And God spoke all these words:
2 "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[a] me." (Exodus 20:1-3)
May 6, 2018
You know that the Bible contains the 10 commandments. But the fact is many people cannot direct you to the chapter. You may have been taught or have heard preached the 10 commandments, but you don't know much about them. And you may have the ability to say from memory one or several of them, but you don't know much about the background of the 10 commandments. In today's sermon on the ten commandments, I will preach about how the people of that day received the commandments and why they received them.
First, how they received the commandments. The Israelites were now living in tents near the foot of Mt. Sinai. This is the location that took them more than three months to travel to after being freed from slavery in Egypt. This is the same location God had promised to bring them to himself. Once they arrived at Sinai, God called Moses and requested him to come up on Mt. Sinai. Upon arrival God gave him specific instructions to give the people. That occurred in the first talk God had with Moses on the Mt. Sinai. I shared the contents of that talk with you last Sunday. In short, it was about God informing the Israelites that he had freed them from slavery in Egypt and how he had brought them to himself on eagle's wings. You remember me sharing this with you, don't you? Also, God told Moses to consecrate the people for two days and to have them wash their clothes and to be ready by the third day when the Lord would visit them on Mt. Sinai. Moses followed orders. He consecrated them; and they wash their clothes. Without question, there was a lot of activity and preparation for the Lord's visit. This activity involved Moses going up and coming down Mt. Sinai; he undoubtedly got his 10,000 steps for good health; the people washed their clothes. That's a lot of washing to say the least. The washing of clothes by the nation on one or two days reminds me of the wash days at home as a young boy. My mother had certain wash days. She washed clothes in a huge black caldron located in our backyard. The water was heated to boiling and she boiled the dirty clothes, and boy were they dirty! She used "Lie soap" as it was commonly known to clean our dirty clothes. Anyhow, my mom's wash days were huge work days in the backyard and out in the scorching heat. The truth be told, we wore our clothes too long; we got them too dirty.
So, based on my childhood experience I can imagine all the clothes hanging on clothes lines to dry in one or two days? Then on top of all this activity Moses seems to have added a downer for the people as he instructs them to abstain from any sexual relations. He gives no reason for this probation. Nowhere does he tell us that God made this requirement of the people.
So, their preparation for God's visit was intense. But what the people did to get ready for God's visit seems to have been worth it all. God's approach to the people and Mt. Sinai began early on the third morning. The people woke up hearing thunder and seeing lighting with a thick cloud over the mountain. Additionally, there was a loud blast from a trumpet. The sound caused the entire camp to tremble.
Then Moses led the people out to meet the Lord. They saw what I suspect they never forgot. There was smoke covering the mountain. "The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently, and the trumpet blast grew louder and louder." Then Moses spoke and the Lord answered him. So, it was worth the people's visit with the Lord on Mt. Sinai.
After this excitement, God gave the people the 10 commandments. That is how the people received the commandments from God. God had them prepare themselves. God instructed them on how to approach him at Mt. Sinai. God told them when not to touch the mountain and when to touch Mt. Sinai. And he told them the dire consequences of touching Mt. Sinai at the restricted times. That's how they received the commandments.
Preparation is key to living. We cannot avoid preparing for a multitude of things. The Israelites prepared to meet God on Mt. Sinai. We too must prepare to meet God. We are not preparing for the reception of the commandments, but we must prepare to meet him on his terms and on his timeline. Are we preparing to meet God albeit for another matter?
Now, why did God give the commandments? The answer to that question is contained in the commandments. For example, in the first part of the commandments, verses 1 through 7, God gives instructions about himself and how we are to think of him. That's one of the main reasons for the commandments. We are to view God as God. Listen to God's words about himself:
3 "You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Exodus 20:3-7)
The Israelites didn't know how to think of God. They didn't know how to meet God. It was so much they didn't know. They didn't know the awesome God. They didn't know what to say and not to say to God. Today, Christians are heard saying, "The man upstairs." That's not an appropriate address to Almighty God as we understand the Scriptures. Are Christians guilty of bowing down to other gods today? Many would say, "yes." God has forbidden us to worship other gods just as he has done in the past; Are Christians guilty of misusing God's name? Many would say, "yes." God provides them guidance with the words of the commandments. He tells us what is right and what is wrong for us to say in addressing him. That's why we were given the commandments. We hear God's directions and requirements for thinking of him and addressing him.
Life requires guidance. Not long ago, a young man was mourning his plight of having to work two jobs to make ends meet. He was saddened that he hadn't gone to school and got a good education. Upon further reflection, he commented that he dearly wishes he had had someone to guide him so he could have avoided his plight. Life requires guidance. God provides us the guidance for living life the way life is to be lived. So, we have the commandments. We know how to think about God. We know he is for us. We know he wants the best for us. Let us in looking at just this first section of the commandments be thankful to God. His guidance in how to view him, how to think about him, how to know him, how to respect him as God. What wonderful guidance for us in this section of the commandments. That's the why we have the commandments.
As I prepare to preach additional sermons on the commandments. I encourage you to think about them as being helpful to us in how we live our lives. Think about the commandments as a wonderful gift from God. Think about them as guidance for today and tomorrow. Amen.