Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
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.’
It is perhaps too easy to parachute into the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 without seeing how they fit into the bigger story. That story – and the sequence in which it is told – is crucial. Imagine for a moment that Moses went to Egypt with the stone tablets tucked under his arms and said to the people: ‘If you keep all these, God will rescue you from slavery.’ How might the story of Exodus have turned out had that been the case?
Even the commandments themselves don’t begin with a command, but with a claim. They don’t begin with a demand, they begin with a declaration. They don’t begin with law, they begin with love. They don’t begin with rules, they begin with relationship.
They begin with God speaking – ‘And God spoke all these words’ – showing that the commandments are not a set of abstract principles or a body of laws put together by a faceless committee. They are the words of God himself to his people.
They begin with God identifying himself as their covenant Lord – ‘I am the LORD your God’ – the name by which he would be known to them, showcasing his special relationship with them. Obedience is not to the law for its own sake, but is deeply relational – obedience to this God.
And they begin with this covenantal God describing how he had acted on behalf of his people – ‘who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery’ – a reminder from the start that the commandments are not the way of redemption but the walk of the redeemed.
To be sure, there are commands – and they are to be obeyed – but they are a gift to the people, an expression of God’s good will for them. They restore to them the dignity and freedom that slavery in Egypt had destroyed. They embrace every aspect of life. They nurture an alternative community and lifestyle which would enable them to be a light to the nations, a responsibility which falls on our grace-filled shoulders as the new covenant people of God.
The one God to be worshipped as the true God has met us in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he still calls us to obey him, as those who have been saved by him – not just for our sakes, but for the sakes of the people among whom he calls us to live.
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