WILDERNESS: Breaking Free from Cozy Faith


May 6, 2020

Exodus 20:1-7 (NIV)

1 And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.


Finally, we come to the celebrated, world-famous Ten Commandments. They are themselves a summary of all 613 laws God gave to Moses. Most fascinating is the way Jesus further boiled down the Ten Commandments (indeed the whole law) into a singular command:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

We see how the Ten Commandments break into two groupings, with the first four dealing with our relationship with God and the final six dealing with our relationship with neighbor. There’s something we should be clear about here at the outset. The Commandments are not about becoming a law-abiding citizen, as is commonly thought. They are about becoming a covenant-keeping worshipper.

In that light, it’s interesting how the most important words in the Ten Commandments, indeed in the whole of the Law, are most often excluded from the The Commandments when we see them inscribed in public places and even in Christian literature. They are these:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

The Ten Commandments do not begin with commandments. The Law does not begin with laws. It begins with relationship. “I am Yahweh,” he says. “I am the God who heard your cries and who brought you out of Egypt, out of the cruel slavery under which you suffered.” 

I am God. I delivered you. This is the most primitive taproot of our entire faith. This cannot be overstated. If our faith does not come down to something as simple as, “I am yours. You are mine,” we are missing the core essence of the Christian faith and likely lost in some form of a counterfeit religion. 

Far from mere rules and regulations, these commandments are the very wisdom of God. Martin Luther once famously said something to the effect of, “This much is certain. Those who know the Ten Commandments perfectly know the entire Scriptures and in all affairs and circumstances are able to counsel, help, comfort, judge, and make decisions in both spiritual and temporal matters.” (Large Catechism, in Kolb and Wengert, Book of Concord, p. 382) 

O.K., true confession: I don’t know the Ten Commandments perfectly. I think I think I know them approximately. So why don’t I know them perfectly? Probably because of my New Testament bias, which deeper than I want to admit, still considers the Old Testament as somehow preempted despite still being the Word of God. And probably because I consider I can look up the Ten Commandments anytime I want. I mean, why know anything perfectly any more, right? We have the YouTube for crying out loud!

It kind of comes back around to that cozy thing I think I have going with Jesus I guess. Breaking News: The wilderness aims to crush cozy; to bring us face to face with Yahweh, the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth. Here’s how I’m thinking about it these days: What if God needs to break down what has become the “familiar” in order to restore the truly “familial?” 


Father, I’m here on Mount Sinai with Moses and the people of Israel. Come Holy Spirit and bring me into the moment. Recreate the scene in my soul. Let me hear the Words of Yahweh, especially these, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I want to stand under the hearing of those words today and then sit down and meditate on them and then fall to the floor in humble awe of you. I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the perfect fulfillment of all the Commands of God, on my behalf, and who by His Spirit will yet fulfill them in me. Amen. 


Anybody out there want to work on rememberizing the Ten Commandments with me? I’m 53. It’s not too late. I’m tired of my approximate version.

If you are looking for an incredible, powerful and short exposition of the Ten Commandments (along with the Two Sacraments and the Lord’s Prayer) you must get our Sunday Daily Text author, Timothy Tennent’s fabulous book in his catechesis series, Ten Words. Two Signs. One Prayer: Core Practices of the Christian Faith. Here’s a solid sample to whet your appetite. Get the book here. And don’t forget to use your super special Daily Text Discount Code at checkout: DT20

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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