Friday, April 10, 2015

The Ten Commandments (Pt 2): Their Context

The next thing to consider about the Ten Commandments is the context in which they materialized.

God did not just hand out flyers, or repeat earlier prophetic messages,
or paint them in the sky in every language.

Nor were they doled out separately, as if each could and would stand alone.
The Ten Commandments were given as a package, and enveloped in a Covenant.
They were given in the form received by Moses as the basis of a national charter,
a city-state, a set of core-values meant to serve first as a way to implement
an orderly and moral society, and secondly as an example, a role-model,
a means of instruction and transmission to the rest of humankind.

When taken in their proper historical context, they can be seen as a basis, and set of core-values.

But as such, they were from the beginning (for Israel and Moses) given with
the recognized understanding that they would require explanation, exposition,
interpretation, expansion, enforcement, and dispersion of benefits and liabilities.

From the beginning then, they formed the basis of an agreement between God and Israel, that is, a Covenant between God and specific tribal confederation, people, and nation.

From the beginning also, they required a system of government (a theocracy),
in which the implications and implementation of the Ten Commandments
would require an infrastructure of support for their practice.

The point here is that the Ten Commandments, although valuable as a Statement of Terms, or a Catechism, or Prospectus, would be incomplete without a supporting infrastructure.

The Ten Commandments needed an infrastructure and were intended to be used
in the context of an ongoing and consistent application throughout a whole society and community.

The danger of taking the Ten Commandments alone, or merely applying them individually, without the support of a community, is well described by various prophets in later times, when conditions had deteriorated to a point where acknowledgement and obediance to the Ten Commandments was no longer the norm.
The skeptical Preacher in Ecclesiastes observes the problem,
and ironically suggests one should not be TOO righteous,
in an environment where righteousness has become too lax:
'I have seen both of these:the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
16 Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
Ecclesiastes 7:15-17

When an authentic Theocratic government was no longer being sustained at all,
when the content of the Ten Commandments were no longer being practised
throughout the society and community of Israel, horrible injustices were multiplied, even against innocent third parties who depended upon both the infrastructure and the implementation of these core values:
  'Thus justice is repelled,
righteousness stands apart, at a distance;
for truth stumbles in the public court,
and uprightness cannot enter.
Honesty is lacking,
he who leaves evil becomes a target.

Adonai [The Lord] saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.'

Isaiah 59:14-15 - (Complete Jewish Bible - CJB)

'And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off:
for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Yea, truth faileth;
and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey:
and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.'

Isaiah 59:14-15 (KJV)

So we can see that for real and practical justice to prevail,
a whole society and community must commit to (the same) core set of values,
for people to actually benefit.

The Ten Commandments were never meant to stand independent of
or outside of a society and community which is committed to keeping them
and implementing them fairly through a supporting infrastructure.

Standing alone they DO instruct us about moral values,
but without consent, commitment, and integration into the community,
they cannot deliver the blessings God intended.

No comments: