In this passage, we witness Moses delivering the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel. When we think of the Ten Commandments, we may remember memorizing them in Vacation Bible School or seeing them displayed in front of courthouses as symbols in political battles. For many of us, they’ve lost their meaning.
But the people of ancient Israel are hungry to hear a word from God spoken through Moses as they wander in the wilderness toward what God has promised them. The first commandment in today’s reading is a declaration of who God is—the God who delivers captives from slavery. God cannot be replicated, replaced, or compared. God’s name in the scriptures, often written as “Yahweh,” is unpronounceable and cannot be spoken. Many in the Jewish tradition today will spell the word God as “G-d” to remember this holy, unspeakable name. In not saying God’s sacred name carelessly, we remember how set apart God is.
The last commandment of our readings today is the commandment to keep the sabbath day holy and to rest from work on this day. I once heard a rabbi speak who was asked about why orthodox Jews refuse even to turn on lights or cook food on the sabbath day. He said that in essence, keeping sabbath is not only about working but also about taking a break from “creating” in order to remember our Creator. In not turning on lights, we remember the One who said, “Let there be light.” In not working the earth, we remember the One who created the earth.
Loving God, help me remember that you are God and I am not. Help me to rest from my creations to recenter on you. Amen.
A common theme this week is the danger of self-absorption. When we are young, we may struggle to understand the importance of rules because we think that our individual freedom is the highest good. God gives the Israelites commandments to guide their relationships with God and others. These laws will help them thrive because God knows what is best for us. The psalmist understands this: The laws of the Lord are good and sweet. Self-absorption might also lead to pride. Paul shows that a true understanding of the gospel means laying aside our rights in the knowledge that God will reward us. In a parable about the rejection of the prophets and Jesus, servants seek to seize a vineyard for themselves, unwisely ignoring that the owner will eventually reclaim what is his.
Read Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20. Recall your earliest experiences with the Ten Commandments. How do they continue to shape your understanding of God’s expectations?
Read Psalm 19. How does the natural world call you to follow God?
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. Whom do you emulate? What would it mean for you to emulate Christ in life and in death?
Read Matthew 21:33-46. When have you participated in or witnessed the rejection of one who could be God in disguise? How might things be different if you had recognized that person as a potential cornerstone of your community?
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