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Exodus 20:1-21, The Ten Commandments

Laws and Rules

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

Israel was a nation that had been enslaved for over 400 years. For generations they had been told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, what to eat, what to wear, how to worship. Suddenly, they were a free people. Have you ever found yourself suddenly free of something, and then that wave of terror washes over you as you think, "now what!?" It was like that for Israel, too.

But God didn't free them just to let them flounder in the wilderness. God gave them very specific instructions on how to live, how to govern themselves, how to behave as a community of free people, how to eat, what to wear, how to worship. The ten commandments were the first of many laws that instructed the people how to live. And they were a gift. Can you imagine what life would be like if there was no structure, no rules, no social standards? God's leadership was a gift that would guide people forever.

The next time you're faced with a law or rule that's annoying or doesn't make sense, consider what the law might be trying to do. How it might be instructing you to behave in civilized society. How it might be protecting you and those around you. Then consider how obeying the law or rule might shape you as a human being. How do you want to show up in the world?

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 20:1-21

Then God spoke all these words: 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. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lordyour God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Earlier Event: October 9
Exodus 18:13-27, Jethro’s Advice