The Old Testament Rules (written on the Ten Commandments Rock)

You guys are still paying attention?  Bra-vo!  I was thinking you’d heard the general version of these stories growing up, grown distant from the faith, got into fantasy gaming, and only clicked on this because of a hashtag.  (Thanks for reminding me to put hashtags in the past posts.)
Disclaimer: the controversial part I talked about last week is actually after this blog post.  There keeps being more in the Bible than I remember.  With a thousand events or so in the Bible (probably a low-ball estimate and a pretty arbitrary one at that, so you could round it either way to skew statistics), we were never gonna have a sermon or children’s story on each one anyway.  We would’ve had no time to waste.  That’s a weird thought; what would I have done with all the time and energy I put into card games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!? (that sounded angry, but the “!” is part of the name, I didn’t make the rules, Japan did)
Well I’m glad you asked!  (If you’re confused, I wrote it, you thought the words you were reading and therefore I read your mind.  It literally is what you were thinking.)  If you’ve spent the prerequisite several solid days of study time teaching yourself “Magic: the Gathering” (MtG, which ironically is how people abbreviate “meeting,” which is what a gathering is) … and if you’ve poured maybe a day shift’s pay into collecting the right tiny pieces of paper, you’re in luck!  Now you can justify that narrow skill set and social alienation by looking at Bible-themed Magic cards.  It’s more grounded in reality anyway (if I just spiked someone’s blood pressure, take a cleansing breath and come back to the blog when you’re ready).  And believer or not (insert exclusivist Christian reference here), you get to see it play out, one rambling blog post & dynamic mostly-just-makes-sense-to-gamers card at a time.
But can we play with them, you ask?  Isn’t that what card games are for?  People actually did ask that, not like the prop-question in my last paragraph.  Well – since I’m making a gallery of them, all the ones in these blogs and more will be in one place.  When I have enough, we’ll see what we can arrange.  But first, to make them!  That was the point of this anyway.  They should be balanced and fit within the Magic: the Gathering framework, but all tied to something that happened in Scripture.  Like flash cards for the Old Testament, but flash cards that can destroy each other.
When we last left Moses, he’d gotten into a fight in the desert with the Amalekites, who God does not like, because they got into a fight with His people.  God kind of plays the protective husband sometimes.  The “Bride of Christ” term comes up in the New Testament with the same theme.  It fits with his “have no other gods” theme too.
But in other ways He’s more like the cosmic Dad, getting into it with the parents of the kid who pushed His kid down at school today.  He just also snaps at his own kids for breaking the rules and making bad decisions and dating some troublemaker.
So God decides, apparently being a cloud / PILLAR OF FIRE (emphasis added) wasn’t enough, so God goes down to Mt. Sinai and sets a whole mountain on fire.  Volcano, you ask?  Brushfire?  I dunno.  There’s also lightning, which can go with either or start the second one.  In a way it doesn’t matter from a believer’s perspective whether physics were bent or natural things happened by coincidence, since either way God told Moses in advance so it was prophesied, ergo, he didn’t just find a wildfire and say “Look, it’s God!”
Mount Sinai
But God warns the people that if anyone, even a priest, touches the mountain, God’s power will break out and destroy them.  Well that’s different.  God’s usually been pretty choosy with who He destroys so far.  But God wasn’t in all those cities in person as an entire mountain of fire.  He’s been an anonymous traveler, as have His angels, and He’s been a bush and a cloud, both on fire.  You’ll find God is frequently on fire.  He’s just so intense.  I’ve heard Him compared to the Sun: unfathomably huge and powerful, source of all life on Earth, but too intense to even look at or you’ll go blind.  It’s like there’s too much of a good thing.
And God did invite Moses up the mountain, through the smoke and fire, and told him the Ten Commandments.
These are those things people want put outside courts or capital buildings.  And other people really don’t want them there.  Let’s see what they’re fighting over:
1) No Other Gods Before Me.
(Mmmmm-hm.  This one’s pretty straightforward.  The only faith I’ve come across that’s okay with worshiping gods other than their own pantheon is Buddhism, and that’s because they believe there are no gods to be before anyone, and Buddha wasn’t a god, just a person with an enlightened spirit.  If you take the sentence literally, “No Other Gods Before Me” would be okay with gods… next to Him.  Or just beneath Him.  Somehow that doesn’t square with the rest of the Bible.  Worshiping at pagan temples with prostitutes and false idols is the biggest thing God keeps getting angry at them for.  Granted, I don’t think He’s a xenophobe who recoils at the semi-religious symbols of all other cultures – yoga, yoga pants, Yoda backpacks – but I’ll admit to not having the scripture in hand to back that up.  The Bible really only brings up other faiths when someone’s making sacrifices to them, and that’s a big line to cross.  We don’t really ritually kill animals for religious purposes anymore.  But more on that in the next blog.
(Could I make a card out of this?  Ehhh… I really struggle with where God fits in a game of Magic: the Gathering.  You’re this superbeing summoning creatures and casting spells.  Are you a Prophet?  Sort of, maybe.  But then there’s no way to have a relationship with God in the game, which is half the point of the Bible.  Feeble creatures gaining blessings from the Creator who bestows things upon them from His hand, as they strive to bring Him glory, has a nice warm-glowy feel to it.  Then again, if your character is God, 1) sacrilege, 2) kinda trivializes God which uh, take a look at the 3rd commandment, 3) you’d not be omnipotent or omniscient, meaning God could run out of life and die, 4) you’d even be fighting against an equal, who would probably have to be Satan.
….I actually started the paragraph thinking I’d be pushing for God to be the player, but uh, didn’t turn out that way.  Lemme put this in my notes, I have lots of notes.)
2) No Graven Images, or Any Likeness of Any Thing in Heaven, Earth, or Sea.  (Specifically, don’t worship them.  A lot of people were doing it back then.  See, the first part sounds like God’s saying: Don’t Carve, or Sculpt, or Draw Anything, Ever.  Honestly that’s how it gets quoted later on, but originally there was this context to go with.  The Israelites must have caught on, because I haven’t come across a verse where someone drew something and God or anyone in Israel got mad at them for it.
It’s hard to make that a card, though.  It would have to really be a stretch.  Comment if inspiration strikes you, I’ll give you shared credit for it.)
3) Don’t Take the Lord’s Name in Vain.
(…this already isn’t gonna be a Magic card.  I had to research “in vain” for a while, ’cause usually that means “unsuccessfully.”  Scholars seem to be saying not to misuse it, which, since that didn’t tell me much, also got taken as misrepresenting God when talking about Him.  It also might mean no cussing, though I mostly heard that in Sunday school.)
4) Keep the Sabbath Holy.
(literally Don’t Work on Saturday.  Okay!  Don’t have to tell me twice!  This is actually good timing, ’cause I did work Saturdays for years until a month ago.  This one made sense for an ex-slave people who’d needed God himself to lobby for a single holiday weekend.  The official reason is to rest because God rested on the 7th day of Creation instead of making something else cool right after humans.  He adds that not even your kids or your cows or your not-Jewish neighbors in your city should work.  As for us, America loves work – at least the idea of it – so this doesn’t always come easy for us.  I mean for some of us it does.  For those people I’ll add that it says to work the other 6 and that Saturday is God’s day.  Not necessarily recover-from-hangover-and-prepare-for-another-one day.
(I actually do have a card for this one!  Surprisingly enough.  There wasn’t an obvious picture for people not working, but I found Indian people sitting down and figured it was close enough.)
Fourth Commandment
5) Honor thy Father & Mother
(You know this one.  Your parents might’ve taught you this one… and thought it whenever you disagreed with them.  I looked hard for a better explanation of what’s meant by Honor here.  The closest alternate-Bible-translation version I found was “Respect.”  I could actually debate myself in circles with when it would or wouldn’t be honoring or respectful to disagree with your parents, or to disobey them.  That could actually get real vicious in the comments.  Feel free to fight for my amusement there.
(Side note: the first time God says it, here, that was only half the sentence.  He finished with: “that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”  In other words, you’ll live longer if you honor your parents.  That’s why I sleep easier knowing I’m protected from that ominously open corporal/capital punishment by this next commandment:)
6) Thou Shalt Not Kill
(Now this one’s pretty popular and mainstream.  If you don’t count action movies or gun legislation or capital punishment or law enforcement or foreign policy.  The important thing to note here is that there are several words for “kill” in old Hebrew, and the one here means “murder.”  It’s never used in the Bible to mean killing during wartime, or being put to death by law.  What it does include is allowing someone to die through neglect or carelessness.  Not preventing someone from dying when they could have been saved is a form of murder here.  So whichever party you’re in, the Bible agrees and disagrees with you here.  Closing note: Jesus doesn’t want anyone to hurt anyone, not even when mandated by law, not even if they’re trying to rob you or kill you.
(Could this be a card?  I think it’s too bogged down with nuances of the kinds of killing.  If killing in wartime is OK, at least when God says so (He didn’t always say so out loud), it really wouldn’t restrict much.)
7) Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
(Nope – definitely not getting a Magic card.  Don’t cheat on your spouses, people.  The sex wasn’t the thing missing from your relationship anyway.  I mean not the only thing.  If you’re married and starved for companionship, there are these kinds of people called friends who you don’t commit adultery and poison your marriage and make you the bad guy (or girl) who ruined things.  And if those don’t make you happy, either you’re doing it wrong, or you’re wanting something from others that you can only get from yourself.  Talk to someone about how.
I’m going to play it safe when saying “someone” and list LoveIsRespect.org (who has a chat line and hotline (866) 331-9474, and I used to work here so that’s my stamp of approval), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness i.e. NAMI.org (whether it’s all your fault or all his/hers, they have support groups all over the country; you can call them at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) (M-F 10a-6p)).
8) Thou Shalt Not Steal
(Can this get any more black-and-white?)
(A card for this would really just penalize taking control of another player’s cards.  I’m afraid that’s just kind of a rare ability.  It’d be a defense against something that wouldn’t be too likely to happen.)
9) Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against thy Neighbor
(Lying’s a trickier thing than it sounds.  Most people can justify lying in the right situation.  Some do it to get out of trouble, or to avoid upsetting people, or to make someone feel better, or to make their kid believe in Santa Clause knowing full well that the kid’s going to stop believing one day and they’ll realize you were con artists who went to great lengths to deceive them just so you could see them get giddy!  Sorry, I forgot how many feelings I have about that.  The point is that we want it to be around.  Apparently those people’s prayers were heard, because technically most theologians say the 9th Commandment is about “bearing false witness,” meaning lying in a legal setting.  It may not mean not to lie.  I almost didn’t clarify this because I didn’t want people to read this and start lying more.  So I’ll remind people that there are plenty of other non-Commandment verses saying God wants people to be honest.  There.  I think I’ve done my due diligence.
(This really isn’t a good post for Magic cards.  You can’t lie in a game where every enforceable rule is written right on the card.)
10) Thou Shalt Not Covet
(Covet?  That’s not an everyday word.  Lemme finish the commandment first: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”  Aheh, heh, heh, heh.  Yeah, you’re pretending He didn’t mean donkey.  All right kids, snap out of it!  Sheesh.  So what it means is, don’t want to take what isn’t yours.  Even if you’re not gonna take it, don’t even want to.  I always took this as “you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses,” but it at least means don’t go wanting things that aren’t yours or that you’re not supposed to have.
Well, readers, thanks again for reading, and you’re welcome for reading.  Copyright God 2000-ish BC.  All rights reserved.
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