Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house where you were servants.
- “Have no gods other than Me.
- “Do not make for yourselves a god to look like anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.
- “Do not worship them or work for them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish the children, even the great-grandchildren, for the sins of their fathers who hate Me. But I show loving-kindness to thousands of those who love Me and keep My Laws.
- “Do not use the name of the Lord your God in a false way. For the Lord will punish the one who uses His name in a false way.
For those who are hurting, victimized, lost and alone, healing begins with a glimpse of who God is. He is not like the ones who hurt us – but he is One who has our best interests at heart for survival, growth and thriving.
It may not seem that way here in this passage as we see the harsh “Do nots” of God’s laws. But remember where Israel has been. They lived in Egypt where many cruel gods determined the everyday fate of the people. Everyone who camped around Mt Sinai grew up under their fickle thumbs. The people didn’t really understand who this new God was, even though they had seen his miraculous works. Many of the people still thought of him as just another god, except more powerful, more able to crush them if he chose to.
In order to heal from their ordeal of slavery, the children of Israel needed to see God as distinct and separate from the gods of Egypt. They needed to build a relationship with him based on who he was rather than on their past experience. Here at the base of Mt. Sinai, God wanted to reveal himself to them as a distinct and unique God, not like the gods they’ve known.
So he laid out the rules of this new relationship for them – rules that are still applicable for us today as we heal:
- He calls us to seek him and worship him alone, above al others, because Jehovah God is all we need. Things don’t need to be complicated. He can do it all – offering his presence, his provision and protection to his people.
- He is Spirit and Truth. Sometimes as human beings. we feel we need a “God with skin” that we can see, touch and hold to feel comforted – especially when things are at their worst. Yet, when we hold God in the palm of our hands, we limit who he is and what he can do for, in and through us. We take control of our own lives, rather than trusting in God. Letting go of that control and trusting the God who created the universe is a huge step for those of us who have been conditioned to fear because of the past abuse.
- The gods of Egypt controlled the people, preventing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth both as a nation, and as individuals.. God doesn’t control us – he provides challenges and opportunities for us to reach the fullest potential that he created in us. Sin cycles down through the generations bringing punishment and death. Did you know that a mother who was sexually abused as a child is more likely to set the stage for her daughters to suffer that same abuse without the Lord’s intervention? But through a trusting relationship with Christ, those cycles can be broken, not only allowing us to experience true freedom to reach our full potential, but freedom for future generations as well!
- The fourth commandment places the burden of trust squarely on our shoulders. God cannot do anything for us unless and until we trust him with all our hearts. What is in our hearts will eventually make its way out of our mouths. The Israelites didn’t know God – their complaints and grumbling erupted from the fear they still experienced. As we learn to know him and as we heal through this relationship, he will ease those fears. The joy. love and respect for our God will be the words that come out of our hearts because of our experiences. It doesn’t happen overnight – it is a lifelong process that comes out of an ever evolving relationship.
It’s easy to look at these commandments as rigid rules that choke our spirits. At the time they were given, God was confronting severe damage in the hearts of the people – damage and pain that was fresh in their hearts. They needed the strong words to force them to look at the God who had delivered them. Yet, there was love in the sternness as he gave them these words as guides for a relationship that would heal and rebuild the hearts of his people.
Today these are enriched by the visual picture of God’s love through the gift of Jesus, sent to die for us to bring healing from the damage of sin and abuse. Jesus summed up these four important commands this way – we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and spirits.
When he fills our hearts, there is no room for fear, pain and sin because the relationship we need most fills us completely.