Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Moses spoke, “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Deuteronomy 4
Statutes and decrees: now that one gave me pause and left me wondering how statutes and decrees manifest in my life.
The statutes Moses refers to are the ones we commonly call the Ten Commandments. The first one is not to take the Lord’s name in vain. That one I live with pretty well. The second is not to work on the Sabbath. Now. When was the last time you took a full day off? Honor fathers and mothers: most of us do that, I suppose, to some extent, although therapy sessions are filled with recovering from parental experiences. Not to kill; not to commit adultery; not to steal or bear false witness or covet your neighbor’s wife. Okay. I can live with those.
But then look at the end of the above line: “that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land…” In other words, do laws against killing and coveting and stealing and honoring include actions against the people whose land the Israelis are about to invade?
I guess that’s the origin of the “God’s on our side” thinking. If God’s on our side, we can justify unjust and unkind behavior to our enemies.
We may all have a habit of justifying our behavior. What if God’s on everybody’s side? What if the laws of common decency, which the Ten Commandments really are when you think about it, are for everyone?
We could all take some time to examine our actions and question which statues we live by: do we live by kindness? do we live by blame or justification?
What statutes do you live by? An “I can do what I want” rule? Or an “it’s my fault” rule? Are either of those rules effective in living a peaceful life?
Maybe all our statutes need to be replaced with “The Golden Rule.” What if we really did uphold the statute of treating others as we would like to be treated. How would our lives change?
4 thoughts on “Whose Rule?”
Thank you for another thoughtful and timely reflection.
This has been a trying Lenten season–seems lots of letting go is happening by necessity rather than by choice this season, but it’s good to have the reassurance that we are no alone on our journeys, as we sort out the puzzles of our lives.
Thanks Susan! What an all-encompassing comment! Yes, it’s been trying. To say the least. And I’ve had to re-examine how I react when challenged. Oh, Drats! So yeah, we seem to be getting it – whatever “it” is at any given time and in whatever form it’s taking.
“that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land…”
Most rabbis I’ve met are much more comfortable interpretting the “that you may live” part of that, over simplified (by me, not rabbis) to what kind of a life do you have if you have no rules?, when you mistreat others you mistreat yourself and diminsh the quality and value of your own life.
Ah, but the “take possession of the land”, it’s hard for me to reconcile the rules of common decency with the many biblical justifications for conflicts such as the Israel/Palestine situation. Do I misunderstand the context? Is part of the bible meant as specific instruction for that time period, while other parts for all eternity?
How do I know which parts? Is there where I need a doctrine of holy mystery that can’t be understood during life? Then why write it down in a book read during life?
I guess that’s why there are libraries full of biblical interpretation…
I do think the biblical justifications for war and pillage are indeed for that place and time. But that’s the way I’ve justified my thinking, too.
And yes, the libraries are full. Some of it we can get read and some remains a “mystery.”
A very thoughtful comment. Thank you.