Day 16

The Ten Commandments

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

BY Guest Writer

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, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.

Post Comments (60)

60 thoughts on "The Ten Commandments"

  1. Maria M says:

    ” 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.

    1. Karen says:

      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.

  2. Heather says:

    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.”

    1. Denise Powers Fabian says:

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

    2. Allison Joy says:

      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.

  3. Alex Jenks says:

    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!

  4. Peony Noirr says:


  5. Audrey Gonzalez says:

    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!

  6. Bridget Stockrahm says:

    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?”

  7. Kristin Hanley says:

    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.”

  8. Sarina says:

    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

    1. Bessie says:

      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.

    2. She Reads Truth says:

      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

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