Book Review: Keeping the 10 Commandments

packer-10-comm.jpgThe last few months have been a taxing time for me.  With a pregnant wife (who has been very sick), a sixteen month old daughter, and a full seminary schedule life has been moving at a quick pace.  As I am sure you have experienced, it is in times like this that we are usually careless-even negligent-with our devotional lives.  Additionally, as a minister it is a very real temptation to feed the soul of others while neglecting your own.  With these traps and temptations in mind I made it a point to spend some time reading something of a devotional nature. 

As I was looking for something to read I came across Keeping the Ten Commandments by J.I. Packer.  The material in this book was previously published as a part of Packer’s Growing in Christ.  Now it has been reformatted and published under its own title.  The format of the book is quite simple, and the subject matter is self-evident.  Each chapter is just a few pages long, and covers a particular subject with an emphasis on application and self-examination.  With the exception of a few introductory and concluding chapters, each chapter is based on one of the Ten Commandments.  As I mentioned above the book emphasizes application and self-examination.  Which means that the book tells you what you should be doing, and then convicts you for not doing it!  This is a very useful combination.   

Throughout the book Packer leads his readers through the Ten Commandments exposing their meaning, and the implications of that meaning on us today in the 21st century.  To this end the book is helpful not only in applying Scripture, but also in showing Christians that the Old Testament is still relevant and applicable.  As Packer points out,

“Some read the Old Testament as so much primitive groping and guesswork, which the New Testament sweeps away. But ‘God… spoke by the prophets’ (Hebrews 1:1), of whom Moses what the greatest (see Dt. 34:10-12); and his Commandments, given through Moses, set a moral and spiritual standard for living that is not superseded but carries God’s authority forever.” (pg. 25)

  Packer is “spot-on.”  Unfortunately too many Christians do not mine the depths of the riches of the Old Testament.  This is either because they do not know how to, or because they view the Old Testament as a bunch of Sunday School lessons and sermon illustrations.  This short little devotional book on the Ten Commandments makes it clear that the Old Testament is much more, and the Church today would benefit greatly by looking to the Old Testament as “a moral and spiritual standard for living that is not superseded.”  Packer makes it clear “that the Old Testament moral teaching is not inferior to that of the New Testament….” (pg. 25) For Jesus “came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it; that is, to be, and help others to be, all that God in the Commandments had required.  What Jesus destroyed was inadequate expositions of the law, not the law itself.” (pg. 26) Now that I have made my case for why we should study the Old Testament, let me give you an idea of what you will read if you choose to study the Old Testament using Keeping the Ten Commandments as a guide.  First of all, Packer out the foundation for the Commandments:

When God gave Israel the Commandments on Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17), He introduced them by introducing himself. “God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery. You shall…'” (verse 1ff). What God is and has done determines what his people must be and do. So study of the Decalogue should start by seeing what it tells us about God. (pg. 41)

With God as his starting point Packer then moves through all Ten of the Commandments. 

I am not going to go through all ten of the commandments (for that you will have to buy the book).  But, here are a few quotes from Packer on the tenth commandment that “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife’ or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

  •  In the tenth commandment, “you shall not covet,” God’s searchlight moves from actions to attitudes, from motions to motives, from forbidden deeds to forbidden desire (pg. 101)
  •  Put positively, “you shall not covet… anything that is your neighbor’s” is a call to contentment with one’s lot. (pg. 102)
  • The discontented man, whose inner itch makes him self-absorbed, sees other people as tools to use in order to feed his greed, but the contented man is as free as other are not to concentrate on treating his neighbor rightly. (pg. 102-103)
  • Knowing the love of Christ is the one and only source from which true contentment ever flows (pg. 103)

As I mentioned, I came into this book desperately needing for my soul to be fed.  Packer, with his pen, did just that. 

Title: Keeping the 10 Commandments
Author: J.I. Packer
Reading level: 3 out of 10 – Only a few difficult words or concepts; accessible to all
Pages: 127
Citation: N/A
Publisher: Crossway
Year: 2007
Price: $9.99 Trade Paperback
: 9781581349832