Moses led his people out of Pharaoh’s grasp and out of captivity, and all along the way, God demonstrated His power and commitment to saving the Israelites. But the people got out in the desert and the complaining began.
They wanted water. They wanted food. God had never let them down, but it wasn’t enough. God decided it was time to formalize His expectations. He gave His LAW to Moses and the people. The first wave did not go well.
God spoke the commandments to all of the people of Israel
God ordered the people to wash their clothes and prepare to receive His Word. They gathered at the foot of Mr. Sinai and an amazing thing happened. Smoke swirled around the mountain and through the thunder and the wind, God spoke.
God spoke the commandments, for the first time, to all of Israel. They were terrified. They told Moses to let God speak to him and they will listen.
God carved His laws into stone tablets
The second encounter was personal, between God and Moses. God instructed Moses to leave the camp and go up the mountain. At that point, God Himself, gave detailed instructions for the tabernacle and all that was to go on. He carved His laws into stone tablets.
Moses was gone for over a month and the people started believing that he was dead. They started complaining and denying that God was with them at all. They formed a golden calf out of the spoils that they had taken from Egypt.
Even Moses’s brother Aaron was in on it. The people worshiped the golden idol and not God.
Moses pleads with God to spare Israel
God’s anger raged. He told Moses to leave and that He would destroy the people for defiling themselves. But Moses pleaded with God to spare them. God granted his plea and Moses returned down the mountain. He was greeted by Joshua, who was waiting for him.
When he saw for himself what was going on he ordered that all people who want to stand with God, to obey him and serve him, should stand aside. The priests came immediately.
Others chose to worship the golden idol. Moses ordered for the priests to take their swords and kill all those who chose to defy God. About 3000 people died that day. Then the Lord sent a plague because they worshiped the idol.
Why it matters
God’s commandments define moral law for all of man kind for the rest of time.What is right and what is wrong are defined by His law. Loving God, loving our neighbor, not telling lies, honoring our parents, not coveting, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing and much more are defined by the commandments.
God gives us His rules to help us understand right and wrong, good and bad, and how to live a life worth living. Giving us His commandments is one of God’s most important acts of love.
The Ten Commandments is one of the subjects children learn in Sunday School, but it is not necessarily a major topic for discussion in churches today. Since the beginning of time, God has guided man, His prize creation, to enter into a lasting and loving relationship. But man turned away from God.
The flood and the captivity in Egypt were both examples of the consequences of not honoring God. Turning away from God is called “sin” and God must turn away from sin.
To keep from sinning, men and women must obey the commandments to the letter. However, this is an impossibility, as everyone sins. Therefore, the story does not end with the Ten Commandments. It is barely beginning.
18 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 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.Exodus 20:18-20
Why it matters to you
The Ten Commandments are very important to everyone today, because they are the basis of all western law, and define right and wrong for most of the world.
The commandments are carved in stone on the walls of the United States Supreme Court and free nations around the globe base their laws on these commandments. The Ten Commandments are simply a wise guide to getting along in life and being contented.
These laws are not so much rules and regulations as they are an invitation to be in right relationship to God. God wants to write His law on our hearts, to give us the opportunity to embrace them and make them our own.
It’s like telling a small child not to touch the fire, because you don’t want the child to be harmed and you want the child to enjoy life and be happy. But like small children, we go our own way.
The Ten Commandments warn us when we are getting too far away from God, they help us to understand how to be in the will of God and most importantly, they point to God Himself, what He has done for us and what He will do. They are vital for the relationship.
God gave His commandments twice – once to all of Israel in a display of power and majesty, and a second time in a private meeting with Moses, when God carved them into stone. Once again, like He did with Abraham, Issac and Jacob, God communicated in a very personal way.
The Ten Commandments
I. You shall have no other gods before Me.
II. You shall make no idols.
III. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
IV. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
V. Honor your father and your mother.
VI. You shall not murder.
VII. You shall not commit adultery.
VIII. You shall not steal.
IX. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
X. You shall not covet.
What you may not know
God’s commandments are absolute. That means that all of them must be obeyed. Any breaking of the law is sin, and God will not tolerate sin. God is holy and perfect.
If God were to go back on His word, he would be a liar. Therefore, God MUST take punitive action against sin.