Archive for the ‘Ten Commandments’ Tag

Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

MAY 27, 2023


The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12


Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.










Devotion for the Fourteenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Exodus and Luke, Part VI: Extending Compassion to Others

APRIL 22, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 6:20-38


Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

–Luke 6:36, The New Jerusalem Bible


And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

–Exodus 32:14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Old habits are difficult to break.  This fact does not excuse anyone from not trying hard enough; no it just means that one might have to expend extra effort.  Among those habits is idolatry.  An idol can be an image, a concept, an activity, or a book.  One makes something an idol by allowing it to distract one form God.  Idols are ubiquitous.  I wonder, in fact, how many of the Ten Commandments yard signs I see are idols for those who have erected them.  And, living in Athens, Georgia, the most prominent idol seems to be University of Georgia athletics, especially football.  How many times have I heard fans describe to me as being “like a religion”?

In Exodus 32 we read of part of the notorious Golden Calf incident.  God, quite angry intends to destroy the Israelites there and then, but Moses talks God down.  I wonder where we would be had God’s Plan A (as presented in the chapter) become reality.  For the sake of truth and accuracy in biblical summary, there is plenty of bad news for the Israelites later in the chapter.  Yet I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

As I have written many times in various devotional posts, with God one finds both judgment and mercy.  Today’s readings emphasize the latter element.  And we are supposed to extend compassion to one another, just as God has done so to us.  But, if one insists on judging others, one should look out

…because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.

–Luke 6:38, The New Jerusalem Bible

The offset to this, of course, is grace.  Nevertheless, I am not a Christian Universalist, nor do I deny the reality of chastisement from God.

Each of us has a personality which marks us as an introvert or an extrovert.  These are the ways God has made us, and there is no sin in being the person God made one to be.  Indeed, different varieties of Christianity are tied more to one pole than to the other.  Evangelicalism, in my experience, is quite extroverted, whereas Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, with their monastic traditions, recognize the spiritual validity and richness of introversion.  As an introvert, I feel drawn toward the latter, not the former.  I have adopted a lifestyle which is akin to a version of monasticism without a cloister or vows; I am monkish.  These lectionary-based devotional posts flow from some of the solitude I seek and find.  As for extroverts, they can be wonderful company, and I recognize their spiritual gifts.  I am merely wired differently.  If we were all the same, the world would be a greatly diminished place, would it not?

May each of us extend compassion to others in a manner consistent with how God made us.







Devotion for the Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  A Trail in the Woods

Image Source = Daniel Case

Exodus and Luke, Part I: The Path to Life Itself

APRIL 16, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-24

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 4:1-15


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I Do Not Ask, O Lord:

O Jesus, I Have Promised:

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:


Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.”

–Exodus 20:17, TANAKH:  the Holy Scriptures


But Jesus answered him, “Scripture days:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

–Luke 4:12, The New Jerusalem Bible


Do not try the LORD your God, as you did at Massah.

Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you….

–Deuteronomy 6:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Much of the Hebrews Scriptures, written in Hebrew and translated in other languages many times, was originally oral tradition.  It was part of the oral tradition for a long time, so, when people began to write it down, they knew how the stories ended.  The pledge to obey God’s commandments in Exodus 20 is something one reads in context of the rest of the story.  The people will disobey, of course.  So the ending helps define the meaning of earlier parts of the story.

With this post the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary of 2006 I am following  leaves the the Letter to the Hebrews behind.  Now we find the Gospel of Luke paired with the Book of Exodus.  We pick up in Luke 4, after the Advent and Christmas material, the baptism of Jesus, and the arrest of St. John the Baptist.  So we begin with the temptation of Jesus–classic Lenten material in most lectionaries.  The common thread here between the two main readings is testing, so the choice of Luke 4:1-15 works well.

God can test the people’s loyalty–that is the divine right–so that a sense of fear–awe and respect, really–will be in the people, who will then not go astray.  But when people go astray, they put God to the test–try God.  And Jesus passes his test with flying colors; he obeys God.

I have commented on the Ten Commandments in other posts to which I have provided links.  There is far more to write about the Ten Commandments, of course.  Foster R. McCurley, Jr., in Exodus, a 1969 adult Christian education resource, offered this summary germane to this point:

These Ten Commandments were given  to Israel by Yahweh to guide her in her life of covenant.  They were the expression of the Lord’s will for the way the redeemed people should live.  But it happened that the very commandments which were given as a guide turned out to accuse the people of their sin against God and their breach of covenant responsibilities.  Thus, the law, including these commandments, convicted and accused Israel–just as it accuses us–and drives all sinners to the need for a savior.  In the Lutheran tradition this accusing element is the chief use of the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian.

–Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Church Press, 1969, pages 94-95

This prompted me to recall St. Paul the Apostle’s passage in Romans 4:13-17, in which he wrote of Abraham, the Law, faith, and justification with God.  In particular I thought of this part:

…law can bring only retribution, and where there is no law there can be no breach of law.  The promise was made on the ground of faith in order that it might be a matter of sheer grace.

–Romans 4:15-16a, Revised English Bible

So the reality of law, and therefore of violation thereof, convicts us of our sinfulness.  Fortunately, we have a Savior–not a mere martyr or hero of whom to make flattering statements–but a Savior to follow.  How each of us ought to do that is different, for we come to God in varying circumstances, with different gifts and societal issues and barriers, and at a variety of times and places.  My path of discipleship as an educated white male in the State of Georgia in 2012 is not that of an illiterate female in a traditional and chauvinistic culture at this time or that of a highly educated male in previous times.  So, regardless of the particulars of what your path ought to be, O reader, I encourage you to follow it.  It is the path to life itself.  Meanwhile, I try to follow my path.  If we both succeed, we will arrive at the same destination.







Third Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt van Rijn


MARCH 7, 2021


Exodus 20:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

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. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

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.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work– you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

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

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

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.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves,

Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!

His disciples remembered that it was written,

Zeal for your house will consume me.

The Jews then said to him,

What sign can you show us for doing this?

Jesus answered them,

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

The Jews then said,

This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?

But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 


Some Related Posts

Third Sunday in Lent, Year A

Exodus 20:

1 Corinthians 1:


I grew up in the Bible Belt of southern Georgia U.S.A.  My parents taught me to engage my brain fully when considering the Bible, a fact for which I bless them.  That training continues to serve me well.  To this day, if I had to live in certain counties in Georgia–for example, those without an Episcopal congregation–I would not attend church, for I doubt that I could find a place to worship and to engage mind within the same walls without incurring scornful looks.  I am about to demonstrate why this is true.

One feature of Jewish law is that it is supposedly revealed–not subject to human reason–but revealed.  Yet I propose that there is great moral and intellectual danger in going on autopilot with regard to the Law of Moses.  For example, some of the Ten Commandments, printed above in English translation, classify women along with livestock and property.  Others do not question the moral legitimacy of slavery.  And other parts of the Law of Moses are quick to condemn people to death.  Just flip over to Exodus 21.

One can cherry pick the parts of the Law of Moses which confirm one’s opinions concerning a variety of issues, but this constitutes intellectual dishonesty if one claims to take the Bible literally and to consider the Book inerrant and infallible.  The truth is that we who read the book must pick and choose, for we cannot keep all of it, due to contradictions.  This is especially true if we are Christians.

So, as one does not accept biblical inerrancy or infallibility, but who takes the Bible quite seriously, I choose to follow the Law of Love:  What does love require?  I can ignore Exodus 21:7f, which begins with selling one’s daughter into slavery, for the Law of Love proscribes that such an act is never appropriate.  And, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), I can overlook the commandment to put to death a child who curses his mother or father (Exodus 21:17).

The Johannine Gospel, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, places our Lord’s cleansing of the Temple at the inaugural phase of his ministry.  (The Synoptics place this event just a few days before his crucifixion.)  Thus the author of the Gospel of John has Jesus begin his ministry by questioning and protesting publicly the Temple system of animal sacrifices, one which many people could not afford.  It was also true that the conversion of Roman currency (technically idolatrous, for it bore the allegedly divine Emperor’s image) into money religiously appropriate for the purchase of a sacrificial animal benefited not only the money changers but also the Temple authorities financially.  This economic exploitation galled Jesus.  For Jesus, love trumped all else.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 speaks of Christ as being a stumbling block and a portal simultaneously.  The purpose of the Incarnation was not to erect a stumbling block but, if that is what one makes Jesus, that is what he is for that person.  Jesus is love incarnate.  For many of us (in the general sense) pure love and compassion are terrifying, for they break down the barriers we use to define our reality.  Who is an insider?  Who is an outsider?  Who is pure?  Who is impure?  Who is saved?  Who is damned?  We have our own answers, as does God.  These answers conflict quite often.  God, I suspect, is generally more merciful than we are.