Ten Covenant Words (Commandments): Plenty
Psalms 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
Exodus 20:15 You must not steal.
God’s desire when he made the covenant was to give his children an understanding of his perfect will for them. God was telling Israel they were chosen to carry the message about His love to the nations. Because God set Israel apart, making them a holy nation, they needed to set an example showing they were different. Israel needed to show they were different because their God was holy, set apart, and unlike their gods. In 1 Peter 1:16, Peter understood when he wrote, “Be holy as I am holy”. Their God was a holy God quite unlike other gods. This one true God was full of love, provision, abundance, and wealth for his children.
When God made the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” That covenant was still intact and honored for the children of God in the wilderness.
God’s stipulation that the children of Israel were not to steal was important to their understanding of God’s provision. If they became known as a nation of thieves and robbers, how would that look to the world? Would the nations believe they were the children of the one true holy God? Would they believe God was serious about his promise of provision? Absolutely not! God needed His children to understand how very much He loved them and wanted to provide for them. God wanted their trust. He wanted them to believe that HE would provide and they didn’t need to steal what they needed.
The intention of the covenant was so God could establish a relational contact with the chosen Hebrew people. God wanted to give them a good start and that included giving them clear direction. When it came to stealing God knew if they didn’t have a clear understanding that stealing was not necessary, they would follow the lead of their past culture (Egypt) or their future culture (their neighbors in the Promise Land). In addition to clear direction God wanted them to understand they didn’t need to steal because HE was enough.
God’s desire for his children was that they would trust Him to provide for them. God knew without trust, the Hebrew people would be driven by fear as they entered the Promise Land. As they moved forward, they needed to embrace God’s provision, God’s command, and God’s covenant promise. Because fear breeds fear, by making a covenant with his children up front He was promising that He would give them everything they needed. They did not need more. Instead they only needed to ask and He would provide. God knew they were feeling unsure and afraid. The Hebrew people left the only home they had known for generations. Egypt had been the home of their families for 400 years and now they didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.
They didn’t have a roof over their heads.
They didn’t know what they would eat.
They didn’t know how they would survive in the desert.
God didn’t speak directly to the people.
God did speak to Moses, and he was responsible to lead them.
Now God told them they weren’t to steal…
God needed to help his children understand that his provision not only included meager sustenance but it consisted of abundant provision.
The history of the Hebrew children would have been orally passed down and that history would have included stories about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, and Joseph who was the first to go to Egypt. They would have known that God made a covenant with Abraham and had promised a blessing. Moreover, God promised a blessing to those who blessed him. They would have also known that God did bless Abraham and that he was a wealthy man because of God’s provision. The Hebrew people needed to focus on their history with God and realize that God’s promise included them. The abundance that Abraham was given was theirs as well.
The Hebrew people did understand that God heard their cries when they were in Egypt and rescued them from slavery. They would have seen the plagues and the miracles that occurred with each plague. They would have painted blood over their doorposts so the angel of death would ‘passover’ their homes and their oldest born sons. They also would have remembered that Moses parted the Red Sea and the ground dried up so they could pass through the middle of the sea. They would have known that when the Egyptians tried to follow them, the sea gave way and swallowed them up.
Even with all of that, now came the hard part.
In the desert, they had to learn to wait.
They had to trust that God would provide.
They had no where else to go.
When everything around them looked uncertain and unknown they had to wait for God to provide. They had to learn to trust in what they had seen and exercise their faith. They had to believe that God had not failed them in the past and would not fail them in the future.
They had to trust the covenant.
They had to embrace God as their provider.
They had to believe in God’s love for them.
Covenant and Community were key elements and with the covenant God was establishing a relational contact with his children. One of the fundamental parts of the relationship was their acceptance of God’s provision. At the foundation, they needed to believe God would provide food, water, and protection from danger. With the covenant God was telling them ‘you do not need to steal because I will give you everything you need’. As a community they needed to embrace the idea that they were well cared for and chosen.
But, there was a deeper element to God’s provision that was unseen. As God taught them they would be physically provided for, there was also a relational element they needed to learn. Stealing something from another person also encompasses how we treat each other. Another person can steal your peace of mind. Your neighbor can steal (or try to steal) your joy. If love is not a key element, if we do not consider how someone else ‘feels’, we can say unkind words that can damage the relationship.
In the wilderness, God was also teaching them how to love each other.
Remember, the covenant (commandment) was not given to anyone else.
Only the Hebrew people received the promise.
They were the people God chose. If they did not love God and each other, the truth about God would not be revealed to the world.
All that had happened to them before was preparation for this hour. All they learned about the covenant would be needed in the wilderness. This was their training ground. In the wilderness they had to learn daily lessons of God’s love and provision. They needed to be coaxed into understanding that they didn’t need to steal. Daily, God provided. Daily the cloud was present. Daily they ate and drank water and were given protection. Daily God gave them love and peace. They did not need to steal.
Our training ground today is not so different. Daily we need to believe that God provides everything we need. Daily we trust that we will have food, water, and protection. Daily our trust grows. When tragedy strikes and we aren’t able to provide for ourselves we learn about the extent of God’s abundant love. When things get tough and the need is great so is the provision.
Today we have the example and the words of Jesus. Jesus knew physically stealing a loaf of bread was a sign that someone was afraid they would starve. Jesus knew when we do not love our neighbor enough to treat them with kindness and respect, it is often because we have not been well-loved. When someone tries to steal you peace it’s because they have a war raging inside their heart. When a neighbor steals your joy the root cause is their own unhappy joyless existence.
Fortunately, our lack of abundance is not the end of the story.
Jesus promises: “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:16-18, NKJV).
God gave Israel the Covenant, the Cloud, Moses, and the Judges in the wilderness to guide them. We have Jesus, His own son. When someone steals what belongs to us, whether that might be a yard sign*, our peace, or our joy, we turn to God and put the matter in the hands of Jesus. The wisdom from above is filled with peace, gentleness, and mercy.
We do not need to be afraid. God has it covered. When we turn to Jesus we have more than enough. As a matter of fact, I believe God replaces what we lost with MORE than we could ask or imagine!
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
My soul waits for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning— Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. (NKJV)
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: BE thankful for difficult situations when you need to exercise your faith for when you turn to God, it is enough...
Think of a difficult situation you are struggling with, or have struggled with in the past. Turn to God and spend time talking to God about the issue. Give it to God and be thankful!
In God, Deb
*Of course, if theft is involved we can report the stolen item to the authorities.