The Wilderness Wanderer - Week Two: "Shalls & Shall Nots"

Today we are continuing our sermon series entitled "The Wilderness Wanderer: Lessons from the Life of Moses."  

In this installment we will focus on the "Shalls and Shall Nots" of the Ten Commandments.  And we're going to be learning that sometimes the bar that is set by religious guidelines can be simultaneously too high, and extremely low, depending on where you're at in terms of your faith journey. 

Let's talk for a bit about the Ten Commandments.  

There's been a few cinematic depictions of the story that we're going to be reading: 

Charlton Heston, and his big old beard. 

Mel Brooks, and the 15--no 10 Commandments. 

Prince of Egypt. 

They have also been the subject of some controversy as battle lines have been drawn about where these commandments should be displayed. 

Images of Ten Commandments in public spaces - protest 

The problem with the Ten Commandments is that it's not really only "ten commandments." There ended up being over 600 rules and regulations attached to these commandments.  

And the idea of living biblically---at least in the way that the Jewish authors of the Bible lived---is just too dang hard to do. 

"The Year of Living Biblically" - A.J. Jacobs

"A Year of Biblical Womanhood" - Rachel Held Evans

Paul had some hard things to say about the Torah, even though he kept it.  He said that all it was good for was to show you all the ways you messed up, and didn't keep the laws, because no one could. 

Jesus took things farther, by calling out the religious leaders of his day for piling on more and more rules on the backs of people when they didn't even get the essence of any of the commands themselves. 

His teaching was grounded in the notion that drawing close to God and seeking God's shalom in the world was the highest form of reverence and obedience. 


How we got to this moment---left Egypt went to a sacred mountain in No Where

The Ten Commandments--a foundation for living differently, a way of living that set the Hebrew people apart from their Mesopotamian neighbors. 

It was a radical way of living for former slaves, who needed to remember.  

Exodus 20:1-4; 7-9; 12-20

20:1 Then God spoke all these words:

20:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.

20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

20:7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

20:13 You shall not murder.

20:14 You shall not commit adultery.

20:15 You shall not steal.

20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

20:18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,

20:19 and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die."

This is important because in this moment, it feels like the law of God creates a distance between God and the people. 

20:20 Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."

Understanding "test" and "fear" not about distance---but intimacy.  This is a God wanting a covenant relationship--the kind that binds God to God's people and vice versa. 

The most important lesson in all of this was the one about drawing close to God—the commandments were centered on that very idea: Proximity

Where Do We Go Wrong With This?  What Can We Do Right?

1. From 10 to 600+ - Simplistic to Impossible. Grace gets left out. 

2. These guidelines can offer us a new life--if we focus on Proximity. 

3. If what we're doing creates barriers to God--maybe it's not worth doing. 

“The whole bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn't mean we can't use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways. ” A.J. Jacobs 

4. The 11th Commandment--Do Not Be Afraid - the most wonderful one of all. 



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