Editor’s Note: Today we’re officially beginning our study of the Ten Commandments and the first week of groups discussing Exodus 20:1-17 and Jen Wilkin’s book Ten Words to Live By. We have groups meeting Tuesday evenings, Wednesday mornings, Thursday mornings (two options, one with childcare), and Friday mornings (with children for a nature activity). If you haven’t yet registered to join a group, we encourage you to so now via this link. Our Monday posts in the coming weeks will include simple Pause, Ponder, and Pray prompts to supplement the questions in Wilkin’s book, while Wednesdays you’ll find Process and Practice prompts to take you a bit deeper in the text of Exodus 20 and Psalm 19. Each week we will also share audio recordings from Andi Hines (the Ten Commandments on Mondays) and Sara Nelson (Psalm 19 on Wednesdays).
If you can’t tell yet, we’re super excited about this study. If you haven’t read our introductory posts yet, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to go back and review them, including the one here on including the littlest ones in your life in this study, one here providing a summary of why we’re studying this section of Scripture, and our list here of this summer opportunity along with others at UFC.
We pray that the summer of 2021 may be one you look back on as a time of fruitful study and growth as you learned to delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. May you be like a tree planted by streams of water that brings forth beautiful things (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17).
— Jaime Sherman
Thought to consider before you begin (ice breaker for group discussion): Before reading the introduction of Jen Wilkin’s book, what did you first think of when you heard the two words Ten Commandments?*
Pause to Read or Listen
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”
Jen Wilkin begins Ten Words to Live By with the words, “This is a book about the law of God in all of its life-giving beauty” (p. 11). Before joining this study, did you see the law as beautiful or as something else? Explain.
The teachers of the law in New Testament times often distorted the Ten Words. They tied up “heavy burdens, hard to bear” and laid them on people’s shoulders (Matthew 23:4). Instead of being a projective guardrail for joyful living, the law became a burden. In an attempt to twist the law for their own gain, these teachers pushed obedience based on fear of consequences rather than obedience flowing from love for the Father. In I John 5:3, we read a response to this as John writes:
What has distorted God’s commandments recently or in the past to make them burdensome to you or to others?
The legalism of the Pharisees, and of people today, often causes others to swerve in the opposite direction and ignore the importance of the original commandments. On pages 14 and 15, Wilkin contrasts legalism, lawlessness, and lawfulness. When telling someone about your study of the Ten Commandments, how might you express the difference between the three?
After reading Wilkin’s introduction and maybe getting your view of the law adjusted a bit, what do you hope to glean from this study of God’s law?
Dear God, in Your perfect timing, You gave the law to Your people as an act of love. They needed to learn how to live in freedom from Egyptian slavery, and in Your grace, You gave them the Ten Words to live by. You have preserved them for us today, so we, too, can know how to live in relationship with You and with those made in Your image. We confess that we’ve often viewed Your law as a burden. Forgive us, and give us eyes to see the beauty in these words. Cause our preconceived ideas of Your law to fall away that we might see love as the driving force behind obedience. Grant that we may delight to obey You and look like Jesus Christ. Amen.
*Examples for Thought to Consider:
- The 1956 movie starring Charlton Heston.
- A heavy weight, legalism.
- A cinch because I haven’t murdered anyone or committed adultery.
- Legal fights about having them in schools, courts, and other public properties.
- Don’t ask me to recite them!
- Didn’t Jesus do away with the Old Testament law?
- Why should I try to follow them? I’m not perfect. I’m just going to break them.
- They tell us how to live.