Saturday, June 14, 2014

Prelude To The Ten Commandments -- Exodus 20:1-2


Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
 
There seems to be some time lapse with accompanying activity between the end of Exodus chapter 19 and the beginning of chapter 20.  We do not know exactly how long nor what took place below the mountain in the camp of the Israelites during that time.  We can assume, perhaps, that Moses did go back down and made sure that the people and the priests this time did indeed consecrate themselves and that all were willing to stay behind the barriers that had been constructed and not try to see any more of God than He was readily willing to reveal to them.
As I write this today, I have just completed a very difficult week, in which I clearly felt the presence of God, but at the same time had many questions of Him and why He would allow certain things to happen.  These are the moments when we have to be satisfied to know or see only what He reveals to us, but at the same time to fully grasp the idea that while our understanding of His acts or perception of Him is limited, He Himself is not.  He is still on the scene, fully aware of all that is going on and all that needs to happen.  He is taking care of every detail and ultimately His way and timing will and does reign supreme.
So at the appointed time God, according to our text, “spoke all these words”.  The words that follow from God are what we call “the ten commandments”.  But who heard them?  Was it just Moses or did all the children of Israel hear God speaking these words?  Most of the commentators do not address that question.  However, Robert Jamieson, in his commentary entitled The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus writes the following:
The Divine Being Himself was the speaker, in tones so loud as to be heard--so distinct as to be intelligible by the whole multitude standing in the valleys below, amid the most appalling phenomena of agitated nature. Had He been simply addressing rational and intelligent creatures, He would have spoken with the still small voice of persuasion and love. But He was speaking to those who were at the same time fallen and sinful creatures, and a corresponding change was required in the manner of God's procedure, in order to give a suitable impression of the character and sanctions of the law revealed from heaven.
God’s commandments were for all His children and thus all His children had to first hear them directly from Him.  Too often we seek God’s guidance and direction through other people, especially clergy.  But God is available and willing to speak to us directly and then to verify His advice with His written Word, the Bible, as well god-fearing, faithful men and women He has put in our paths.  I am reminded of the time our pastor told us of a man who came up to him after the service and asked for prayer for an interview that he was going to have so that he could do well and get the job he very much needed.  The pastor asked if he had prayed for that himself.  “No” the man responded.  “I wanted you to because you are the pastor and can do a much better job and be more likely to be heard.”  At that our pastor replied, “I will not pray for something that you yourself cannot or will not pray for.  You are very capable of approaching God for your needs.  I will pray with you for God to give you that confidence and enable you to do so.”  What a lesson.  We can go to God directly and God is quite willing to meet us alone.
And what does God say to His children?  He utters the words of who He is and what He has done for them again.  Not so much to remind them this time, but simply to inform them and to state in a very emphatic way which gives Him the uncontested right to issue the commandments He is about to give them.  Basically, they were destined to die slaves in Egypt and God brought them out of their slavery.  Now, He had some rules, that He wanted them to follow, not so much for His own ego, to which He has every right, but in order for them to live well.  We cannot have it both ways.  We cannot expect God to do it all for us and not also give Him the right to be sovereign over us.
It is with that premise that we must approach the commandments that follow.
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