Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

What Are the 10 Commandments?

What are the Commandments?

So what are the 10 Commandments? I don’t mean a list of what they say, but what are they in the context of why did God give us 10 rules to live by? What was his motivation and reasoning behind these rules? God gave them to the Israelites thousands of years ago, are they still really relevant to our lives today?
This is what we are going to do this summer. Through out the summer and a little while into the fall we are going to talk about these laws God gave to those who follow him.
Hopefully we can gain a better understanding of how we, as God’s people, can follow these laws, in spirit and in truth.
To start to see how these commandments came about and what was their intent we have to start with history….. And we are going to start from the very beginning.
God started off with 2 people - Adam and Eve. They had 3 children - Cain, Abel and Seth. Cain killed Abel and was sent away and that just leaves Seth as the only person of God. But after his death we read the whole world forgot about God, began to live evil lives. But there was found one person who was faithful……. Noah. God saved Noah and his family who repopulated the earth but again, God was forgotten.
Then God called Abraham, an older man who we don’t know why God chose him, but he did. And from Abraham God’s people began - altho slowly. Abraham has one son, Isaac, who has 2 sons, Jacob and Esau - one of whom God chose to continue as God’s people, Jacob - and then Jacob has 12 sons.
And so God’s people began in earnest as each son has wives and children and the family of Jacob, the family of God, begins to grow. I think though we need tp stop for a moment because we sometimes get this isolated view of God’s people. But keep in mind that are oodles of people all around. The world is pretty well populated at this point, but within the world population is beginning this group of people who are designated at God’s chosen people.
The story continues, one of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, was Jacob’s favorite son. Favorite son to the point that Jacob pretty much ignored all the other sons. Joseph got all the love, Joseph got all the attention, Joseph got the coat of many colors, and Joseph turned into a brat. He would parade in front of his other brothers in his fancy coat and talk about how much his daddy loved him and how he didn’t love his brothers and you can imagine how the brothers felt about Joseph. To the point where they sold Joseph into slavery where in the hands of God and through a series of very difficult circumstances, Joseph became the 2nd in charge of all of Egypt. And because he was in charge, he was able to bring his family - his father and all 11 brothers and their families and their herds and servants… and he gave them the best land in all of Egypt - the Land of Goshen.
Joseph’s family, God’s people, lived there for 400 years where they grew into a great nation. By that time Joseph had been forgotten and the current Pharaoh turned them into slaves. They cried out to God and asked to be saved from this slavery and God heard them and sent Moses who, with God’s help, was able to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go. And Moses leads the people of God, the ones who would become the nation of Israel, out of Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea, and into the wilderness where now they are officially the people of God.
It is important to remember that while they were in the land of Egypt, they did not actively act as God’s people. There was no actual worship or Godly living or anything that would really identify them as the people of God. They were considered the children of Abraham, but they weren’t actually the people of God they would eventually become.
So now they have been ‘through the waters’ and find themselves in the wilderness with Moses as their leader who tells them they are on their way to a land that will be all theirs - a land of milk and honey - promised land. And all they have to do on this journey through the wilderness, is learn what it means to depend upon God. God said to them, ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’. They needed to learn to trust God would provide for them and they needed to learn what was expected of them.
The journey was hard, learning to trust God was even harder. But as they continue to travel they eventually landed at Mt Sinai - the mountain of God.
Moses said to them, “I’m going to go up on the mountain. I’m going to meet with God and then I will be back to let you know what he expects of you.”. And Moses climbed the mountain, disappeared into the cloud at the top of the mountain and 40 days later came back with God’s instructions for his people.
Not only did Moses bring back the 10 commandments, but he also brought back a whole bunch of what were known as levitical laws - daily living laws - how they were to live each day - what to eat, what to wear, how to conduct their business, how to worship. Moses brought back the plans for the Tabernacle so the people would have a place to worship. Up until this time there had been no formal worship.
Now we have God’s people - learning to trust God to take care of them - which we know in our own lives is a difficult road to follow - and now they have the parameters of how they are to live and worship.
Our question then is - why is it God felt it necessary to frame his people around a set of rules. What is it about rules that define who we are? Specifically these 10 commandments - the 10 rules God said were the most important. So why the rules?
First the rules helped create and define God’s people. Remember these rules are for God’s people, these rules are for us as God’s people. God did not say ‘Here are your rules and you are follow them and you are to make everyone else follow them.” God said - “You, as my people, are to follow these rules’. These rules are ours. Not that they would not be good for everyone to follow, but they are specifically designed for us.
In the time of Moses, these rules, these concepts of how to live were something new - something unique - and as God’s people lived by these laws, it made them different than the other groups of people around them. It defined them - other societies and groups of people could say, “Look. There are those people who lived by those new laws”. And as we study each law, we will see how following these rules helps make us unique and different.
Another reason for the law was to create a peaceful, orderly society. Again, you have this huge group of people who are going to have to live with one another and are going to have to get along! How do they do that? If they live by the principles of the 10 Commandments, then that will happen. They can live with each other and get along and be a peaceful society.
But there is another reason, and maybe a reason that is hard to understand. The law stands before us like a mirror saying, “Look, this is how you need to be - this is how you need to live - this is how you need to act” and then what we see is that we aren’t living up to what the law tells us. We don’t always put God first, we don’t always remember the Sabbath, we sometimes covet…… And from that we come to understand two things. First, we can’t do this on our own. We need God’s help to live like we suppose to and it makes us more dependent on God which is what God wants. He wants us dependent on him, he wants us to need him, he wants us to trust that he will provide what we need to do what he asks us to do.
And secondly, we need to realize that following the law is not the way to earn God’s favor, following the law is not a means of salvation because if it were, none of us would be ever be able to have a true relationship with God. If our relationship with God deepened on our 10 commandment following, we would be sunk. Cause we can’t do it. So the law and our inability to follow it perfectly, shows us that we need a savior - we need another way to God other than our rule following. We need a Messiah, we need Jesus Christ to give us a way to have an everlasting relationship with God.
Yet even though we know the rules won’t get us to heaven, the rules are still God’s way of showing us a better way to live; a way to live that will create harmony and peace and a civilized way to get along with one another.
Our job, then, is to learn the rules and do the best we can do to follow them. Because they are good for us, they are good for our relationships within our congregations, they are good for our relationships within our families and our co-workers and our peers and our striving to live as God leads us serves as a witness to the rest of the world that there is a better way to live, there is a road to peace between people and within ourselves.
Our work, as God’s chosen people, is to do the best we can do, relying on God’s help, to live as God has directed us through these 10 rules we call, The 10 Commandments.