Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through Ten Commandments in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.
- David Dunham opened the series by looking at Exodus 20:1-3.
- Dave Jenkins looked at the second commandment in Exodus 20:4-6.
- Mike looked at Exodus 20:7
- David Dunham looked at Exodus 20:8-11.
- Matt Adams wrote on Exodus 20:12.
- Dave wrote on Exodus 20:13.
- Dave wrote on Exodus 20:14.
- Jason wrote on Exodus 20:15.
- Dave wrote on Exodus 20:16.
- Zach wrote on Exodus 20:17.
- Today Matt Adams writes on Exodus 20:18-21.
Exodus 20:18-21, “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
The giving of the Ten Commandments is a glorious concluding scene to the Ten Commandments. These verses stand out to us because of their splendid imagery. In this passage, the people hear thunder, see flashes of lightning, and listen to the sound of a trumpet. If that’s not enough the mountain is smoking. The people hear and see these things, and they are afraid. Who wouldn’t? The Law is given, and then we have this scene of great power and glory. The people know that this is the LORD; this is YHWH, calling His people to obedience.
Exodus 20:19-21 is a revelation of the LORD to His people as He is surrounding Himself with thunder and lightning! The Law is not a gentle suggestion, but an authoritative command. YHWH is the sovereign King, who calls His people to obey His Word. He is governing our lives, and He is telling us how to live. Why does He do this? The sovereignty of God does not take away from our human responsibility but rather buttresses and supports it.
The Fear of the Lord
Solomon writes in Proverbs more than once that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD. Solomon does not mean that believers should be terrified of the LORD because He is a cruel tyrant and dictator of our lives. Instead, Solomon is proclaiming to believers that our God is perfectly wise and perfectly loving, and He has set His Word upon us for our good!
In a world that is broken by sin, our first instinct is to feel like any law or rule is holding us down and binding us down. However, as believers, we proclaim alongside David that the LORD’s Law makes our paths wide (Ps. 119:45).
The fear of the LORD is reverence and awe! He is working all things out for our good and His glory, and He has given us His Law to show us how to live. He gives the Law to us, and we are to keep them diligently. Blessed are they who walk in them and meditate on them day and night.
The Longing for a Mediator
Before we close out this series on the Ten Commandments, we cannot glance over the final verses. These verses point us to Christ!
As the people were afraid of what they were witnessing, they begged Moses to speak to them. They longed for a mediator between them and the LORD. As Christians, we have a mediator in Jesus Christ. Paul proclaims this boldly, as he writes to Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Let us not miss the gospel that is being proclaimed to us right here in the closing statements of this narrative. Jesus Christ is the only way that we can come to the Father, and for those whom He has called, our debt has been paid, and our hearts are changed! Now we can run in the path of the LORD’s commands (Psalm 119:32).
Through the gospel, our hearts have been made new, now through the Holy Spirit, we can go forth empowered by the love of God to love Him and one another.