ALL THE LAWS WE CANNOT KEEP

 

It happened on our last vacation. We were somewhere in Wyoming I think, driving through some tiny little town. Jerry looked in the rear view mirror and saw the flashing lights no one wants to see. We were getting pulled over. “Were we speeding?” the four of us wondered. Maybe we were getting stopped for something else. We were in a rental car with Colorado plates. Maybe they were expired. The officer took his time getting out of his car, strode up to Jerry’s window and bellowed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING SPEEDING THROUGH MY TOWN?” Wow. What a bully! It didn’t feel like we were speeding. It was such a small town we didn’t even remember seeing a sign.

 

He was talking to Jerry, saying a few more things that I couldn’t hear so I lowered my window. Big mistake. “PUT THAT WINDOW BACK UP!” Yikes! I immediately complied but the officer kept glaring at me. It crossed my mind that he might pull out a gun and shoot me. Much later I realized that he might have thought the same thing about me. Law enforcement officers never know when a routine stop might turn deadly. But I didn’t know the rule about not lowering the window. And don’t shout at me!

 

He went back to his patrol car to write the ticket while we were all wondering how big the ticket was going to be. I just knew he was going to stick it to us since we were out-of-towners. None of us could believe it when he walked back to the car and gave us a mere warning. His whole demeanor had changed. Now he’s a walking ad for the Chamber of Commerce. What was all that bullying and

blustering about? I guess he decided to show us mercy.

 

I k now there are people who have driven their entire lives without ever getting a ticket. I’m not one of them. I don’t intend to, I just occasionally break the law. Just the other day I accidentally ran a red light. Yikes! I’m lucky it didn’t happen at a busy intersection. I just spaced out; I didn’t mean to run it.

 

The reason I am writing about this is because our small group at church has been studying the book of Exodus and discussing the Ten Commandments. At first glance most of us can feel pretty self-righteous about those commandments. They seem pretty simple. Don’t kill. Check. Don’t commit adultery. I’m good on that one. I remember years ago seeing a cartoon of a man and a woman who was probably his wife leaving church where the sermon title, “The Ten Commandments” was posted at the door. The man was saying to his wife, “At least I haven’t made any graven images.”

Here’s the thing. When you read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, you realize you have probably broken most if not all of them. Have I committed murder? No. But I’ve said unkind things about others, murdered their reputation and assassinated their character. Have I ever told a lie? We call them white lies to make it sound better. I remember cheating on a spelling test in the seventh grade (I got caught). I stole someone else’s answer. I still feel bad about that. What we see on prime time television would have been called pornography not so many years ago. And those graven images? We still have them. Big houses, fancy degrees, our 401Ks. While there is nothing wrong with those things, if we see in them security and fulfillment they become graven images. God wants us to trust Him alone for our security and fulfillment, not our shares of Apple.

 

Our small group teacher asked us why the Ten Commandments were given and what relevance they have to us today. We came up with lots of answers, but for me, those commandments show me how desperately I need a savior. I can’t keep those laws. I want to keep them, and hopefully I do a better job than I did as a young woman, but I can’t keep them because I am a sinner. And the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

 

I’m glad God knows my heart and He has provided a Way. That Way is Jesus. Here is the entirety of Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. I can’t get to God by keeping the Ten Commandments. So God in His great mercy sent a Savior to come down to me and pay the price of my sins.

 

If you read a little further in the book of Exodus you will see that the Israelites were instructed to build a tabernacle. And in that tabernacle they were to place a box called The Ark of the Covenant. Inside that box, they placed the stone tablets, the Ten Commandments. But the beautiful part of the story is that God told them to put a gold lid on the box. This was called the mercy seat, the place where God declares, “There I will meet with you.” God’s mercy covering God’s laws. Such a beautiful picture of Jesus. He knew we couldn’t keep those laws, so in His mercy He sent His Son. Christ is our mercy seat! And through Him, we can meet with God.

HOW DID WE GET HERE SO SOON?

 

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He was arguably the cutest and most popular boy in the ninth grade. He was one of those guys who was the whole package: good-looking, well liked, really nice, popular, athletic, and a real leader. One of the unattainable boys. He only dated the prettiest and most popular girls, because he could.

 

I went to a different school the next year and really haven’t thought much about him since. We were only casual friends and didn’t stay in touch. I heard he married his high school sweetheart, but other than that I never knew what happened in his life. So why was it such a gut check when I heard he passed away last week?

 

I keep thinking of the lines from the John Donne poem, “…any man’s death diminishes me.” Is that it? Of course any man’s death should diminish me. Really, the death of any creature is sad. I was reading in my quiet time this morning about how God cares for the sparrows and how He knows when even one of them falls to the ground. Jerry and I were pondering over our coffee about whether there will be sparrows in Heaven. I hope so. But I don’t think that is really what is troubling me. It’s the last line of the poem that is bothering me, the line about the bell tolling for me. And it’s not bothering me in the way Donne was intending, that when one of us dies a little piece of each of us dies. No, the part that bothers me is that my day is coming, the day when the bell will actually toll for me. And here is the crux of what bothers me. It feels way too soon!

 

It’s not that I am afraid to die, although I expect that if we are honest all of us are at least a little bit afraid. After all this is uncharted territory. We’ve never done it before. But as a Christian I know that when I die I will go immediately to be with Jesus, and I believe my eternal life will be wonderful beyond comprehension. What bothers me is that I have reached an age where death is not shocking. When one of my peers dies, no one says any more, “Oh she was too young to die.” Death is expected or at least accepted as normal for my age group. Where is the “rage against the dying of the light” that Dylan Thomas wrote about in “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.”

 

Here’s the thing. This time of life has gotten here too soon! Ecclestases 3:2 tells us there is a time to be born and a time to die. I know that God’s timing is perfect but I’m not ready to leave this planet yet. The space between birth and where I am now seems so brief. Twenty years used to seem like a long time but now it goes by in the blink of an eye. Today we are celebrating the 11th birthday of a baby girl who was just born yesterday! Those 11 years went by in a whoosh!

 

How is it that my peers are dying off? My ninth grade memories don’t seem that far distant. I still carry a little of my 14-year old self. I don’t feel all that old! It seems that I hear of the death of a classmate almost every week now. We baby boomers are keeping that tolling bell busy, and that seems like an atrocity to me. I, for one, am raging against it! I’m not going gentle into that good night.