Exodus 20:1–2 (NKJV)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Today we begin a series of exhortations on the Ten Commandments. Jesus declared, Do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets; I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. Jesus came to reveal the character of God as it is displayed in His perfect law. He insisted that the sin of the scribes, Pharisees, and Saduccees of his day was not that they esteemed the law of God too much but that they loved it too little; they had substituted their own traditions in place of God’s law. God’s law is, as Paul reminds us, holy, just, and pure.
It is appropriate, therefore, that we consider what God would teach us through the law – and the first thing that He teaches us is that He saves us not because we obey His law but in order that we might obey His law. The giving of the Ten Commandments starts not with an imperative, not with a command telling us what we must do. Rather it begins with a grand indicative, a statement of what God has done. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Even as God spoke these words of old to Israel, He speaks now to the New Israel, to His Church, to us. Egypt was a mere type, a shadow of the sin and death in which all of us as human beings are enslaved by nature. We all are born dead in our trespasses and sins; inclined toward selfishness and deceit. Pharaoh of old was a mere type, a shadow of the Evil One himself who endeavors to keep the world in darkness and despair. He is a roaring lion who prowls about seeking whom he may devour.
But glory be to God that God did not abandon us to sin and death; did not choose to leave us all in darkness and despair. He looked down from heaven and saw that there was none righteous, no not one; he saw that there was no one strong enough to save; and so his own arm brought salvation; his own fury against evil sustained him. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to endure the curse of sin, to swallow death, and to bind the Evil One – and glory be to God, Jesus rose up victorious and now gives life and salvation to all those who trust in Him. God declares to His people, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the darkness of sin and death, out of slavery to the evil one.
And so the first word of the Ten Commandments is not law, not demand, not requirement but Gospel, good news, grace, deliverance, and salvation. That which we could not do, weak as we were because of our sin and rebellion, God did, sending His own Son in the likness of human flesh that he might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to bondage all their lives. This is our God and He has saved us; this is our Lord and He has delivered us. So ought we not to give thanks and praise Him?
Reminded that we are unable to deliver ourselves from our sin and rebellion; reminded that God alone is He who saves us and delivers us; reminded that we cannot stand before God on the basis of our good works; reminded that it is only through the mercy of God revealed in His Son Jesus Christ that we can worship Him and please Him; let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.