Shorter Catechism Qs. 43–44

Q. 43. What is the preface to the ten commandments?

A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Q. 44. What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?

A. The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, the Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.


Exodus 20:1–2; Deuteronomy 5:6


Most books these days come with some sort of celebrity endorsements. And why not? New books are published almost on a daily basis, and a book has to do something to stand out if it has any chance of being read. Usually, these books also have either an introduction or preface written by a celebrity author as well. Often they are meaningless fluff. You can skip over the preface and the introduction and lose absolutely nothing. But sometimes the preface and the introduction give us vital information that frame our reading of the book. When a preface does its job well, it introduces to us the mind of the author, his design, and how best we can benefit from our reading.

The Holy Spirit also wrote a preface to the ten commandments. And it’s no fluff. It gives us vital information about the mind of the Author, and how we should understand the ten commandments.

The preface to the ten commandments teach us that God is the Lord. He created us for his glory, and we owe him our obedience. But the preface tells us more than that. God is the Redeemer who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. That is, the Lord who gave the ten commandments has a double claim upon Israel’s obedience: first as their Creator and Master, and also as their Redeemer.

This preface therefore tells us with what attitude we live in obedience to the ten commandments. We want to obey with zeal and with a heartfelt gratitude to our Creator and Redeemer. So we don’t pick and choose which of his commandments suit us. All of God’s law should be driving our lives, not, of course, to earn life, but because God has given us life to live righteously. Surely we live in an age where “passion” and “vision” are the vogue words of the moment. Here’s how a psalmist might put it. “Blessed is the man...[whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1) What we need more passion for, a vision for, is living in God’s will, his law.

So read the preface well. Learn the heart of God. Then read the ten commandments. You will surely benefit from it then.