Tuesday, 16 February 2021
The first commandment and your identity
In our study through Exodus, we have seen Israel go through the Red Sea, receive the commandments from the Lord directly, and recognize its need for an intercessor. Our study of identity will continue to be the focus, as we take a look at the law more closely. Let's look a little more deeply at the ways that identity is shown through the commandments. Because identity is reflexive (that is reflected from someone or others), relationship is the most important part of identity.
The first commandment, I think, is correctly identified as Exodus 20:2. This is "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Although, it may be a little hidden, this statement actually contains all the relational elements of identity contained within the entire law. That is, we have an element that relates to God's identity; an element that relates to the community's identity; a statement that relates to an individual's identity; and, finally, a statement that relates to the identity of the community in relationship to itself (its own connectedness).
Any statement that begins with, "I am ..." is a statement of being (identity). This part of the verse 2, relates directly with an aspect God's identity. There is one statement in Exodus that relates to every aspect of God's identity at once. This, of course, is the "I am that I am," statement. Our goal is to be more like Yeshua. According to Galatians 3:28, we receive, when we become his disciples, an identity, based in Yeshua, this identity transcends our calling as individuals whether it's cultural, gender, or class based.
The first part of Exodus 20:2 says, "I am the Lord ..." this is His basic identity, this is who he is (as it relates to us), "who brought you out of" is a type of identity based activity. This also requires a transcendent element, which we will be covered in at a different time. The "land of Egypt" is the former identity of Israel. It indicates, not only where Israel was, (geographically), but that Israel only had a loose connectedness. This is important to understand because when the house of Jacob first entered into the land of Egypt, the people were seen in terms of the identity of Joseph (who Joseph was to Egypt). Once the time of Joseph had passed, the people were no longer seen and they no longer saw themselves in this way. Israel only understood historically who it used to be in terms of Joseph; and, only partially understood who it was in terms of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The "house of slavery" is a part of what it means to be in the "land of Egypt." It was an identity Israel had forced upon it, by Egypt, and it was what replaced its own lack of identity as well.
Finally, this verse merely precedes the interactive rules. That is, it precedes relationship activities. However, this verse is the relationship. Furthermore, even if you understand the commandments, solely, as a set of rules, this is still the first rule. That rule is, "I am the Lord". Therefore, in this very short first commandment, we have a full complement of applications concerning the relational identity of God and His people and the relationships to which they are connected. The rest of the law contains partial elements of each.
As we look at our identity in Yeshua from a New Covenant context, we see something very similar from John 11:2: "I am the resurrection and the life ..." In light of Exodus 20:2, this statement of Yeshua's identity helps us view Galatians 3 (and specifically verse 28) in more understandable and relational way. Yeshua's identity statement, here, transcends life, which means those characteristics listed in Galatians 3:28 as well. This also makes it relational to him ("believes in me") through individuality and those communally relational aspects.
As we transition into other laws and their applications, it is important to remember that they all demonstrate relational elements concerning identity in important ways. This will help anchor us as we begin to apply them in our lives.
Daniel and Berelyn,