Reading: Exodus 20: 1-17
Verse Two: I am the Lord your God, who brought you… out of slavery.
Today’s passage is perhaps one of the most familiar in all of the Old Testament. They are but ten of the hundreds of laws or commandments found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Yet we know these ten fairly well. They are on countless Sunday School room walls and most Christians can name a majority of the ten. They are mostly a list of “shall not” laws with a couple “do” laws in there too. They are partly about our relationship with God (1-4) and partly about our relationship with each other (5-10).
Maybe the Ten Commandments are well-known because of their timing. Maybe they are well-known because of the dramatic fashion in which they are given. Maybe they are top-of-the-list because of their simplicity. When Moses receives the Ten Commandments on top of the mountain, it is the first time that God has given laws to live by. This is significant. The scene below the mountain was powerful too. God has just led them to victory, a violent storm rages on top of the mountain, and Moses speaks with God in the storm and lives. And the Ten Commandments are pretty straight forward. They are simple enough to be taught in Sunday School classes – even for the little ones.
But ultimately, I think the Ten Commandments are significant because of what they begin. Verse two reads, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you… out of slavery”. For the initial Israelites, they were literally brought out of physical slavery in Egypt. But quickly for them and for each generation since, right up and through us, the slavery we face is sin. The Ten Commandments represent the beginning of a personal relationship with God. This personal relationship is essential if we are to ultimately conquer sin and death. The first four commandments, in particular, establish the relationship we must have with God. These must be kept in order to stay in a right relationship with God. These are summarized in Deuteronomy Six and again by Jesus – love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The next six commandments cover how we are to live in a right relationship with each other. These are summarized in Leviticus 19 and by Jesus – love your neighbor as self. The Ten Commandments begin our right relationship with God and each other. May we honor the Ten Commandments as we live out our love for God and for neighbor each day.