Daily Devotion – March 5, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Exodus 20:1-17
20:1 Then God spoke all these words:
20:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.
20:4 You 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.
20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
20:6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
20:7 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.
20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
20:10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
20:13 You shall not murder.
20:14 You shall not commit adultery.
20:15 You shall not steal.
20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
20:17 You 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.

Of this famous passage you might notice that verse 1 through verse 11 are all about the children of Israel’s relationship with God. The remaining 6 verses are about people’s human relationships. 

The Old Testament holds several covenants that God made with human beings. In these promises, God makes sure that even if the human beings can’t fulfill their part of the bargain, God will make up the difference. In fact God knows from the start that human beings cannot live up to any covenant. We are too apt to want our own way, or get bored, or think we can figure out something better.

Even for the most faithful of us, if our action is good, our hearts are often not in it. We are a little bit puny, and maybe that’s why God loves us so much. We need God.  If we could break death ourselves, we wouldn’t need God, but we cannot. And so we do need God. And here’s the most amazing part about the covenants God puts into place throughout the Old Testament. God knows that God will always live up to God’s promises. Always. God is so good to us. No matter what.

So God lays down the law for 11 verses, reminding the Israelites that God has loved them, blessed them, and rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and that now God will try to fashion out of them a nation united in its love of God. And the nation will live by these laws, first to maintain their faithful relationship to their God, and second to protect their relationships in the human community they are forming. They are pretty stubborn people who really like their own way. Before long they have made an idol to pray to out of all their melted down gold jewelry. But God remains faithful to them. Think of it. God remains faithful to them. And when Jesus comes along, God extends God’s promises even to non-Jews like us.

Lord God, Thank you for loving us. Thank you for being so good to us that, even in the law you give, you keep us paying attention to our relationship with you as well as to one another.      Amen.