Grace to you and Peace from the Holy Trinity,
With the Ten Commandments we have a summary of divine teaching. The first three regard our relationship to God. The last seven regard our relationship to our neighbor. God takes each of these commandments very seriously. They are what we are to do to make our whole life pleasing to God. They are the “true fountain from which all good works must spring” (LC 1:311). All the commandments are derived from the first—“You shall have no other gods.” If our fear, love, and trust is correct—that is, when they’re placed in the one true God, then we will indeed fulfill all of these commandments. If our fear, love, and trust is incorrect—that is, when they’re not placed in the one true God, then none of these commandments can be fulfilled.
If we take an honest look at ourselves, we are on the struggle bus to keep even an ounce of the commandments. The commandments tell us what we are to do, but they do not actually give us the power to do them. The more we ponder them the more we realize how far away the goalpost actually is. Indeed each commandment lies beyond our abilities. In order to be given the strength and power to do them we will also need to hear God’s word as we encounter it in the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments. But we will consider those another day.
In the Conclusion to the Ten Commandments we have some “strong medicine.” Because God will not tolerate anyone or anything else claiming our fear, love, and trust he has “attached both a terrible threat and an even greater promise to the Ten Commandments.” (Forde and Nestingen, Free to Be, 66). God wants us to take his Word as seriously as he does. And unfortunately, our old creature within us is so selfish that it will not change its behavior unless it know something seriously bad will happen to it. And so there is the threat God makes. But does he do this to be a jerk? Not at all. Rather, he does it out of love. He is willing to let us live with the consequences of rejecting him in order that we may finally turn from our ways.
Notice this, the promise of God’s goodness far outweighs the threat of his wrath. To the third or the fourth generation will God let us live with the consequences of rejecting him. But, to the 1000th generation will God bless those who love him and keep his commandments. For at the end of the day, when he warns us with a threat and when he allures us with a promise—it is because he wants to keep his promise to us—to be our God. In Jesus Christ, you have a God who became your sin in the flesh, who has perfectly kept all the commandments, so that you will know God’s kind and friendly heart. When God comes to us with his spoken word and sacraments, he changes out our old heart and gives us a new one. Then, only then, does our faith explode into good works and eagerly keeps all the commandments.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY