Exodus 19-20 Overview
Today we’ll be reading and learning about the 10 commandments and how they were delivered. We will be in Exodus chapters 19 and 20.
I’m sure most here have heard of each one, what they mean, how we’re supposed to live by the laws. But I want us to look at them through another lens. Instead of thinking of the 10 commandments as a strict set of rules to live by, think of them as how God has revealed how much He loves us, and this is how we should respond to His love.
As a parent we give our children rules for a reason, don’t touch the hot stove/campfire/BBQ or you’ll burn yourself; don’t run in traffic or you could get hit by a car and die; don’t use a knife like that, don’t cut towards yourself or you could cut yourself and die. We give our children these rules and so many more not because we don’t want them to have fun, no, we do it because we love them and know what will happen if they don’t obey the rules.
Far too often we don’t obey the rules God has given us, and we cause harm to ourselves or others around us. True, we can’t stop sinning, we struggle every day to follow basic rules, but the more we lean on God, the more we trust in Him, the more we seek His will and not our own, the easier it can become. God gave the 10 commandments to His people to further show them His love and to build up their relationship with Him.
As I grow older and father my children, I’m constantly reminded of different rules my parents gave to me as a child. I understand their love more and more every day as I give our children rules and discipline them. My parents didn’t punish me with rules because they hated me, no, they loved me and needed to get my attention. Through the punishments, the consequences of disobeying, it would open my eyes and heart to listen better, to obey. True, not all the time, but usually. That’s what God is doing here, giving His people rules to express His love.
So, lets read today from Exodus 19-20 and see how God gave the 10 commandments. The author of Exodus is great at sharing the experience of the day then with us today. We can’t go back and ask questions of the author, no, we must read what he wrote and experience it through the text.
God’s law reveals His love for His people
3 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
The Ten Commandments
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
New American Standard Bible
So, we read here, first in 19:3-6 and again in 20:1-2, why God is going to deliver the law. Because He loves His people. He loves each of us and gave us the law so that we could grow in our relationship with God through following His law. God starts by reminding the people what He has done for them by delivering them from the Egyptians, on eagles’ wings, and brought them to Himself.
If they would obey and keep His laws God would make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. And through every generation they are to retell this covenant. Why should they do this? Because as verse 2 says “I am the Lord your God” so because He said it we must obey.
Think back through your life and how many times we were given rules to obey. What would happen if we broke them? Usually it would be a rather harsh punishment. Don’t drink and drive or you get huge fines and jail time. Don’t steal from another or again fines, jail time, and lost trust.
Next, we will see the first four rules and what they are for and why we should honor them.
How have you seen obeying God’s law reveal His love for you?
God’s law reveals how to worship and honor Him
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
New American Standard Bible
The first 4 of the ten commandments are there to show how our lives should be focused on God, not on man made things. Previously the people had learned from the Egyptians how to worship idols and things made by man. Now we see that those are wrong and God is telling them what they should be doing instead.
Also of interest here is the vertical nature of the first 4, meaning from God to man and man to God. Just like Jesus on the cross, His feet towards earth/man and His head towards God in Heaven. And the next 6 commands are horizontal in nature. Meaning from man to those beside us, those in our communities and right next to us. Jesus’ arms on the cross were spread out horizontally, reaching out to not just his neighbors on the cross but to all the nations, all the people. Welcoming them to His open arms.
So, the first four commandments, what are they and why do they exist.
- You shall have no other gods before Me
- Just after God spoke and said “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” He tells them they are to have no other gods before Him. They had just come from a land that worshiped other gods and now they are being told that is not right, there is only one true God that we should worship and honor with everything.
- You shall not make for yourself idols and worship them
- Again, due to the land they just came from and because we are humans that desire to have something physical to touch and see and in turn worship. We are not to do that, to worship something physical over the Heavenly Father shows our lack of faith. We must worship the unseen, the Holy God, anything less is not acceptable. When we worship God it is a spiritual experience, like no other.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
- We hear people using His name in vain far too often. Doing this removes any meaning behind God’s name. His name is Holy, and we should respect it as such. By using His name in vain we remove all holiness from it, making it empty, meaning nothing. I can’t imagine our God as being empty, meaning nothing. No, our God is full of amazing and wonderful love for us. Don’t throw away what God has done and what He is still yet to do by using His name in vain.
- Remember the sabbath day
- Again, in contrast to their life in Egypt, working as slaves every day, they are to keep the seventh day, the Sabbath Day, holy. Meaning to separate it from your activities of the week, come together in service of God through religious observances. Turn our focus from work of this world to the works of the Kingdom of God.
- In the Old Testament the Sabbath day was the last day of the week, the seventh day, Saturday.
- How then do we get to the Sabbath now being recognized on Sunday instead?
- Sunday is the first day of the week, not the last.
- We see it starting early on in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.
- We also see it through Jesus, raising from the dead on the first day of the week.
- Just as God’s creation started on the first day, our new life through Jesus Christ started also on the first day of the week.
- So why not Sunday? Better to start the week off right, focused on God than to focus on ungodly things.
Is there anything here in our vertical worship of God that you struggle with?
God’s law reveals how to love one another
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “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 belongs to your neighbor.”
New American Standard Bible
Now we see the horizontal laws, the laws of how we are to deal with those next to us, through each of our communities. This is how we are to love each other. We are reminded of this in the New Testament in Romans and John.
9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As Romans says, love is the fulfillment of the law. All ten commandments, IF we would just love, love God, love your neighbor, we can fulfill the law.
Through love we can do each of these:
- Honor your parents, honor is great respect, a feeling of pride and pleasure of showing respect.
- No killing, yes killing was a way of life then and now at times. Murder is not the same as the death penalty or killing enemies in battle, if you continue to read in Exodus it will further explain this. Murder just to murder someone is wrong, we still see it as wrong. The murdering of unborn children each day is a perfect example of how wrong murder is.
- Matthew 5:22-23 “Don’t even nurse your anger” for if we are angry and nurse it we are guilty of murder. Even thoughts of anger are equal to murder.
- Do not commit adultery, sleeping with another person’s spouse or unmarried person is wrong. It is seen here as stealing from man, the worst kind of stealing short of murder.
- Matthew 5:28 “Don’t even giver her that look” again even lustful thoughts of another are guilty of adultery.
- Even our thoughts need to be guarded against the temptations of the flesh. If we think it we have already committed it.
- I pray constantly for God to keep my blinders on, just as a horse has blinders so they know to stay focused on what’s ahead, so must my thoughts. My thoughts need to be focused on God, focused on my wife, focused on how amazing and beautiful she is. So thankful to God for blessing me with this woman, so precious, so loving, so caring, so wonderful to be with.
- Do not steal, don’t take what isn’t yours. If you steal from another you take from them what is theirs, you will destroy any respect and trust they have in you.
- Do not bear false witness, oh how we love to gossip or tell lies about others. Ever had yourself become the center of gossip or a lie? It does not feel good. So then don’t do it to others. Instead lift them up, glorify them to others. Love them!
- Do not covet your neighbor’s possessions; are you not happy with what God has blessed you with? God has given you so much, yet still man is not happy and wants what someone else has.
Each of these commands are to further show our love for each other and to God. If we don’t honor our parents, how can we honor God? If we murder another person how are you showing love to them? If we sleep with another man’s wife how are we showing God’s love to the man and his family? Each one of these we need to honor and show respect to and keep them. By just loving your neighbor you can keep the commands.
I’m not saying anywhere here we will be perfect or without sin. It’s our human nature to want the flesh, the world, we want it all. But what we need to do is focus back on God, look up to Him from where we are, ask Him to fulfil the laws through you, fill your life with His love. Imagine a world that was focused on His love? How about just our city or just our church? What if we all could commit to love each other and focus on God and sharing God’s good news with everyone? Through love we should be sharing His message.
Love does no wrong! How are you going to love more this week? How are you going to share God’s love with others this week?
Love does no wrong. How that rings true in everything we do. I pray that as we each go out into the world, into our communities, that we can express God’s love to all around us. To each person you encounter may God’s open arms be seen, welcoming them into a relationship with Him, and welcoming them into His Kingdom.