After being taken out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, grumbling their way through the Desert of Sin and failing many tests, the people of Israel have made it to Mount Sinai where God is going to meet with them and establish the rules for them.
3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
Then, after Moses runs up and down the mountain several times, God gives the ten commandments to the people, and it was completely overwhelming.
18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.
19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” 20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”
21 As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.
When the Israelites saw the pure raw power of God displayed before them they were terrified and realized that they had been disobeying and testing the one true God. But this encounter was very impactful and the Israelites stuck to the ten commandments and the rest of the law until the time of Jesus, but we do see that their teachers had really perverted the commandments by then.
In today’s New Testament chapter (Mark 7) Jesus is talking to some of the religious leaders, and they are mad because his disciples are not washing their hands before a meal, which is an old religious tradition from the time of Moses. Jesus is disgusted with them because of the cleanliness of their hands contrasted with the perversion in their hearts.
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.
We have talked a bit about remembering what God has done for us, and having it in as obvious of a place as possible to remind us so that we do not forget about what God did for us, and this often leads to traditions, which can be very good to remind us. For instance we have Christmas as a time to remind us to celebrate and thank God for sending Jesus, but it has turned mostly into a celebration of consumerism and credit card debt. In all of this we need to remember that it is what comes out of our heart that is the most important.