At RUF Bible study we talked about the man with paralyzed legs who got thrown down through the roof into the room with Jesus. Jesus forgave him of his sins and the Pharisees were all like "oh no you don't, Jesus, only God can forgive sins- stop faking" and Jesus was like "What's easier to fake- forgiving sins or unparalyzing people?" and then he said to the bro with no-good legs, "Get up and walk" and the guy did, and everyone was all like "WHAHAOAOAOAOA GOD IS AMAZING!" But the Pharisees got all pouty.
The discussion was really, really good, and it had been a while since I had read about or thought about that verse, and so I left the Bible study with a lot on my heart and a lot in my head. I was walking home across campus and a warm front had moved through that day, so everything was warm and a little damp. There was a soft breeze blowing and the starlings were chattering in the magnolias.
And then I was suddenly intensely aware of so many years of my life. It was like stepping side-ways through all of my years as an adult in one prolonged instant. The birds in the trees were singing a song I had heard before, and I could smell Japan. The whole sky was the endless eyes of the cherubim one next to another. The birds spoke in the trees and I felt like I was standing at the very end of my life-at the very end of my years- and they were asking me the same question in their strange bird-voices and I felt the answer swelling up in my heart but I had never heard the words.
All around my whole body the world pressed close and almost warm in its greatness. The endlessness of one human soul filled the vast emptiness between each of my footsteps. The sky was soft and warm and tiny insects breathed softly and swiftly in the leaves. The soil slid like oil around the tree-roots and the whole earth hung on its invisible cord in a sea of light, upside down with the people standing on it unaware. I felt plucked outside of time, and each instant of my life was rising up together and asking me the same question.
I thought to myself, "what can I answer all things?" And again my heart knew the answer but I did not know the words. Shapeless words were in my mouth. I said to God, "Oh that I knew your words; Oh, that I knew your law." And I remembered that God had said it was very near me- in my heart. And I tried to remember the law of God, and I could only remember the Ten Commandments. And I started to say the commandments back to God but I was saying them wrong. They were just words like little human rules, and they somehow echoed hollow in the huge fullness of the earth around me. I was missing the point. I hadn’t heard them right and I was reciting them wrong, but I didn’t understand how.
And then it was the voice of God on my eyelids saying; breathing into my heart, "Why are you saying my laws as if they were burdens? Each one of them was a precious gift. Each one of them is a precious promise. Each one of them has been given to you as an unshakeable vow. Say them as a Father promises every good thing to his child. Say them like the words of creation."
So I said the ten laws back to God but they were no longer rules and threats, they were promises; the vows of God spoken into my heart. He told me,
"When I have made you new, there will be no part of you that is capable of sin. You shall have no other Gods before me- you shall see me in all things and at all times and your worship shall never falter or fail; the fire you offer me shall never be defiled, and your lamp shall never be put out."
He promised me, "You shall not make any graven image or bow down to it or worship it. Everything your hands form shall rise up and join you in perfect worship of my holiness."
He promised me very dearly, "You shall not take my name in vain; in all things that you invoke my name, it shall be fulfilled to my glory. Do you see what I am preparing for you?"
He vowed to me in an unalterable word, "You shall never forget the sabbath day to keep it holy. You shall work for six days and the seventh day you shall rest in me. This will always be so; I swear to you, you shall never forget my holy day. Do you see what I have given you already? I will give you even more than this. "
He promised me, "You shall never bring dishonor to your parents. In all that you do your voice shall rise and bless them continually. Their bones will be strengthened and their heart will be made glad as if by wine by your deeds each day. You shall never harm or destroy another soul for forever. All your words shall be life and all of your actions shall be kindnesses. You shall never, ever commit adultery. All of your love shall be like pure fire; like pure water on the altar, flowing down forever and cleansing all that it touches. You shall never steal; all that belongs to me shall belong to you, and you shall never put out your hand that I will not place in it more than you imagined. You shall never, ever bear false witness; all of your words, like mine, shall be true. You shall not covet anything that your neighbor has. His plenty shall make you glad and you shall hang around his neck gifts of gold, and together you shall go up to my house to worship me forever. Now, already, and very soon I have given you all these things; they are yours to keep forever."
And I realized how and why I had always understood the commandments incorrectly. When Jesus fulfilled the law, He didn’t just obey it- He made it true for his bride. He fulfilled it. Each statute of the law, once he had lived it, became a description of him- and now as description of us; of who we will be. The commandments are promises. So now I see each one as a promise to me for glory. When I covet, and I ask myself and God how I could sin like that, I hear the tenth commandment whispering into my heart, “But there will be a day very soon when you shall not covet. I have written it in stone with the tip of my finger and sealed it with fire and water. It will surely come to pass.”
The ten commandments are the words of the new creation- they are the foundations of the new heavens and the new earth, where there will be no sin or sorrow. And above them all I hear the greatest commandment; the unalterable vow of God-
“In that day, You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind, and all of your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”