Tuesday 27 July 2021

Bible Book:

'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery you shall have no other gods before me.' (vs 2-3)

Exodus 20:1-17 Tuesday 27 July 2021

Psalm 29


There are many laws and commandments within the Bible and yet it is this passage which most Christians are familiar with as it offers a summary of God’s requirements from society. They can be broadly grouped into those which affect our relationship with God (verses 2-11), and those which are to do with living in community (verses 12-17). They encompass theology, worship, the name of God, the Sabbath, family, life, marriage, property, truth and honour.

These are laws which are less to do with changing the basic structures of society than affecting how people live and think. They do not abolish slavery or promote democracy but deal with how people live their lives in the society in which they find themselves.

There is an emphasis on the ‘one-ness’ of God, necessary because ancient Near Eastern societies were polytheistic (believing in more than one god, or indeed many gods). At times the Israelites were found guilty of worshipping the god Baal (Numbers 25:1-3). Likewise, any images of other gods or talismans which might be considered worthy of worship were banned. Even the name of God should not be misused (verse 7). Many Jews today read these words and refuse to say the name “Yahweh”, preferring to say “Adonay” (Lord) or “ha-Shem” (the Name) to avoid falling foul of this command.

The keeping of the Sabbath (verse 8) is a requirement which not only focuses the thoughts and prayers of the people but allows all levels of society to have a time of rest within the week. From this, flows naturally a command focussing on the family (verse 12) as this was the place where support for the elderly would take place, and knowledge of how to care for the land would be passed down through the generations.

Verses 13-17 are laws designed to build a sense of community-based on trust and honesty, and the value that God places on human life. The tenth, about coveting (or selfish desire), is more of an internal than an external matter involving as it does the mind.

To Ponder:

  • How relevant are these commandments today? What would you add, or remove?
  • How easy is it today to honour the Sabbath, and what is lost by not doing so?
  • What are the idols our own generation could be said to worship?

First published in 2018.

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