The Small Print

Opening Prayer

Holy God, I thank You for the moments that You shake my world and I thank You for Your faithfulness in the everyday grind.

Read Exodus 20:18–26

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Idols and Altars
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’


What was the last big “encounter” you had with God? Have you lived out what you learned in that experience?

After the voice from the clouds, after the thunder and the lightning, comes the long hard work of living the holy lives of responding to God. The mountaintop experiences are wonderful, but we are not invited to live on the mountaintop.
The Israelites were partly overwhelmed by the experiences of chapters 19 and 20. Their response comes down to “Here we are… send Moses.” Off he goes into “thick darkness” (21). It turns out that he is to receive three chapters’ worth of further instruction. The ten words were the headlines. Here comes the small print.
Sometimes the small print feels like an unfair change of terms: “Free gifts! (PS: …just send money).” But here the further details continue exactly in the same logic as the Ten Commandments themselves, and so we have verse 23 repeating the core point(s) of verses 2 and 3: if God is at the center of life, then nothing and no one else can take his place, whether money (15), sex (14), power (13) or your neighbor’s donkey (or any of your neighbor’s preferred modes of transport).


Which things currently occupy your waking (and worrying) hours? If God is not at the top of that list, is he really first in your life?

Closing prayer

My Lord, may I focus on You instead of all of the other things that occupy my thoughts. Be with me and help me to straighten it all out.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider