Today we begin with a background- a preparation before we prepare-so to speak. Today’s search will hopefully help us see God’s motivations so we can look at our lives through that filter as we examine each of the Ten Commandments in the coming days.

So to begin, lets read Exodus 20:1-17. Write down anything that struck you today as you read this. Was there anything you saw “for the first time” or an “I’ve-never-thought-of-that-before”?

Today we’ll look at the introduction in some detail. In the very first line it says “And God spoke these words.” Here in this context, “words” means covenant stipulations, so we might think of it like, “And God gave these stipulations” to the Israelites when we was forming His covenant with them. The questions I have are: Why would He set out these 10 stipulations? And if this was part of His covenant with the Israelites, do they still apply to us today?

I’m not going to claim to know the answers, I’m just studying His word along with you, but here’s what I think. I think God knew the hearts of men (and women) and knew that they needed a lesson in relationships-with Him, with family, with friends and community and eventually with the world at large.

He also knew that these ideas would be different from those of the surrounding nations and He wanted His people to be set apart for Him, belonging to Him. Which really answers the next question-do they still apply today? Absolutely! We are still to be a people set apart for God, His special possession[1]. Making choices that look different than the decisions made by those around us…using the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us in each moment. When you look at your life, does it look like everyone else’s? Or are you allowing the Holy Spirit to help you make choices pleasing to God?

Moving on then, verse two are the words of God, He says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  I like the New Living Translation: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.” (emphasis mine)

If we are going to believe that His words are as true today as they were over 4000 years ago when they were written, then this would suggest that He is still the LORD our God who brings us out of the places of our slavery.  So what is your land of slavery? Is it anger, addiction-whether consumed by our mouths, eyes, ears or minds? Is it gossip, thrill seeking, envy? List some things that enslave you.  I’ll be honest here, my list was long.

These are things in your manger; they crowd Him out. And since Christ has freed us from these chains we need no longer be a slave to them. Remember, He has rescued us from our places of slavery.

But, do we walk back to Egypt? Do we bind ourselves to these habits, sins, and destructive patterns? Are we like the children of Israel when they said, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”[2] Does it seem easier to serve these “masters” than to rely on the saving grace of Christ, the provisions so lovingly given by our Heavenly Father?

Certainly at times it seems easier-maybe even better-but oh the sweet freedom of an empty manger. So go ahead and start tossing! Take a moment now and picture yourself taking each of these items-the things that enslave you-out of your manger. Trust God to assist you in permanently removing these areas of weakness.

Whew! That was a lot to take in, and we haven’t even gotten to the First Commandment! Tomorrow we’ll begin and work steadily through all Ten Commandments and hopefully at the end of our twelve days we’ll have an empty manger, eager to welcome the baby Jesus.

Father God, I thank you that You are my rescuer, the One who has brought me out of the land of slavery. Guide me in my choices, lead me as I get rid of the things that enslave me, hold my hand as I struggle to walk with you out of the desert and into your promised land. Your words are mighty and they tell me you have loved me with an everlasting love. Thank you, Lord!

[1] 1 Peter 2:9

[2] Exodus 14:12