Lou: You spoke of the charge that God is arbitrary, harsh, severe and so forth. The question has come in, “If you’re talking about arbitrary, isn’t something like the fourth Commandment arbitrary?”
Graham: Well, it is often so described and it is felt to make a beautiful test of our obedience. But if that is all the Sabbath is, it won’t be much of a blessing. Jesus said, “I gave it to you as a gift; you weren’t made for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). The best answer for every question, in my book, is to go back to Genesis and read all sixty-six. If you start with Genesis and read through, you will find all the meanings of the Sabbath. The Sabbath reminds us of all that was revealed about God during Creation Week, the message of freedom, and how He shares His creative power with us (Exod 20:11). And then it was given to remind us of the Exodus (Deut 5:15), another monument to freedom. The Sabbath also came after crucifixion day. So the Sabbath reminds us of all the answers given on crucifixion Friday (Luke 23:54-56). And then Hebrews says the Sabbath is a type of the rest to come (Heb 4:9-11). I don’t know of any commandment that has more reasons. Therefore I will not call it arbitrary. That idea comes from “here a little and there a little,” you see. When we take the Bible as a whole, God has never asked us to do anything arbitrary. The Sabbath command is actually the most meaningful and significant of the ten.
Lou: All right. Maybe the fourth does have a great deal of meaning if you look at the whole record, all sixty-six books. But what about the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other Gods?” That sounds a little peevish, wanting to be the only one.
Graham: Yes. How about number one and also number two? “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, and I am a jealous God. I don’t like it when you have other gods.” (based on Exod 20:3-6). Well again, if you take the whole Bible and you are convinced of the kind of person God is, I am glad He says what He does. If He were not in support of freedom and the quality of life that He has revealed, then it would be arbitrary of Him to be the only one. But God says, “Being the kind of God I am, wishing nothing but the best for you, and valuing nothing more than your freedom, I don’t want you to go after Dagon or Molech. Molech would require your babies to be burned alive in his hollow hands. And there are those crocodile and frog gods in Egypt. And also Ashtoreth and Baal–don’t go after them. In fact, if you go after something abominable, you will become abominable yourself. But if you make Me your God, you will become ever more free, and ever more intelligent. So don’t hurt yourself.”
Lou: You’re saying it’s a request, a plea. It is said out of love.
Graham: Right. But that only makes sense if God is not arbitrary, if He is the kind of Person we believe Him to be. He is really saying, “Don’t lose your freedom and every other good thing you have by going after these degraded deities. Stay with Me. When I say that I am jealous; I mean that I am jealous for you. I don’t want you to be hurt.” I like that.
Lou: We would not want our children to have anything that would hurt them.
Graham: Isn’t that kind of jealousy all right? I always felt my parents were jealous for my reputation. I derived great comfort from that. My mother wouldn’t tell on me for anything. And so we have a God who is jealous for His children, and that’s marvelous.