Exodus 20

“The Law of Moses,” which spans several chapters of Scripture, begins with the Ten Commandments. These commandments simultaneously reveal the heart of God and the sinfulness of man. For the Israelites, who were just beginning to learn how to be free, it revealed the kind of lifestyle and behavior that God would bless.

The arrangement of the Ten Commandments is important: the first four deal with our relationship with God, while the last six deal with our relationships with other people.

Commandments 1-4 required that the Israelites worship the Lord exclusively, that they not worship idols, that they use the name of God carefully, and that they rest on the Sabbath day.

Commandments 5-10 required that the Israelites honor their parents, respect the sanctity of human life, maintain sexual and marital integrity, respect the property of others, tell the truth, and guard their hearts against destructive desires.

If the people of Israel would live by these laws, according to 19:5 they would be upholding their part of their national covenant with God. If not, they could be sure that God would judge them.

The Ten Commandments are not for Israel alone, but they apply trans-culturally and trans-generationally — to every person and every culture in every age. In my personal (and I stress personal) opinion, I believe the one exception is the fourth (Sabbath) command, the only one of the ten that is not reaffirmed in the New Testament. It appears to be a ceremonial law that was fulfilled in Christ (like the laws for blood sacrifices, the Passover observance, and the year of Jubilee), and that work is no longer prohibited on Saturday.

Notice that the chapter ends with instructions about building altars, the places where sacrifices would be made. The placement of verses 22-26 just after the Ten Commandments is a reminder that the Law exposes sinfulness, but God graciously provided a way to atone for sins through the sacrificial system.

I thank God today that the Ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, shed His blood to cover my sins. Amen?