Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20
The sound of the trumpet, and the smoke and fire that engulfed Mount Sinai, reflected an outward manifestation of God’s heavenly glory, and no man, woman, or beast dared approach the mount and live (19:12-13). Out of the midst of the thunder, lightning, and the fire and smoke, the LORD spoke, saying,
“I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (20:2).
The first commandment: “3Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (20:3). Unlike the neighboring nations who worshipped innumerable gods, Israel was to worship one God—Yahweh, Elohim, the True, Eternal, Self-existent One.
The second commandment: “4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (20:4-6). Unlike their neighbors, Israel was not to worship idols, or images, of Israel’s God. The guilt for violating the second commandment would be borne by the family, and invoke God’s judgment “upon the children” (20:5).
The third commandment: “7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7). God’s name was to be honored, and not spoken of lightly or in vain. The name and meaning of Israel’s God was hallowed, and identified with His character.
The fourth commandment: “8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (20:8-11). The Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated to the LORD as a day of worship, and rest (31:16-17).
The fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (20:12). Because fathers and mothers represented God’s authority, sons and daughters of Israel were to honor and revere their parents. The elderly were to be honored, and revered; any who failed were condemned (Deuteronomy 27:16). To honor one’s parents carried a special promise—long life (20:12b; Ephesians 6:1-3).
The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (20:14). God established marriage as a covenant between Himself, and the man and woman (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is a picture between Christ’s love for the church, and the husbands bond, and union with his wife (Ephesians 5:30-32; Matthew 5:27-29).
The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (20:15). This commandment established the right of property ownership, and to take that which belonged to another (whether by theft, or deceit), was a sin (Ephesians 4:28).
The ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). God’s people were to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29), and libel, slander, or bearing false witness was a grievous sin.
The tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (20:17). Covetousness is a sin that desires what belongs to another. It is only perceived outwardly, after it has taken root in the heart.
Exodus 20:18-26 – The Manner of Worship Required By a Holy God
The LORD not only forbad idols or images of Himself (20:4-6; 23-25), He was also concerned about the manner of those who approached His altar to worship and offer sacrifices. To preserve a modest, respectful decorum, steps were forbidden at the altar, lest those who worshipped be perceived as immodest (20:26).
A closing thought: The LORD’S expectations for Israel’s altar, and the demand for modesty, should be instructive. The priests were to conduct themselves according the instructions given, in a manner befitting the holiness of God, and never allow any “nakedness” to distract those who worshipped the LORD (20:26). I fear 21st century worship has degenerated into “anything goes,” and little thought is given regarding the manner or style of worshiping God who is holy.
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith