Passage: Exodus 20:1-21
Speaker: Steve Hands
Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus
A People Defined By God’s Name
Have you ever felt embarrassed by the generosity of a gift and did not quite know how to respond? Sometimes “Thank you” doesn’t just seem to be enough. If I buy a meal for a friend, “thank you” is enough; if an entire family is set free from systemic oppression and poverty, then this changes our entire paradigm of thinking about everything. God’s grace changes everything. In Exodus God sets his people free from slavery in Egypt. How can they respond? Exodus 20:1–20 shows that because of God’s lavish grace, we worship Him only and honor others by the fear of God that drives out sin.
Because of the lavish grace of God, we worship Him only (Exod 20:1–11). Obedience to his Word is a response to God’s grace (20:1–2), for he has brought his people out of slavery. In response we worship Him only, with no other gods before Him (20:3), refusing to seek to contain His presence in any image or likeness (20:4–6) or manipulating His name for our own selfish ends (20:7). Instead by keeping Sabbath, we recognize that the LORD is enthroned over the chaos of all of creation, and so we entrust all that we do to Him. The first four words in the Decalogue all embrace a call to worship God only.
We not only worship God only because of His lavish grace, but we also honor others (Exod 20:12–17). As God’s grace makes slaves sons and daughters, then our perspective on people inevitably changes. We do not use other people for our own ends, but we honor them for who God has created them to be. Instead of ignoring elderly parents who may not be “useful,” we honor parents as gifts from God (20:12). Instead of destroying people who do not serve our ends in murder, we honor and love them (20:13). Instead of using people for our own sexual gratification in adultery, we honor marriage and walk in purity (20:14). Instead of stealing or coveting others’ possessions or relationships for our own gain, we honor and celebrate the gifts that God has given to them (20:15, 17). Instead of using the justice system for personal gain by false witness, we honor the justice system that God has provided (20:16). In all of these areas we honor those around us as a gift from God; each of these commands focuses not on our own rights but on protecting and honoring others. But how do we do this when our hearts are so prone to wander?
Because of God’s lavish grace, we worship Him only and honor others by the fear of God that drives out sin (Exod 20:18–21). Immediately after giving these Ten Commandments the greatness of God strikes fear in the hearts of His people. Moses responds, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, the the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (20:20). As a mediator, Moses steps between the people’s sin and the holiness of God. Before the holiness of God, the people should fear. And a proper fear at the greatness of God drives out sin; inevitably beneath every sinful action is a greater affection, a desire for something more than the greatness of our God. Yet as we see the greatness of God then the fear of God drives out sin.
Yet this is only possible through a mediator. Moses stands between the people’s sin and the fearful greatness of God, and Moses points forward to a greater mediator, Jesus Christ, who pays the price for the people’s sin before the holy greatness of God. And ultimately it is this mediator that drives out sin. So may we approach a holy God though our mediator Jesus Christ, even as we approach the table for communion today.