698) I. RULES, Excuses, Forgiveness

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EXODUS 20:1-4…7-8…12-17:

God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below...

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy….

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house… or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

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     These are the Ten Commandments as they were given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai.  The Ten Commandments are rules, and what do we like to say about rules?  Nobody likes to be boxed in by rules, so we sometimes say, “Rules are made to be broken.”  This is a common expression that is often said by someone who wants to break a rule.  “Rules are made to be broken– ha, ha, ha,” and off we go to break a rule.  But when someone is in charge of enforcing the rules, then you don’t hear them saying, “Rules are made to be broken.”  You don’t hear parents telling their six year old who just told them a big lie, “Oh well, rules are made to be broken.”  And you don’t hear teachers telling their pupils who are standing on their desks and throwing books all over the room, “Oh well, rules are made to be broken.”  And you don’t hear policemen telling the drunken driver who just ran a red light and hit another car, “Oh well, rules are made to be broken.”

     And you don’t hear God telling anyone that either.  In Leviticus 19:37 and many other places you hear God saying, “Keep ALL my decrees and ALL my laws and FOLLOW them, for I am the Lord your God.”  PERIOD.   That’s what we hear from God in the Bible.  And in response to that, also in the Bible, we read expressions of gratitude and praise to God for his laws and commands and decrees.  Imagine that; giving thanks for rules!  On many pages of the Bible there is expressed a deep appreciation for the guidance God gives and the order God brings to the world by the giving of his Law; not only in the written word, but also by the imprinting the law on every human heart in what we know as our conscience.  There are many expressions of praise and thanks to God in the Bible for his laws.  The longest chapter in the whole Bible is Psalm 119.  There are 176 verses in that one chapter, and the theme of that Psalm is giving thanks to God for his law.  One of the best known verses is verse 105 which says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  If it wasn’t for the Word of God’s Law we would have no way to see our way through the darkness of this world.

     Not only that, but verse 45 of that same Psalm says, “I will walk about in FREEDOM, for I have sought out your rules, O Lord.”  That is not what we are used to hearing or thinking.  The Psalmist says he can walk about in freedom because of the rules.  We usually think we are more free when we forget the rules; ‘rules are made to be broken,’ and all that.  But here God’s Word is telling us that we have a better chance of walking around in freedom when the rules are kept.

     But is this so difficult to imagine?  Are you more free to walk around in a quiet neighborhood where most people keep the rules most of the time; or, in a neighborhood where some people feel freed up from the rules enough to shoot guns through windows as they drive by, sell drugs on the corner, and beat up and steal from whoever is weaker than they are?  Where is there more freedom– where rules are kept or where rules are broken?  The answer is obvious, and it is the same in neighborhoods, schools, homes, and businesses.  

     Yes, we all get irritated with stupid rules, and there are plenty of those, and some of those might need to be broken once in a while (see quote at the end of today’s meditation).  But that cannot blind us to the fact that human life together is possible only with rules, and we must be diligent in our obedience of God’s rules.  (continued…)

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PSALM 119:25-31:

I am laid low in the dust;
    preserve my life according to your word.
I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
    teach me your decrees.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
    that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
    be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.

I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

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Amy Grant and Michael Smith sing “Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet” at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig8dO3VVayw

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Rules are made to be broken– true.  Also true is that breaking rules out of ignorance leads to disaster, while breaking them from knowledge can lead to the truly special.  It can also lead to disaster.  Don’t break rules unless you know them well enough to know when they shouldn’t apply.

–Charles von Rospach

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