What were the first words out of God’s mouth when he gave the Hebrews the 10 commandments? “Thou shalt not…?” Nope. There’s the build-up to the 10 commandments, with all of the awe-inspiring pyrotechnics and sound effects, of course. But when the real show begins, when he stops the introduction and starts in on the meat, the first thing he says is:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:1)
This is a line God repeats over and over again as he gives the law to the Hebrews.
There are a variety of ways to read that:
I could read it as a reminder of who he is, and what the Hebrew’s relationship is to him. “I’m the guy who brought you out of slavery. You belong to me, now, not the Egyptians. My house, my rules. Why? Because I said so.”
I could read it as a reminder of what he just did to the Egyptians, and that he could do that to them. “Remember the plagues? Remember the frogs and the dead first-born sons? Remember the Red Sea parting then drowning the Egyptian army and all of their horses? Yeah, that was me. You’d better do what I say or else you’ll get what’s coming to you.”
But if I remember how he has proven to be a good Father, that he sent His son to die for me, that that son set us free for freedom’s sake (Galatians 5:1) with his life, that he believed in our freedom so much that he submitted to our freedom to kill him… Maybe, just maybe, what God is talking about here is freedom. “I’m giving you the law, but first and most important part of that is to remember that I delivered you from slavery. These are the things you shouldn’t do because… I love you and I rescued you and I want you to be free.”