Exodus 20:1-21 Ten Commandments

The people could see the presence of God and it shook their hearts.

Moses and Aaron are both on the mountain top where the Lord will give them His first list of instructions. These are the outline for the complete instructions He has for His people.

The people have just consented to be HIS “treasured possession.” They have put away their petty arguments for the time being and are standing at attention at the bottom of the mountain, awaiting His instructions.

I have no idea how long this whole process took. The back and forth for Moses, the fetching of Aaron, the Lord giving His commandments, the people asking for Moses to speak with God instead of them hearing from Him, and the rest of the instructions from the Lord. This could have been several hours, a day or even a week. Later on we’ll see where the people wait a week for those brought onto the mountain to return. When Moses goes for 40 days later on the people don’t wait at the base of the mountain but go back to camp.

What I’m thinking is that during this first “outline” given by God, Moses and Aaron are higher up the mountain but can still be seen by the people. The Lord is speaking to Moses and Aaron but the people are witnessing it in the form of thunder and lightning. The Lord wants them to see His might so they will believe forever. And what they are witnessing is causing them to shake in their shoes! Let’s look in on them as they witness the mighty power of God.

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Moses and Aaron stand partway up the mountain. The thick cloud lies further up and the people wait assembled at their backs. Aaron feels honored but also awestruck to be standing with Moses waiting to actually hear the Lord speak to them. Usually Moses relates what the Lord says instead of Aaron getting to hear it firsthand.

“Moses. Aaron.”

“Speak Lord, Your servants are listening” replies Moses. Aaron’s eyes go wide at hearing his name but he is too overwhelmed to speak. He will let Moses do the talking this time.

“I am the Lord you God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have NO other gods before me” (verses 2-3, emphasis added by me).

“Absolutely Lord. YOU are our ONLY God! There is NO other god.”

“You shall not make for yourselves a cared 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 the, 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” (verses 4-6, emphasis added by me).

“Yes Lord. We will NEVER do this.”

“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” (verse 7).

“Certainly not Lord. We will honor Your name at all times.”

“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” (verses 8-11).

“And thank You for that rest Lord. We need that reminder and restoration. We will honor You this way.”

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (verse 12).

“Yes Lord. We will instill this in all our generations.”

“You shall not murder” (verse 13).

“Certainly NOT!”

“You shall not commit adultery” (verse 14).


“You shall not steal” (verse 15).

“Yes Lord.”

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (verse 16).

“On our honor Lord!”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’ wife, or his male servants, or his female servants, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (verse 17).

“We will obey with all our hearts.”

“Go down and share these statutes with the people. This is the framework for our relationship.”

“Yes Lord. We will share all that You have given us with Your people.”

Moses and Aaron turned and walked back down to the bottom of the mountain. The people were huddled in groups and holding onto one another in fear. They had drawn back as far as possible while still being in the assembly originally formed before the Lord. All the people had heard the thunder and the trumpets and seen the lightning and smoke of the Lord’s presence. Everyone watched as Moses and the Lord spoke to one another. The words of neither were discernible to the people but they knew they were weighty and powerful. They knew that the Lord spoke to Moses and all that he shared all he received with them faithfully.

With Moses and Aaron once again on flat land the people moved forward again just a bit. The elders had been discussing the people’s fear and how to deal with it in the two men’s absence. The senior elder of the Levite tribe spoke for the people.

“Moses, the people are terrified! They are afraid that they will die if they witness God speaking. We ask that YOU speak with us instead. We will listen to all you tell us from the Lord, just don’t make us stand here in fear again.”

“You don’t need to fear for your lives. God came to test you and see that you have a reverent fear of Him and see His power so that you will not sin. You are to remain nearby but do not have to stand at the foot of the mountain. This distance will do. I will go up and speak with the Lord again on your behalf.”

Moses turned and went back up the mountain. This time he went into the thick darkness where the Lord was. Here he would receive more of the Lord’s instructions; the substance to the outline.

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Father God, I had never thought of Your “10 Commandments” as an outline until today. As I was trying to figure out how long Moses and Aaron were with You on the mountain, You Spirit opened my eyes a little. I KNOW there is still SO MUCH MORE in You word than what I received today. I will never exhaust what You put there for Your children; which includes me. But for what You do share, when I need it most, Thank You!

I can certainly identify with the children of Israel on their fear point. Watching Your presence as it was manifested that day would make any sane person quake in their boots! The mountain was alive with You voice. How AMAZING it would have been to be in Aaron’s shoes that day! To move from second hand relationship to first hand one right beside Moses. I bet it never got old for Moses either. To stand in Your presence and hear You speak with their human ears.

I PRAY I can hear You clearly when You speak into my life. I know it is nothing like how You spoke to Moses but You still speak to me. Please cut out all the clutter that gets in the way of Your voice Lord. Especially the anger and frustration I feel when I am “interrupted” during our time. Forgive me for my attitude regarding those interruptions. You can, and do, speak to me even in the middle of ordinary daily chores.

Forgive me too for my attitude of “putting our time off until it is the ‘perfect’ time.” There is no perfect time. That is probably why I get so frustrated. I need to learn to listen beyond the chaos in my world. Teach me this tool Lord. You certainly taught it to Moses. But he didn’t get the “deepest things” until the rest of the world was stripped away. That is something I need to learn to do too. I look forward to both those kinds of lessons.

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