Just before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in today’s Bible reading, He warned the people not to come onto the mountain, Mount Sinai, where God’s presence was veiled with smoke. God told Moses to put a boundary around the mountain to keep the people and animals from accidentally setting foot on the mountain.
Put boundaries for the people all around the mountain and say: Be careful that you don’t go up on the mountain or touch its base. Anyone who touches the mountain must be put to death.
Exodus 19:12 (CSB)
God was serious about His holiness. He was serious about the people’s conduct toward His presence. So He told Moses to put boundaries around the mountain.
And then God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Oftentimes when we think of the Ten Commandments, we think they are given universally to all people. But reading the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus, it’s easy to see that these are not just generic instructions for everyone on the planet. Yes, the Ten Commandments are universal rules — if everyone would obey them — that would bring much more respectful and civil societies. But they weren’t given generically to all people.
God gave the Ten Commandments — and the rest of The Law — to His people in the context of a covenant relationship between God and His people. And God didn’t give the Commandments as a kill-joy. God didn’t give the Commandments to limit what the people could do and make them unhappy.
No, God gave the Commandments to His people in order to protect them from His wrath. God warned the people against going up the mountain. The Lord directed Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the Lord; otherwise many of them will die.” Exodus 19:21 (CSB)
God has given His people a lot of freedom. He has set out a few boundaries and given us lots of freedom between the boundaries. But like any good parent, God gives us boundaries to protect us. When our children were little, we put covers over the electric outlets to protect our little ones. I remember the “shocking” experience I had when I borrowed my mom’s car keys and pretended to start my car by inserting a key in the outlet. I remembered it well and I wanted to protect my kids from repeating my childish antics.
God has given you boundaries. But He has also given you lots of freedom. Unfortunately, we often add to God’s restrictive boundaries and hem ourselves into our boundaries causing us to miss out on the vast freedom that God gives us.
God’s boundaries are very good. But as the fallen creatures we are, knowing we have the boundaries only tempts us to test and break out from the boundaries. That’s the whole purpose of the Law: to show us we don’t measure up to God’s standards and to show us our deep, deep need for Jesus’ grace and mercy to make us fit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus never did away with the Law; rather, He fulfilled it for us. (Matthew 5:17)
Take a few minutes to read back through the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus, knowing what I’ve just said about your covenant relationship with God and His desire to protect you. How does this understanding affect your application of the Ten Commandments?