Moses convened all Israel, and said to them:
Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. (At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You 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. You 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 fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
Neither shall you commit adultery.
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.
Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me.
On the one hand, the Ten Commandments seem fairly easy to keep. No idols—check. Don’t murder—check. Don’t steal—got it. We might get the impression that it’s within our power to do right, to keep the commandments, even to earn God’s love.
But as Jesus expounds upon the commandments in Matthew 5–7, obedience starts to seem less and less attainable. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus says to the crowd (Matthew 5:48). Be perfect? That’s nigh impossible.
Until we remember how the whole thing works. Jesus is the true human. He’s the one perfectly reflecting the image of God (Colossians 1:15). And he hasn’t come “to abolish the law” (Matthew 5:17) by dismissing it as no longer relevant in an age of love and forgiveness. Nor has he come to make it ridiculously hard to keep, although we could stand to be reminded that we’re incapable of earning our salvation by perfectly keeping the law. Instead, says Jesus, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Ah yes, that’s right. Jesus comes to fulfill the law, to keep the commandments that we fail to keep, to reverse the Fall, and to break the curse. He does what we cannot. And when we are united to him by the power of the Holy Spirit, we mysteriously keep the law, too. Praise God!
Prayer: Jesus, I don’t understand it completely, but I am so thankful that your life fulfills the law I daily fail to keep. Holy Spirit, work that mysterious process in me, and make me one with Christ. Amen.