The 10 Commandments
Given to Moses after leaving
captivity in Egypt
If you’re a good cook, you may recognise the term ‘reduction’, where a sauce or soup is simmered until the excess liquid has evaporated, the flavours are perfectly balanced, and the desired consistency has been achieved. In other words, you trade quantity for quality. But what’s a sauce got to do with the 10 Commandments?
The book of Exodus tells us how God’s people, led by Moses, had escaped from slavery in Egypt and miraculously made it across the Red Sea.
Three months on, up to two million men, women and children were now facing the realities of surviving in the Sinai Desert, the peninsula between Egypt and Israel, on their way to the Promised Land.
This was a huge number of people: a real management nightmare. And they weren’t accustomed to self-management! Having lived under Egyptian persecution for so long, they hadn’t the first idea how to organise themselves, or how to behave. At first the people came to Moses to sort out their complaints and concerns. But they were so numerous that his father-in-law, Jethro, became concerned about Moses’ ability to cope. So he suggested that Moses appoint and train others to help, which he did.
And then God stepped in. He called Moses up onto the mountain and verbally gave him the 10 Commandments (the stones, written in God’s own handwriting, came later). These were immediately followed by a long and complex set of ceremonial laws. Now the people knew how they were expected to behave towards God and one another.
(You might be interested to know that, because of their timing, the 10 Commandments are still central to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.)
When Jesus came, he turned a lot of things upside down, leaving many religious experts confused or angry. So did the 10 Commandments still matter? The book of Matthew tells how some of them tried to trip Jesus up by asking him which was the most important law. But Jesus affirmed the ongoing importance of the 10 Commandments (which is why Christians still try to live according to them today) and replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
So where do all these different laws leave us? What’s important today? Well, let’s go back to our sauce, the reduction. We started off with a whole bunch of laws: the 10 Commandments plus hundreds of detailed and difficult ceremonial laws. Then Jesus came, boiling the 10 Commandments down into just two: ‘love God’ (which sums up the first four commandments) and ‘love one another’, which sums up the last six. And then, through his death, Jesus liberated us from the detailed ceremonial laws, enabling us to live instead by grace.
Jesus made it all very simple. He simmered the laws down to the most important, showed us a perfectly balanced way to live, and gave us a consistent approach to behaviour, justice and love.
Pray: Father God, I know I don’t have to be a Christian to lead a good life, but I would like to think about living a Christian life—a life that pleases you. Please reveal to me how I can live out your commandments in my own life, so that we may draw closer to one another. Amen.
Look up the 10 commandments in the Bible
Read the 10 Commandments in several languages (scroll down to the flags)
Listen to short talks from people of different faiths as they come together to discuss the 10 Commandments
Download A New Commandment by Teen SOYO (iTunes)
Read more detailed background on the 10 Commandments
See the lyric for a house-music track based on a child’s version of the 10 Commandments (We got the Love, by Touch of Soul). Track this rare (but excellent) record down if you can!
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