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The Place of the Decalogue in Divine Worship

Every Sunday the Law of the Ten Commandments is read in our churches. There has been in the past differences of opinion about the place or the reading of the Law in our order of worship. Some thought it should be read before the sermon and others were convinced it should be read at the end of the service. There has been difference of opinion whether the Law should be read to be a taskmaster unto Christ or whether it should be read as the rule for the li re of gratitude. Undoubtedly these differences of opinion still exist. It is, however, not my purpose in this series or articles to discuss varying liturgical opinions.

The introduction to the law reminds LIS that we have to do with that which happened long ago at Mount Sinai. “God spake all these words, saying…” We are thus reminded of the time when God in person came to speak to the people he had chosen as his own. He reminded that people of the fact he is Jehovah, that he is faithful to the covenant he has made and that he does what he promises. He is the God. who brought his people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

These words, rooted in the historical fact of the Exodus, carry a blessed message to us. We were in the bondage of sin and Satan. The Bible tells us that we are conceived and born in sin and therefore children of wrath. It is good that we often meditate on this fact so that in the moment in which these words are spoken there will go through our mind the glorious consciousness of our spiritual emancipation. God has set us free, free from the bondage of sin! We now stand in the wonderful liberty of the children of God! if we are prepared to listen, it is amazing how much can go through our mind in a split second. How much we ought to love our God, who brought us out of the prison of sin and death. With rapt attention we ought to listen to the commandments of him, who has the right to order our lives, because he is our Creator and Redeemer.

It is a reminder of the depth of God’s love, who sent his only begotten Son to suffer and to die the shameful death of the cross in order that we might have eternal life. We are reminded of him, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death.” We see before our mind’s eye the picture drawn of him, who “was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not.” As a moving refrain there echoes through our soul the song of redemption: “Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We hear the cry of anguish: “Is it nothing to you, aII ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is brought upon me, wherewith Jehovah hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”

Such and similar thoughts lift our soul to worship when we hear the words: “I am Jehovah thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

Thus the reading of the Law is lifted out of the deadness of mere routine. On the one hand our soul feels the weight of sin , of our sins, which made such suffering and grief necessary. But, on the other hand, we sing for joy for it is through this suffering in which the righteousness and holiness of God was maintained, that the God, who made heaven and earth, is our God, our Jehovah.

It will cause us to listen with ever deepening understanding to the directions he gives us in his law. We will understand that this God does not lay his law upon us as a heavy yoke, a burden difficult to Glory. We will listen with the appreciation of the psalmist when he declared: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul: the testimony or Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts o( Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart: the commitment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of Jehovah ,Ire true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb. “Moreover by them is thy servant warned: in keeping them there is great reward.”

We will understand the lesson which Jesus Christ has taught us. He has come to lay the law of God upon our hearts, to make it the warp and woof or our life. It is with this in mind that he invites: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of life; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest limo your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Law of God is a delight to those who have learned to understand that it is the Law of him, who loved us and led us out of the house of bondage, who by his law again teaches us the way of true living.