Exodus 20

A holy and righteous God has holy and righteous standards.
Those who love God will constantly endeavor to live as He requires, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

18 ¶ And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

22 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

24 ¶ An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

Exodus 20:1-17 – The “Ten Words” Spoken at Sinai

The Law was given by the disposition of angels, through the medium of Moses. See John 1:17; Acts 7:53. It tells us, not what God is, for that is only shown in Jesus Christ, but what man should be. It combines in a concise form that moral code which is part of the nature of things, and is written on man’s conscience. See Romans 2:5. Even the Fourth Commandment is deeply graven on our physical nature. These laws are mostly negative, but their positive side is stated in Matthew 5. For practical purposes this divine code consists of two divisions or tables; the first, of our duties toward God; the second, of those to man; but these are summed up in the one great law of love. See Mark 12:29-31; Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14. Our Lord Jesus stands surety for us at the bar of Sinai. By His righteousness imputed and imparted, by His obedience and death, by the gracious indwelling of His Spirit, He comes “not… to destroy, but to fulfill.” See Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:4. —Through the Bible Day by Day

If you find yourself beginning to love any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the House of God, any table better than the Lord’s table, any person better than Christ, or any indulgence better than the Pope of Heaven – take alarm. (Guthrie)

Exodus 20:18-26 – The People Fear; Idols and Altars

   When our Lord was on earth He was so attractive and winsome that the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him, penitents wept at His feet, children nestled to His heart. But even then there were some who desired Him to depart out of their coasts. So here, while Moses drew near, the people stood afar off. Let us not be among those who avoid the near presence of God, but of those who are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Let us exercise our right to draw near to the throne of grace, and stand in the very presence of our Father-God, because we have a great High Priest, who is passed through the heavens.
   At Exodus 20:22, we begin the Book of the Covenant, which extends to Exodus 23:33, containing a series of wholesome laws, and the first enactment deals with the worship of the Most High. Note that in all places He will record His Name. Everywhere we may worship Him. The altar had to be of earth, teaching us the lessons of humility, simplicity and self-abasement. See Hebrews 13:10. But always the adjustment with God precedes rightness toward man. —Through the Bible Day by Day

Exodus 20:21 – The thick darkness where God was.

   God is light, and dwells in light, but it is mercifully veiled to the weak eye of man. This is why Christ spake in parables—that seeing, they might not see. As Moses veiled his face when he spake to the people, so God veils Himself in the flesh of Jesus, in which He tabernacles; and in the mysteries of his providence, beneath which He conceals a smiling face. The Sun of Righteousness in whose beams we rejoice must needs hide beneath the cloud, else we should fall at his feet as dead. It may be that his light seems to us darkness, because of its excessive brilliance; but God dwells in the thick darkness—clouds and darkness are round about Him.
   The darkness of mystery.—God has still his hidden secrets, hidden from the wise and prudent. Do not fear them; be content to accept things you cannot understand; wait patiently. Presently He will reveal to you the treasures of darkness, the riches of the glory of the mystery. Mystery is only the veil on God’s face.
   The darkness of trial.—Do not be afraid to enter the cloud that is settling down on your life. God is in it. The other side is radiant with his glory. “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
   The darkness of desertion.—When you seem loneliest and most forsaken, God is nighest. Jesus once cried “Forsaken,” immediately after, “My God” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). God is in the dark cloud. Plunge into the blackness of its darkness without flinching—under the shrouding curtain of his pavilion you will find God awaiting you. —Our Daily Homily

How wonderfully life loses all fear to the soul that has been called apart, alone, into some darkness and has found God there. “Morning dawns from His face,” and what light is like the light that rises upon those who touch God’s right hand in the darkness and are lifted up and strengthened? (G. Guinness)