The wandering Israelites have reached the Sinai—a large peninsula connecting the lands of Egypt to the west and Canaan (modern-day Israel) to the north and east. When the people are three days into their break from traveling in this wilderness, God speaks the Ten Commandments into being from the top of a mountain.
One wonders what it would be like to be there listening to God proclaim these commandments. Which commandments would have been easy to hear? Which commandments made the audience grimace? Why were punishments for not following them omitted? We know these were the standards to which the people of God would be held for generations, so why would God not feel a need to elaborate on their purpose or meaning?
Rules are identity-makers. Between the “shall” and “shall not” language of our laws, we send a message of who we are and what we believe is important. We believe people are important, and we believe what they have that makes up their homes, families, and lives is also important. God thinks it is best we honor that which is important by not harming others or taking what they have.
As you think of what you give up for Lent, consider it as a signpost to what you hold dear. To what principles do your own personal rules point? Are they ultimately signposts to God?
Holy God, help us with discipline. May our actions and our inactions point to a desire to do your will in this world. May we be resolved in our decisions for a pure and holy life so that all who know us will see your love in all that we are and do. Amen.
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 as the central focus of your life? What draws you away from that focus?
Read Psalm 19. In what ways do you experience God’s laws as “sweeter . . . than honey”? When do you find yourself trying to resist God’s laws?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. What does it mean to you that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom”?
Read John 2:13-22. How do you respond to Jesus’ anger and actions in this reading? Do his actions fit with the way you generally picture Jesus?
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