’m God and just to remind you, I am giving you these commandments and you better obey me—or else.”
In John 3:17, Jesus said He had not come to judge the world, but to save the world. Later He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
When I look at the Decalogue, I understand what God is primarily saying to the people of Israel (and as an extension, to us): “I am giving you these words because they are the way of life. My intentions are good. If you will do these things, not only will your personal life be blessed, but society itself will be blessed.”
To know God’s blessings as individuals or as a society, God has established boundaries. Boundaries are the most freeing thing that can happen to anyone. That is why parents must realize the worst thing they could ever do to a child is never set a boundary.
A parent may say, “I am giving my child freedom.”
No, you’re not. Freedom is found within the consciousness of the real boundaries of life. When you set boundaries, you give the person an opportunity to express freedom.
Here is an easy illustration. If you are boating on the water, you find lanes to move from closed waterways to open waterways. Buoys are set as boundaries. Inside the buoys is where it’s safe to traverse, but there’s danger on the outside of these, such as rocks or shallow water that will damage or destroy the vessel.
The Decalogue is much the same. What’s amazing about these ten words is how limited they are. God doesn’t spell out every little detail. He sets the guidelines, the channel markers, the edge lines for your lane.
Here God gave His people guidelines from which they can discover life. I once heard someone aptly say that the God who gave the Israelites the Decalogue is the God who gave us Jesus. This is God who loved us and is not trying to strike us down.
He is God who loves you so much that He was willing to bear your sins to bring you back into a right relationship with Him. The God of Mount Sinai is the God of Mount Calvary. If you separate God from His Decalogue, you are doing a grave injustice, not only to the Old Testament, but to all the revelation God has made for the coming of Jesus.
— a condensed excerpt from the upcoming book: Words of Endearment: the ten commandments as a revelation of God’s love