Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey have wonderfully explained nine of the Ten Commandments in their book: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. One Commandment, the Fifth -- needs no explanation. Their explanations will help us all know the Lord better.
First Commandment: Exodus 20:1-3: And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Explanation: I love you so much that I will give you Myself. I am true reality, the only God you will ever need. In Me alone will you find wholeness.
Second Commandment: Exodus 20:4-6: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Explanation: I desire a wonderful thing: a direct, personal relationship between Myself and each of you. You don*t need inferior representations of Me, such as dead wooden idols. You can have Me. Value that.
Third Commandment: Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Explanation: I love you so much that I have given you My name. You will be known as God*s people on the earth. Value the privilege; don*t misuse it by profaning your new name or by not living up to it.
Fourth Commandment: Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 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.
Explanation: I have given you a beautiful world to work in, play in and enjoy. In your involvement, though, set aside a day to remember where the world came from. Your bodies need the rest; your spirits need the reminder.
Mark 2:27: And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Fifth Commandment: Exodus 20:12: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Sixth Commandment: Exodus 20:13: Thou shalt not kill.
Explanation: Human life is sacred. I gave it, and it has enormous worth. Cling to it. Respect it; it is the image of God. He who ignores this and commits the sacrilege of murder must be punished.
Seventh Commandment: Exodus 20:14: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Explanation: The deepest human relationship possible is marriage. I created it to solve the essential loneliness in the heart of every person. To spread what is meant for marriage alone among a variety of people will devalue and destroy that relationship. Save sex and intimacy for its rightful place within marriage.
Eighth Commandment: Exodus 20:15: Thou shalt not steal.
Explanation: I am entrusting you with property. You can own things, and you should use them responsibly. Ownership is a great privilege. For it to work, you must respect everyone else*s right to ownership; stealing violates that right.
Ninth Commandment: Exodus 20:16: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Explanation: I am a God of truth. Relationships only succeed when they are governed by truth. A lie destroys contracts, promises, trust. You are worthy of trust: express it by not lying.
Tenth Commandment: Exodus 20:17: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour*s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour*s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour*s.
Explanation: I have given you good things to enjoy, oxen, grains, gold, furniture, musical instruments. But people are always more important than things. Love people; use things. Do not use people for your love of things.
Stripped down, the commandments emerge as a basic skeleton of trust that links relationships between people and between people and God. God claims, as the Good Shepherd, that He has given law as the way to the best life. Our own rebellion, from the Garden of Eden onward, tempts us to believe He is the bad shepherd whose laws keep us from something good.
I have known people who feel compelled to cast off every possible limitation. They are like spoiled children, dashing from one toy to another, searching bitterly for an even better thrill, unaware that their search is actually a flight. Where do they stop cheating on their income tax? At what point do they allow the truth to break open before a cuckolded spouse? At what lie will their children cease to believe anything they say? Their lives become an entangling web of deception and fear. Does such a person have freedom?
G. K. Chesterton*s analysis of Christianity finds the goodness of God in Christianity just as Dr. Brand and Mr. Yancey found it in the law. Chesterton*s quote: