We live in a Christian atmosphere where the commandments of God are dismissed at the expense of liberty, faithulness to God and truth. Christians respond to the commandments of God in the same way we respond to the posted speed limit. Posted speed limits are suggestions, rather than absolute. In the same way, we view the commandments of God as suggestions in cultivating our relationship with God, rather than essential and necessary in maintaining a healthy relationship with God.
One of the reasons Christians struggle with the commandments of God is we understand their purpose in the same way as the world. Instead of the commandments of God giving us opportunities to show the world how devoted we are to Him and how much we love Jesus, they are a burden. Even though many Christians believe the commandments of God are a burden, they are not. The commandments of God give us opportunities to love God, which is never a burden. John wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
God gave three reasons why He led Israel with His commandments during their forty years in the wilderness. First, God led them with His commandments to humble them. The pride of life is a cancer that continually plagues us. From time to time, my mom would say to us kids that we are getting too big for our britches. The commandments of God rebuke us in the same way. We can become too big for our spiritual britches. Cockiness and arrogance can easily develop in the heart of a Christian. Perhaps this is why Jesus reminded Peter (after Peter declared Jesus to be the Lord and Messiah) thatflesh and blood did not revealthis to you but God working through you did (Matthew 16:17). The commandments of God put us in our place and remind us that without God’s grace we are hopeless. As Paul wrote: “I am what I am by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Second, God led them with His commandments to prove them. God wanted to prove their commitment to Him. It is easy being committed to God when everything is going well. But, if our world falls apart, are we still committed to God? What if we were being attacked by the Egyptians with nowhere to go, traveling three days in the wilderness without water, or told to attack people who were much stronger and more sophisticated than us. How would we respond? A faithful disciple of Jesus unconditionally obeys the commands of God.
Third, God led them with His commandments so they would not forget Him. Moses wrote: “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11). Forgetting the Lord and not keeping His commandments run side by side. We must integrate God’s commands in every aspect of our life. This is the idea behind God saying to the Israelites: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).