The LORD said to Moses, "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God."
GOD SPEAKS TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL THROUGH MOSES AND AARON (Exodus 19)
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The Mosaic covenant: God forms a covenant with the Israelites through Moses
To receive God’s blessing and inherit the earth as priests and a holy nation, the Israelites needed to remain faithful to God and obey God’s voice.
The people accepted God’s call and promised to do all that He has commanded. God then came to Moses in a thick cloud, to show the Israelites that Moses was the chosen one through whom God would speak.
GOD GIVES MOSES THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Exodus 20:1-17)
The Law was given AFTER God took His people out of bondage, AFTER He begun a personal relationship with them. Only having done these two things, did God then give the Israelites the Law, allowing them to become servants of God. This follows the ancient way of servant hood. The king or leader would redeem a group of people, and they would abide by his rules because they would become his servants. Thus, the purpose of the Law was NOT to show what we can do to receive salvation. Instead, the purpose of the Law was to illustrate that by LIVING it, we can come to understand how our lives are better, therefore creating a thirst in the world for God.
The first four commandments apply to the people’s relationship with God
God first identified Himself to the Israelites as their God, who brought them out of Egypt, out of bondage.
1st Commandment: We should have no other gods before God.
Worshiping any gods other than God is idolatry. Such gods include, obviously, gods of all religions* and further includes anything object we place above God, such as career, wealth, social status, etc.
* When we treat God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a religious figure rather than understand God and His works as the Absolute Truth, then we have not truly recognized God as God Almighty but merely view Him as any other religious god.
2nd Commandment: We should not make for ourselves a carved image in the form of anything in heaven or on earth.
This is closely tied to the 1st Commandment, where God is making it clear that idol worship is a major sin.
Why is the concept of idolatry so important that God spends the first 2 Commandments drilling this into our head? Because only God of the Bible is the Truth, supported by not just His Word alone but also historical, archeological, scientific findings. All other gods are mere creations of man and offer nothing more than man’s imagination. How can there be true salvation or understanding of life through creations of the created? If we don’t start off following the one and only Truth, we would be led astray. If we want to end right, then we have got to start right – and that begins with following the one true God.
3rd Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Most people take this commandment to mean that we shall not use “swear word.” While the Bible does teach us that we need to be cautious about what we say (James 3), because words have power and oftentimes reflect our inner state of being (cf. Ephesians 4:29, Matthew 15:18, Proverbs 12:18, etc.), this commandment goes beyond just our choice of words. As Dr. Chuck Missler of the Koinonia Institute likes to put it, this commandment is more about our “ambassadorship.”
2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
In other words, as followers of Christ, we represent Him as we live our lives. Everything we do or say directly reflects Him and how deep our relationship with Him is. When non-believers watch us, and they walk away thinking, “I don’t see a difference between having Christ in their lives,” we really need to take that to heart.
We squeeze oranges and expect orange juice. We squeeze lemons and expect lemonade. We squeeze Christians and ought to get Christ! So, fellow brothers and sisters, be fitting ambassadors for Christ!
4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
We are taught to set aside at least once every 7 days and devote it to God. The point is to always remember our relationship with God, to make sure that no matter how crazy life gets, we always come back to God and reset, to maintain the most important relationship in life – our relationship with God! I have learned that as long as my personal relationship with God is in great health, then everything else in life just fall smoothly into place.
The last six commandments apply to the people’s relationships with other people
5th Commandment: Honor our father and our mother.
6th Commandment: We should not murder.
7th Commandment: We should not commit adultery.
Unfaithfulness of our spirit is idolatry. Unfaithfulness of our flesh is adultery. Throughout the Bible, Israel’s idolatry has been compared to that of adultery (e.g., Isaiah 57).
8th Commandment: We should not steal.
9th Commandment: We should not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Jesus was crucified because of false witnesses. No matter how much we dislike a person, it is never Christ-like to “lie” to get what we want or to give them what they “deserve.” God is the ultimate Judge who will right all wrongs (Romans 12:19) – because we are not perfectly righteous, we cannot fairly right a wrong and therefore need to leave that in the hands of God!
10th Commandment: We should not covet our neighbor’s house, wife, servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to our neighbors.
Do not covet. God gave each one of us what He expects us to use to succeed. He does not give us more and expect less or give us less and expect more – Instead, He expects us to abide in His will and use what He has given to each of us to do good works (Matthew 25:14-30). So, focus on what He has given us and be grateful, be fruitful! What He has given to others, be happy for them and encourage them with their walk in Christ faithfully with all that they have been given as well!
THE PEOPLE BECAME AFRAID OF GOD (Exodus 20:18-26)
At this point, the Israelites were still in bondage by the traditions of Egypt. The epitome of this was when they made the golden calf (Exodus 32) – Moses was gone for 40 days; they didn't know if he was still alive, and they needed food and water… so, instead of remaining faithful in God and trust His provision, they decided to create religion and bow to a man-made idol, thinking that would bring them food and water. Sounds ridiculous – but oh how easily we fall into such a way of thinking!
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
The Israelites were afraid of the manifestations of God, in a manner shared by Adam after he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Before eating the fruit, Adam had not noticed he was naked because his full attention was placed on God and God alone. However, after eating the frust, the first thing he noticed was himself.
Similarly, that was exactly what was happening with the Israelites. The people noticed only themselves but not God. Even when they tried to acknowledge God, they approached God with presuppositions – God must be approached a certain way, songs must be sang a certain way, etc.
The Israelites had always known about God, but they had not yet developed a personal relationship with God as Moses had. They had no idea how to approach God and were frightened by God's manifestations. Instead of learning how to become closer to God through Moses, they chose to hide instead. They hid from God. And instead of trusting God, they relied heavily on their own thinking of who God is and how God should be approached.
Adam ate from the Tree and received carnal knowledge. And his knowledge of the flesh prevented him from fellowship with the God that he loved! Adam had the wrong knowledge. When we approach God with the wrong knowledge, based not on the Scripture but man-made traditions, we too will not be able to fellowship with God!
When we are in the flesh, we are not with God. Our desires of the flesh blocks us from interacting with God. When we are in the spirit with God, we do not focus on the flesh. Israelites and Gentiles alike, we all need to realize that when we worship, it is all about God. Our full attention should be place on God – not on ourselves and how we appear to other people or how other people appear to us!
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
We hinder ourselves when we tie ourselves down with traditions. We stay at the base of the mountain like the Israelites did when God wants us to be at the top of the mountain with Him! We hide from Mount Sinai when we are afraid of His presence because of our bondages – bondages created by our fleshly desires for the world. When we are in His presence, the earthly enters the eternal. Lusts of the flesh and all shackles fall away because we have been drawn into the presence of God, because our focus is on Him, not ourselves.
Let our fear of the Lord keep us from sinning
The Israelites’ fear was of the flesh – the fear of death. This is not the fear we should have toward God. Instead, the fear of God we should have should be that out of reverent respect, respect that comes from the understanding that because God is so great, He deserves our reverence.
Fleshly fear can cripple a person, stopping us from doing the great things that God may have in His heart for us to do.
Reverent fear is healthy – It allows us to view and respect God in His Sovereignty, which would allow us to abide in His Will with no hindrance and therefore truly bathe in His blessings.
Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
God is alive and living, not to be represented by objects. Why? Because we humans have the tendency to idolize objects, and God does not want us to turn to false worship.
We need to realize that our God is a LIVING God. He is all-powerful, not limited at all by our own small minds but limitless to even beyond our imagination. We should not boil God down to images or statues, because our God is not confined by location or by structure. We can worship Him anytime, anywhere, because God is so big, He is able to remain connected with us no matter where we are.
When we objectify God, we shrink our view of His greatness down to that object. We start to believe God is limited (for example, “I must carry Him in my purse when I travel so that I can remain close to Him,” or, “I can’t wait to visit Jerusalem, so that I can be closer to God,” or, “Oh my, His statue is dusty. Let me clean it up so that God looks great.”) – God is NOT limited! We don’t need to carry Him anywhere or clean Him up or “help” him out in any way! He is the One who gives! And so, our view of God must be of God is His COMPLETE sovereignty, and we must be careful that we do not limit our view of Him because of our own inadequacies!