The people of Israel have been travelling through the desert for some 50 days after fleeing Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. They have received bread and food from heaven with the coming of the manna and quails. They have received water from a rock when they demanded it from God and been attacked by the Amalek’s. It’s not been all plain and easy sailing. They arrive at Mt Sinai, the place that God promised Moses that would be the sign that God was with him and the people. And it is here that this new people – remember the metaphor of coming through the water – receive a set of commandments to help them be all that God is hopeful that they will become. Exodus is the story of how God brought about what happened to this wandering tribe. It is not best expressed as history in a modern sense, but rather as the story the people told of how God had worked in their history. In today’s story we have one such example of this. Amidst the brilliant descriptive language of mountaintops, ram’s horns, thunder and lightning and dense cloud, comes a relatively simple and straightforward set of rules around which a community could start to coalesce. Here we have the wisdom of this early community starting to grapple with what it means to be a nation in covenant with God.
These are the demands that living in covenant with God brings.
God has shown God’s part of the covenant by enabling the people’s escape from slavery, now the response of the people is sought to allow the covenant to continue in good health for generations to come. The commandments are a codification of that wisdom, beautifully crafted in just such a way that they give clarification where needed and allow space for interpretation where that too will be needed.
This reminds me of our own covenant of community and the work that we have been doing around this. It’s not finished, there is still work to be done, but let’s explore that a little more with these 10 Commandments in mind. When we last looked at these 10 Commandments, we saw the split between the commandments. Some were about our relationship with God and the rest were about our relationship with each other. Let’s explore more together.