Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.  Deuteronomy 5:33

Most people don’t like being told what they can or can’t do and sixteen-year-old youths are no exception. In fact it seems like some teenagers are convinced they’ve got all the experience they need when deciding what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Brian Joffe was one such fellow. He was a cocksure chap who always seemed to know better. Nobody could tell him anything and least of all his teachers. Thus it came as no surprise, one day, to discover Brian at the wood-turning lathe and disregarding a safety regulation. So I switched the machine off and said; “Please don’t sand your lamp-stand while the tool-rest is still in place. This is the umpteenth time I’ve had to tell you to take the tool-rest off when you’re sanding!” Reluctantly he removed the tool-rest.

The following day Brian’s class was again in the Woodwork Centre and working diligently on their lamps when the din of tools and machines was pierced by a sharp cry of pain. Running towards the sound I quickly assessed the situation and noticed a youth at one of the lathes with his hand jammed between the tool-rest and the wood that was still being spun around at high speed. I dived for the switching mechanism and thumped the red button. The machine quickly stopped and as it did I was immediately loosening the tool-rest and extracting a mess of sandpaper and finger. It was terrible. Brian’s index finger had most of the skin and flesh stripped down to the bone and blood was splattered everywhere. Brian was rushed to a hospital and it was several months of infections and skin grafts before his finger healed.

Brian was never very cocky after that escapade. He learnt the hard way that there are a number of “don’ts” for our benefit and protection. The Ten Commandments (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6-21) are one such set of “don’ts.” “Honour your father and mother . . .” is written as a positive injunction but the other laws are written as prohibitions, i.e. “You shall not.” These great laws provide a valuable moral framework for our well-being. So “learn them and be sure to follow them” and “walk in the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days” Deuteronomy 5:1, 33.

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