Reader: “Yahweh! The Lord!”
Response: “The God of compassion and mercy!”
Scripture: Exodus 34:1-9; 27-28
Then the Lord told Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed. Be ready in the morning to climb up Mount Sinai and present yourself to me on the top of the mountain. No one else may come with you. In fact, no one is to appear anywhere on the mountain. Do not even let the flocks or herds graze near the mountain.”
So Moses chiseled out two tablets of stone like the first ones. Early in the morning, he climbed Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him, and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands.
Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The Lord!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”
Moses immediately threw himself to the ground and worshiped. And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down all these instructions, for they represent the terms of the covenant I am making with you and with Israel.”
Moses remained there on the mountain with the Lord forty days and forty nights. In all that time he ate no bread and drank no water. And the Lord wrote the terms of the covenant—the Ten Commandments—on the stone tablets.
Reader: The word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God.
In Hebrew, these are simply called “The Ten Words.” I find myself wondering if these tablets exist buried somewhere underground in the world? My guess is they were destroyed in the sacking of the Temple in 70 AD. These are the only things we’ve ever had in God’s own handwriting. They were designed to be memorized―ten words, ten fingers! There are some significant things to note here. There are two sets of tablets that went into the Ark of the Covenant, one to remind the people of what God said and one to remind God of his covenant with his people. These words were given specifically to God’s Covenant people as indicated in the preface. I am YHWH, your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Like Moses’ previous trip up Mt. Sinai to meet God, we are reminded of God’s holiness with the prohibition of anyone or any animal entering the holy ground. God descended in a cloud, the cloud being a biblical indication of God’s presence (E.g. a pillar of fire and cloud to lead Israel, a cloud at the Transfiguration, a cloud at the Ascension, etc.). In the Scripture preceding this pericope, Moses had a rather pointed conversation with God regarding God’s presence among his people. Moses actually asked God to show him his presence (Ex.33:18). This is the place where God hid Moses in a crack in the rock and he saw the backside of God as God passed by. Moses desperately sought God’s presence with his people. To better understand “The Ten Words,” it would be better to view them as God’s description of what a community in covenant with himself would look like. This covenant relationship with God dealt in reality. Daniel Block writes, “We should interpret this document not as a law code but as a foundational covenant document, intended to create a picture of life within the community of faith governed by covenant principles.” (For the Glory of God, p.85) Our response to the Ten Commandments should grow out of our relationship with God rather than attempting to look at them as simply a set of legalistic rules to follow. This perspective does not lessen their force or impact, but it does put them into a context of relationship with God, their original context. What does all this have to do with Lent? In this season, “The Ten Words” admonish us to treat others with great care. Contrary to our world with its great concern with marches for “my rights,” have you observed the concern of “The Ten Words” here is for others to be treated fairly, treated well, and with selfless compassion. Again, as we journey to the cross with Jesus, our Savior out of his great love, put aside his rights and privilege in laying down his life that we all might have life. Where can you lay down your life for others today?
Music: “Go Down Moses” Sam Robson Extraordinary! . . . again! God is in the business of redeeming his people, then and now.
Why is it, Lord, that we think trying to keep rules is enough? It’s so easy to be a Pharisee and feel good about ourselves that we haven’t done anything terrible, at least terrible in our eyes. We look at other people and we aren’t as rude as that driver, or as foul mouthed as that co-worker, or as self-centered as our neighbor. We don’t talk about ourselves all the time when we are with others. We’re doing OK. But Lord, our hearts are dull toward you. We read the Bible more from obligation rather than to converse with you. We pray once in a while or when we think of it, but we seldom encounter you in our prayers. God of mercy, forgive our foolish ways. May our hearts burn for you. Don’t let us stay the same, please. Help me to live our covenant as you summarized in the two greatest commandments. May the doing of our relationship express our being of one mind, your mind living in and through me. In my Savior’s glorious name. Amen.