You are my rock;
don't refuse to hear me.
God had said to those people released from slavery but still living in the wilderness, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol."
Was is easier for them to focus than it is for any of us? How free are we? Do we consider our surroundings more like a promised land or more like the wilderness?
"No other gods. Don't make an idol." That's the first commandment, the starting place, the first step in preparing to live the new life--or to live life in the new way.
What a god is--the most important factor that we base a decision on. Our god can be our physical safety (or merely comfort), or our financial security, or our need to feel superior, or so on. What influences what we do every day? What is important to us? Whatever that is, that is the idol we have made for ourselves.
Let us repent.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God. It seems to me that I was taught not to use certain curse words because they would have been a violation of this command. Later, I was taught that this command deals with more than cussing. We are making a wrongful use of the name of the Lord our God whenever we invoke that name to get our own way. Allen & Williamson, in Preaching the Old Testament, interpret this commandment, "Empty talk, cheap grace, easy religion, self-interest parading as piety: the church should speak against all wrongful use of the name of God."
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. I remember the blue laws, the prohibitions against stores being open on Sunday or, in Mississippi at least, not being able to buy beer or liquor, even in a restaurant. Walter Brueggemann, in Texts for Preaching B, takes a wider view of this command. He reminds us that the original audience for these commands was a group of escaped slaves who had been made quite familiar with forced work. What the emperor wanted was what was important to their overseers. We may not be in slave gangs with an emperor's employee telling us what to do and to keep doing it. But, we still need to consider whose will is directing our actions. As Brueggemann puts it:
In a consumer economy with the vicious cycles of consumption as well as of production. In this "rest," which is ordained into the very fabric of creation, we recover our sense of creatureliness and resist the pressure to be frantic consumers who find our joy and destiny in commodities.
Quote from Allen & Williamson's Preaching from the Old Testament:
Eight of the ten words begin: "you shall not." People often speak of negative commandments as off-putting "do nots" that constrict life....But that misconstrues the negative instructions in the Torah. First, we can keep all of them while taking a nap. ...Second, negative mitzvoth deal with the parameters of behavior. They do not specify what we should do, simply what we should not do. They name the actions that cancel all possibility of living with others a life of well-being (which can only be lived with others.)
Woes to religious insiders: Instead of opening the door to God, you are blocking it; you are converting people to the religion of legalism that you practice rather than the one you should be; you can't tell the difference between the important and the unimportant; you commemorate martyrs but are yourselves harming people you don't consider righteous.
Jesus' words are a warning to Christians today. (from Thomas Long's commentary, Matthew).
Prayer for Today: Lord God, focus us today on living out the commands you have given us. But, O Lord, save us from hypocrisy. Amen.