“These are the commandments the Lord gave to all of you when you were gathered at the mountain. When he spoke with a mighty voice from the fire and from the thick clouds, he gave these commandments and no others. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
“When the whole mountain was on fire and you heard the voice from the darkness, your leaders and the chiefs of your tribes came to me and said, ‘The Lord our God showed us his greatness and his glory when we heard him speak from the fire! Today we have seen that it is possible for people to continue to live, even though God has spoken to them. But why should we risk death again? That terrible fire will destroy us. We are sure to die if we hear the Lord our God speak again. Has any human being ever lived after hearing the living God speak from a fire? Go back, Moses, and listen to everything that the Lord our God says. Then return and tell us what he said to you. We will listen and obey.’
“When the Lord heard this, he said to me, ‘I have heard what these people said, and they are right. If only they would always feel this way! If only they would always honor me and obey all my commands, so that everything would go well with them and their descendants forever. Go and tell them to return to their tents. But you, Moses, stay here with me, and I will give you all my laws and commands. Teach them to the people, so that they will obey them in the land that I am giving them.’
“People of Israel, be sure that you do everything that the Lord your God has commanded you. Do not disobey any of his laws. Obey them all, so that everything will go well with you and so that you will continue to live in the land that you are going to occupy. (Good News Translation)
The people were at the cusp of entering the Promised Land. They had experienced four hundred years of slavery; deliverance from Egyptian bondage; and forty years of wandering around the desert with no permanent home. Now, Moses gathers everyone together and restates God’s Law for a new generation about to realize God’s promise.
In today’s Old Testament lesson, Moses recalls his experience of receiving the two stone tablets, known to many as the Ten Commandments. Moses does this because he does not want this new generation of Israelites to be like their parents and grandparents – who experienced a failure of faith, resulting in their sojourn in the wilderness.
Obedience to God and all of God’s commands is central to a life of faith.
For that obedience to happen, all obstacles must be removed so that we can have an unhindered path in living the way we want to live. The Israelites were in slavery four hundred years. They needed a new story, which meant changing the old one. The people could participate with God by doing the following:
- Accept their wounded past of slavery. We cannot let something go and die without acknowledging it and having full acceptance that it happened.
- Don’t accept the limitations others put on us. The Israelites were slaves for so long that the Egyptians would have liked them to believe that’s all they could ever be. But the reality is that they are the people of God, meant for infinitely more than bondage.
- Trust the process of moving out of one story and into another. And it will take time. Forty years of wandering the desert helped the people wrap their minds and hearts around new possibilities.
- Take charge of your life by being a full participant in what the Lord is doing. Acting apart from God is pride. Failing to act is a lack of faith. But a divine/human participation knows what God does and what human responsibility is.
- Embrace all the emotions that go with what’s happening. Old ways often die hard. It didn’t take long after leaving Egypt for the people to long for the garlic and leeks of their former life. Holding and sitting with our feelings is an important piece of embracing a new story.
- Pay attention to constructing a soul which can serve you for a lifetime by taking initiative and action, reflecting on experiences, and living the insights gained.
- Discover new sources of growth and development for your new story and the next chapter of life. The same sources and resources which got you to this point may not be the same ones that will carry you on.
Moving through this liminal space enables us to obey God in new and fresh ways for the future. Obedience itself is not the hard thing; its ensuring a solid theological ground to stand on that is free of spiritual impediments that can hinder our faith.
Spiritual growth implies movement and change. This is necessary in order for the strengthening of faith. In allowing God’s commands and God’s sovereignty to have their way within us, we purposely engraft what’s needed for a lifetime of faith, hope, and love.
Glorious and sovereign God, give us your Spirit, so that we will be wise in how we live our lives. Help us to know you better through all of the experiences and learning we acquire in this life.
May our minds be opened to see your light, so that you will know the hope to which you have called us; and how rich are the wonderful blessings you promise us.
Grant us your strength so that we might remove every obstacle to faith. That spiritual power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which you used when raising Christ from death and exalting him above all things. Amen.