Commands From Freedom (20:2)

It is not natural to associate commandments with freedom, but that is what Exodus 20 is all about.  Israel has just been given freedom.  God reminds them of their new freedom as He provides the 10 Commandments.  Unless we understand this connection between God’s freedom and God’s commands we will run from God in the name of personal liberty.

As human beings made in the image of God, we will worship and we will serve.  For us to resist this in the name of “freedom” is like a fish who hates water because it wants to swim on its own terms.  God does not take our freedom by giving us commands.  His commands define the only environment in which our freedom can be satisfyingly and lastingly experienced.

Reflection:  In what ways do you see freedom and commands as opposites?  What authority figures contributed to this distortion?  How have you made God in the image of those authorities?  How would seeing the synonymous nature of God’s commands and God’s freedom increase your trust in God and reliance upon His Word?

A Jealous God (20:5)

God is the only being in existence for whom it is completely right and holy for Him to be self-centered.  For God to delight in anything more than Himself would be idolatry.  It is God’s mind and will that fill the world with beauty, order, and life.  When every eye is upon God and every heart focused upon God the entire world runs without friction, resistance, pain, or sorrow.

For this reason, God is a jealous God.  It is for the love and preservation of the world (God’s great masterpiece) that God demands no rivals, imitations, or off-brands.  In this seeming contradiction (just like God’s grace and justice), God is both self-centered and other-minded at the same time.  He delights in Himself and demands this of the world for the best interest of all.

Reflection:  We are not called to be like God in jealousy for self.  This can be hard and seem unfair.  Imagine a parent and child on a plane.  There is turbulence and the air masks have a reason to come down.  The most loving thing the parent can do is put on their air mask first.  Unless they do, the child is doomed.  Once that is done the child can be served.  While God does not have any of the survival needs we do, this captures some of the compassion of God’s jealousy.

Family Values

In Exodus 19 God was reclaiming His children from exile.  One of the first things God does with this unruly people was to establish the moral principles of His people.  God’s instructions were more than “be nice, treat others well, and don’t get on my nerves.”  After laying down 10 foundational laws, God spent three more chapters unpacking and illustrating them (Exodus 21-23).

Christian families need to establish and communicate their moral values.  These values need to be well thought out.  Notice the structure of the 10 Commandments – numbers 1-4 discuss our relationship with God and have the most detail; number 5 orders the home and has some detail; and numbers 6-10 cover broader social contexts.

Here are suggestions for establishing these types of values within your home.

  • Parents should be able to demonstrate how they live out the values and be willing to be held accountable to the values of the home.
  • During discipline the infraction should be explained in lights of its violation of the family’s core values.  Specific rules may change with season of life, but emerge from the guiding values of the family.
  • Occasions of blessing and joy within the family should be times when the effectiveness and “true freedom” of these values are discussed and celebrated.
  • As more specific rules are developed (and they will be) time should be taken to show how the specific rule gives wise guidance to the current situation.  By this process the values provide a way to teach not only what to think but also how to think.
  • Parents should be able to use the values of their home as a basis for evaluating the balanced and complete character development of their children.  These discussions between parents allow for discipline and instruction to be more accurate and concise.

As you seek to lead your family into a greater experience of God’s freedom, use these suggestions to evaluate how you use the core values of your home.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.