Lenten Devotional: February 10th
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
Welcome to the 2016 Lenten Devotional Series written by myself and Kelly Staples. Over the course of the next 40 days we will explore the Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer, NorthPark Charge, Apostles' Creed, and the events of Holy Week. So here we go.
The Ten Commandments, or ten words as Jewish scholars call them, were not written in a vacuum but given to the Hebrew people who were slaves for generations. All they know is slavery. All they know is that people at the bottom of the pyramid work like slaves from before dawn until after dark and still never get ahead. All they know is the constant, never-ending work of making more bricks and building more buildings for Pharaoh.
And as they set out for freedom it is not that the Ten Commandments are prefaced by an order -- "Here are ten rules. Obey them!" -- but instead by a breathtaking announcement of freedom:
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."
The Ten Commandments begin with the good news of what the liberating God has done and then describe the shape of the freedom that results. So the Ten Commandments are how one walks the road from slavery to freedom.
The Ten Commandments were never intended as heavy burdens to shackle us but the very things that release us from bondage. As Brian McLaren puts it, "Through the ten plagues, God got the people out of slavery. Through the ten commands, God got the slavery out of the people."
That's why I like to think of them not as Ten Commandments but as Ten Freedoms.
If you contextualize the commandments within the actual Bible, it is as if God is saying in the preface: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery therefore live into these freedoms."
With that in mind, I have paraphrased the first commandment/freedom for you to consider today.
Because the Lord your God brought you out of slavery you are free not to need any other gods, not even the gods of consumerism. You are also free from the gods of nationalism and individualism. Free from the god of technology. Free from the god of being overly responsible or overly critical. Free from making security your god or fear your god. You are free.
O, God we are grateful that you have claimed us for freedom, that we are free and bound to no other gods. We repent of our captivity to so many smaller gods and pray that you will help us begin to understand the power of the freedom found in you. In the name of Christ our Liberator we pray. Amen.
Rev. Brent Barry
Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church