A Yearning for Publius

Islam–Jihad … and the Ten Commandments – an update

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Further to my previous  comments (see below) on the Ten Commandments, I would like to bring to you attention a marvelous little book The Ten Commandments – Still The Best Moral Code by Dennis Prager. 

While living in San Diego in previous years I enjoyed listening to the Dennis Prager radio talk show — you can follow him on the internet at the link just above, and I highly recommend him.

This little book of Prager’s is a great little book — concise, easy to read and quite relevant even (especially) in todays increasing secular culture.

In my comments below, I highlight “You shall have no other gods before me.” and talk about the evils that have been done throughout history by mankind creating all sorts of gods, and then acting out the conseqenses of believing in these false gods … the current onslaught of radical Islam is a prime example of such evil.

Prager’s take on this commandment — “You shall have no other gods before me” puts it in the context of —  let me just let him say it —


… The point of biblical monotheism is that there is only one God and that only this God, the Creator of the universe Who demands that we keep these Ten Commandments, is to be worshiped. Why? First, because one God means one human race. Only if we have the same Creator, or Father, as it were, are we all brothers and sisters. Second, having the same parent also means that no person or group is intrinsically more valuable than any other. And third, one God means one moral standard for all people. If God declares murder wrong, it is wrong for everyone, and you can’t go to another god for another moral standard.   … ”


Prager introduces this little book by stating “The most important words ever written are the Ten Commandments.  … ”

I could scarcely disagree with that sentiment.


Exodus 20

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

____________________________

The Islamic terror attacks in Paris … and elsewhere including 9/11/2001, have caused me to reach back to the Ten Commandments. It is in these passages I am  finding wisdom and admonition from the words of God to the Israelites … and to all of humanity if we would only pay attention.

As in the very first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God …  “ – there is the plain statement with no extensive supporting intellectual, philosophical or theological argument – “In the beginning God …  “ and in Exodus – “I am the Lord your God …  .“  The scriptures here, and elsewhere, simply declare God to be who he is.

Let me put this into a context that gives substance to such an assertion that says basically: “God is!” Thanks here to Pastor Jeff Keegan of Trinity Evangelical Free Church of Woodbridge, CT and his excellent overview class on the Pentateuch – the first 5 books of the Bible.

God does not offer the Israelites an intellectual apologetic to justify these words given to Moses and the Israelites – rather, He has shown them who He is by the actions He has taken on behalf of the people … actions that they will witness with their own eyes and experiences, beginning with deliverance from the harsh slavery under the Egyptians:

So leading up to those words in the Ten Commandments, the Israelites had ample and personal demonstration of the reality and power of the God who had chosen them to be His people.

Now let me unpack the words of Exodus 20 as I see them in the light of the current events of terrorism, and my reading of history.

 “I am the Lord your God …  .“  Here God is declaring himself as the one true god among the many that have been created, and will be created, by man at all times and in all places.

 “You shall have no other gods before me. These words are a prophetic warning of the consequences of man creating any manner of false gods. From the false gods of the Egyptian pharaohs to the golden calf created by the wandering Israelites to the false man-made god Allah  of Mohammad, Islam and the modern day radical Islamic terrorists be they called Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah and others. And then we come to the New Testament apostle Paul as he passes through Athens where he states:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.  “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;  nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; Acts 17:22-25

So the Bible and the Bible writers are not strangers to the idea of gods being the creation of men as opposed to the idea that man was created by God. Modern day atheists often camp on this idea of man creating god as substantial support for their world view … and they are absolutely correct in this view of history  – but not quite!  You see, the UNKNOWN GOD which Paul spoke of is the God of Genesis and the God of Exodus, and the God spoken of throughout the books of the Bible. The fact that man has and does create gods in no way proves that man made the God spoken of in Genesis through Revelation – the God of the Bible is unique among all other gods, a fact which can be discovered by by each of us who diligently seeks the truth of the matter – many good studies have shown this to be the case.

Why would God declare “You shall have no other gods before me”

To answer this takes me on a two pronged visit to history and to current events. As I said earlier, the atheist is correct in claiming that man has created gods and not the other way around. Further, the atheist is correct in claiming that religion has caused more death and suffering than any other cause in human history … but ah …  wait a minute here – that is perhaps correct up until the time the atheist got his turn at the seat of power and became the high priest of the atheist brand of religion. I speak here of the twentieth century and the rise of Communism with Atheism as one of its principle pillars of ‘truth.’  It is estimated that some 100,000,000 – that is 100 million – people died during the horrific 70+ year run of Communism throughout the world.  Some historians have estimated that this body count laid at the feet of Atheistic Communism is on the order of 7 to 10 times that of all of the wars that can legitimately be laid at the feet of Christianity – and factor in the 70 years of Communism vs. 2000 years of Christianity. And the Jews during these past 2000 years? Primarily scattered and mercilessly  persecuted  throughout the world and thus not a factor in the abuses of religion – except as victims.

What the Bible is describing, anticipating and warning of, in the sense of “other gods” takes on flesh in the form of those of history who would set themselves up as gods, or the emissaries of the gods they have set up. The mindset of such (typically) men have cause untold havoc, death and suffering over the centuries. Men such as the Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Babylon, the Khans, the Caesars, Mohammed, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot … the multi-generational Jong clan of North Korea come to mind. Though many of this ilk operate as cults of personality rather than a more formalized ‘religious’ structure,  they nevertheless demand the obedience and adoration required of gods. This is the calamity and havoc which Exodus 20  warns of.

And all of us, no matter where or when we live, are susceptible to committing the crimes of the tyrants I have pointed out. Given the right circumstances, monsters emerge from everyday people as seen in the biographies of many of  the monsters of history. Monsters emerge when constraints on human behavior are removed or significantly weakened. As much as many of us point with pride at American history and the heroes of that history – heroes that have stood up to and faced down monsters such as Hitler; even here the temptation for excess is just below the surface. An American example of one having extraordinary reputation, popular following and power, yet falling prey to the swelled head of self aggrandizement and an attitude of “I am always right” would be General Douglas MacArthur in the latter days of his career and his war time handling of the Korean War. MacArthur, following World War II, set about restructuring the Japanese political system and instituted/imposed  a representative-constitutionally based system of government.   We can be grateful to this day for his successes in Japan, and we now have a valued ally and responsible nation where once we, and the world at large, had a virulent and dangerous enemy.

But MacArthur, in effect the new Empower of Japan,  lost touch with the reality of Korea and China, thought himself as superior and above the US military chain of command (and thus the Constitution). His storied clash with President Harry Truman resulted in his firing, but not before his mishandling of Korea resulted  in much loss of American lives in the frozen mountains of North Korea, and additionally risking  and actually pursuing a much larger war with Communist China and possibly the Soviet Union – read about the Korean episode, and General MacArthur  in The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

Did MacArthur rise to the level of monster? No — not even close — but my point here is that even such a well respected and much honored man apparently fell prey to a false god of self worship.

Two other American leaders of the past come to mind in the sense of men who would elevate themselves to exaltation – General George B. McClellan and Aaron Burr.

Another American leader who bears watching is our current President Barack Obama, lest he lead the US into the chaos of a cult of personality brand of leadership.  His statement “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” – his distain of the Constitutional separation of powers – his threats to act without Congress – indeed his contempt for the Constitution –  his demonization of many, especially the rich – and perhaps  the most telling of all … his profound dishonesty.  This is a man worth paying careful attention to lest he lead us into darkness.

Does Obama rise to the level of monster? No — not even close — but my point here is that any leader, even in America, may very well fall prey to a false god of self worship.

We would be wise to heed this command of God.

____________________________

The last six Commandments

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The remaining 6 commandments advise and direct us in ways that we should conduct ourselves as fellow citizens of  civilized nations and communities– as family members – as brothers and sisters – as leaders – as subjects to leaders. The commandments also provide hope and comfort that we are to be treated as sacred creations of God with unalienable rights as individuals – rights granted to each of us – not by governments – but by our Creator.

The Commandments show the respect of, and towards, the individual that each of us should endeavor to live out in our everyday lives. They apply to all mankind– including, and perhaps especially, governments. The commandments flow down down from a transcendent God and form the basis for a good and civilized community at all levels, from family to governments of many peoples.

The commandments also recognize the rights of individuals to acquire and maintain private property – the basis for a free market economic system.

In short, the Ten Commandments are God’s “Bill of Rights”-  aimed towards each and every one of us in order to protect us from the natural inclination of mankind towards evil to one another.

So I ask each of us to pause and ponder over these 10 Commandments of God … I ask each of us to individually strive to live up to them, as well as corporately as citizens of this great nation … to seek out leaders that will lead this nation under the admonition of these words in Exodus 20.

Don Johnson – January 2015

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