The Ten Commandments
1Moses called together the people of Israel and said:
Today I am telling you the laws and teachings that you must follow, so listen carefully. 2The Lord our God made an agreement with our nation at Mount Sinai. 3That agreement wasn't only with our ancestors but with us, who are here today. 4The Lord himself spoke to you out of the fire, 5but you were afraid of the fire and refused to go up the mountain. So I spoke with the Lord for you, then I told you that he had said:
6I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.
7Do not worship any god except me.
8 Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. 9 Don't bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me and worship idols, I will punish your families for three or four generations. 10But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.
11 Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
12 Show respect for the Sabbath Day—it belongs to me. 13 You have six days when you can do your work, 14but the seventh day of the week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your oxen or donkeys or any other animal, not even those foreigners who live in your towns. And don't make your slaves do any work. 15This special day of rest will remind you that I reached out my mighty arm and rescued you from slavery in Egypt.
16 Respect your father and mother, and you will live a long and successful life in the land I am giving you.
17 Do not murder.
18 Be faithful in marriage.
19 Do not steal.
20 Do not tell lies about others.
21 Do not desire to possess anything that belongs to another person—not a house, a wife, a husband, a slave, an ox, a donkey, or anything else.
22 When we were gathered at the mountain, the Lord spoke to us in a loud voice from the dark fiery cloud. The Lord gave us these commands, and only these. Then he wrote them on two flat stones and gave them to me.
Work-life balance dominates our thinking in a 24-7 work world. Navigating the daily digital demands is the new stressor replacing the old work-week grind. Consulting gurus talk about the “creative destruction” of business, medicine, education and government. Long standing social formations are tottering everywhere. The economic signals from long stable national economies are alarming. What is going on?
Moses starts his second speech with a 10-point success plan. He lays out the most famous set of rules ever written—the Ten Commandments. Most of us take these as highly personalized directives. They are guidelines for personal introspection and public behaviour. But they are much more than that. This is bedrock law. On it they will build a sound society where fairness and reciprocity rule. There are many key moments in human history. Surely this is one of them. It is impossible to conceive of Western history apart from the Ten Commandments.
Here is a historical hinge point. Mountain, Fire, Cloud and Stone—these were the manifestations of the majesty and power of God in creation. Now God provides the law, specifying rules for social order and structural good in society. But embedded in the Decalogue (the formal name for the Ten Commandments) is a problem. Nearly everyone agrees its demands are just and reasonable. Yet throughout history no one has been able to live up to these expectations (1). The solution is the good news of a personal God. The heart of the human dilemma is resolved by the gospel, and this the central problem that Paul takes up in Romans.
Our understanding of God is of necessity filtered through our experience of him. The unapproachable God, with the unpronounceable name—YHWH—has made himself known. But we won’t fully know him until later. Only when we see Jesus does the veil lift. And that is the rest of the story.
Father you have not left us without a guide. Your law is a clear foundation of common grace for all. We long for justice to break out. And we ask that you will make us instruments of peace today. Let your grace fill our lives as we follow your son, Jesus Christ, today.