26 May 2013
On Sunday 19 May 2013 I gave my tenth "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester.
As the previous week had seen the Jewish festival of Shavuot, I took as my theme the Ten Commandments.
Last week was the Jewish festival of Shavuot. After God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt, He gave Moses the Law at Mount Sinai, an event which is also mentioned in the Quran.
and when We appointed for Moses forty nights [on Mount Sinai], and in his absence you took to worshipping the [golden] calf, and thus became evildoers: yet, even after that, We blotted out this your sin, so that you might have cause to be grateful.
And [remember the time] when We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ - and [thus] a standard by which to discern the true from the false - so that you might be guided aright;
and when Moses said unto his people: "O my people! Verily, you have sinned against yourselves by worshipping the calf; turn, then in repentance to your Maker and mortify yourselves; this will be the best for you in your Maker's sight." And thereupon He accepted your repentance: for, behold, He alone is the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace.
That is what Shavuot commemorates.
Jews, Christians and Muslims have always seen God-given law as the basis for society. The 10 Commandments which you can find in Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus are as relevant today as they were in the time of Moses.
Of course not many of our neighbours have an ox or a donkey that we might covet! However the principle applies just as well to coveting our neighbour’s Rolls Royce or his hi-fi system. It is even more important not to covet our neighbour’s wife!
I have a confession to make.
Like most people of my generation, I find it impossible to think about Moses without visualising Charlton Heston in the Hollywood epic film “The Ten Commandments” directed by Cecil B. De Mille. I was aged six when it was made, and saw it a few years later at my local cinema which was redecorated with Egyptian chariots for the occasion.
I have watched it several times since then, and it remains extremely moving. As a film, it is quite true to the Book, while making sure that it holds your attention all the time.
Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights at the top of Mount Sinai listening to God. And what were the Israelites doing while he was away?
They gave up on him. They melted down their gold rings, bracelets and necklaces to build a golden calf so that they could bow down and worship it, just like the Egyptians worshipped their idols of stone and gold.
Only a few God-fearing Israelites stood aside and refused to join in with this golden calf worship.
Watching the film or reading the Bible, it is easy to mock those silly Israelites giving up on God and Moses so quickly. However each of us should ask themselves a question.
Do I always do what is right, or do I sometimes take the easy way out and follow the crowd?