Sunday, October 02, 2011
Most preachers, me included, come to the weeks that the Ten Commandments appear in the lectionary, that guided journey through Scripture, and groan. What new can we possibly say about this, what new angle could we possibly find to teach this? After all, not every part of the Bible has its own movie, right?
So, here’s the background: Moses and the nation of Israel has left the Promised land behind, and has entered the desert. After about three months, they come to Mount Sinai, and Moses goes up onto the mountain of Sinai, and God speaks to him, saying “go back down, tell everyone to wash up, and consecrate themselves. I will come then, when everyone is ready.” So Moses does, and on that third day,. When they look up, they see the top of the mountain obscured by clouds and lightning, and they hear the loud blast of a trumpet. Then, with the whole nation wearing their Sunday best and focused on God, they “make their stand” at the foot of the mountain. Moses goes up, and he’s told to go back down and tell Israel to stay off the mountain (which means, I guess, that some folks had started trying to steak up the mountain themselves). So Moses does, and when he goes back up the Mountain, he is ordered to take Aaron with him, and that is where the scripture I read this morning starts.
What I read is the first twenty verses of Chapter 20. These are called the Ten Commandments, but they are really the first of many laws that God gives to Moses, all the way out to Chapter 31, and it is in Chapter 24 that we hear the idea of stone tablets. It is while Moses is up receiving these laws that the people get restless, and ask Aaron, (who went down the mountain at some point) to create for them the Golden Calf.
So, there’s your context, that’s how the laws come to the people. But what we concentrate on, for better or for worse, are the first ten laws set down by God. I think we get the idea of them on stone tablets out of the Jewish tradition, five on one, five on another. I think we get the idea of Moses carrying down two stone tablets from the mountain from Cecil B. DeMille, and some folks just know that Moses looks like Burt Lancaster!
These are laws passed down to God’s people by God. God’s chosen people receive them. Paul calls us adopted into God’s family, chosen by virtue of our belief in Jesus, so these laws in some ways still apply to us.
So what do we have before us? The first ten things God mentions to Moses about how to live within the boundary of being the children of God.
Well, let’s look at them individually.
1. You shall have no other God’s before me
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of God
4. Remember the Sabbath Day.
The first four laws are all about relationship to God, aren’t they?
What are the rest?
1. Honor your father and mother.
2. You shall not murder
3. you shall not commit adultery
4. you shall not steal
5. you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (in other words, you shall not lie)
6. you shall not covet anything your neighbor has, including spouse, house, land or property.
How you would characterize all of these laws? Aren’t they all ways to preserve relationship with others?
So what we have is a marked focus by God- there are two things that God concerns Godself with, overall, thus they are the leading statements. God’s primary concern is with relationship to God and to humanity.
So, does this sound familiar? It does to me-I hear in these words given to Moses the words of Jesus, when he is asked which of the commandments are the most important. Do you remember what he says?
Right. “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
I also hear these two primary concerns, both relationships, in the words Jesus uses to lead us into prayer:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name;
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
There’s the God part. Then comes the human part:
Give is this daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
And then back to God again:
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever, Amen.
Whenever we are given summary statement from God in the Bible, there are these two overarching ideas, and they are both relationships.
Relationship with God.
Relationship with each other.
It seems to me to be true then, that if we will be judged on anything, we will be judged on how we are in relationship with God, as well as those around us. Family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, as well as those on this earth who are hungry and suffering, in Tunkhannock, in PA, as well as in Bangladesh and Sudan.
How you doin’?