Exodus 20

The Ten Commandments

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."

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Idols and Altars
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 "'Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.'


'Ten Words'

Fifty days after the people left Egypt they come to the desert of Sinai and God gives them the ten commandments.

The ten commandments are remarkable ancient ethical teaching and yet if we're honest, there is something a little intimidating about them, right?

Whether your experience is from Sunday school and it is drilled into you "Don't be rude to your mum!" Or if you came across them later on TV "THOU SHALT NOT KILL!!!"

We can sometimes be uncomfortable with the throwback to moralistic, rule-based religion.

But originally, for the Israelites who had recently been released from slavery, this was not a new oppression to live under, but the means by which they sought to have right relationship with God and each other.

The people of God loved the law, they believed if they kept the law wholeheartedly they would know God's blessing and live out their calling to show the love of God to the world.

The first five relate to God and second five contain obligations to humans. The prohibitions, 'You shall not...' must be understood with the equal and opposite positive commands. (i.e. you shall not kill...but you should preserve and give life!)


There are a few features to this story that are worth noting.

We're told that at this momentous event there was thunder [Hebrew: Kolot] (18).

It says that they saw the thunder, the kolot and lightning, the blare, and the mountain smoking; because the Lord descended on it in fire. (Exodus 20:18).

The people saw the thunder, they see the sound. The experience is so intense and and beyond their understanding and linguistics that it cannot be described by the ordinary language of the senses. So they say that they see the sound.

Kolot is best translated as lots of voices. Fire and voices were a couple of defining characteristics of this event. And it is in this context they receive the law, the covenant and they become a people. The people would then mark this event with a festival each year: the festival of Pentecost. (Pentēkostē) meaning "fiftieth" refers to the festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after the Passover the momentous day of liberation for these people.

In the book of Acts we read that the disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the passover. Except on that passover Jesus the lamb of God was crucified - a momentous day of liberation for all people.

Guess what story first century Jews would read at Pentecost?

Exodus 19 and 20. They would gather around to tell the story of the God who comes with fire and with voices, and with his plan that the world would know of his universal love for all humanity.

And in that moment...

A sound like a blowing wind filled the whole house, there seemed to be tongues of fire rest on each of them. Voices come upon them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and then they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

What must they have thought? Sinai is alive again! God is apparently still looking for his people. God is apparently still wanting to display is saving love for the whole world.

Pray for the fire of God to fill you that you might live in such a way that you show God's saving love to the world.

No Comments