Word Magazine October 1958 Page 8
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
By Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
St. Nicholas Syrian Orthodox Church
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“And God spoke all these words, saying,
1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.
3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
.5. “Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. “Thou shalt not kill.
7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. “Thou shalt not steal.
9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:1-17)
In the Ten Words, or the Ten Commandments, which God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai we find the foundation upon which rests the structure of our civilization. The Ten Commandments are timeless and ageless. There will never be an age or a civilization when it will be right to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, or to lie. The Ten Commandments are a moral conviction which binds mankind together. They echo in all the Churches of Christendom. They constitute the most ancient of all creeds, to which men of good will everywhere give assent. They strike a universal chord and sound the music of that eternity which God hath set in the heart of man.
As was appropriate, the Ten Commandments were prefaced and accompanied by tremendous miracles, when “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” (Exodus 19:18-19). Those mighty signs which terrified the people on the plain at the foot of the mountain signified the majesty and the holiness of God and warned the people that “the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.’’ (Psalms 19:19).
Three of the Commandments, the first three, deal with worship. Five of them deal with man’s civil and social duties; one of them, the Fourth, deals with the day of rest and man’s obligations to both God and man. The last of the Commandments, the Tenth, enters the domain of motive and desire, and thus in a way looks forward to the teachings of Jesus, Who gave the Commandments a spiritual interpretation and taught men to look back of the act to the motive.
The Commandments taught man the holiness of God, his duty to his fellow man, and, in a prophetic way, his need of a Saviour and a Redeemer, and pointed out to the cross of Christ, for no man is able wholly to keep the law of God.
Most of the Commandments are negative, beginning with a “Thou shalt not,” due to the fact that the heart of man has sinful inclinations. But Jesus summed up and interpreted the Ten Commandments in the two great positive commandments, which are: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets. ( Matthew 22:37-40).
After every deluge of war and violence and human passion, the sacred heights of Sinai emerge again above the abyss, and man bows once more before those revealed truths which ages ago God committed to a chosen people. In the keeping of the Ten Commandments there is life, life for the individual and life for the nations. The words that Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler, who inquired as to the way of life, apply also to our wounded, blinded and cold-war-scarred world today. . . if you would enter life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17).