I once read an article about viewing the Ten Commandments a little differently. I am aware that the term "differently" is relative depending on how you initially viewed the Scriptures. This article challenged its readers to push away from asking the question, "What do I need to obey?" to "What was God's intensions behind the Ten Commandments?"
To find answers to this question, we have to look at word "Commandment." Did you know the translation for this word is not accurate? As a matter of fact, there are no good translations of this word. The Hebrews didn't call this list as The Ten Commandments, but called it "The Ten" or "The Ten Words." This is why some church circles (i.e. Catholics) call them the Decalogue.
Deca means ten. Logos means words.
Looking at this a little closer, the word Logos really means logic, which is the principle behind reality, as in "It's only logical..."
The Ten Commandments are the ten realities of the people who chose to follow Yahweh out of Egypt. Here is an example I learned from one of my theology professors that helped me tremendously:
In the United States, there are two types of signs for laws (or commandments). The first is a society rule that needs to be enforced. For example, a speed limit sign of 65 mph. This "command" is enforced on Californian freeways. It is a society rule to maintain order. If I drove on a freeway at 75 mph, I may not be penalized if there is no law enforcer to catch me. Here are a few other examples of this:
The second is a reality law that stands true even without enforcement. A good example of this is a sign that's posted on a tunnel warning you that a truck above the height of 12 feet would not fit. Regardless of the presence of a law enforcer, we are expected to "obey" these "commands" because it acts more like sign stating a reality. Here are a few other examples of this:
The Decalogue is like the law that doesn't require enforcement. Let's keep in mind that these laws were given to a group of ex-slaves. God pulled them out of Egypt and was going to transplant them in the Promised Land. The big surprise in this narrative is that God wasn't interested in only rescuing slaves, but wanted the to participate in redeeming the world. His strategy in doing this was by setting up a new type of society that has never been seen before. This new civilization would be unique and set apart (which is what "holy nation" means). For this to take place, God set up a new reality with higher standards in the way they treated God and one another.
What does this mean for us, today?