Scripture Reference: Exodus 19:1-20:21; Exodus 24:1-24; and Exodus 31:18
Suggested Emphasis: God gives us rules to live by because He knows that they will help us be happy.
Memory Work: Memorize the Ten Commandments over the next few weeks. Exodus 20
The Lord knew that His people would need rules so that they could get along and they would know how to love and obey Him. When the Israelites came to Mount Sinai, Moses went up on the mountain and the Lord laid out his covenant with his people which included the Ten Commandments and laws for life and worship. As the people watched Moses ascend the mountain into God’s presence, they heard thunder and trumpet sounds and saw lightning and smoke. The Lord wrote the covenant on tablets of stone and gave them to Moses for the people.
God brought His people out of Egypt and He took care of them as they traveled. After about two months, the people camped beside Mount Sinai.
In a dramatic demonstration—thunder, lightning, billowing smoke, trembling mountain, and the blast of a trumpet—God spoke from Heaven and made clear His intentions for his people. Although the 10 Commandments are the most well-known part of the covenant there were many other instructions given on the mountain.
- Exodus 20:22-23:33 Laws concerning daily life, justice, property, and festivals as well as God’s promise to send his angel to fight for his people and smooth the way all the way to the Promised Land.
- Exodus 25:1-31:18 Laws and instructions concerning the building of the tabernacle (a dwelling place for God), furniture for worship, priests and details such as priestly clothing, recipes for oil and incense and keeping a Sabbath.
These commands were the foundation of their lives. The laws were given to protect and help them become a great nation that was unique and different from all the surrounding nations.
The idea of concrete rules and commandments can seem a sharp contrast to the societies within which some of us live. In these societies, each person is encouraged to decide for himself or herself what is right. Teach the children that God’s commands protect us and help us. They are given for our good, not simply to place restrictions on us but because God wants what is best for his people. Most of all they are important because they are GOD’s words and not man’s.
As God descended upon the mountain in fire, the rumbling of thunder, the flashing of lightning, and the sound of a trumpet made everyone tremble (Exodus 19:16-18). God had a purpose appearing with power. In Exodus 20:20 we discover that God wanted the Israelites to see His power so that they would obey Him.
In answer to God’s call, Moses went up and down the mountain a number of times to receive God’s instructions for his people. When Moses explained God’s covenant to the people, they promised obedience. These commands reflect the character of God and therefore remind us that following God means living up to a standard, of the character of God. These objective standards are something against which we can measure our behaviour and are often the instruments the Holy Spirit uses to convict us of sin.
Through the Ten Commandments, God provided guidelines for interaction with himself and with other people. God wasn’t just giving Israel a set of laws. He was renewing the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promised to make Israel His own special people and a holy nation if they would obey Him (Exodus 19:5-6).
- Commandment 1– Have no other God before Me- Jehovah (better “Yahweh”) is the only real God. His people must not invent or accept any others.
- Commandment 2– Do not make a graven image-Both in Egypt and in Canaan, people made images of people and animals and called them gods. The people of Israel were not to make any such thing to be worshipped. God is jealous in a good way, an unselfish way. He wants people to worship Him because that is good for people. It makes them do right, and doing right brings them God’s mercy and blessing.
- Commandment 3– Do not take my name in vain-Do not use God’s name in profane cursing. Do not use His name without really meaning to speak of Him. Some people use His name as an expression of surprise, wonder, or anger. His people should never do that.
- Commandment 4– Keep the Sabbath Day holy-The people of Israel were commanded not to work on the seventh day of the week, Saturday (Genesis 2:1-3). There is no record that He told people to rest on that day until He brought His people out of Egypt to become a separate nation (Exodus 16:22-30). As He gave laws for that nation at Sinai, He commanded its people to rest on the seventh day. He made the Sabbath a sign between himself and the people of Israel (Exodus 31:12-17), and a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).
- Commandment 5– Honour your father and mother-Parents were commanded to teach God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Children who honoured their parents would then obey God, and God would let them live long and happily in the country He would give them. Ephesians 6:1-3 says that children who honour and obey their parents still can expect longer lives.
- Commandment 6– Do not kill-Other parts of the law command that a murderer is to be put to death (Numbers 35:16-18). This Commandment forbids murder.
- Commandment 7– Do not commit adultery-Husbands and wives should be true to each other as long as they live.
- Commandment 8– Do not steal-It is wrong to take the property of another without paying a fair price for it.
- Commandment 9– Do not lie-God’s people were to be truthful, never lying about others.
- Commandment 10– Do not want what another has-It is bad to want what belongs to someone else unless he or she wants to sell it and we are ready to pay a fair price for it.
The covenant was that God would protect and bless his people and they would obey him. This agreement was written on stone by God himself.
When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. Exodus 31:18, NIV
It is important to note that there were actually two sets of stone tablets given to Moses. This lesson covers the first time. The second set is covered in the story of the Golden Calf.
- The first set of stone tablets was given here in Exodus 19:1-20:20.
- The second time is recorded in Exodus 34.
- The sad events surrounding the golden calf idol are found between these two events.
If you will later be teaching the children about the story of the Golden Calf then they will learn that at the very same time Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the words of the law the first time the Israelites were at the foot of the mountain constructing a calf idol and making sacrifices before it. When Moses sees this he throws down the tablets of stone, breaking it into pieces. Later, after Moses confronts the people, God will invite Moses up the mountain again resulting in replacement tablets.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Find pictures of traffic signs. Hold these up and let the children talk about what each one means. Discuss why it is important to obey these rules. What would happen if people did not obey the rules? “Sometimes rules can help us all be safe. If people disobey some of the rules then it makes all of us unhappy. God knew that His people needed rules so that they would know how to worship Him and how to treat other people.”
God’s people had been travelling on their journey from Egypt for over two months. They arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Israelites spread their camp in the desert in front of the mountain. Moses went up onto the mountain to speak with the Lord.
Moses remembered this place because this is where he used to be a shepherd for his father-in-law. This was the same place where he had seen the burning bush. Moses remembered how God had promised to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses knew that the Lord always did what He said He would do.
On the mountain, God spoke to Moses and gave him a message for the people of Israel. Moses called the elders of the people and told them what the Lord had commanded him to speak. This was the message: “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”
When the people heard God’s message, they responded: “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
The Lord gave special instructions to Moses for the people. They were to wash themselves and their clothing and be ready by the third day. On that day the Lord was going to come down on Mount Sinai. The people were not to touch the mountain. Anyone who touched the mountain was to be put to death.
On the morning of the third day, the people were assembled before the mountain, dressed in their newly-cleaned clothes. As they gazed at the mountain, they saw God’s power demonstrated once more.
A thick cloud was on the mountain. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled down its slopes. Then fire burst out of the mountain and there was a loud trumpet blast. The people trembled with fright when they saw this awesome display of God’s power. The trumpet sound kept getting louder and louder. Then God spoke to Moses. He gave Moses Ten Commandments that He wanted His people to obey.
These are the Ten Commandments from the Lord:
1-You shall have no other gods before me
2-You shall not make for yourself an idol
3-You shall not misuse the name of the Lord
4-Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
5-Honour your father and your mother
6-You shall not murder
7-You shall not commit adultery
8-You shall not steal
9-You shall not give false testimony
10-You shall not covet
God gave these Commandments to His people because He knew they needed a plan for living. He was preparing the Israelites to become a great nation. God knew that a nation could not be great unless there were good laws. The laws would guide them in the way they were to worship God and in the way they were to treat other people. If the people would obey the laws then they would be happy and they would show the other nations that the nation of Israel followed God.
God’s rules were also a symbol of the important agreement or covenant God had with his people. They would obey him and he would take care of them. God wrote this agreement on stone so that Moses could take it down the mountain and show the people.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique, so only use the illustrations that best relate to how YOU tell the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing, so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What was the name of the mountain where God gave the people the Ten Commandments? Mount Sinai
- Who did God give the Ten Commandments to so he could tell the people? Moses
- What did God write the Ten Commandments on? Tablets of stone
- Happy all the Time (Inright, outright) Song
- If You’re Happy and You Know It Song
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Write commandments on index cards (one commandment per card). Make two sets of these so that you have twenty cards in all. Turn the cards face down and mix them up. Play “concentration” where the children match pairs.
- Let children act out each commandment in a modern situation.
- Discuss the consequences of no rules (traffic, school, sports, government regulations in conservation, food preparation, etc.)
- Learn the 10 Commandments using hand motions. Here are some links to examples. Each is slightly different:
- Help the children learn the Ten Commandments from memory. Click here for ways to do this.
- Read what Jesus said in John 15:14 and talk about being a friend to God.
Cut strips of paper and use them to depict the story as you tell it. The papers can be placed on a flat surface (like a table) and moved around to form shapes such as a mountain, tents, lightning bold, tablets, numbers 1 through 10 and finally a happy face. Ten Commandments Story using paper strips
- Make “stone” tablets out of salt dough.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page with text (Ministry Spark)
- Colouring page Moses and the 10 Commandments (Christian Answers)
- Colouring page listing the 10 Commandments (Teacher Help)
- Craft: Toilet paper roll figure of Moses (Sunday School Crafts)
- Craft: Paper bag Ten Commandments (Crayola)
- Craft: Parchment commandments (DLTK)
- Other: Map showing Egypt and the Hebrew’s journey (Bible-Printables)
- Other: The ten commandments for kids (Ministry to Children)