Exodus Chapter 20

The Israelites are traveling in the wilderness at this point in Exodus. They are camped at the base of Mount Sinai. The Lord has appeared in a cloud upon the mount and Moses has been instructed to return to the Lord with Aaron and no one else. The people have been blessed to hear the voice of the Lord, so that they might believe on the words of their prophet, Moses. The book of Exodus continues as follows:

1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou 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:
5 Thou 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;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou 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.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But 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:
11 For 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.

I believe that the Lord gave these words to the people, through the prophet Moses. Here they begin to learn of what we call the Ten Commandments. These are the things which the people of God covenant to follow. First, God establishes that He is the one and only God, whom they should worship. They are commanded that they should not make any idols for worship of any other Gods. In our day, I believe that the higher law is that we not only do not worship idols of other gods, but that we do not place anything above God in our hearts. Any worldly thing that we spend greater energy and time on, then the things of God, is the thing we worship more than Him. We break this commandment when we do this, and so we should often be taking inventory of what we do with our time, money, energy and talents. Are we using them for the purposes of God, so that we might appropriately worship Him? Furthermore, no one is to take the name of the Lord in vain. His name is sacred above all other names. In the language of today, meaning has been taken out of the word God and it has been used in every inappropriate context imagined. If we use His name in this manner, we are not treating Him with the reverence and respect that our Father in Heaven deserves. Every time we use His name, we should mean what we say and do what we say we will do. That is how we use His name without doing it in vain. Those of us who are parents, have a strict obligation to teach our children never to worship false gods or use the Lord’s name in vain. If we do not teach our children, the sin will be on our heads.

Next, the Lord commands that the sabbath is to be kept holy and free from the daily toil of work. Instead, it is a day for God, and is blessed and holy. They were to make sure that all within their household kept the sabbath holy. The sabbath should be a day of rest for us now. This does not mean that we spend the day sleeping, but that we rest from the work of the world and focus on the work of worshipping the Lord. There are many ways to worship the lord, which would still be considered a type of work. Making the sabbath a holy day, means to sanctify it to the Lord. Each person has to look at their own life and determine what they need to do in order to keep the sabbath holy to the Lord.

These first four commandments are how we show our love and respect to God. In short, the higher law to these four laws is that we are to love the Lord, our God. When we love Him with all our heart, soul and might (see Deuteronomy 6:5), we will follow these individual commandments without fail.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 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.

These next commandments are pretty straight forward; honor your parents, do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. I love that in honoring our parents, we are given a promise for longer life upon the land. There is great value in family and in our relationships with our parents, as they are a type for our eternal relationship with our heavenly parents. To honor our earthly parents, we do not have to agree with all that they say, or even do all that they tell us to do. Honoring is showing respect and showing them that we value them and their wisdom. We honor our parents when we do what is right and listen and hearken to their wise counsel and instruction.

The commandment not to kill is referring to the act of murder. There are instances when self-defense or defense of what is right, requires killing. These exceptions are not against the laws of God.

The act of adultery is a grievous sin in the eyes of God. Marriage is an eternal principle, which was established by God for the salvation of His children. When someone gives way to temptations outside the bonds of marriage, they are putting themselves in line with the enemy of marriage, which is Satan.

The verse which talks about bearing false witness, references gossip, honesty (or dishonesty), lying, and slander. It is more than strictly lying that causes us to break this commandment, though I think in most cases any of these things results in some form of lies. Sometimes we may feel that it doesn’t hurt to join in the gossip, especially if we believe it to be truth. It is never good to gossip, because really the intent is to raise ourselves above someone else by talking about things which may or may not be true. The best way to avoid breaking this commandment by gossip, is to avoid it completely.

These 6 commandments are laws which deal with how we are towards others. Again, if we obey the higher law to love our neighbors as ourselves, we would keep these commandments without any difficulty. I know that the Lord would have us keep the two higher laws and that these lesser laws were given as a preparatory step to the greater laws. If we can keep these ten commandments, we would be well on our way to loving God and our fellow man.

18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

The people had witnessed the physical manifestations of God in the thunder, lightening, blaring trumpet, and the fire and smoke of the mountain. The people asked Moses to be their mediator between them and God, for fear that they should die. Moses went towards the Lord, without fear of death.

22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

The Lord instructed Moses, to tell the people they they had witnessed the Lord speak with them and they were not to make gods of silver or gold. I gather that it was common to make idols of Gods in that time. They had come from spending their entire lives in Egypt, where there were many statues and idols of the many pagan Gods they believed in. This was probably something they expected was right to do, but God told them not to do this thing.

24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

Instead, the children of Israel, were instructed to build an altar to the Lord. On this altar, they were to make sacrifices of burnt offerings and the like. They were not to build their altars of hewn stone. We have altars today, where we can make covenants with the Lord. These holy alters can be found in the temples of the Lord, and all who are worthy, are welcome to come to these alters. I am so glad that I have been able to make sacred covenants with the Lord. I hope to live worthy of the blessings received as I keep the commandments and sacred covenants.

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