Before Me

Monday, February 26, 2018
Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
For many of us, we think of the Ten Commandments as the Thou Shalt Nots: Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not take my name in vain. That's how we look at it from the negative, 'what not to do' side.

But what do the Ten Commandments lift up on the positive side? What do they move us toward instead of away from?

The Ten Commandments show up on the arms of Moses after a lengthy visit between him and God (a.k.a. Yahweh) on Mount Sinai, which takes place after the Exodus and Red Sea event.

The Israelites, whose faith tradition was nearly lost in a foreign land and under the burden of slavery, is liberated and renewed by the victory of God over the Egyptians and their king, Pharaoh. God shows up and shows that human power is not as strong as God's power. As great as Moses and Aaron were, it was God who made the Exodus happen, who showed divine power through the plagues, parted the Red Sea and gave food and water to the wandering Israelites in the desert. 

This is why the prologue to the Ten Commandments says what it does: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Ex. 20:2).

God is God, not anyone or anything else.

The Ten Commandments have been and continue to be the foundational way of honoring God as God.

When we honor God as God, then we don't need to try worshiping other gods (commandment #1) and we don't need idols (#2). With God firmly as our God we can figure out to use the Divine Name when it actually means "God" (#3) and we can remember that if we stop working for a day the world won't fall apart (#4). 

When we honor God as God, then we can appreciate how parents and caregivers have given of themselves in the likeness of God (but are certainly NOT God) (#5). When God is our God, then murder (#6), adultery (#7), stealing (#8), lying in ways that harm people (#9) and coveting things and people (#10) just don't make sense because they harm God's people. 

The Ten Commandments help us determine if we have put things or people or ideas ahead of God. 

In Lent, we can try to go about introspection (looking into ourselves) piecemeal, asking "Am I doing this thing or that thing right or wrong?" But we can also ask ourselves a bigger spiritual question to move ourselves towards God's love: "How can I put my relationship with God (and God's people) first in my life?"

That then can lead us to a good framework of how different things might come before God in our lives: 
Our children; 
Our fears; our sense of safety;
Our desires;
Our self-importance.

Lent leads us toward the cross where God puts love for us first and the empty tomb that reveals that nothing, not even death, matches God's power and claim on us. Easter invites us to put first God, who puts us and creation first in God's heart.

God, help us to put you first in our hearts, to set aside all that we have put before you in the past, in Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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