Exodus 20: 1-20
“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.”
If leaving Egypt behind was total upheaval, everything changed again at the foot of the mountain. The Lord called to Moses. “Tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.”
“If,” the Lord said, “if.” There is always a choice involved in our relationship to God.
The Israelites may have complained in the wilderness and tested the Lord at Massah, but when the newly liberated people were presented with a choice at Mount Sinai, they chose rightly. “Everything that the Lord has spoken, we will do,” they said. With this declaration, the former slaves accepted God’s invitation to covenant relationship.
What does it mean to live as God’s people?
In a world filled with choices, there are some things that have already been decided. Many years ago, the Ten Commandments were given to provide shape and form to Israel’s new life with God and one another. The commandments were a gift of love, defining love between God and human beings for all time.
“If,” the Lord said, “if you wish to be my treasured people, you will live like this…
You will remember that I brought you out of the land of Egypt and the house of slavery. You will have no other gods before me. You will not worship idols or take my name in vain. You will remember the sabbath and keep it holy. You will honor your father and mother. You will not murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness. You will not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
These Ten Commandments are the requirements of covenant – the law of love as the Lord decreed – and they are not up for negotiation.
To enter into covenant love with God is to recognize that like the Israelites before us, we do not define love. We do not set the terms of relationship with God and our neighbors. We receive relationship and practice love on God’s terms, according to God’s definitions. Although these terms were set long before we arrived on the scene, to live as God’s people today still requires us to choose.
Will we decide that “Everything that the Lord has spoken, we will do”? If we do, we become people defined by love. This is no small treasure.