Exodus 20-21; Acts 26; Psalm 67
The Ten commandments, or rather ‘Ten Words’, point at once to the essence of faith and also its greatest perversion.
Faith and obedience are inextricably linked, but all too often an attempt is made to make of Christian faith a ‘morality’ – a way of living, divorced from the saving grace of God.
‘Then God spoke all these words . . .’ – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is no mute idol – he speaks, he addresses those he has set apart from himself to be a kingdom of priests . . . and obedience is only found in response to God. Human Life in its fullness is only ever life which is lived in utterly surrendered response to the One who speaks – whose word is Life, whose word is so life giving that Christ reveals the Truth of our human vocation in being fed on doing the will of the one who sent him.
This is made explicitly clear in the prologue to the Ten Words – ‘I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, our of the house of slavery’ . . . God establishes his relationship with his people. It is his gracious favour and mercy which is the foundation of everything – ‘you shall have no other gods before me’, is the utterly reasonable response. It is as though this revelation of the Mercy of God, must elicit these words from our mouths, ‘We shall have no other gods before us’
As Paul puts it ‘present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship’ And so Paul, as he makes his defence before Agrippa, roots it in the saving acts of God. His accusation against his accusers is in effect ‘they have forgotten whose people they are’, the accusation of the prophets down through the ages. It is not Paul who has got tangled up in some new and strange teaching, this great salvation in Christ is prefigured in the Exodus. This is the God who saves, the God who has never ceased form making himself known and calling his people into a relationship of loving obedience. Indeed this is so Obvioud to Paul, as clear as that shining light on the Damascus road, that he makes what on the surface seems to be the utterly ludicrous statement, that he wishes his hearers were as him in every way, ‘except for these chains’. The man in chains as been set free in joyful loving obedience – those listening are still chained.
At the heart of it is a lived apprehension of the One who is Alive for evermore. Any attempt to live in denial of this, to obey apart from faith only ends in us hearing the words – ‘Away from me you evil doers – I never knew you’. True obedience is never more and never less than moment by moment attentiveness and response to the One who speaks. Whose Command is Life to those who know him.