Ten Thoughts on the Ten Commandments #’s 6-10

6.  The commandment reads, “Honor your father AND MOTHER…”  Mothers get honor too!—not a bad nod in a decidedly patriarchal society.  It is interesting that this commandment is tied to the Israelite’s longevity in the Promised Land.  And it is interesting that much of the transmitting of religious commitment and faithfulness flows from mother to child.  We have heard of many reasons the Israelites received the punishment of exile to Babylon, yet could it be that at the root of all those reasons was a lack of honor for mom.

7.  In Exodus 31:18 the Ten Commandments are given another name.  They are called the “tablets of testimony.”  Why?  Because they give insight (they ‘testify’) into the nature of God, and the kind of covenant that God makes with humanity.  There is an important political point to be made here: laws, rules, agreements, covenants—they matter.  They matter because they say something about the one who made them.  They are not morally or ethically neutral.  They are never arbitrary.  They come with an agenda.  In the giving of the Ten Commandments God holds all the power—far more than Pharaoh ever did.  The power Pharaoh held was used to legislate enslavement and oppression.  The Ten Commandments, in contrast, are a testimony to the good covenant God made with even greater sovereignty at God’s disposal.

8.  The reception of the Ten Commandments is more than a story about receiving God’s divine Law; it is also a story of all that will happen with the Israelite nation.  Let me give you the outline.  The laws are first spoken orally by God to the people.  A covenant is made.  Later God will write down those laws, carving them into two stone tablets with his very finger, and God will give them to Moses who acts as a priest and prophet to the people.  The people will receive the written word, and they will immediately violate it by melting their gold into the image of calf and bowing before it.  The covenant is broken.  In a holy rage Moses, the prophet and priest, will smash those two tablets.  The Israelites will receive a punishment, and they will wander in exile.  The presence of God will remain outside the camp, unable to abide with the sin of the people.  Moses will intercede, “Consider that this nation is your people…if your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.”  God agrees to abide with the people.  God shows Moses all of God’s glory, and Moses is transfigured, and God makes a new set of commandments, just like the first, and the covenant is reestablished.  We worship not just the God of the first set of tablets, but the God of the second set.  We worship not just the God of the covenant, but the God who renews the covenant—over and over again, until we all see God’s glory.

9.  The giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 contains more than ten imperative statements, totaling 14 or 15 in all.  The last commandment is the culprit—“You shall not covet.”  Apparently it was not enough to give the commandment in general and so the imperative is repeated with a whole litany of things it is wrong to covet—your neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, ox, donkey, or anything!  Why so specific?–last I checked it’s not easy to carve words in stone, you would think in the writing of the Ten Commandments they would place importance on being pithy!  Perhaps it’s because this one is a hard one for us.  So read this one twice, or maybe three times, and repeat after me—“This is not a competition.  This is not a competition.  This is not a competition.”  Competition builds empire, the Ten Commandments builds the kingdom of God.

10.  Jesus is good at summarizing.  When Jesus was asked what commandment was the most important he replied—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then declared that all the Law and the prophets were summarized in these two chief commandments.  It is worth pointing out then, that the first words of the Ten Commandments are, “I am the Lord your God…”; the last words of the commandments are “…your neighbor.”  Amen.

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