Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’
Exodus 34:5-7 NIV
Read: Exodus 34:1-28
Consider: Today’s reading from Exodus 34 opens with: The LORD said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke’ (Exodus 34:1). We need to backtrack to Exodus 32 to discover why Moses needed to provide a second set of stone tablets on which God could write the ten commandments. After meeting with God, Moses came down from the mountain to discover that the people had made a golden calf, which was to be the object of their worship (Exodus 32:22-24). We read: When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 32:19).
Most people, even those who rebel against God, have heard of the ten commandments. However, many people disregard the ten commandments, assuming that they are just manmade rules. In Exodus 32 we read: Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two stone tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God, the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets (Exodus 32:15-16). Can you see that the ten commandments are not the work of a human being, designed to prevent a person enjoying themselves. Instead they are rules for living God’s way; rules for living that give due regard to God and fellow human-beings.
Jesus was scathing of the Jewish religious elite who took the ten commandments and added all their own rules on top of what God decreed (see Matthew 15:9). Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, picks up on this when he writes to the believers in Colossae about being freed from human rules. He said: Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Colossians 2:20-23).
There are also some Christians who think that with the coming of Jesus the ten commandments no longer apply. This view makes a nonsense of something Jesus himself says in Matthew 5:17 – Do you think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.
Pray: Father, help us to know the difference between what you require of us and what are merely manmade rules, that add to your commandments. While we do indeed have great freedom in Christ, this does not give us freedom to ignore that you want us to live pure and holy lives. Amen