Lent 2018: See the Lord's Salvation: Day 16

The Ten Commandments


Today's Text: Exodus 19:1-25, Exodus 20:1-21, John 1:14-17, Hebrews 8:7-13

Scripture Reading: Exodus 19:1-25, Exodus 20:1-21, John 1:14-17, Hebrews 8:7-13

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Old Testament is the law. It has been distorted and misapplied for thousands of years: It’s been used to fuel self-righteousness; to depict a judgmental and unforgiving portrait of God; interpreted so narrowly and harshly that its closest adherents didn’t recognize the “fulfillment of the Law” (Matthew 5:17), Jesus Himself, in their very midst.  

These misinterpretations still plague us today, so the question remains: how should we understand the law?

In Exodus 19, God provides Moses with the cornerstone of the law, the Ten Commandments, and He does so with these words: “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation” (v. 5-6). Too often, we read these words as a threat, or a form of conditional love: I will only take care of you if you do what I say.

However, there is another way to read these words, and the commandments that follow.

As a mom, I frequently warn my boys to obey me for their own good:

If you don’t listen to me, you’re going to get hurt.
If you don’t stop jumping on the bed, you’re going to fall.
If you don’t slow down, you’re going to trip.

These warnings are not threats. They are not signs of a conditional love. I am not manipulating them into submitting to me. Instead, I am beckoning them toward safety, wholeness, and health. I am showing them the path to life, and warning them away from a path that leads to pain.

This, in many ways, captures the heart of the law. And this heart becomes all the more clear in the verse that precedes God’s warning:

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself”(vv. 3-4).

With this verse, God testifies to His own character, reminding the Israelites of His steadfast love, provision, and care. On that basis, God asks His people to trust and obey Him—not because the law is an arbitrary list of rules from a cruel and exacting God, but because the law is the path to life.

Too often, we miss this truth, that the law is beautiful, good, and a picture of humanity at its best. The first four commandments are, in essence, the pinnacle of “loving God.” The following six commandments are the fullness of “loving neighbor.” They instruct us on how to live, but more importantly, they clarify who we were created to be.

And yet, the law fell short. It showed us the destination without providing the ability to reach it (Romans 8:3). We can know the good, but find ourselves wholly unable to attain it. That is why the law condemns: the law is God’s blueprint for human flourishing, without the tools to achieve it.

Enter Jesus. He did what no human was ever able to do. He was the perfect expression of the law. His life and words were the embodiment of God’s design for us. That is the point of the Ten Commandments, and the whole of God’s law: to point us toward God’s good plan for us, while revealing our inadequacy to accomplish it. In short, the law points us to Jesus.


Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.

  • Clare Lafaele

    ➕ = ❤️

  • Brittany Couch

    First 4 are loving God, following 6 are loving neighbor… they instruct us how to live, they clarify who we are created to be. ❤️

  • This was such an enjoyable reading for me today and really helped me to understand the whole idea that once Jesus entered the story, the law was no longer the way to God. I always struggled a bit in my mind with that and how to make sense of it. Thank you for clarifying that the law was the path to life but Jesus provided the means to accomplish the law. This was great!

  • Sharon, this was an incredible post! Of course, as a Christian, you hear this so many times…Jesus fulfills the law, Jesus is the law, etc….but something about the new way you phrased it, just made this stick with me this time. “That is why the law condemns: the law is God’s blueprint for human flourishing, without the tools to achieve it. Enter JESUS.” That is it!!

  • ” I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

    This passage in particular has been uplifting. I’m in a painful grieving season and there are times where I sense the Lord healing my broken heart and times where I just feel deeply hurt. I know the Lord is good and he keeps his promises but sometimes, especially during this grieving season, I feel like the Israelites did. Even though they LITERALLY had seem with their own eyes miracles and God’s promises happen they still decided doubted.

    My prayer during lent and grieving season is to NOT be like the Israelites. I want to lean on God’s promises even in my doubt and pain and remember that He carries me and brings me to Himself.

    • Karen

      Praying for you Maria, that our amazing God with wraps His loving arms around you and carry you through this difficult period of life. He is for you and is listening to your pain. Keep running to Him each day and He will lift you up and carry you on eagle’s wings.

    • TMO


  • I like what the devotional has to say, but what about Hebrews 8:9b from the assigned reading? I’m trying to wrap my head around it: “I showed no concern for them, says the Lord, because they did not continue in my covenant.”

    • Denise Powers Fabian

      You are not alone, Heather. This disturbed me…seemed contrary to God’s unfailing love. So someone set me straight…

    • Allison Joy

      I am NO Biblical scholar, by any stretch of the imagination. First of all, I think that it is obvious that God did care for the Israelites. So I don’t think it’s literally saying that God did not care for them. I think it’s more along the lines of since the Isrealites so often did not follow God’s commandments, he let them suffer the consequences of their sin. He didn’t rescue them or spare them from hardship, because that was how they ultimately learned (though they failed repeatedly, as we do) the power and love of God. To use an illistruation that was used above about parents, sometimes kids have to learn on their own. No matter how often they are told not to do something, they will do it, and sometimes they will hurt themselves doing it. To an outsider, it could look as if the parent didn’t do enough to prevent their child from hurting themselves. Just read the comments about child abductions or lost children! “Why I’d NEVER allow my child to run off! You must not care about your child!” But that doesn’t mean the parent doesn’t care about the child.

  • Alex Jenks

    Loved the last paragraph of this read and the perspective of God’s law it brings. It makes me feel that it’s attainable to follow His law and make Him proud walking with Christ. I am so thankful for Jesus and His walk with us!

  • Peony Noirr


  • Audrey Gonzalez

    So thankful that the law point us to Christ. And i loved the verse that said how he is so merciful towards our iniquities and remembers our sin no more. That’s an amazing truth!

  • Bridget Stockrahm

    I had a really good theology teacher that had a great way of helping us understand the challenging teachings we see in the Old Testament: Everything in the Old Testament points to Christ—the fulfillment of the Old Testament. That meant that a) we can always understand God’s purpose in scripture, especially scripture that seems harsh or cold at first glance, better by asking ourselves “how is this pointing me towards Christ?”

  • Kristin Hanley

    Thank you for this insight. I even thought while reading that Exodus inundates us with “IF you… then I will…” statements, which can be discouraging, b/c we know that we know we can’t do it all.”

  • My son who loved the Lord as a child now doesn’t believe He says I can’t reconcile to the God of old testament who allowed slavery. Allowed innocent children to be killed if they were not Israelites …. etc. I like the character of Jesus but cannot accept Bible as the Word of God. I am praying for him for God to speak to him and for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in his life. Pls join me in this prayer

    • Bessie

      I join you in that prayer, Sarina. I, too have a son that doesn’t believe. I find some hope in that he has thoughtfully considered a relationship with God even if he has currently rejected Him. We will pray that God uses that to bring him to Himself.

    • She Reads Truth

      Thank you for sharing Sarina. We’re praying for you and your son, and are so grateful that you’re here. -Margot, The SRT Team

  • I’ve honestly never really thought about the Commandments that way. It’s always been a “Do Not List”instead of a “Do List.”
    God is telling the Israelites, this is how you prosper. Not, “if you don’t do these things I will punish you.” It was was also to show us that we can’t do it! But we can do it with the Lord!

  • Monica Davis

    Thank god for this word today!

  • Lisa A Olsen

    I have been reminded a lot lately of how God’s word, His authority, His way for us is meant to show us what we were truly meant for. When we live His way, we will experience the life He intends for us and it is beautiful and good. I’m trying to teach this to my kids too!

  • There are a couple of things that confuse me in the Hebrews reading….why does it say, “they did not stay in my covenant, so I showed no concern for them?
    and then on down “and they shall be my people” but then ” they shall not teach. ”
    Can someone clarify for me?

    • Lauren

      I believe sin fell into the world after the commandments were issued. (How much longer after the commandments were issued, I am not sure). The second part, the people will not have to teach each other to “know the Lord” because they will already know who God is! What a wonderful world right?
      I am not an expert at all, obviously, but I hope I was able to help out a bit!

  • Sabrina Michelle

    I love when the word is being rightfully divided. The Law points us to Jesus, rest in His finished works. For the Lord our God has sent us a comforter, the Holy Spirit to guide us and bring us closer to Him. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Tera Parsons

    19:4 spoke to me immediately!!! He totally brings us up to Him. Just like the good Papa that He is. Picking us up and showing us the way. Only through Him and in Him can we soar on eagles wings. Thank you so much for this!!!

  • Hi ladies! My husband and I are doing this Lenten study together and we were both a little confused going from chapter 19 to chapter 20. In verse 25 of chapter 19 we read that Moses went down to the people and told them. Starting immediately in chapter 20 God spoke all the words saying… So, our question is: did God let everyone hear the 10 Commandments? Or did only Moses hear them? If Moses is down with the people and speaking to them (20;18-22), When did he have time to run back up that mountain?! :) thanks for answering, hope that question made sense!

    • Deborah Craytor

      Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Exodus, Be Delivered, says this:

      It seems that eight times Moses went up the mountain and met with God and then descended to speak to the people. Some of the ascents and descents are implied because you find Moses addressing either God or the nation:

      19:3/19:7 (implied)
      20:21/24:1-3 (implied)
      24:9, 13, 15, 18/32:15
      32:31/33:4 (inferred)
      33:12 (inferred)/34:1-3 (inferred)

    • Lisa

      I had the same question…it’s a bit confusing. Did the people hear directly from God, or was Moses the messenger? It got me thinking; it would have been much harder to discount/turn away/disobey the law had the people heard it right from God’s mouth, than hearing it second hand (does that make sense?). If I hear something directly from someone, it holds more weight than if someone tells me what someone else said.

  • My father would always get upset if people would take one or two scriptures of the Bible and use them in the wrong context. This is enlightening to me in a way my father would have explained it. I have studied the Bible for many years and never thought of the ten commandments in this light. Thank you for bringing a new and refreshing concept on The Ten Commandments. I always enjoy reading what comes after the scripture.

  • Delani Ford

    Wow!!! Thank you so much for this interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Never before have I fully understood how it is not God giving “conditional” love through The Commandments, but exactly how you explained it. Sometimes simplifying the scripture makes it that much more powerful.

  • We studied the Ten Commandments in a recent bible study at my church. Our leader encouraged us to see what each commandment says about God. He is jealous for our attention. He rests. He gives us exactly what we need. And it also points to what it says about us – we look for things to satisfy us that never can. We rely on our own strength which will always fail. I’m amazed at how consistent the Word is throughout the Bible. Praise Him that He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever!

    • Amy Alexandra

      I love this idea, Kara! If I approach passages of Scripture that seem hard to understand with the purpose of seeing what they say about who God is and who I am, I think I would get a lot more out of some of the long do/do not passages.

  • Taylor Landers

    This study is helping me realize that the Old Testament is not as hard to understand when someone helps point out God’s purpose and whole plan for His words. I am truly gaining a deeper understanding of Him. So thankful today for His love and His law.

  • I never thought about the 10 Commandments as anything other than a list of rules that we as humans cannot seem to keep up with. Thanks so much for this perspective. I went back and re-read the verses after reading your words and wow, the difference in my perspective. I had always struggled with how the generous, loving, graceful God and Father of the New Testament who loved us so much He sent His Son to suffer and die for us could also be the harsh judgmental God of the Old Testament. This really makes it clear for me. I feel as if this is going to open my eyes on many of the Old Testament stories I previously struggled with. I can’t wait to experience this new perspective. Thanks again.

  • Janet Caldwell

    Many years ago, someone used the same type of analogy which made s much sense to me. We tell our children, don’t touch the hot stove or you will get burned. Sometimes they can’t resist and have to test to see if that’s true. Then it makes sense. If find myself at times “testing”, “wondering. Is it really true. The 10 commandments are the guidelines God set up but our human tendencies cause us to test that and we can never accomplish the fulfillment of these commandments only Jesus can. I stand in awe that God loves me despite my failure and that he provides boundaries for my protection. May Jesus shine forth in my life that I can show the same forgiveness and grace when others fail as God shows me.

  • I️ have always had a hard time with God’s seeming “favoritism” for some people. I️ am confused why God makes it easier for some people to get to Heaven over others. Can anyone help?

    • Laura

      Lexy, your question has really touched me. Do you struggle with why some of us sin more often, while others seem to have it all together, or is it more that some of us seem to face more hardship than others? In both cases, I have to choose to believe that God loves me just as much as that other person; that I don’t know their struggles; that He forgives me when I fail, and that He walks through hardships by my side, parting the waters when I can’t see the way to go.

    • Kristin

      This is a great question! It’s not that it’s easier for some people to get to heaven – the only way for us to be saved at all is to put our trust in Jesus. The beautiful thing is that there is literally nothing we can do to save ourselves, which is why the Bible says we are dead in our sins. It is only by the grace of Jesus that we can be saved – none of us deserve it at all, but God lavishes grace and salvation on His people, opening our eyes to the gospel. Also, Romans 2:11 says that God doesn’t show favoritism. His grace is not based on anything we do, but on His character and goodness. Hope this is helpful!

    • Kimberly

      Oh, Lexy, my first thought when I read your comment was that I pray this day would not go by until you know for sure that you are going to heaven. God doesn’t play favorites, the way to heaven is the same for all of us. None of us can get there by our own “goodness.” The Bible says that no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:12). Believing in God won’t get us to heaven, the Bible says the demons believe in God and tremble, but they won’t be in heaven. Going to church won’t get us to heaven and trying to keep the 10 commandments won’t get us into heaven. There is only one thing that will get any of us into heaven. Romans 10:8-11 tells us “”The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” All that any of us has to do is believe that God placed the death penalty for our sin upon Jesus Christ, and trust in what Jesus accomplished when He died for us, and rose victorious over death and hell. Thank You, Lord! Lexy, if you or someone you know has never put their trust in Christ alone, you can do it today! The Lord God himself will help you. Please feel welcome to contact me at [email protected] if you’d like to talk further.

  • Laura Barthelmess

    Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” ❤️❤️❤️❤️ He loves us so!!!

  • Linda Monterroso


  • Heather Shores

    The law of the lord is beautiful! Lord help me to see your boundaries for my life as beautiful again.

    • Kaitlyn Weathers

      I love the way you worded that. That’s going to be my prayer today, “help me see Your boundaries for my life as beautiful.” Thank you for sharing!

  • Heather Shores

    I feel like I am going through my own Exodus. It is nice to know I am not reading this alone.

  • The law starts with who God is and his relationship to us: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” He brought us out of sin and slavery to sin! Amen!

  • Kristine Loughman

    I’ve never thought before about the Ten Commandments being unattainable. But you’re right, how quickly and easily we fall short – daily! – of the standard they set for us. They point us in the direction we’re to go, but even God knew we’d never get there on our own. Which is why we needed Jesus to bridge that gap for us. When He came to fulfill the Law, He summed it up for us as: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor. And that’s basically what the Ten Commandments boiled down to.

  • Churchmouse

    I used this illustration with our children. The 10 commandments are like an umbrella. An umbrella protects us from the rain and it provides a way to stay dry. The 10 commandments protect us and provide for us too. God graciously gave them as protection from evil and danger and as provision for a joyful life here. We get to choose whether or not to stay under His umbrella. He will not snatch the umbrella away or keep it to Himself. He is always standing right beside us, offering it to us because He loves us and cares for us. It’s a good thing to stay close to Him. His umbrella is always right there and He will always walk right beside us.

  • Aly Sharp

    I love this. It’s so true. So often we view the 10 commandments, and really he entire Old Testament in the wrong way. The image of a mother/father having certain rules/warnings/precautions for their child is a perfect analogy to the way God intends instruction. He gives us guardrails to protects us from sin nature. And he doesn’t do it because he wants something from us. He does it because he wants something FOR us!

  • Thanks for the great explanation! You really helped me to understand the Law and of course, how much we need Jesus! We could never fulfill the law by ourselves! Thank you, Jesus for living the perfect life, being the example, giving everything for us, so we can live in Your love and freedom here, and rejoice and praise You in eternity! God really is a good, good Father like the song says! We should all listen to that today and sing His praises! https://youtu.be/CqybaIesbuA

  • Natasha Reyes

    I have never looked at the Ten Commandments in that light before. I somehow looked at the Old Testament God as the harsh, strict, grumpy God who softens up and becomes the warm and loving God of the New Testament. I see now that he is a kind and loving father who only wants the best for us.

    • Cara McGee

      Me too! I hated to admit the way I felt about it. I wasn’t excited that the Lent study was on Exodus because I’ve tried and failed to read it in its entirety before because I just couldn’t get past that I felt like God was harsh and couldn’t figure out how to bridge the gap between what I was feeling and I what I know to be true.

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