And God spoke all these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me... (Exodus 20: 1-3)
|The 10 Commandments|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
The first thing to note is that the Commandments are set in the context of Grace. It was a gracious (and mighty) act of God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt at a time when Egypt was known for it’s paganism. He now graciously instructs Moses concerning how to live in the Land that they are going to possess.
There are ten of commandments. The first four concern our relationship to God. The last six concern our relationship to each other. Their intent is to evoke in us love for God and for each other. This is why they can be summed up by just two commandments as taught by Jesus. (see Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30)
They have the form of a rule. However, they are better described as principles. A rule is best considered to be something that is man made. Like, “Stay off the grass,” or “Do not touch the wet paint.” To keep them, we obey them because there is some helpful reason for doing so. If we break them there are no great consequences. Commandments, on the other hand are considered to be God given, a gift from him. To ‘keep’ them is to ‘uphold’ or ‘guard’ them. They are like a fence that can be ‘crossed over’ or ‘transgressed’ by trespassers. They set the boundaries within which we can live in freedom. Failure to uphold them is sin against God and the consequences are dire, namely death. Jesus upheld them perfectly.
The Law of God rightly refers to the first five books of the Old Testament. The Commandments are a ‘written code’. As to their application we must consider the teachings in The Law, The (Jewish) Torah. As to their meaning we must consider the teaching of Jesus (see Gospel of Matthew 5-7) and Paul in the New Testament. Note that Jesus corrects much of the Jewish understanding of The Law. Whereas the commandments condemn the final result, the steps (hatred, lust, immorality, theft, envy, greed) that lead up to it are just as wrong in themselves.
The 10 Commandments begin with a statement that reveals God's grace - "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery". God rescued his people, not because of who they were, but because of his goodness. He rescued them before he gave them the Law to live by.
Protestant and Catholic versions
- God spoke all these words, saying,
- "I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
- "You shall have no other gods before me.
- "You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
- you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me,
- and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
- "You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
- "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- You shall labor six days, and do all your work,
- but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates;
- for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.
- "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.
- "You shall not murder.
- "You shall not commit adultery.
- "You shall not steal.
- "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."
- All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance.
- They said to Moses, "Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don't let God speak with us, lest we die."
- Moses said to the people, "Don't be afraid, for God has come to test you, and that his fear may be before you, that you won't sin."
- The people stayed at a distance, and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
- Yahweh said to Moses, "This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
- You shall most certainly not make alongside of me gods of silver, or gods of gold for yourselves.
- You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you.
- If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it.
- Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.'