Many organizations develop “codes of ethical conduct.” I find such ethical codes fascinating. They reveal a great deal about the identity, outlook, commitments, and values of the organization.
We may consider the Ten Commandments as a code of ethical conduct for the faithful. Our scripture covers the first four of the Ten Commandments, which describe humanity’s relationship with the Divine. We usually think of these commandments as rules that God expects us to obey. Instead of focusing on our obligations under the rules, let’s ask a different question: What do these four commandments reveal about the nature of God? Let us look at these commandments as God’s self-disclosure.
God’s self-disclosure begins with the proclamation that Yahweh is a God of liberation, freeing the people from Egyptian slavery. The first two commandments establish an exclusive relationship between Yahweh and the faithful. God expects them to place God at the center of their lives. No idol will come before God: no personal ambition, no private wealth, no pride in accomplishments—nothing takes the central place of God.
Similarly, the third commandment against misusing God’s name refers to treating God as a means rather than an end. When we invoke God’s name as a means for advancing our personal agenda, then we move God to the margins of our lives and place ourselves at the center. We become the center of our world, and we use God to serve us. This is self-idolatry.
The fourth commandment to keep the sabbath requires a vulnerability in which we suspend our work. We rest and trust in God’s ultimate provision. God envisions this relationship as one in which we trust God’s providence completely.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what idols you are tempted to put in God’s place. Pray for strength against these temptations.
As we continue in the season of Lent, we remember another important chapter in salvation history. Just as God established covenants with Noah and Abraham and their descendants, so did God renew the relationship with the Israelites by giving them the law. Obedience to the law was not the means of earning God’s love, but a response of love by the people to the love God had already shown them. The psalmist understands that God’s law creates a cause for rejoicing, for it is more valuable than gold. Both Paul and John address situations in which some had distorted the worship of God. Either they considered themselves too good for the gospel (1 Corinthians), or they had violated the covenant by altering proper worship for the sake of profit (John).
• Read Exodus 20:1-17. How do you keep God central in your life? When do you relegate God to the margins?
• Read Psalm 19. What do the heavens tell you? How often do you spend time in nature? In what ways does that activity renew your spirit?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. In what ways is the cross a stum-
bling block to you?
• Read John 2:13-22. What signs do you ask of God? In what ways might they be life-giving, a renewal of relationship with the Creator?
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