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Monday, 7 February 2022
The First Commandment

Last Friday I finished a 20 part series on the tension between Law and Grace. They are all available through our website at this address. syknox.org/blog. Of course, they are also available here too.

I was praying about where to go from here. Having finished the series on Law and Grace (as I said); what better place than the 10 Commandments, the quintessential Decalog? They first appear in Exodus 20 which was part of our Torah reading a few weeks ago. The 10 Commandments, Aseret haDibrot (The Ten Words) are repeated in the Torah, in chapter 5 of Deuteronomy. However, the 2 versions are not quite identical.

So, if I asked you, "What is the first of the 10 Commandments," how would you answer me? It may also depend if you're Talmudic Jewish oriented or Hellenistic Jewish or Gentile Christian oriented. Talmudic Jewish oriented people would quote Exodus 20:2 while Hellenistic Jewish and Gentile Christian oriented people would add Exodus 20:3.

Exodus 20:2 I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Special note: The next verse, Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before Me. flip flops. It is appended to verse 2 as part of the first commandment by most Gentile authors and commentators and appended to verse 4 as part of the second commandment by most Jewish authors and commentators. End SN.

Wait a minute (you might say), Verse 2, by itself, doesn't even sound like a commandment. It's a statement. A commandment tells us what to do. The statement of verse 2 doesn't tell us to do anything. Here it is again ... Exodus 20:2 I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. What's the commandment?

The commandment is implied. Know God, the one true and living God. The one God Who brought you out of Egypt. (Remember to whom God was speaking.) This is critical to all the other commandments and the rest of the Bible. There is a Hebrew phrase engraved in the mantle above the doors of the Ark (where we keep our Torah). It is a version of a quote found throughout the Talmud and widely used in many synagogues. It says in Hebrew (but I'm giving you transliterated Hebrew here), Da Lifney Mi Ata Omed. It means, "Know before Whom you stand."

Could there be a greater commandment than the voice of God speaking directly to you and me, saying, "I am the Lord your God." The commandment is so great, that it is mostly unspoken, but easily understood. God wants us to know Him. He's introducing Himself. Beyond the introduction, He is appointing Himself as your personal God.

Jewish people struggle theologically with a personal God. We easily understand that we are the people of God, the twelve tribes, people of the Book, but to have a personal relationship with God is widely viewed as a Christian invention. This is what continually got Yeshua into trouble with the Jewish leaders.

John 5:17-18 But Yeshua said to them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working." So for this reason the Judean leaders kept trying even harder to kill Him - because He was not only breaking Shabbat, but also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

It seems very Jewish to call on "our Father." "Avinu Malkaynu" means "our Father, our King" and is the beginning of hundreds of liturgical prayers. But we never say my Father, my King. Yet the first commandment is written, quoting the words of God, as they were spoken, individually to you and me. In English "you" can be singular or plural, but in Hebrew there are different constructions if you're speaking to more than one "you." God is introducing Himself and appointing Himself individually as, "The Lord your God." Miss this, and the rest of the Bible loses its significance. Get it right, and be one of His children.

Posted By Rabbi Michael Weiner, 11:00am Comment Comments: 0