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Exodus 19:3-7; 20:1-17, God’s Commandments a Gift, Not a Curse

Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today

Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.
— Exodus 19:5

NL Daily Devotion for Sunday, October 7, 2018

Covenant & Commandments Eagle Image (cc0)

Covenant & Commandments Eagle Image (cc0)

by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff

Once I heard a beloved preacher begin his sermon by asking people to respond, “Yay!” to good news, and “Boo!” to bad news. “For God so loved the world...” Yay!“ So, Eve took of its fruit and ate...” Boo! Then he threw in a zinger. “God gave us the Ten Commandments...”—Silence. And then laughter.

Are God’s laws good news or bad?

I fear many of us have been taught that the Ten Commandments are fixed rules to be followed or else. Hellfire and brimstone, weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal punishment. I vehemently disagree!

For the lost and broken people of Israel, who had never governed themselves, God’s laws were a gift! How else would a nation know how to behave properly in civilized society? They had been slaves their whole live—being told what to do, when and how to do it. They were probably regularly punished unpredictably and inconsistently for any number of infractions, whatever was the whim of the taskmasters that day. To have acceptable and unacceptable behavior spelled out word-for-word would have helped them tremendously as they learned to navigate healthy community life.

These commandments are promises, not restrictions. In the first commandment the Lord points out that the dysfunction of misbehavior carries on through the generations, but may eventually turn around in just three to four generations. A blessing, however, lasts to the thousandth generation. Following these commandments offers the promise of long life and prosperity.

All of God’s laws are intended to keep us organized and safe. When followed, they protect us from chaos. When disobeyed, everyone pays the price. God’s commandments are a gift for healthy, happy community life.

Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:

Exodus 19:3-7; 20:1-17

Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him.

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,6but 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. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your 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.

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