Exodus 20

God Speaks

The people had prepared to meet God for three days, and now as now standing at the bottom of the mountain, God speaks to his people. God identifies himself as the eternal one that brought Israel out of Egypt and out of slavery. He is God, and there is no other. Therefore his words are to be heeded. The Lord had saved Israel and therefore had the right to govern them. God's relationship with Israel is special, and he requires that Israel be loyal and faithful to him only. Images are not to be worshiped. Idolatry would not be permitted because God is jealous and he will react strongly to the infidelity of his people. The consequences are far more costly than we realize and unfaithfulness will be felt by the community as a whole. Future generations will not be held morally accountable for the sins committed by earlier generations, but society is collectively responsible for the actions of its community. God quickly reminds his people of his grace for his steadfast love will be poured out on those who love him and keep his commandments. God's name is to be revered and not used in insincere, worthless, or vile ways. The Sabbath day is to be remembered and kept holy. God commands his people to rest from their labors, and he refers to creation and the pattern he set. Parents are to be honored, and this is the only commandment accompanied by a reward. This command has social implications. The family serves as the building block of civilization. Healthy families mean stability and generational continuity. Murder is prohibited because life is sacred. Adultery is forbidden because marriage is divinely ordained. Property rights were protected by the prohibition of stealing. The truth was protected, and covetousness was condemned to guard the heart against evil. 

The People React

The people are terrified as their senses are flooded by thunder, lightning, fire, and smoke. They kept their distance from the mountain. They asked Moses to mediate on their behalf because they feared they would die if God spoke to them. Moses assures the people that they have nothing to fear and that God is testing them and a healthy fear would be a deterrent against sin. Moses ascends into thick darkness where God's presence was made manifest. God instructs Moses to remind the people of what they had seen and heard from heaven. The people were not to make any attempt to make any representation of God in shape or form. The people were to make altars of earth or stone, but the stone was not to be hewn or carved. Every place that the Lord caused his name to be remembered was a place to set up an altar, make sacrifices, and worship. The altar was not to have steps so that it would not be profaned during the process.


Things To Consider:

  • Why is it necessary for God to speak to his people?
  • Why is it important to remember that salvation came before the giving of the law?
  • What are gods that we place before the Lord today?
  • What are images and icons that we worship today?
  • Why does God have the right to be jealous?
  • What are ways that we abuse God's name today?
  • Should we observe the Sabbath today? Why or why not?
  • What does it mean to honor father and mother?
  • Why is murder condemned?
  • What is the problem with adultery?
  • Do you think there is a healthy fear of God among his people today? Why or why not?
  • Why do we need a mediator today?
  • What are ways that we offend in our worship?