A few days ago, three young people were visiting Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park. They decided that they would hop the railing to enter the water right above the falls.
They were then swept over the falls and presumably fell to their death 300 feet below. As of this writing, their bodies have not been found and the families are holding out hope they they somehow survived.
The National Park Service had installed those railings years ago. Not with the intention of ruining people’s fun. Not with the intention of limiting the lives of people. Not with the intention of controlling people’s lives. Those railings are there to keep people safe so they can enjoy their lives at Vernal Falls.
That’s the reason for the 10 Commandments – the Law of God. God doesn’t establish His Law to limit people’s lives. God gives us His Law to allow us to live our lives to the fullest.
The 10 Commandments have a three-fold purpose.
One, they are a mirror. They show us our sin. They show us that we are lost and condemned creatures. Condemned because God said that if we do not keep the Law perfectly, we will be punished. (See Romans 2:12)
Two, they are a curb. They are there to keep us from sinning. Sinning brings death and destruction. So really, the Law is to keep us alive.
Much like that railing at Vernal Falls or on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or on the observation deck of the Empire State building.
The Law’s purpose in its second use is to keep us alive.
But it cannot do so on its own. We have to respect its railing. We have to not climb over it.
Yet we do it all the time. We want to know what’s out there beyond the railing. We think it might be better. It is the great unknown, it is an adventure waiting to be experienced.
We are warned that it is not an adventure but only death.
Stay inside the railing of the Law and you will live.
But we are also lied to. We are told that this is not really living. It is boring. It is mundane. It is ordinary.
The alternative is death – each and every time. Hop the railing at Vernal Falls and you will be swept over the edge to fall 300 feet to your death. Is that an adventure? Hop the railing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and you will not live a life of adventure, you will fall to your death.
God does not want you to die. Keep the Law and you will live.
But you can’t do this on your own. You need God’s power to keep God’s Law. That’s why God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus kept the Law perfectly. He lived the perfect life. Yet in a great exchange, Jesus took your sin as His own and died the punishment your sin deserved. In its place, He gives you His righteousness and power to live – truly live.
The third purpose of the Law is a guide. When we have Christ’s righteousness, when He takes our sin away, we return to the Law to find out how to truly live in this life. The Law becomes our road map to truly live a great adventure.