Exodus Part Two: Deep Dive
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: WHAT DO WE DO WITH THEM TODAY? | RYAN KERRISON
How incredible would it have been to see a mountain shaking?! Or in the Hebrew, ‘Käl-hähär m'od’ (the whole mountain trembled exceedingly). Hyperbole or not, the image conjured in this narrative recount is awe-inspiring! This is what is written in Exodus 19:18. The author is describing a literal interpretation of the presence of God, inhabiting Mount Sanai, right before He imparts the Ten Commandments and additional laws to Moses, Aaron, and the nation of Israel in Chapter 20.
These laws, whilst not explicitly articulated within scripture, can be helpfully divided into three categories; the Moral Law, the Civil Law, and Ceremonial Law. For this deep dive, we’ll be focusing on the Ten Commandments themselves, the Moral Law.
The Moral, or Apodictic Law, simply referring to regulations or divine commands that have been clearly established and are beyond dispute, was given to the people of Israel for many reasons, more than I can hope to unpack and do justice in this deep dive alone. However, we can look together at the text and see potential reasons for the administration of the Law, and what it could mean for us today.
This concept is huge and literally the entire bible talks about it. Essentially, a covenant is defined as this: ‘an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man (kind) that stipulates the conditions of their relationship’. In the case of the Mosaic Covenant, (the covenant made by God with Moses on behalf of all of Israel, including the Ten Commandments) which was a covenant detailing laws which were given for a time, essentially emulating what is known as a ‘suzerainty treaty’ – for further reading check out the resources below. God employs this type of Hittite treaty to display His divine love and sovereignty and power as the Deliverer of Israel from their captivity in Egypt.
2. Moral Law
This is the most common view of the Ten Commandments and is still used comprehensively throughout legal systems today. This is referring to the method we use to differentiate between right and wrong, be that dictated by external guidelines or the conscience within oneself. This Law is the moral standard of God, and is set before Israel not to propose an obligation or benchmark for salvation (this is not and never has been the case), but as an intentional demonstration by God to reveal their fallen state and to usher them to the realisation of the coming Messiah, the One who would fulfill the Law and replace it, in turn offering a new covenant, not just to the Israelites, but to all of humanity.
3. Devotion to God
This final aspect involves the consecration and dedication by the Jewish people. The Israelites were, in fact, the people of God, chosen by Him for deliverance, relationship, and ultimately to be privileged with the responsibility of presenting, through their heritage, the Saviour of the world. The commandments and laws were given to assist the Israelites in their separation from sin and to enhance their devotion to God. The law enabled them to be able to know the nature of God and simultaneously know the perils of sin.
With these three key aspects of the law established, you may begin to shape in your heart and mind an impression of God you previously never had. He is not a Father with impossible standards, vindictive and waiting to see you fail, He is compassionate enough that He shows humanity that they need not uphold this covenant forever, and that ongoing sacrifice of livestock and lifestyle by a sinful people was never the intended methodology of reconciliation to God. Jesus was and is the ultimate Satisfier and Abolisher of the Law and it is by faith in Christ alone that we are justified. There is a new covenant which has come! Galatians 3:24 declares that Christ is the New Covenant, the eternal one, who shall never pass away.
Paul and the Law Keeping the Commandments of God: Brian S. Rosner
The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology: Jason Meyer
40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law: Thomas R. Schreiner