Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Gift with Strings Attached

Meditations on the Ten Commandments

Last weekend, a small group of folks joined me for a retreat about meditating on the Ten Commandments. This retreat started out as a weekend focused on the discipline of meditation. In the past, I’ve led similar retreats and explored the tradition of prayer and reflection upon God’s Word. But in preparation for the retreat, I soaked in Psalm 119 and felt impressed to follow the model of meditation presented in the Psalm: meditation upon the Law and particularly upon the 10 Commandments or Testimonies of God.

Now I realize the retreat was barely scratching the surface and I plan to spend more time reflecting upon the riches of the 10 Commandments. Here is the first in a series:

The Gift with Strings Attached
As we enjoy April Fool’s Day what better way to celebrate than with a few thoughts on God’s wisdom that is foolishness to man.

I’ve always thought that a real gift should have “no strings attached.” Otherwise, the gift seems to be more like a way to control another person. I give them a gift with hope of controlling them in some form. Thus the strings are like puppet strings used to make a person act in the way I move the strings.

And yet, God gives a gift with strings attached.

After years of crying out for deliverance from the cruel hand of Pharaoh, the Israelites finally see God’s answer in His strong hand of deliverance. He breaks the chains of bondage and promises a gift of a land, flowing with milk and honey: a new Eden where they can prosper and enjoy the goodness of the Lord.

This promised gift comes with strings attached. This gift comes with 10 Commandments that form the basis of a Law that will govern every detail of their world from social events to worship to family life. These laws are given with expectation that blessing will follow obedience and cursing will follow disobedience.

So promises of land comes with certain expectations. At first, this doesn’t seem like much of a gift. But it might also be seen as a gift the is so precious that it’s value can only be realized in and through these expectations.

Consider the gift of an engagement ring. A young man offers his girlfriend the gift of ring that symbolizes their relationship and commitment to one another. If she accepts the gift, she is also accepting the offer of marriage. In other words, the gift comes with certain expectations or “strings attached.”

When the girl accepts the gift, it is often though of as the most precious gift in her possession--even if it is merely a “cigar band.” The expectations of covenant relationship make the gift a priceless treasure.

On Mount Sinai, YHWH offers Israel a gift with strings attached. The Ten Commandments will forever stand as a sign of covenant love between him and his chosen people. By accepting the gift, they discover strings that reach back to the heart of a loving God. The bond or covenant between the people and God is so intimate that it is often likened to that of a marriage.

And thus in the giving of the Law, we discover the very picture of Christ and the Church, and His precious gift of love to redeem His bride.

Let us embrace the strings of His love and rejoice that He has bound us to Him by writing the Law of God upon our hearts of flesh—just as He promised.

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