The Ten Commandments
“Then God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.’” (Exodus 20:1-3, NRSV)
For the next two weeks, I’ll be preaching on the Ten Commandments. In recent history, the Ten Commandments have become more of a political topic than a religious one. I hope to reclaim our first thoughts of the Ten Commandments as a source of divine guidance and revelation about how to experience the best possible life by following God’s will regarding human relationships. The Ten Commandments are beautiful on so many levels—indeed as the moral and ethical code that guides human behavior; but, also as a religious expression of the nature of God, a literary masterpiece that succinctly encapsulates the life of righteousness, and a touchstone framework for ordering every interaction of every day of our lives.
Some scholars argue that Moses’ delivering of the Ten Commandments from God to the people of Israel was the starting point for the religious history of Judaism, and by extension, for Christianity as well. The creation of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai was cloaked in thunder, lightning, fog and trumpet blasts (see Exodus 19) and culminated with the writing of God’s Law in stone by the finger of God (see Exodus 31) and delivered to Moses to take back down the mountain to God’s people.
Throughout the history of Judaism, the Law is central in the lives of the Israelites; however, the tablets are not the focus. As a matter of fact, the first set of tablets was destroyed by Moses when he angrily threw them to the ground after observing the Israelites worshiping an idol representing a golden calf. A second set was later reconstructed although, again, the focus was not on the tablets. The focus was always on how the Law was displayed in the hearts and on the minds of those who unite themselves with God. The prophet Jeremiah highlighted this when he spoke for God:
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33, NRSV)
As we explore the Ten Commandments, we will learn that they are more than a list of do’s and don’ts; rather, we will see them as a gift from God designed to strengthen our relationship with him and with each other. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday! ~Dale Cohen