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.