1Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
After doing a Google search of “most important Bible verses,” I wonder if people really understand when the psalmist describes God’s law as being “more precious than gold” (Psalm 19:10, NIV). The Ten Commandments did not make any of the top ten lists, nor even the top fifty or hundred lists that I came across on the Internet! They seem to have tumbled in value considerably since the time of King David.
During my time in America, I’ve come across a lot of well-meaning people who ask me questions about the “traditional” religions in Japan with a misguided assumption that all religions offer a path up the same mountain. Although the Shinto religion in Japan offers its followers many myths about how the spirit world of the kami have interacted with the world which we inhabit, it offers no guideline on how people should go about living their lives and no insight into the ultimate meaning of life. It is in no way an alternative path up the mountain.
If there is a mountain, it is the mountain of the Triune God, and he does not ask us to do the work of climbing up it. He doesn’t ask us to work for our salvation. As Christians, we have come to understand that our salvation is not contingent upon our obedience to these commandments, but the Ten Commandments are indeed a very precious gift given to us by God. They provide unambiguous guidelines on how to live. This Lent, let us give thanks to God for his commands, and let us respond to his grace by following them.
Prayer: Almighty God, you delivered us from captivity and gave liberation. For that, we give you thanks and praise. As the people of Israel were led by the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud, might the Holy Spirit guide us as we journey, following these precious commandments inscribed on stone by your very hand. In his name we pray. Amen.
Sayuri Kist-Okazaki and her husband, Abraham, work in evangelistic training for congregations of the United Church of Christ in Japan, where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian. They also serve as associate pastors at Kugahara Church in Tokyo, in the area of local mission.
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