Theme: The 10 Commandments (Sunday 4 October, 2020)
Series: October 2020
Bible Reading: Exodus 20:1-4,7-9,12-20
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
This Service will be run Online Only – 6:30pm on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/turramurrauniting/live/
This week in our “live-ish” Night Church worship service Phil is helping us explore the Ten Commandments (and the 603 other laws) that God spoke to the people on Mount Sinai. Some of these commandments are key to our society and some are just plain weird. How do we work out which of these 613 laws are relevant for us today?
We will also be sharing together in a BYO Communion.
When you think of “religion” or “religious” … what is the first word that you think of … write them in the comment section.
- Rules • Judgement
- Terrorism • Guilt
- Thou shall not •
Most of the answers are not positive? I think we would want to argue that our church is not focused on relationship with Jesus rather than religion.
But this idea of rules … that is in there. Today we are going to look at the 10 commandments which are a series of “thou shall nots” and how do we understand these – how do we relate to them in today’s world where seemingly anything goes.
Let’s jump back into the beginning of the service where I was talking about Exodus 19 – where God asked the people to prepare themselves to meet with God, and there was lightning and thunder and smoke and fire and earthquakes and trumpets … and Moses goes up to the top of the Mountain … and then God spoke. God spoke. The words pieced the void.
God spoke – and I am sure that the people at the foot of the mountain also heard. The awesome, holy, powerful, almighty God … spoke to the people. God spoke to us.
And God continued to speak … we don’t have time to cover this … but God did just give the 10 commandments, God actually goes on for another 603 laws which covers the next 57 chapter – the next 2½ books of the Bible. But the key here is that God spoke to us.
Let’s step through this in some chunks and see what we can get from this. Staring with Exodus 20:1-2
And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
God is speaking to the people and says, I am the Lord your God. I am your God. Echoing a phrase that God says numerous times in Genesis … I will be your God and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God. I am the one who rescued you, I brought you out of Egypt, I gave you freedom.
What is God trying to say right up front here. Right at the beginning of 613 laws – what is the point that God is trying to make?
God is reminding us how much we mean to God. That these rules we are just about to hear only make sense if we understand them in terms of the relationship with God.
You might think it is a bit weird that after God rescues the Israelites from oppression and slavery and gives them freedom is to then lump them with 613 laws to follow. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me.
BUT Freedom is not about doing what you want to do. It is not about the freedom to do anything you like. No, God wanted the Israelites to understand that they were no longer belonged to Pharaoh – now they belonged to God. To God who loved them and wanted the best for them. So these laws were not God being a demanding, dictator God but rather a loving God who wanted to guide them into the best way of living.
So before we read these 10 commandments we need to put on new reading glasses – where one lenses says “we are loved by God and belong to God” and the other says, “God wants us to live in a way which is free, blessed and is a blessing to others”
Are you getting this? The 10 commandments and all 613 laws given at Mt Sinai have to be understood in the context of our relationship with God. They don’t make sense otherwise.
Now before we jump into the 10 commandments – I need to give a little bit of context to these 613 laws I keep mentioning. These 613 laws are called the Oral Torah – or the laws in which God spoke to Moses.
Note that the first two commandments are written as God is speaking whereas the next 611 laws are written in third person – as if God has spoken them to Moses and Moses is now speaking them to the people.
But when we start to dig around in these laws or commandments – some of them are a little odd, a little weird.
For example, don’t eat prawns, eagles, owls, rats and a host of other things (Leviticus 11), don’t wear clothes with greenish mildew (Leviticus 13), never boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19), if you are fighting another man and his wife grabs you in the sensitive spot, then cut her hand off (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).
These laws are odd and collectively make God sound like some sort of obsessive, compulsive, weird, controlling, clean freak and it is not until the New Testament that God becomes nice and sensible. But if you understand the context the law sort of make sense.
We can understand these 613 law in three different categories:
- Civil Laws … how to be a nation.
Remember, that they have just been in living in another country for 400 years – under the laws and regulations of that country. Now they are out on their own and there is anything up to 1 million people in this new nation – and they are without courts or judges or laws to live by. So God is trying to be helpful by providing some basic civil laws to help in making rulings in civil cases – such as what should happen if you push over a pregnant woman, or the judgement if you kidnap a person, or the penalty for stealing a sheep etc. Remember they are starting with nothing and God is trying to set a foundation for a civil society.
A theme that run through these civil type laws is the idea that people matter – even the people who you don’t think matter, they do matter to God. There are laws that look after the poor, the marginalised, the refugee, the weak. God is saying that if you are going to be a strong, civil society you need to understand that people matter and how you treat people matters.
- Ceremonial / Purity Laws … how relate to God.
The next group of laws is a large group that help us understand how to relate to God. There are laws about how to worship God, how to offer sacrifices, how to make the temple lampstand, rules on the Sabbath and annual festivals etc.
Most of these are not relevant to us because we don’t have a temple, or do sacrifices or follow the Jewish customs – but there is a subset of these laws which are about purity … defining what it clean and unclean.
You see, God has already said right from the beginning that God is a holy and awesome God and calls us to be holy just like God is holy. (Lev 19:2) And there are some laws on holy living.
But some of these purity laws in Leviticus 11 onwards are also about good health. (Sort of like the health code for the new nation). Things like if you have a rash, you are unclean and need to stay clear of everyone else. Or that you don’t eat a dead animal that you stumble across. It sort of makes sense. The laws about mildew are in this section – mildew is unclean not because it is ungodly but because it can make you sick. And so there are laws about purity which are designed to keep the nation healthy.
- Moral Laws … how to relate to each other.
And the last chunk of laws is about how we treat each other. Do not slander your brother, do not bear a grudge, don’t pick up the grapes that fall on the ground, leave them to the poor, love your neighbour etc. You needed to understand that at the time, the morals of most nations of the world were very poor – people just didn’t care, and here God was saying … you are my people and you are going to be known by the good way you treat each other.
Now … when we come to relating these laws to us, it is very hard to be overly literal with all 613 of these laws because many of them were specific to the people, the time and the place that they were given. For example, the specific civil laws were the ancient Israel nation. The ceremonial laws are about the Jewish tabernacle, some of the purity laws don’t apply (ie prawns are now safe to eat) and even some of the moral laws are not relevant because we don’t have grapevines and we do have a social support system.
BUT – we need to understand the message, the point that God is making through these laws. Just because a specific law might not be relevant, the principle behind is still is.
God is calling us to be people and a nation that recognises that everyone matters and that look after the poor, the marginalised, the refugee and the weak. While we are not in a temple, we still have to honour God with our worship and show our honour in giving our best. That we are to aim to be holy just like God is holy.
That we should strive to live in a way which is not only spiritually healthy but physically healthy and that it is really, really important how we treat each other because that shows others we are God’s people. Or how did Jesus put it, “they will know you are my disciples by the way that you love”.
Do you agree with what I been saying this morning? That we can’t write off these laws because their old and weird and sound irrelevant, rather we need to hear what God is speaking to us through these laws and work out what God is saying to us in our situation.
Which brings us right back to the 10 commandments. These 10 commandments capture what the other 603 commandments cover. They reflect the civil laws, the purity laws and the moral laws. In a way, these words are so simple, so profound that these 10 commandments are reflected in the laws of many nations around the world.
And rather than stepping through these 10 commandments and explaining them all – I think that they are self-explanatory. God speaks to us through them clearly.
So to finish – I am going to invite us to read them out together. As a way of hearing these ancient words that God has spoken to us but also as a way of making the commitment to live these commandments in our daily lives.
I have reworded them slight so that instead of them sounding like they are being spoken to us, they read as if we are making the commitment to follow them.
Let’s read together:
In response to God being the Lord our God, the one who rescues us … we make these commitments:
- We will have no other gods before God.
- We will not make anything an idol to replace God – nor will we bow down or worship them.
- We will not misuse the name of the Lord our God
- We will remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy and not letting work get in the way of spending time with God and others
- We will honour our father and our mother and those who have cared for us
- We will not murder
- We will not commit adultery
- We will not steal
- We will not give false testimony against our neighbour
- We will not covet our neighbour’s things but be content with what we have
And may God continue to guide us and bless us as we live this out. Amen