What does it say?
Something momentous is happening (Exo 19), as God calls Moses to ascend Mt. Sinai. Israel is about to enter into a new level of relationship with God, and the people affirm their willingness to obey him. On the third day in the morning (something else big happened the morning of the third day), God gives Israel a massive audio/visual display of his majesty.
The Ten Commandments (Exo 20) form the foundation of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Four commandments govern the relationship between God and man, while the remaining six cover relationships among people. God seals the covenant by commanding Israel to set up an altar of pure stone with no human workmanship added.
God gives instruction to apply this law to various scenarios of everyday life in their culture (Exo 21). As you read, try to find principles that deal with what we call today murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, assault and battery, accidental death, negligent manslaughter and accidents on private property.
What does it mean?
Principles of truth like the Ten Commandments are sweeping and open to specific application. Four of the Ten Commandments deal with God and man; the others regulate interpersonal relationships. The other laws given to Moses are the specific application of these ten to Israeli society. This is why Jesus (and others) summarized all the scriptures into one Great Commandment to love God and neighbor (Mat 22:35-40; Luke 10:25-28; Rom 12:8-9).
Some try to make specific application of every detail in the Old Testament Law to believers in all ages. Some try to distinguish between moral and ceremonial law, but those attempts always break down, because no one is qualified to say which is which. With the Law, God’s story takes on added structure and prepares us for the coming Messiah. Jesus did not abolish the Law; he fulfilled it. He lived the righteousness that we never could. No one has ever consistently kept the Ten Commandments. Today we can live righteously “in Christ” (Gal 2:20).
How will I respond?
As I continue reading the Law, I will continually remind myself to look for the truth and principle behind the regulation. More than that, I will focus on how everything is summarized in the Great Commandment to love God and others. What one thing might I do today to express my love toward God and my love for another human being?