The Narrative Lectionary reading for October 7th concludes our first series connected with the theme, “God’s Promises Bring Hope.” The stories of Noah, Sarai and Abram, Joseph, and the Red Sea showed us hope in difficult circumstances. Now we move to the story of God giving the Ten Commandments (Torah) to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai. How does this story give the people, and us, hope?
The Sinai Relationship
The first thing that gives the people hope is that God is here creating a covenant. Simply put, a covenant is a relationship agreement. Formally, the covenant spells out the responsibilities of each party and describes the relationship created by that agreement. At Mount Sinai, God says to Moses:
“Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
So, this covenant establishes a relationship where God will have a close, loving relationship with the people, and the people have the responsibility of listening to God and obeying the commands that God gives. What should give the people hope is that God desires a close, loving relationship with them. Who wouldn’t want the Creator of the universe to treasure them? [Note: if being referred to as a “possession” bothers you like it did me, one way to think about it is the same as being claimed. I call my children “mine” not because I own them as property, but because I proudly claim them and my relationship with them.]
The Sinai Life
The second source of hope in this story is that God has given the people the gift of a good life. The people of Israel have just come out of a time of slavery, where others have told the people what to do. The Ten Commandments (or the Ten Words) are not God creating a new slavery for the people but instructing them how to live a good life. This is often called the Law of Moses, but I prefer the term torah which, among other things, means instruction or guidance. Yes, these were laws with consequences. And, yes, they do show us how we fall short, failing to live up to God’s will. But, the original purpose was to show the people how to live the good life, how to love God, themselves, and others.
The Sinai Kingdom
Exodus 19:6 says that God will call the faithful people of Israel a “priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” This is the kingdom where God is sovereign, and God’s will is done. That is to say, the kingdom of God. So, the Ten Words are a description of what God’s kingdom is like. God’s kingdom is a reality marked by:
- Freedom (v. 20:2)
- An unwavering relationship with God (vv. 3-7)
- Rest and peace (vv. 8-11)
- Honor and respect (v. 12)
- Abundant and neverending life (v. 13)
- Faithful relationships (v. 14)
- Mutually caring relationships (v. 15)
- Truth and true justice (v. 16)
- Contentment (v. 17)
Or, to put it more simply, the kingdom that the Ten Words describe is a reality of complete love, love of God, self, and others. Who wouldn’t want to live in this kingdom?
Opinions and doctrines about the Ten Commandments vary wildly, so this passage can make for a fascinating and enriching conversation as people share and truly listen to each other. To help with this conversation, download our free Youth Discussion Guide on this Bible passage, which can be used by youth and adults. A one-page guide like this is included in every Living the Word: Youth lesson to help small groups understand, wrestle, share, and apply the message of the day’s Bible passage.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
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For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!