1Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
18When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.”
What are your thoughts about the law of God? Sometimes people can read about God’s law and get an impression about God that unsettles them. The Israelites sure felt unsettled after witnessing God give the core of the law to Moses. God is just and expects us to live holy lives according to God’s purposes. God does not want us to take the holiness, might, will, and awesome power of God for granted. Sometimes when God shows up, God shows up in an awe-inspiring way that demands a reverent response.
However, God is not a scary authority figure, like the British bobby above, watching and waiting for us to make a mistake. God does not stalk us with a baton, all the time ready to beat us over the head when we do fall short of these holy expectations. God’s law is given to us to inspire loving, purposeful, good actions – not to literally scare the hell out of us, but to bring heaven into our lives! God’s law is a gateway to liberty. As we say in our Eucharistic liturgy, God “frees us for joyful obedience” by using the law and grace to reveal our sin to us, forgive us, and set us on the path of right living.
It is easy, though, to understand how we could have our image of God corrupted. Not only does God appear in such fright-inducing ways to the Israelites, but Scripture affirms that God holds us accountable for our attitudes and actions (for instance, see Galatians 6:7 – but note that this comes only after Paul first encourages the Galatians by reminding them that it is God’s Spirit who empowers them to live with holy attitudes and to act in holy ways). Also, there is much of God’s law, including that which is included in the Ten Commandments, that is communicated through negative, prohibitive expressions. In other words, much of the law is expressed through “do not”s rather than through “do”s.
I wonder how we might understand the law of God differently if we communicated that law in positive expressions. Surely, Jesus does this when he quotes the Old Testament laws of loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40). With the Ten Commandments, such an expression might look like this:
The Ten Commandments
1. Yahweh alone is God.
2. Worship Yahweh in spirit and truth.
3. Honor the name of Yahweh.
4. Observe the Sabbath.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Honor all life.
7. Honor your marriage vows.
8. Share God’s blessings.
9. Be truthful.
10. Be content with what God has given to you.
I wrote this re-imagining of the Ten Commandments about a year and a half ago and I placed it in a prayer book that I made for myself. It encourages me, because it reminds me that God has a plan for how we should live, not so much a plan for how we should not live. If we live according to God’s purposes, we will stay away from things like murder, adultery, idolatry, coveting, etc. Read through this re-imagined Ten Commandments this week and allow them to take root in your heart. God desires to free you through the goodness of God’s law, unburdening you from evil and embracing you in righteousness.
Prayer Focus: You shall not murder.
It is inconceivable to me how anyone could take another human life, especially so callously. The events of Sunday night in Las Vegas break God’s heart. God never intended for the people of this earth to commit such atrocities toward one another. Yet, ever day people perpetrate violence against one another, both in action and in their hearts. This week pray for the people of Las Vegas, those injured, and for the families of those who have died. Pray for the first responders who bravely bore the burden of helping in the midst of chaos, and who are now left with the scars of trauma. Pray for the family of the man who did this, as they are left with both confusion and shame. Ask God to change the hearts of those who would do harm to others. Trust the power of the Holy Spirit to work within you and through you to promote life and peace.
Meditation Focus: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
This week, explore the temple of your soul. Ask yourself, what am I worshiping with my life? What does the way I spend my time and resources say about who or what I worship? Imagine a literal temple inside of you. Walk into it through your mind’s eye and approach the altar. What does this altar look like? What would you place on this altar? What altars need to be torn down within you? Ask God to be present in this meditation and guide you into faithful devotion to the one and only LORD God of all creation.
Journaling Focus: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
What does it mean to misuse the name of the LORD? Most of us have probably always thought of this in the context of not saying certain curse words or not making oaths in God’s name. But how else might we misuse God’s name? To think of it another way, what does it mean to use the name of God properly and reverently? If you call yourself a follower of Christ, how are your actions and attitudes honoring God’s name? After all, you wear the name of the LORD upon you and others might judge the name of LORD based on how you represent that name. As you write and reflect on these questions this week, finish this statement and ponder the implications for your life: “I will honor God’s name by __________________.”
Take one commandment this week and focus on how you are tempted to do the opposite and how you are encouraged to follow it. When you are tempted, ask God to strengthen you for obedience. When you are encouraged to follow it, thank God for the anointing to be faithful. Examine the real life implications of God’s law by being more mindful of how challenging it is to remain faithful to God in a broken world.
Breath Prayer: Father, write your law upon our hearts.