10 Commandments, 2 Tablets

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38; 2 Corinthians 8

March 9th, 2016

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. -Psalm 119:33-35

When God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one, or three? Why two? I mean Moses was not exactly a spring chicken at the time. I could see him saying, “God, how about we reduce the font size and put this on one piece of rock? It will be a little easier on my back as I hike down this mountain.”

Mount Sinai, 10 Commandments

I heard a sermon once that said these 10 commandments were designed to guide a people and how they relate to others. That communities and cities that live by these principles are wonderful places to live, but on the other hand those that do not are not. Rather, they are quite the opposite. That the 10 commandments actually come from 5 principles with two examples for each. The first tablet held instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those above us. The second, instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those alongside us. Here is how it was explained to me:

The first principle: Others have the right to exist.

first tablet: second tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe. There are others who exist. Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from. In general, the source of the power of the second tablet’s strength lies in the truth of the first tablet. (Leviticus 24:21-22)

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

first tablet: second tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution. God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships as sacred and special.

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

first tablet: second tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing. People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is His just as your neighbor’s newspaper is theirs. Here we see the link between the two: “…or lest I be poor, and steal, And take the name of my God in vain.” – Proverbs 30:9

The fourth principle: Reputation is a form of property.

first tablet: second tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Reputation made the top 5 list for how to get on with others in a productive society, it must be important. Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them, God here calls His people to uphold His reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day. It does not say “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” It says “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation as the Creator.

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

first tablet: second tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet seems to be ‘I want what I have not been given and I do not want you to have it.’ This seems to come from a feeling of “I do not want you to be better than me.”, but most, “I do not want you above me.” Coveting is stepping out of our place, it flies in the face of things like contentment and trust in God. Not honoring our parents is stepping out of the divine order with respect to those placed above us by God.

In closing here is some more scripture that points to the duel nature of the law pertaining to one’s relationship with those above us and their fellows:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36–40

Cardinal Virtues: Prudence

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.

-CS Lewis

Path Through Grass In Misty Sunrise

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:13–14

Followers of Christ are called to take the strait way. Strait, a middle english word meaning a narrow passage, from the old french estreit meaning tight and narrow. The old french from the latin strictus meaning drawn tight. The closest modern english, strict. So then Christians are called to a strait path. But why? 

Here is one example. From the fourth principle of the ten commandments we see that reputation is a form of property. In the fourth commandment God tells us to remember the sabbath to keep it holy. Why? Why are we to keep it holy and what does that have to do with God’s reputation?

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:11

When we keep the sabbath day we uphold God’s reputation. We are called to take a different path from the rest of the world and observe the sabbath, we are a signal to the many that our God, the Creator, is real. This is just one way that one may or may not be called to take a strait path. To be different, not for the sake of being different but to the glory of God. I have come to believe that we are all called to different but each narrow paths. One to this, another to that, all headed the same direction of truth and goodness.

Darkness and light. Christians are called to be a light to the world. A city on a hill. Something people take notice of. Christians are called to be different. To take the difficult way that others do not. We are called to consider the things we do, the paths we take. Day to day there are things we do. Right. Well then, why? Why do we this or that? Because everyone else is, so we figure it the right? The wide path is easy mind you. The way of the many. The thoughtless way. What decisions have we fallen into all at once like an ox lead to the slaughter? God give us understanding so that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts.

When we stop and consider the things we do; what is God’s will, what will honor God, what will bring glory to God?, we find ourselves a narrow path very much different the path society in the whole.

May we all find each other on the narrow path that the Spirit calls each us to and may we all honor our God in righteousness and truth.


-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.