We’re continuing our Word Nerd Wednesday study of numbers in the Bible this week with Katie Chew’s great rundown on the significance of the number Ten.
It was three months to the day since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt by the Mighty hand of God (Exodus 19:1). In those three months and the months leading up to the Exodus, Moses saw some of the greatest miracles the world has ever known and witnessed some of the darkest depths of humanity. He saw the juxtaposition of humility and pride, awe and complaint, the supernatural and the mundane, overwhelming fear and overjoyed celebration. He saw God provide water, food, escape and victory over various enemies.
God Fulfills His Promises to Moses
And on this day, he would see fulfilled one of the first promises he received from God when God spoke to him through the burning bush. “And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). The story goes on, “Moses said to God, ‘ Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14).
It is here we enter into the story and find Moses. Sent by the I AM to deliver his people from bondage in Egypt, Moses has returned to worship God on the very mountain he first encountered Him. It is here, where God first offered his Name and began to reveal his character to Moses that the I AM would reveal even more of who He is. It is in this same place that the I AM would reveal not only his Name, but his heart for his people and his desires for their lives. It is here He gives Moses the ten commandments.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are often referred to as the ten words or sayings, the decalogue (Elliot’s). They are the first ten of the 613 laws that the Israelites would use for governing, and they show us much of the character of God. In these ten sayings, we see God’s desire for order, for honor, for a moral code that extends beyond our sinful, human nature. We see his desire to be supreme in our lives—our first love and our only God. Interestingly enough, the ten commandments are set up in the very pattern that was typically used in ancient Middle Eastern treaties between a King and his vassals or subjects (Nelson, 121).
You see, God had drawn his people out of slavery and was claiming his right as their King. It is the very reason why, when the Israelites later demanded a human king to be like other nations, God responded to Samuel:
“Listen to all the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.”1 Samuel 8:7-8
The I AM desired to be their King.
And as their King, He desired order. He desired a nation set apart. He desired his people to trust his ways and to submit to his laws. We first glimpse it here: God’s desire for something more for us. His desire for the peace, order and relationship that was lost in Eden. He offers glimpses of it throughout the Bible until it is manifested in Jesus, the Son of God, sent to earth to fully reverse the curse. It is through these laws that we begin to see the heart of the Lawmaker and his desires for his people.
At the time, the Israelites wholeheartedly agreed (Exodus 19:8). They failed, as we all do, but God made a way for his people to be made clean of their transgressions through sacrifice. Not only so, but his laws pointed to the pure and spotless lamb, Jesus the Son of the Living God, who laid down his life in order to cleanse us from our sins. Jesus, the eternal sacrifice that redeems us. The Word of God made flesh. The spirit of the Law of God incarnate.
And His Word is still life today, friends.
His laws still speak of His character and His heart, and they are worth knowing and seeking out. His desires for us are still good. His laws still ring true. And his heart still beats with a desire for us to be something more than our sinful selves. He desires us to be made holy and pure. He desires sacrifice and obedience. He desires love for him and one another. He desires lives surrendered to him and his ways so that we might bear fruit and live lives that are set apart. There is nothing easy about it, but thanks be to God for the grace that covers us by the blood of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that lives and works in us to live our lives as vassals to the King of Kings.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Ed. Radmacher, Allen, and House. Published by Thomas Nelson in Nashville, Tennessee, 1999. Page 121.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Exodus 20. Accessed through biblehub.com.
Bible translation used: NIV