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Pastor's Corner: The story inside the Ten Commandments

Many people are at least vaguely familiar with the Ten Commandments. And quite a few people know the story behind them — that God gave them to Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai. But much less familiar is the story [BEGIN ITAL]inside[END ITAL] the Ten Commandments, a story about God.

Several of the commandments have backup information included in them. In other words, there’s whatever God tells us to do or not to do, but then there’s also an explanation for it. And those explanations give us some amazing chapters in God’s history.

Putting that story in chronological order, the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”) tells us that God created everything. [BEGIN ITAL]“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the Sabbath day”[END ITAL] (Exodus 20:8–11).

The Second Commandment (“You shall not make for yourself a carved image … you shall not bow down to them nor serve them”) tells us also that God is jealous. The Third Commandment (“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”) reminds us that He [BEGIN ITAL] “will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain”[END] (Exodus 20:4–7).

When the human race chose themselves over God, prioritizing their preferences over God’s instructions, the relationship was broken and consequences inevitably resulted.

Yet that’s not the end of the story. The God who created and who punished sin also did something more: He redeemed. That part of the story is in the preface to the Ten Commandments: [BEGIN ITAL] “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”[BEGIN ITAL] (Exodus 20:2). God, the Creator and Judge, is also God the Rescuer.

As the Rescuer, He gave the law. That’s part of the story. God still requires some things and forbids others. The Ten Commandments were given to a rescued people to show that they aren’t a burden to oppress us or a leash to limit our freedom. Rather, they are a blessing and a guide for the best kind of life.

That comes out in the final part of the story, the promise added to the Fifth Commandment. One reason to [BEGIN ITAL]“Honor your father and your mother is that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”[END ITAL] (Exodus 20:12).

The story of the Ten Commandments looks to the future, when the people of Israel would be settled in a land of their own. The God whose story is told here is a God of hope, who brings His people into a condition of blessing and peace.

Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.

 

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