Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Oct 8th)

Pastor's Summary of Exodus 20:1-20

The giving of the Ten Commandments marks the starting point of Isreal as a self-defining community. They form a covenant between God and Israel but, unlike God's agreements with Noah and Abraham, here, both parties have a stake in it, and either can break it.

The Israelities have arrived at Mount Sinai. They clear themselves physically and ritually, but it it Moses and Aaron who ascend the mountain. God speaks to all, to the whole community. He enters into the pact because "you shall be for me a...holy nation" (19:6). They are to have "no other gods before (or beside) me" (v. 3). In the ancient Near East, people commonly encountered gods in sculpted images, but the Israelites are not to do this (v. 4), because God is different; he demnds loyalty to him alone (v. 5); he punishes for a long time those who intentionally reject him, but rewards with compassion those who love him and follow his ways. Those who use God's name for a false or evil purpose (e.g. for casting spells, doing magic) will not be acquitted (v. 7) or held harmless. Each week, time is to be reserved for praying to, and worshipping, God. The Israelites must honor older people; doing so will contribute to their own longevity. Then vv. 13-17: life, marriage and property are sacred. Testifying falsely against another (or even spreading innuendos) is prohibited. Even coveting, desiring greatly, the possessions of others is prohibited. This scene of God's presence among humans ends as it began (in 19:16-19) with "thunder and lightning" (v. 18), trumpet blasts and "the mountain smoking". There being no evidence of vulcanism on the Sinai Peninsula, scholars think the description is poetic rather than literal: perhaps of a mountain storm in which God is present. In 19:2-25 God has appointed Moses as intermediary; in v. 19, the people accept Moses' role.

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