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Exodus chapter 20 brings us the Ten Commandments. And as I like to do from time to time on this blog, I'd like to share with you Eugene Peterson's "The Message" paraphrase of the Ten Commandments from verses 1 - 20:
"GOD spoke all these words:
I am GOD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of a life of slavery.
No other gods, only me.
No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am GOD your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I'm unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
No using the name of GOD your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won't put up with the irreverent use of his name.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD your God. Don't do any work--not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.
Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that GOD your God, is giving you.
No lies about your neighbor.
No lusting after your neighbor's house--or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's."
Has anyone else noticed that The Message in the Old Testament doesn't really seem to stray too far from other translations, whereas The Message in the New Testament can take some wild leaps and twists and turns? Just something I noticed recently... I am curious - are there many Message Chronological Bible readers participating with us this year? A great overview and commentary on the Ten Commandments is online at bible.org at this link. I think this image below is helpful in that it shows the first 4 commandments are about our relationship with God and the next 6 about our relationship with people:
Verse 19 in this chapter is intriguing as the Israelites speak to Moses: ""You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don't let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!"" The NIV Study Bible commentary suggests that this is the first time that people asked for a "mediator" between them and God. And that mediator is initially fulfilled in Moses, then in the Aaronic / Levitical priests, then in the prophets, and then finally in Jesus Christ - our final mediator. Powerful for each of us to consider... Who is the mediator between you and God?
I liked reading and considering the simplicity of God's instructions on the proper use of altars in verses 24 & 25: ""The altars you make for me must be simple altars of earth.... Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. If you build altars from stone, use only uncut stones. Do not chip or shape the stones with a tool, for that would make them unfit for holy use." For some reason the simplicity of these altars stood in stark contrast to the religiosity Jesus goes after in our Matthew readings today. Maybe God likes us to keep things simple? This is an interesting thing to consider. The gospel message is not complicated. It's simple. Sometimes I think we do a pretty good job of complicating it for ourselves or others though. When maybe instead we should just be sharing with others our simple altars to God....
Exodus chapter 21 dives into some regulations surrounding slavery. I know this brings up some questions. The One Year Bible Companion today covers this topic at a high level: "The Hebrews, though freed from slavery, had slaves themselves. A person could become a slave because of poverty, debt, or even crime. But Hebrew slaves were treated as humans, not property, and were allowed to work their way to freedom. The Bible acknowledges the existence of slavery but never encourages it." For further study on this topic - Bible.org has commentary on slavery in the Bible at this link, and at this link, and at this link.
Today in Exodus chapter 21 we read the very well-known verses 24 & 25: "If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it. Similarly, the payment must be hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." What you may not realize about this "law of retaliation" is that it actually was meant to limit the punishment to fit the crime, which prevented cruel and barbaric punishments that were seen in many ancient cultures. Meaning - before this law it might have been seen as "acceptable" for someone to kill someone in return for knocking out an eye - whereas this law limited the retaliation to fit the crime. Jesus of course invokes the higher law of love in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 verses 38 through 42: "You have heard that the law of Moses says, `If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.' But I say, don't resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow." Do you see how Jesus exemplified this higher law of love for us through his ministry, life, death and resurrection? Bible.org has a great article titled "Jesus and the Law of Retaliation (Lex Talionis)" at this link.
I find it very fascinating to read all of the laws in these chapters today. I think what is incredible is to remember is that these laws are coming directly from God to the Hebrews. I find it very encouraging that God is so interested in the minutiae details that are discussed in these laws! God is not an impersonal God who just sets up the universe like a clock and lets it tick. God is engaged and concerned with our behavior - back then and today! Do you believe that God is engaged and concerned with your behavior today?
Worship God: Today's readings in Exodus about the Ten Commandments reminds me of Nichole Nordeman's song "Holy:"
Do you want to be Holy? Click here for Holiness!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. " Exodus 20:2-3 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you have no other gods before the LORD your God. Pray that you worship the LORD only. Pray that you would repent of any idols in your heart - seen or unseen. Pray that the deep idols would be rooted out and redeemed in Jesus' blood.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Since we've arrived at the Ten Commandments in our readings today, now is an appropriate time to ask - are the Ten Commandments important to you? Why? Have they always been important to you? I will confess that there was a time early in my Christian walk where the Ten Commandments didn't really matter to me. All that mattered at that time was my faith in Jesus. But, then, I personally felt that I was not moving forward as a disciple of Jesus' without meditating upon and considering and, yes, applying the Ten Commandments to my life. Am I perfect when it comes to the Ten Commandments? Of course not, this side of heaven. But meditating upon the Ten Commandments and meditating upon my actions - in relationship with Jesus and inviting Jesus into this process - has changed my heart and my actions. Do you think that we should meditate upon the Ten Commandments and our actions? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!