Today’s Reading: Exodus 19-27
At Mount Sinai, God entered into a covenant relationship with the people of Israel. In Exodus 19-23, God taught the people who He was and what it should look like for them to have a covenant relationship with Him. What first appears to be a list of instructions or rules (10 Commandments) is actually God teaching His children about who He is – about His ethical character and holiness.
A lot of what God required in this covenant relationship in Exodus is the same that He requires of us today. His instructions on how we can live in relationship with Him include how we live in relationship with others. He clearly instructs us in regards to how His people should treat one another. To love God is to love others.
If we are to enter into a relationship with the Most Holy God, we must live a life of holiness. It is not simply about salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Once we have been rescued from the bondage of our sins, we are to live out our faith daily in the glory of the presence of God, manifesting His holy character.
You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a god who is jealous [passionate] about his relationship with you. – Exodus 34:14
The first four commandments help us understand our Holy God and why He must have our undivided attention. He is the Lord our God and nothing should be more important than Him. We are to treat His name as holy and dedicate the Sabbath to Him. Our covenant relationship with Him requires that we give Him first place in our lives – that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. – Exodus 20:6
The next six commandments are about how we are to treat one another: Honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not testify falsely against your neighbor and do not covet what your neighbor has. God then laid out additional requirements regarding how our covenant relationship with Him should be reflected in our relationships with those around us – how we should treat one another fairly.
But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise. – Exodus 21:23-25
This concept of equal response to the crime or injustice is repeated more than once in the Old Testament. The people’s sinful response was to “one up” each other or respond harsher than the initial mistreatment, so God is instructing them to pay back in kind. It is the law of retaliation. The penalty must fit the crime.
Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted – a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind. – Leviticus 24:19-20
But Jesus showed us a whole new way to love God by loving others. What if we did not retaliate at all? Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” – Matthew 5:38-42
Love God, love people. This is a great way to sum up the 10 Commandments given to Moses, which is exactly how Jesus summed up all the Law of Moses when asked by the Pharisees which commandment was the most important.
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40
God, I love you so much but I ask for you to teach me how to love you more. It is such a joy and privilege to be in a covenant relationship with you. I long to understand you, to be filled with your holiness so that I can love you by loving others. Help me to live out my faith daily through my actions – that my response to your holy character would show in my ability to love others the way you love me. God, only you are capable of producing this kind of love in my heart. Fill me with who you are, lavish me with your unfailing love. Amen.