Our final passage before our break for Advent is Exodus Chapter 20.
This includes the 10 Commandments (vs.3-17), probably well-known to most of you even if you can’t quite remember them all off by heart or in exactly the right order!
People often say that these are the universal baseline for good living on the earth, and if you keep these then you have passed, and you get your reward, whatever that might be.Probably the Commandments they have in mind when they think or say such things are the famous ones about murder, adultery and stealing (nos.6, 7 & 8).However, we should note that the first 3 or maybe 4 of the Commandments are all to do with our response to the Lord, a relationship upwards, and it is only the later ones that involve our actions towards other people, ie a more sideways relationship. Therefore the 10 Commandments as a whole don’t really make sense unless you are a believer. If someone you know who is not particularly religious says they try and keep the 10C, ask how they are doing with Number 1 or perhaps 3!
But actually more importantly I don’t think these laws are there for us to strive to keep and earn our salvation, but rather they are a response to what God has already done for us. Do note v.2, which is often overlooked, perhaps even in church buildings when the 10C are put up on the walls. ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’ That is to say God has already rescued/saved His people and is in relationship with them, and in view of this fact, the following instructions are there to help you live well before the Lord and others within the people of God. So keeping the 10C doesn’t earn the Israelites or anybody else their salvation, that is already won for them by the saving actions of God. And the same is with us, we are saved through believing and trusting in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not because of our own efforts or good deeds, but in response to that we seek to obey God and live as He wants us to live.
I also noticed something when reading this passage through, which I hadn’t seen previously, and that is at the end of the 10C (vs.18-20) there is much fear amongst God’s people because they have been so close to the presence of God. And Moses’ response is interesting, ‘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.’ (v.20). (Which links us to the holiness aspect of God which I mentioned yesterday.)
So God has given His people the Law and Commandments because He LOVES us, but a healthy FEAR isn’t a bad thing if it helps us to keep them. It is like the Carrot and Stick approach to discipline or getting anything done. Sometimes we need one, sometimes the other, but actually they need to go together. Much to ponder…
From our extended address list, please remember in your prayers today,- Terry- Sally, who had both started coming to church more regularly before the first lockdown, that we might be able to reconnect with them when the situation improves.