“Obeying God’s Law” | Sunday School Lesson Summary and Activities, Exodus 20:18-26

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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.  Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!

“Obeying God’s Law”

Exodus 20:18-26

PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy!  Blessings.

Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well.  Blessings!)


Reaction to the presence of God should produce results in living for God.  The challenge for the people in today’s lesson is to take what they have experienced at Mount Sinai and let that govern their worship toward Him and their walk as His holy and chosen people.

Exodus 20:18 “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.”

This week’s lesson is a spin-off of last week’s lesson.  The children of Israel are still at the base of Mount Sinai.  Immediately after God spoke the Ten Commandments, the fear of God was on the people and they couldn’t take what they were seeing and hearing any longer.  Their reaction to the awesome display before them was to stand “afar off.” 

The manifested presence of God was phenomenally overwhelming for the people.  The display of “thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking,” compounded with the oral delivering of the Ten Commandments, were frightfully demonstrative of the realness and the authority of their God, the one who delivered them from Egypt.  It came to their realization really quick that this wasn’t the sticks and stones false gods of Egypt they were dealing with.  Rather, God Almighty whose presence dropped down from heaven – whose glory caused the mountain to smoke and shake – it is He that speaks with them, and these words of commandments have come clearly from His mouth.

“All the people saw” it; all the people witnessed with their own eyes the testimony of God’s great power on that mountain and all the people were afraid and “when they saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.”  The psalmist reminds us, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him,” (Psalm 89:7).  As discussed in last week’s lesson and will be discussed further along in this week’s lesson, God’s presence demands holy fear and respect.

Exodus 20:19 “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Upon realizing, what I can only imagine is their own true insignificance in light of the powerful evidence of God; the people literally, again, could not take hearing another audible word from God.  They told Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear.”

Their desire was for Moses to personally deliver to them the message of God.  The awesome and terrible strength of God’s power was literally too much for the people to handle, thus they wanted Moses to act as the go-between for the people and their God in His covenant relationship, and they declared, “We will hear.”

Later, away from the smoke and lightening and thundering, they weren’t so compliant.  There were many instances when the people questioned Moses’ leadership, complained, and refused to listen (see Numbers 11-16).  For now, they are too afraid to do or say anything else but, “we will hear.”  They were currently receptive to Moses’ leadership.

The fear of God, once again, was presently too much for them (although this too would change as they had no problem worshipping a golden calf later in this same book, Exodus 32, and sadly at other times in their blotted history).  With trembling hearts, the people said, “But let not God speak with us, lest we die,” (compare Deuteronomy 5:24-26; 18:16).  Unlike Moses, who would meet with God up close and personal, “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friends” (Exodus 33:11), the people did not possess such confidence about being in such close proximity of His glory, strength, and power being shown there.

Exodus 20:20 “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.”

Moses tried to calm the fears of the people.  Moses, a natural leader, showed constant concern for the people and wanted them to come closer to God in relationship and not push away from Him for fear.

“Fear not,” Moses spoke.  That word fear can be seen in two different ways.  The first is shown in the obvious reaction to His magnificent manifestation on the mountain.  This is more along the lines of a shaking-in-your-boots type of fear.  This fear is almost paralyzing to the people.

The second usage of the word is to instill “respect.”  It is to reverence God for who He is.

God’s goal wasn’t for them to be terrified, rather, that through what they are witnessing, for His name to be glorified.  He didn’t want them to run and hide, but to esteem Him on high.  Thus, Moses tried to soften the trepidation of their heart and pointing the fear they were feeling in the right direction.

God’s purpose in this was to “prove” them, or “test” them.  Testing points to what’s really going on on the inside.  Times of proving let the true character of the inner man come forth, be it for good or bad.  For God, He tries the hearts of men to see where they really stand with Him (Proverbs 17:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).  He allows these times of pressure to come to see if they will still hold on; to see if they will still obey His law.  One’s true love for God shines brightest in the darkest times of their tests.

One can experience the mighty works of God firsthand, as the children of Israel did when God delivered them from Egypt, but through every success and wonderful thing He does for His people, God has to know that one’s love for Him is real.  Thus, the test ensues.  Be it through tragedy, loss of blessings, or even a frightening experience such as what they witnessed at the base of that mount (or by some other means), God will prove one’s heart in the fire that they might come forth as pure gold (Job 23:10; see also Psalm 66:10 and Zechariah 13:9).

“That his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not;” that they might remember what they saw here and veer their lives from the path of “sin.”  Sin is always the intruder that tries to sneak in on God’s blessings.  Sin is a small three-lettered word but it can rob an individual of absolutely everything.

The proper “fear” of the LORD is what “prolongeth days,” (Proverbs 10:27).  Respectful fear of God is seen as a “fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death,” Proverbs 14:27).  The “fear” of the LORD will keep one’s heart steadfastly fastened on God, thus keeping one from the inclination to follow after the things of the flesh and world that promote sinning against God.

God’s purpose was to foster such an atmosphere of awe and wonder in their hearts for a relationship with His people unbroken by sin.  Isaiah 59:2 shows the reality of what happens in one’s relationship with God due to sin: “Iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  Separation, hiding His face, refusing to hear – these are not why God wanted to deliver them from Egypt.  He wants an unhindered love relationship with His people.  Not one that puts up these barriers that sin causes.

Exodus 20:21 “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.”

So, while the people respectfully kept their distance, “Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.”  Moses approached God.

Let us remember, Moses, because of his calling and his relationship with the Lord was already previously invited to enter the area where His holy presence was being manifested.  Although the scene was terrifying to the human eye, his heart of faith and confidence in God propelled his feet forward unto the “thick darkness where God was.”

There is intimate fellowship between God and Moses.  This is a scene pictured in history, that God wants for everybody to experience now and in their future; an image of confident unobstructed access to the Divine.  This is possible today for the one who comes to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.  For it is only through Jesus Christ will we gain access to that same sweet fellowship of grace (see Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; 10:19).

Exodus 20:22 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.”

Although the people stood afar off, they saw and heard everything that transpired there that day.  God told Moses to relay that truth to them and reiterate what they witnessed with their own eyes and ears.

“Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.”  In this lesson and in the one prior, we have used the term “manifested presence of God” to relay all that was occurring on the mountain.  Although God allowed these representations of His presence to appear in the form of fire, quaking, smoking, thunderings, lightnings, and the thick clouds – God Himself was speaking to them from “heaven.”  “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place . . .” (Isaiah 57:15).

And, the receiver of that message was “Moses” who would then pass it on to the people.  Today, God speaks to us through His Son (see Hebrews 1:2).

Exodus 20:23 “Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.”

Now, that they have heard from God Himself, and they know of His holiness and where He dwells, God reiterates that their allegiance is to be to Him, and Him alone.  This is the basis of their whole covenant relationship.  As such, their obedience is to be to Him and His law.  With that, He restated a combination of the first two commands that were just given in the list of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:2-5; not in today’s printed text).

False gods would prove to be a snare for the children of Israel from the time when Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments written on them (Exodus 32) to the time of their return from Babylonian captivity.

Here, they are given specific instructions concerning idols and false gods: DON’T MAKE THEM!  Don’t center your heart on them!  Don’t look to them for help!  Don’t form them with your hands using any materials, including “silver” or “gold.”  And, don’t even form them in the imagination of your mind.

In Isaiah 46, God said:

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?

They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.

They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.

Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” (Isaiah 46:5-10).

False gods need to be created out of men’s hands, but I am the God who created those men’s hands (see Genesis 1:1; Psalm 100:3; 139:13).  False gods need to be carried.  They can’t move, speak, hear, or feel.  But, I am the God who carries you (compare Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 1:31; 32:11; Psalm 28:9).  I am the God who talked to you from heaven (as noted earlier).  I am the God who hears your prayers (1 John 5:15) and sees everything that’s going on in your life (Psalm 33:13; Proverbs 15:3).  “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens,” (Psalm 96:4-5) from where God was speaking to them and it’s His law they needed to obey.

Worship was going to be a part of their vocabulary, but how they rendered it to God was going to be set apart from the ways of the heathen and ordered according to His statutes.

Exodus 20:24-25 “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all the places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”

Entering deeper into their covenant relationship with God required proper worship.  Here, God lays out the specific rules concerning the area of worship the people were to obey.  The “altar” in the Old Testament is the place where worship was centered, and for their worship to be done right, it had to be done God’s way.

First, it had to be “an altar of earth” or “an altar of stone.”  Whichever form was used, mud or stone, it had to remain organic, natural, and the elements used were to be unmixed or unaltered by the works of man’s hands from their original state (compare Deuteronomy 27:5-10).  After all, the works of man’s hands usually is the form that idol worshipping takes shape (Psalm 115:4-8 and Isaiah 2:8).

Later, as they traveled and abode in the wilderness, these altars would be built for times of remembrance, worship, and sacrifice.  At the completion of the tabernacle, it would eventually become the main place for all elements of their worship to the one true God.

“And shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen.”  As we see here, the altar was a place of worship and “sacrifice” (previously noted).  During some of those sacrifices, it would become a place where one could even find atonement for sins and wrongs committed.

Various people for various reasons up until this point of today’s lesson had built an altar for worship and sacrifice (compare the patriarchs in Genesis 12:7; 26:25; 33:20).  So, even though all the specifics of the Levitical law had not been given as of yet, they were still very familiar with the concept of sacrifice and worship on these altars.  Going back further into their history, after the time of the flood, even Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar,” (Genesis 8:20).  Therefore, this is not a new idea for the people, but how they did it had to comply with God’s laws.

Also, we will note, that when those specifics are finally given of the rituals of offerings and sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, we will see quite often the usage of “sheep” and “oxen,” along with a few other choices, as the animals used for these sacrifices (see Leviticus 1:2-3, 10, 14 for examples).

“In all the places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.”  Serious adherence to the protocol to be followed in the building of the altars was necessary because wherever they built these altars, there the “name” of the LORD would be represented, remembered, and recorded.  Herein we see worship was not just a social gathering or something to do; rather, it was a collection of hearts and spirits assembled together for the exaltation of His holy name.

And, in that place where sincere and soul-stirring worship was taking place through the spirit of obedience, there, God said, “I will bless thee.”

God has always had a blessing attached to obedience.  In Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and in Leviticus 26:1-13 there are whole lists devoted to telling of the blessings that come to the obedient.  At the same time, both books also carry lists of curses for disobedience (see Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

At the very end of Leviticus 26, the last verse speaks directly to what was taking place in today’s lesson.  It says, “These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses,” (Leviticus 26:46).  Everything hangs on the hinges of obeying God’s law.  Full compliance was necessary for not only a healthy spiritual walk between them and God, but it was also a requirement to receive His blessings.

Any altar made or worship offered outside the guidelines of what God instructed would be considered “polluted.”  When something is polluted it is defiled and corrupt.  It is not accepted by God.  And if anything, one should want their life and their worship to be accepted by God.  For this to happen, it must be done in accordance with the way He prescribed.

Speaking of prescribed, how often does one strictly adhere to the directions of men more than they do God?  A doctor, for instance, may instruct one to do this or take that in order to be well.  God wants our lives to be well also – well blessed in Him.  Shouldn’t He get more respect at the adherence of His instructions than that which one offers to others?

Exodus 20:26 “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”

Approaching the altar the right way was just as serious as approaching God the right way on that mountain.  Therefore, another thing that would pollute or render their worship unacceptable is if their “nakedness” showed.  In that day, the clothing they normally wore could have left their unmentionable parts exposed, incurring the wrath of the Lord, and they could “die” (compare Exodus 28:43).  Thus, no “steps” were to be walked up for these particular altars.

Later, in dressing the priesthood for the service of the Lord, one of the garments added were “linen breeches to cover their nakedness,” (see Exodus 28:42).  This would ensure they were properly outfitted and covered for the work and worship of the Lord.


Everything from approaching God to worshipping God had to be done His way in accordance to His laws.  God’s mighty display on Mount Sinai wasn’t just for show.  It was to draw the hearts and minds of the people deeper in covenant relationship with Him through worship.  This could only be done properly through obedience.

Standard Print PDF: Obeying God’s Law Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print

Large Print PDF: Obeying God’s Law Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print

Below are activities to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Word Search: Obeying God’s Law Word Search  Answers: Obeying God’s Law Word Search Answers

Crossword: Obeying God’s Law Crossword  Answers: Obeying God’s Law Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Obeying God’s Law Word Scramble  Answers: Obeying God’s Law Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Obeying God’s Law Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Obey God’s Law Memory Verse

Our lesson today also covered following God’s rules in the ways altars were used in worship.  Below are some great activities to help your students make altars to remember today’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Tissue Box Altar:


Great if you have extra tissue boxes in the recycling.  Simply cover the tissue box with construction paper all the way around (I used black, my preference) and then attach rocks (purchased from dollar store) to just the front (or if you have that much patience, all the way around :)). You are going to want to drop a few rocks inside to weigh it down.  I used hot glue for the rocks but you can use regular glue especially if your students are younger it just takes longer to dry.  Put fire colored tissue or construction paper coming out of the top and there you have it.  Enjoy!


This one is even easier to make.  Using the same tissue box example but instead of using rocks, I used the coloring sheet from Mssscrafts.  Simply color and attach with regular glue.  Enjoy!  (Of course, you could also use the coloring sheet as is.  They also have one with words.  Enjoy!)

Altar on Paper:


The altar paper is great if you like the idea of using rocks but didn’t have enough time to obtain tissue boxes.  Again, purchase rocks from the dollar store, print out Mssscrafts coloring sheet on cardstock this time.  Color and glue to any color construction paper.  Then add your rocks.  Finally, glue tissue paper fire to the top and there you go.  Enjoy!

Below are Activities/Links/Resources that support this week’s lesson.  Some were listed last week and some from previous lessons.  Also, an easy search of Ten Commandment activities would be appropriate for this lesson.  No matter which you choose, they all will go nicely with today’s lesson.  Enjoy!

“Approaching God at Mount Sinai”

“Moses Printable Book”

“Moses Hidden Picture Puzzle”

“Mount Sinai Craft Idea” (Following this pattern and make your own Moses climbing Mt. Sinai craft.  Download and print pictures from the internet and substitute the verse for one from our lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Stand Up Moses Craft” (Scroll down to see how to transfer a regular toilet paper roll into Moses.  Enjoy!)

“Spell it Out Moses Printable Book and Lapbook Ideas”

“Not Your Ten Suggestions” (Scroll down to the section that says, “Not Your Ten Suggestions” and there you will find a wonderful and easy printable and put together craft that goes nicely with today’s lesson.  Enjoy!)  

“A simple picture idea your younger students can draw themselves.  Enjoy!”

“Climb Mount Sinai File Folder Game” (An actual game board you can print out for your students to play this game in class.  What a nice accompaniment to today’s lesson.  It’s sure to be fun.  Enjoy!)

Activities, Crafts and Coloring About Obeying God:

Obedience Games-001

“Obedience Games for Kids” from Ehow.com (This is great!  Some of the old classics are brought out to teach children about obeying/following directions like Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light and more.  Enjoy your play time with your students as you revisit your past with this idea. :))

“Warning Signs” Activity from Kids Sunday School Place

“The Rewards of Obedience” from Ministry to Children

“Obey Donuts” (If you are looking for a treat to go with this lesson than this is it.  Refrigerated biscuit dough is all it takes. I often make treats similar to these for my students. Enjoy!)

“I Will Obey God Crafts for Kids” (Here you will find several ideas to implement for this lesson. Enjoy!)

“I Obey God Coloring Sheet”

“O is for Obedience Coloring Pages”



5 thoughts on ““Obeying God’s Law” | Sunday School Lesson Summary and Activities, Exodus 20:18-26

  1. This was my first time logging on to your site. I must say, it was very informative and your explanation really enlightened my understanding of the chapter. God is truly worthy of our reverence and honor.
    May God continue to inspire you to do his will.
    God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

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