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The Ten Commandments
is this the power to maintain civilization?

It is suggested by many, that the fourth President of the United States, Mr. James Madison, said the following:

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind of self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.

Others suggest that he said the following:

We have staked our future on our ability to obey the ten commandments with all our heart.

And because of these and other words, we have courthouses and other government buildings, all over the U.S.A., stamped with symbols representing the Ten Commandments. Over and over again, one can hear in churches across the nation, that the U.S. legal system is “based on” the laws of God, or on the Ten Commandments, or something similar; and for generations, some people have complained and blamed each other, or the younger generations, or Those People, for what is happening today, where so much is against the stated will of God.

But today we wonder. Today we ask the questions. Does any nation have, has any nation ever had, any ability to obey the Ten Commandments with its whole heart? Has any nation ever had the ability to sustain itself according to the Ten Commandments of God? And what, pray tell, might God have to say about any of these things?

We will suggest that the answer to the first two questions, is very simple: No.

No nation has ever had the ability to obey the Ten Commandments with its whole heart. No nation ever has has the ability to sustain itself at all, whether according to the Ten Commandments of God or according to anything else.

All of the nations, most expressly including the Israel of old and the State of Israel of today, utterly fail to obey the Ten Commandments, and also utterly fail to sustain themselves according to whatever law they declare of themselves. There is, was, and has been great and terrible failure, from the highest leadership to the beggar and everywhere in between, in every single nation without exception in this world, since the first overlord gathered the first few tribes. You don't accept this? Then read whichever Constitutions, national and local, are set over you wherever you live, and just try to count the failures. If you are honest, you will lose count.

Or perhaps you are one of the many who loses count with a smile, and considers that God must not care, and neither should we. Do you say that God is truth, or not? Do you say that God desires us to lie to ourselves and each other? Do you say that lawyers should lie? If so, your god will go to hell. Or you may think you have no god; you will learn otherwise, sooner or later.

There has been only one nation in the world, ever in all history, whose leaders set out to obey the actual Law given by God: and the actual Law given by God is far larger than just ten commandments, there are hundreds. And according to its own written history, which are holy records given us by God Himself for our education, that nation utterly failed, even though God Himself placed amazing and terrifying physical manifestations of His Power unto them for many many years.

And these things are not new. This is the human condition. It has not changed since before the first child was born.

In the face of such great and terrible failures, there remains the third question. What might God have to say to us, and about us, us being we who care about Him and His desires?

We submit first, that He urges us to not stake our future on ourselves. When we stake our future on ourselves, we always fail to be good and true and right. See how the Lord Himself counselled those who loved Him face to face:

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
Luke 18:19

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Matthew 7:11

It is the Lord Himself who says that we are not called good: He Himself calls us evil. Even He Himself, if considered as an individual without His Father, shall be considered evil! It is only God Himself, who is Many comprising One, who singularly and only is truly called good!

And we shall suggest that God would have us stake our future upon Himself. Not upon a few laws of God admixed with piles upon piles of words of sinful men; not upon “an idea”; Himself alone. What does God tell us to do, if we want a good future?

It is interesting to first examine this historically. For instance, in the time of the first Israel, God said to that people, that He created them to be holy. He told them to kill off many of their own people who did not submit to His Law; and He did some of the killings Personally, directly, immediately. He told them to kill off everyone participating in perversion, fornication, adultery, and other evils. He told them to kill certain whole peoples, men, women, and children. And He sent legions of angels to be the power behind their army, to scatter and to destroy enemies far more powerful than they.

But increasingly the people of the first Israel did not follow His Will. They ignored His love, left His ways, and disregarded His commandments. And according to the historical record, in response, God Personally caused great numbers of them to starve to death and be killed in other ways. But He did not kill all of them, it is written, out of mercy, a sovereign violation by Himself of His Own Law, because He had made promises to several of their ancestors, and His promises He always keeps: He shall give a wonderful and joyful future to many.

So then, we have today. If you read the Law of God as given to Israel of old, and if you are honest with yourself, you will find that there is no possibility that you will obey most of it. What, then, shall we do?

We find it very helpful to remember that there are many different kinds of statements in the Holy Record. There are simple definitions of good and evil; there are commandments, “you shall” and “you shall not”; and there is history given. And there is also the fact that every single commandment is given to apply to specific people.

For instance, in the case of every single commandment in the time of the man named Moses, each one is given to “the children of Israel”. Not “the entire human race”. “The children of Israel”. The descendants – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, et cetera – of a certain man whose birth name was Jacob, and whom God renamed Israel.

On the other hand, there were a very few commandments before this which were given more generally. God expressed His displeasure immediately and in general when the first act of murder occurred. And there were others.

But the question is about now, and us. Which of the commandments of God apply to us?

Are we to consider ourselves descendants of Israel? There are some who suggest this, and there is advice within Holy Scripture which seems to imply it. Must we live according to the Law of God of Israel of old? We suggest that you do not, because if you do, you will find yourself wanted for murder.

And according to the words of Joshua of Nazareth, God has given us all a much better option.

Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
Matthew 23:9

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Matthew 11:13

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone presses into it.
Luke 16:16

“John”, above, is John the Baptist, a teacher whom God sent to a great many people before He sent the Lord, to prepare the way. And according to the Lord, until John, all of the prophets and the Law were appropriate for people to follow as written. But since then, there is something new, something called the Kingdom of God, and every human being is trying to press into it.

The “press” involved is something not seen everywhere in the world. In many parts, if there is a crowd waiting at a food vendor, it always forms a line. But in some places, including many places in today's state of Israel, there is no line: there is a press, a crowd, and the only way anyone can get to the seller is by shoving his or her way through, hopefully gentle enough that no riot is caused.

Of course, in this case, it is the Lord who is gatekeeper, one does not get in by the shoving, just as persons impolite to the vendor did not receive food. But what is this “kingdom of God”, what does it take to become part of it?

There is much differing interpretation of the Holy Record on this. So we strongly urge you, when you have any questions or any need, talk to the King of that Kingdom, talk to God, and ask Him to answer you. He will do so. And He will make it so, possibly immediately, possibly in a longer while, for you to feel that Kingdom in you, the peace, the love, the rest, and the knowledge, motivation, and ability to do so much good.

Jonathan Brickman
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