When the Israelites left Egypt, they had been in living in captivity for centuries. They were not an enlightened people, they had just begun the first step on the path of recovery from all the bad habits and thought distortions that had helped them survive the worst conditions imaginable. These habits and mental justifications become ingrained so deeply, that tens of thousands of the Israelites chose to perish in the wilderness rather than accept a new, higher code of conduct.
How often do we see this pattern repeated around us? So many loved ones and friends would rather cling to the justifications for their behaviors rather than accept the work required in following Christ (or any great religious teacher at this point). Much of our current culture is bending over backwards to rationalize their desire to “do away” with religion, morality, and God in their lives.
This poisonous mindset did not work out well for the Israelites in the desert, and someday soon, it will work just as badly for the sad milllions around the world. I have not counted the number of times the Israelites were given a chance to follow a simple commandment, and chose to suffer death instead. I can only imagine the heartbreak and frustration God felt while watching this play out over and over. Whether it was looking up at the brazen serpent, or not going into Canaan after they complained that it would be too hard. Again and again, they fell by thousands and tens of thousands to the natural consequences of their disobedience.
God, in His long-suffering nature, suffered with them through this painful transition time. Recognizing their spiritual weakness, He gave them strict, but simple commandments. These commandments, the Ten overarching ones, along with the many daily and habitual ones, are commonly referred to as the Law of Moses.
The Law of Moses, especially the Ten Commandments, were designed by God to bring His people, then and now, out of slavery. How can we relate to this slavery? Slavery is the complete loss of freedom, the inability to choose for yourself any of the basic decisions like; where you will sleep, what you will eat, etc. When we allow ourselves to be led astray by temptations and addictions, we bind ourselves in a form of slavery to our carnal nature. Take a moment to envision how the following choices can limit our options and restrict our freedom to act for ourselves:
- Violence against others
- Vandalism, theft
- Drug addiction
- Insert your own ideas
The path back out of the bondage from these choices is never easy. Even the laws of man recognize the need for rehabilitation clinics and psychologists and a myriad of social services to aid people back into a state of freedom. God set out His plan for the path to recovery thousands of years ago. He guided the Israelites lovingly, patiently through the desert of rehabilitation; sometimes with harsh interventions, but always, every day, letting them know that He was present.
The lessons He taught them, the commandments He gave them, were designed to bring them out of captivity, not just their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well. The liberation of their minds and spirits was a much longer process than their bodies, but He stayed with them, guiding them as a loving parent, throughout the process. Until finally, they were a people prepared to establish a great nation in the promised land.
As we work to establish ourselves in an “American Dream” or other such vision of success, let us study the first tier of learning set out by our loving Father in Heaven. Study the Ten Commandments and the journey of the disobedient Israelites, and we can find our own Promised Land.
More on the Tiers of Learning to come.