The Israelites and now camping with God in the wilderness. The Lord is their neighbor, and not in the sense that there is a giant idol next door. Instead, the very real presence of God is sitting outside as a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. God is no longer seen by one but now is seen by all. He has proven to be extremely powerful, maybe all-powerful. The people need to know how to live with God. He will now share with them how they ought to live.
Read Exodus 19:1-20:21
The Old Testament is often considered a works salvation. Even in this passage, many will think it is a list of “do’s and do not’s” for earning God’s favor. However, the Lord lets the people know that they already have grace, God’s unmerited favor. Notice the grace in Exodus 19:4-6, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” Again, in Exodus 20:2, before the Ten Commandments are given, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” We are saved by grace and not by works, but we are saved to do good works. The Ten Commandments are the embodiment of those good works.
The ten commandments are summarized in the New Testament and called the two great commandments: (1) To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. The first four commandments are wrapped up in the first, and the final six are found in the second. By doing those things which show our love to God and neighbor, we are living unto God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.