Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Two of Ten

Lent is traditionally a season of contemplating the Ten Commandments, or words of life. How many of them can you call to mind? Here’s the second:

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 the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

The ancient world was compartmentalised, with realms of the gods, the humans, the monsters, the dead, along with spheres of activity or role within each realm. It was quite a complex administrative structure, filled with gods major (often with jurisdiction over a particular realm) and minor, many with local variations in their iteration. And wherever you found yourself in the world, or whatever activity you were engaged in, it was provident to seek — and seek to keep — the goodwill of the relevant deity. This list is pretty much endless.

This god, Yahweh, cuts through all of that, laying claim to every realm and activity. For his credentials, refer to his recent activity in saving a people from the Egyptian pantheon of gods who had held them captive. Where this god lives to set captives free, other gods seek to take captives. Once set free, don’t let yourself be enslaved again.

True, this god constrains, where necessary. This god sets limits on your freedom, where you exercise your freedom in such a way as to impinge upon the freedom of others. If you choose to use your freedom to keep other people in captivity, you will, eventually, provoke this god to act. As the Egyptians had done. But his steadfast love for those he has freed extends immeasurably far beyond the initial act of liberation.

Our own world is no less compartmentalised than that of the ancients, no less complex. Count the -isms. Beneath a veneer of wealth, it is no less insecure; and, no less driven. Who even has time to enjoy the gift of earth and sea and sky, the precious span of life shared with those we love?

Who or what are you hoping will keep setting you free?

How will you use that freedom, in relation to others?

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