The Ten Commandments

Life Worship Notes—January 16, 2104 

“Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.” Exodus 19:18-19

Is it any wonder the Israelites feared God? God tells Moses to gather the people at the foot of Mount Sinai, where God will come down in their sight. However, God warns the people not to touch the mountain or try to go up it, for they will be put to death for doing so. When God descends upon Mount Sinai, it is in a thick cloud of smoke with thunder, lightning, and fire. A trumpet blasts so loud it makes the people tremble. The entire mountain shook violently. In the Gulf War of the 1990’s, the United States began its attempts to unseat Saddam Hussain with a bombing campaign described as shock and awe. I imagine God’s appearance to the Israelites as the original shock and awe campaign. Moses spoke to God, and God answered in thunder. It was in this setting that God gave the Ten Commandments, the original laws of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Ten Commandments, in their entirety, appear twice in the Old Testament. Their first appearance is in Exodus 20, with a repeat appearance in Deuteronomy. God carves the words onto two stone tablets for the people, and Moses carries the tablets to the camp at the base of the mountain, after having spent forty days with God at the summit. They build an elaborate Ark of the Covenant to house and carry the stone tablets. The six-hundred-plus laws contained in the Old Testament are probably outgrowths of the Ten Commandments, or perhaps guidelines for their application. Even so, many of those laws appear unrelated to any of the commandments. It is not unlike the thousands of laws in our society, and the millions of legal regulations, all emanating from our relatively brief Constitution. The Ten Commandments are among the most widely known of biblical writings. They form the basis for many of our western laws, and appear in many courthouses and other public places. They are recognized and taught in most of the world’s major religions, either in the form given to Moses, or in a similar version. Some are obvious, some are subtle; all are important and form the basis of justice, as we know it today. That is why they are the Ten Commandments, and not the Ten Suggestions. In the coming weeks, I will explore each of the Ten Commandments. Although some appear straightforward, a closer inspection creates room for contemplation and discussion.

Come home to church this Sunday. It is only a suggestion, but it is a good one…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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