Read Exodus 20
The Ten Commandments
1 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.
3 “You shall have no other gods before 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.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
Idols and Altars
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’
Exodus 20 demonstrates God’s desire to initiate relationships with His creation. Before the events of this chapter, the Lord approached Moses, drew His people out of slavery, and reminded them of His promises and plans. God desires to dwell in intimacy with His people and set them apart as His own. To do this, He gives them the Law: The Ten Commandments.
Reading through the list of Commandments, it is easy for us to get discouraged. No matter how hard we try, how nice we are, or how often we attend church, we are bound to break them. We are all broken in our own way. We can’t follow the guidelines. We gossip about our coworkers without even thinking about it. We covet the opportunities and possessions of our peers. We envy the remodeled kitchen of our neighbor. We get jealous of our roommate when they are in a God-honoring relationship, and we are not. We break these Commandments time after time. Does this mean we have no hope? Why even try? Now what?
God created these laws knowing that we wouldn’t be able to uphold them. He gave us this law so that we could understand sin. He uses these Commandments to build upon the foundation of His grand plan. To fill the gap of our inadequacy and brokenness, He gave us His son, Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again so we could walk with the Lord in righteousness and freedom that we don’t deserve. These Commandments remind us of our inability to earn or work for our salvation, but thankfully, that is not the end of our story. We have a God who shows steadfast love for His people.
Unlike pagan gods, our God isn’t basing our value on perfection, feelings, or performance. Instead, He forgives us for the ways we fall short of His expectations.
Praise God we don’t have to be separated from God because of our mistakes; rather, we can follow Moses’ example in verse 20 and draw near to God in the midst of darkness.
What are ways you have fallen to sin and away from God’s best? Take some time to pray and repent.
What are some ways you can encourage your people today by showing them God’s love and kindness?
Have you gossiped about or resented someone recently that you need to go to and ask for forgiveness? What is one step you will take today to move toward that person?
Did You Know?
Verse 20 contrasts two types of fear: agonizing fear (which comes from conscious guilt or unwarranted alarm and leads to bondage) or healthy fear (which promotes and demonstrates an attitude of complete trust and belief in God and leads to freedom). This second type of fear will keep us from sinning and is at the heart of the Old Testament.