The 10 Commandments, Sayings Or Promises?

Jan 8, 2015

I absolutely love God’s Word. I believe it is infallible and inerrant, that all Scripture is God breathed (II Timothy 3:16-17), that the writers were led by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21) and that everything in Psalm 19:1-7 regards to what it says about God’s Word is absolutely true. 

However, another thing I love about God’s Word is that it is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) – which means that there are certain times that we can read Scripture and think “ok, that’s neat,” and then maybe six months later we can read the very same text and it seems to slam us to the ground. 

Over the past several years I’ve been able to travel to Israel quite a few times and the Scriptures have NEVER been more alive to me than right now. Getting to see the land and experience the teaching of God’s Word, from people who have forgotten way more about it than I will ever know, is such a treasure. 

On a trip I was on last year, a really incredible Messianic Jewish Bible teacher began to share with me that the English interpretation of “The Ten Commandments” is not a correct translation. 

I pushed back on this a little. I had grown up in church hearing that they were called “The Ten Commandments.” How could they NOT be the ten commandments?

He went on to explain to me that the way they say "Ten Commandments" in Hebrew is "Eseret Dibrot" which literally means "ten sayings". "Dibrot" is the plural of the word "Dibra", which is a word based on the Hebrew root "Davar" that literally means "spoken word". When we say the "word of God" in Hebrew, we say "Davar Elohim". So the Ten Commandments are literally "ten sayings of God".

Another great friend in Israel also pointed me to Exodus 34:28, which says, “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments."

Notice that he wrote on the tablet the words of the covenant (promises) – and then it says, “The Ten Commandments” which are literally the ten sayings of God, or the ten promises that God makes. 

When I discovered this I nearly lost my mind, because I thought about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. And how in Christ all of God’s promises come true. 

At our Christmas Eve service I challenged our church to take a look at the things we had always seen as commands (and could never keep anyway) as more like promises from God that are fulfilled in Christ. 

Promise #1 – You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.

Promise #2 – You can be free from rituals and religion and trust in a relationship.

Promise #3 – You can trust in a Name that is above every Name. 

Promise #4 – You can rest. 

Promise #5 – Your family does not have to fall apart.  

Promise #6 – You do not have to live in a constant state of anger because you will be motivated by love and not hate. 

Promise #7 – You do not have to live a life dominated by the guilt, pain and shame associated with sexual sin. 

Promise #8 – I will provide. 

Promise #9 – You do not have to pretend.  

Promise #10 – I will be enough. 

Do I think the ten commandments are still relevant? Absolutely! The reason they are so relevant is that they show us what God says about how we should seek to live our lives. 

But what God has to say about how we live doesn’t end there. They point to the only One who could ever really live them out fully. I believe that God said these things to us to point us to Jesus and the promises that He brings to us in His coming to earth to pay for our sins and give us a new life in Him. 

Learning that the ten commandments are not just commands, but rather way finding arrows that point us to all the promises of God that are ‘Yes’ for us in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20). This has caused me to see more and more that God isn’t a God in heaven who is screaming to us that we are not good, but rather showing us over and over that He is good and, through Christ, really does want us to experience a life that is beyond our imagination.