Read Exodus 20:1-20
And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
These are the famous “ten commandments”.
Up until now, circumcision was the distinctive feature of God’s people. Starting with Abraham, it has continued to these thousands here in the desert. It was God’s first this-is-how-to-live-since-you-belong-to-me command.
Now here’s the full set.
They’re not in the promised land yet. It’s only two months after leaving Egypt, and they’re at Mt. Sinai, in the desert. They won’t live here.
If it were me, I’d be impatient to get to Canaan. I’d be thinking, ‘Yes, yes, but can’t all this wait until we get there – you know – the place flowing with milk and honey?’
Of course, as soon as I came near Sinai, and heard the VOICE OF GOD speaking out loud from inside a burning mountain, along with thunder and lightning, I hope I’d just shut up.
I think even my thoughts would melt to silence.
God doesn’t share my sense of hurry about ‘getting there’. He wants to establish some things first. Like any good parent, He wants to make sure He has their attention before putting them among huge distractions.
He’s said they will be His “holy nation, a kingdom of priests”, so here in ten short commands He gives them an outline of what that means.
It’s a gift.
If it were me standing there hearing Him, feeling the heat of the fire and shaking with fear, I’d want to know what to do to … well… not die.
He starts with, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
It’s like He’s saying, “You owe me.” And they do.
They’ve been given a fresh start – whole new lives. It’s like a re-do of the start of the Story – just them and God hanging out (but in a desert instead of a garden).
And just like that first time, God lays down the rule.
Then it was, “don’t eat from this tree”.
Now it’s, “Do these ten things”.
Then, the dragon hadn’t shown up yet.
Now, they’ve just been rescued from him.
But dragon food is still everywhere so God says, do these things: Put me first – always. Honor your parents. Honor life, and marriage, and personal property. Be content with what you have.
Pretty simple, but they get right to the heart. They speak to priorities and fundamental values.
Like they’re a blueprint for a very good kind of life.
Like God knows.
Photo by Marie Bellando-Mitjans on Unsplash