In the Ten Commandments God has given us a gift by setting forth how we can and should live in relationship and community with God, as well as how we should live in relationship and community with our fellow human beings, with our neighbors. The Bible tells us that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai following God’s intervention delivering them from their bondage in Egypt and saving them from the Egyptian army by the crossing of the Red Sea. Moses went up the mountain and God etched out the Ten Commandments on the tablets. They are listed twice in the Bible, first in Exodus Chapter 20 during the narrative about the stop at Mount Sinai, and also in Deuteronomy Chapter 5, where Moses is giving his sermon to the Israelites on the plains of Moab just prior to their crossing into the promised land as he reminds them of the events that have brought them to this place.
I know many of you will have memorized the Ten Commandments, probably in Sunday School, as a child, and probably in the King James Version. They are part of the Covenant God has made with God’s people, a way to maintain the relationship that God has created by saving them, and by saving us. They can be divided into two sets, one set relating to the divine relationship, the vertical relationship, how we should relate to God, and then the second set relates to how we should relate to each other, the horizontal relationship.
Now it is important to understand what these commandments are, and what they are not. Notice when and where the commandments come, they come after God has saved the people, they are part of the gift that God has given. Too often we put the cart before the horse, we see these commandments as something that we must do in order to obtain salvation, to earn God’s favor. Or we see it in terms of fear — that we fear God’s judgment and hope to escape God’s wrath by keeping the law. In fact, God gave these ordinances, these commandments after he had saved the people. Our obedience to them is our way of saying thank you for liberating us, thank you for saving us. That was why and how they were given to the saved people of Israel, and that is how and why they have been given to us, who have been saved and liberated by Christ. Obedience to the Ten Commandments is not our way to gain freedom, it’s our way of knowing what freedom is, a way to live in harmony not only with God but with each other as the saved people of God.
REV. DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.