Terms and Conditions of Immanuel
And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. (Exodus 20:1-17)
What we have read are the Ten Commandments which we know very well. Many people have this preconception of the Ten Commandments because it is called Commandments. Because it has been labelled the Ten Commandments, people have a stereotype of what it is meant to be. They know that they are commandments but fail to think about why God gave these words to the people at that time. And they can be misled once they think that they are just commandments.
Why did God give these words to the people? Before being commandments, they are the terms and conditions of an agreement. They are the terms and conditions. When we are buying a product or taking out an insurance policy, we have to read the terms and conditions very carefully. Whether it is insurance or land, we have to know the terms and conditions, and likewise, for buying a house or even something online, we need to read and understand the terms and conditions of the sale. Otherwise, when something happens, you may not be able to claim anything if the seller will refer to the fine print in the terms and conditions which you may have missed.
Just as we need to carefully read through the terms and conditions, what God is saying here is not simply, “You have to listen to Me!” Rather, God is trying to establish an agreement, a covenant with the people of Israel saying, “I will be will you.” It’s for this purpose that He is doing this work. God had already promised this with Abraham saying, “I will be with you and you will be a blessing”. To put this more explicitly, God is saying, “I will marry you.” And there is a motif of marriage in the Book of Hosea where it says, “I will betroth you to me. We will become one.” That’s what this is about. Marriage.
If you are trying to get married, how can you do it without knowing the other person? You have to first find out who the other person is, what they look like and so on. And there should at least be a conversation about what each will do for the other person once they are married. When we elect the president, we don’t elect the person that is most handsome. The candidates have to be honest with the people of his country and tell them about what he will do when he becomes president. That is his responsibility. So whether the people like it or not, it is most important that he is honest. Why? When the people are told by each candidate what they will do when they hold power, the people can make a decision. For example, one is going to restore our relationship with North Korea, but the other candidate says he is going to completely isolate the North and destroy them. And by those policies put forth, people make their decision.
Similarly, God is telling the people about who He is. Hence the Ten Commandments are commandments that reveal God’s attributes but at the same time, the least that God is demanding of them in order for them to be with Him. The people of Israel were influenced heavily by the Egyptians at that time. They were in a mess. They were filthy. God was determined to be with them, yet God is holy. They simply could not be together with the Holy God because they were not fit in terms of their nature or standards. Therefore God made a concession for them. Thus He was saying, “I will keep my promise with Abraham and be married to you, but you must keep these at the least” and gave them these conditions.
One of the prophets got married to a prostitute as a result of God’s command. Even so, there were minimum requirements to that marriage. The woman was told not to go after other men once she was married, and no questions would be asked about her past. That was the condition. The prophet married a prostitute on the basis that she keeps these minimum requirements. And he would not ask her about her past life.
For example, another person might say to their future wife before getting married, “I’m a person who has to have breakfast, so please make my breakfast every morning. I don’t mind what you make, but kimchi is a must. And you can make friends with people but no cheating on me.” And another thing they might discuss is how many children they want to have. If the woman doesn’t like the terms that are presented to her, what does she have to do? Don’t sign the agreement. If she doesn’t want many children, unlike him, or she can’t wake up early every morning, she doesn’t have to go ahead with the agreement.
If the people didn’t agree with God, He would’ve just look for another. The problem is when both parties agree, but one breaks the arrangements. That is why man can be one with God, God presented these requirements as the minimum so that if they do keep those requirements, God will be with them. He will be married to them. He will be with them forever and protect them. What did the people answer when they heard this? They agreed, and therefore the covenant was established. So from then on, they became the commandments.
They were not commandments from the beginning but the terms and conditions. After that they became commandments. We chose these commandments. We promised to do them. Hence they are not forced upon us, but we have to be responsible for our choices. That is actually what our faith is like. It is about taking responsibility, not being oppressed. Fatalists are oppressed. Why? Because they feel as though they never made a choice. And they believe they can’t change anything. We are not fatalists or predestinarians. We make choices and bear the consequences of our choices.
God is giving them the covenant that He will be with them forever if they keep these terms. God is holy, and He revealed His attributes in this way. If we want this God to be with us forever in our lives, we need to bring ourselves up to be at the same level as God. We have to be at a similar standard as God. But do you think that these things can make us of the same level as Him? No, they will not. So God came up with another alternative and made a promise with us again. Now, we are able to be one with God through Jesus Christ. But since we know that these are the minimum requirements that God demands from man, we have to make every effort to keep these even after having faith in Jesus. There is not one of these we can ignore. We cannot be saved by keeping these requirements, nevertheless, they represent God’s standards, the minimum conditions set by God like the Maginot line. Let us pray that we can become holy in order to be with the Holy God.
God our Father, since you have given us grace so that we can now be with the holy God, help us to exert ourselves to be holy. And just as the Lord Jesus shed His blood and died to keep the promise, help us also to fight unto bloodshed to be holy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center