When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)
“Take Two” is a phrase that is ingrained in our American culture. We think of the well-worn cliche of a doctor saying, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Or we might imagine a movie director instructing actors to “Take Two” in order to repeat a particular scene that needs improvement. Well, God has a far more important “Take Two” for you and me that will change the trajectory of our lives if we will but follow His counsel and direction.
The Bible tells us that the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God on two stone tablets that were inscribed on both sides and kept in the Ark of the Covenant. It is notable that the tablets were made of stone rather than clay, indicating the importance and intended permanence of what God wrote for His people to read, remember, and respond to. This communication from God to Moses was the foundation upon which the people of God are to build their lives, and we have two important reasons for doing so: God’s glory and our ultimate good.
Many people mistakenly believe that the commandments were designed to enslave us and “keep us in line” through fear. Nothing could be further from the truth! God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is infinitely wise, and He knows what is best for the people He created. He knows the best way for us to live; He knows the best way for us to maximize our full potential; and He knows the best way for us to get the greatest sense of meaning, purpose, significance, and success out of life. And so, in His amazing grace, God gave us the Ten Commandments, to liberate us from bondage to our sinful nature so that we may become all that God intended us to be.
The Pharisees tried to test Jesus regarding the greatest commandment in the Law, a familiar practice for famous biblical teachers at that time. When confronted with a similar question, Rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Jesus passed their test with flying colors, and at the same time gave us the most clear and concise “Take Two” instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The most important lesson for us to learn in the school of life is love – vertical love for God and horizontal love for people. If we don’t get the first command right, we will always fail at the second. But when we are in a right relationship with God and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we will begin to be in right relationships with others.
Now, experience has taught us all that we will never do this perfectly, so we must always live in the shadow of the cross, which is the greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen. The cross reminds us that every time we fail “the love test,” we are still unconditionally loved and completely forgiven. Let that truth set you free to “Take Two” today, tomorrow, and every day that God gives you.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!