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Nineteen Comes Before Twenty | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Nineteen Comes Before Twenty

“Nineteen comes before twenty.”

This is a quote from professor David Lose. It is a simple, yet profound introduction to the Ten Commandments. I know you are probably thinking, “I have no idea what it means.”

Let me explain. Exodus 20 is where the Ten Commandments are recorded in our Bibles. Many people read Exodus 20:2 as the introduction to the commandments, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

If there is a chapter twenty, then we can assume there is a chapter nineteen. After all, nineteen comes before twenty. What happens in chapter 19?

The people have left Egypt and arrive the wilderness of Sinai. They stop and set up camp before the mountain. Moses goes up the mountain and God says:

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

There is where the ‘profound’ part comes. Lose writes, “The point is that the relationship God establishes with the chosen people comes first -- it is literally primary. The law, with its ethical demands on our behavior, comes second -- it is literally secondary.”

You see, keeping the law does not earn you salvation. God’s relationship with us is first and our salvation comes through God and Him only.

One last point from this passage that we cannot overlook. Many times, we look at the commandments as restrictive on our lives. Look at God’s language in this passage: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.”

God is telling the people (and us), “Remember how I brought you out of slavery and defeated your captors- I did this to set you free to soar in relation with Me.”

Old Testament theologian Rolf Jacobson writes, “These commandments are not meant to limit our freedom by telling us what things we are not free to do (although these laws do precisely that). These commandments are what lives freed in Christ look like. In order to love God’s law, we must always remember that through Christ’s death and resurrection we have been freed from the power of sin. And now that we are free, the law shows us what that free life looks like.”

It sounds a lot like Paul’s declaration in Galatians 5:13, “ For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

May we find freedom in our Lord.

Pastor John