Summary: God gave the 10 commandments as a covenant gift to his people and he wants them written on our hearts.
In 1955, The Fraternal Order of Eagles placed monuments of the Ten Commandments in public parks, at schools, and in front of municipal buildings around the country as gifts to honor individuals and special events. The first one was donated in Milwaukee, Wis., in a public event involving the director of the movie Ten Commandments and actor Yul Brenner, who played the Pharaoh in the film.
Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about these monuments. In courtrooms all across the U.S., public displays of the 10 commandments have come into question. It is estimated that there are some 4,000 such displays in the U.S. and more and more of them are coming under scrutiny.
In 2002, in West Union, Ohio, a federal court ruled that 3-foot-high stone tablets displaying the Ten Commandments should be removed from the county’s four public schools because they appear to be a government endorsement of religion. The tablets were donated by the local ministerial association in 1997. The school board voted to appeal.
The arguments on both sides are interesting. On the one hand, some Christians seem to deny that these commandments are religious. They call them expressions of our culture or part of our tradition. On the other hand, some atheists say they are religious and that they refer to the Judaeo-Christian God.
These arguments remind me of the time a man got a permit to open a tavern in a small town. The members of a local church were strongly opposed, so they began to pray that God would intervene. A few days before the tavern was scheduled to open, lightning hit it and it burned to the ground. The people of the church were surprised but pleased, until they received notice that the tavern owner was suing them. He said their prayers were responsible for the burning of the building. They denied the charge. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the judge remarked, "At this point I don’t know what my decision will be, but it seems that the tavern owner believes in the power of prayer and these church people don’t.”(Source unknown)
If you had asked Moses and the people of Israel about the 10 commandments, their answer would have been absolutely clear. These 10 words, as the Jews called them, were the words of a holy God, given to guide his people, to help them understand his plan, his power and purpose.
During these weeks leading up to Christmas, we are focusing on the book of Exodus. On the first Sunday we considered God’s plan for his people. While it appeared to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt that God had forgotten them, we learn in the early chapters of Exodus (2:24) that God heard their groaning and that God remembered his covenant. God was not sleeping during their oppression; he had a plan and he was working it out, just as he did in time for the birth of Jesus.
We need to be reminded that when the floor gives way, the walls fall down, and the roof caves in, that is not the end. God is working in ways we don’t see or understand. He has a plan. He may take a long time to develop it, but he never fails to fulfill it.
Last Sunday we focused on God’s power and we saw how God delivered his people from slavery. These were people who had no riches of their own. They had no military might. They had no government. The Bible makes clear that the power of God set them free. God persuaded the pharaoh. God instructed them how to get out. God parted the waters that blocked their path.
God works through his power. Eph.3:20.
When we read Luke’s account of Christmas we see how God’s power operated. A woman too old to have children became pregnant. Mary, a young woman who had no way of bearing a child, gave birth to Jesus. God’s power was evident everywhere.
Many of you can attest to God’s power at work in ways you didn’t expect. God surprised you in the way he provided for you or healed you. And you give thanks to God.
Eventually, these Hebrew people get to Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses had seen the burning bush. And there they receive the 10 commandments. (Ex. 20). For most of us, the idea of having 10 commands to obey doesn’t give us a warm fuzzy feeling. Maybe we see laws and commands as rules that restrict our behavior, keep us from having fun and enjoying life. But let me see if I can frame this picture in a different way.
Let’s begin with a story of suppose. Suppose you need a new kidney and a friend of yours offered one of his or hers to you.