Scripture Focus- Exodus 20
The past 30 years, public displays of religious symbols in government space have sparked strong battles in the courtroom, and in the court of public opinion. Surprisingly, based on where our country seems to be going spiritually, the majority of Americans, 74 percent, favor the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. The Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of public religious displays in 1980 related to a case in Kentucky, and determined it to be unconstitutional. According to the court the display violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause. Another decision followed and since then rulings have been all over the place. Some have supported public religious displays, others have not.
A more significant problem is that many professing believers, if asked, could not name the Ten Commandments if their lives depended on doing so, nor could they explain the importance of the commandments. Let’s consider the significance of the Ten Commandments given by God, and how they apply to us today.
In Exodus 19, God was about to give them the Ten Commandments, shortly after the Exodus. The Lord descended on Mount Sinai in fire and smoke. The mountain shook, and there was thunder, lightning, and loud trumpet blasts. If the people came too close to the mountain, they would die. They, along with their leader Moses, were in fear of the Lord. The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
The Law of God was given specifically to the nation of Israel to:
Reveal the character of God
Set Israel apart from other nations
Reveal the sinfulness of people
Provide a way of worship
Point forward to the Messiah
Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Matthew 5:17-18 Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.
The Apostle Paul said those who believe in Jesus by faith for salvation, are released from the Law.
Moral Law is based on God’s holy character, and is timeless. Jesus kept the moral law perfectly in every way. Because the moral law reveals God’s character, the moral laws are timeless revealing what God sees as holy and unholy, right or wrong.
Ceremonial Law related to the worship of Israel and the sacrificial system. The sacrifices were all fulfilled in Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.
Civil Law governed the nation of Israel as a society. We are not bound by the civil codes of the Old Testament as New Testament believers.
The first four commandments focus on a relationship with God. The other six commandments focus on relationships with other people.
A call to worship is an invitation to know God. Vv1-6
You cannot get right with God by keeping the Ten Commandments. Keeping the Ten Commandments is impossible because of our sin nature, the effort is futile in the flesh.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
Romans 3:21-24 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed by the Law and the Prophets that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The Law reveals God’s righteousness, and our unrighteousness, and shows us our need for salvation. The Ten Commandments point us to God who is our hope, who is our deliverer! We are delivered from God’s judgment through faith in Jesus who paid the penalty we deserved.
V1 God spoke all these words: v2 I am the Lord your God.
Before he commanded, he declared who He is and what He has done.
V2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
Because of who he is and what he has done, he has the right to direct us how to live and we have the obligation to obey. The first four commandments show us how to love God.
#1 Do not have any other gods besides me. V3
From the beginning, God’s covenant with Israel was based on worship of him alone. Nothing is to come before God. If we properly understand who God is, we can overcome the temptation to worship anyone or anything else. In ancient Israel they were tempted by a multitude of false gods. Besides me/before me is literally “to My face.”
#2 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations who love me and keep my commands. Vv4-6
The commandment prohibits idolatry and images. Paul reminds us of the foolishness of trying to make God into our own image. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and the birds and the four-footed animals and creeping things. Romans 1:22-23.
Idolatry is anything that diverts worship from the one true God. The most prominent type of idolatry in the Bible was the worship of images representing pagan deities. Today there are religions worldwide where people bow before statues and icons.
Modern idols in our society focus on pleasure, power, position, people, and possessions. Each of these has self at the core.
#3 Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name. v7
One commentator noted we can break this commandment through profanity (using the name of God in blasphemy and cursing), frivolity (using the name of God in a superficial way), or hypocrisy (claiming God but living in a contrary way).
Jesus taught the disciples and us to pray, our Father who is in Heaven, Holy is Your name, Matthew 6:9. There are consequences for misusing or taking the name of God in vain.
#4 Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work- you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days, then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. Vv8-11
What was the Sabbath? Literally it was the seventh day of the week. God commanded them not to do any work. God himself is given as the example because he created in six days and rested on the seventh. The Sabbath principle was established before the Law was given and therefore is a timeless principle. We are not created to work 24/7 without negative consequences.
Under the New Covenant, established by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the church by tradition worshiped on Sunday, the first day of the week, marking the resurrection of Jesus. The Scripture gives us freedom of when we worship but does not give us the freedom to deny the Sabbath principle.
God’s gift of the Sabbath allows and encourages us to rest in his sufficiency.
A call to worship is an invitation to treat others with dignity.
Dignity is the quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Our worship of God, and faithfulness to him in the world guides us to treat others with honor and respect.
#5 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. V12
Children who are young enough to live with their parents should respect and obey, honor, their parents. The command also applies to adult children. The commandment is particularly difficult if you do not have honorable parents.
Honoring your parents never means tolerating or participating in something unholy or unhelpful. In fact it may mean seeking counsel from someone who can help you if you are in a hurtful situation.
The family is the foundation of society. The failure of the family explains a lot of what is wrong in our culture. If you learn basic respect in the family unit it will go a long way toward the rest of life.
#6 Do not murder. V13
This is the one people always say- well I have never murdered anyone! But in Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus extended the command to include anger, and we all are guilty.
The commandment does not prohibit capital punishment by the government, or deadly force by law enforcement to protect life, or self-defense.
The commandment relates to the protection of innocent life, including babies in the womb.
#7 Do not commit adultery. V14 Adultery is by definition, a sexual relationship between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse. God commanded that a sexual relationship is to be confined to a man and a woman who are united in marriage. This is not popular, but the Bible says any sexual activity outside of a man and a woman who are married, is sin.
As with murder, Jesus pointed to the thought life when he said to lust after a woman is to commit adultery with her in your heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Mental lust does not rise to the harmful level of physical adultery, but it is sin all the same. Pornography is an epidemic (68% of men in churches have viewed pornography on a regular basis).
#8 Do not steal. V15
Theft, robbery, extortion, embezzlement, all of it is condemned. It is wrong to take something that belongs to someone else. The right to personal property is important to society.
We can also steal from God. When we use our financial resources and do not honor God with them, according to the prophet Malachi 3:8-10.
#9 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. V16
The command primarily focuses on bearing false witness in a legal setting where it may damage another person. We can break this commandment by slander, lies, false impressions, silence, questioning other people’s motives and more.
Jesus said this sin originates in the heart also. We are to be people of truth because we follow the God of truth.
#10 Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. V17
You are not to desire to attain what belongs to someone else. Discontentment is the real problem and puts something in front of God as first place in your life.
A call to worship is an invitation to love deeply.
An expert in the law came to Jesus, sent by the Pharisees, with a question to test Jesus. Matthew 22:36 Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?
Of 613 OT laws, the Rabbis had divided them into greater/lesser but disagreed on the greatest.
Jesus responded by giving two commandments that summarize all of the law. Love God. . . Love your Neighbor
V37 He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command.
Jesus referred back to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:5, taken from the first word “hear” in Hebrew. We cannot do it on our own.
The heart is central in loving God. The soul is what encompasses all of our highest spiritual devotion and is the seat of our being. The mind is the center of intellectual life. Strength represents a focused effort in our entire being.
V39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. V40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Respect your neighbor. Have concern for the well-being of your neighbor. The greatest way you can love is to share the hope of the Gospel with your neighbor!
1 John 4:16-17 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in the world.
Are we bound by the Ten Commandments?
No, in that we are not saved by the law. The law reveals our unrighteousness and need for God’s righteousness in salvation. We are under grace. Spiritual life is not about what we do for God, it is about what God has done for us in Christ.
Yes, in terms of our passionate pursuit of God’s character. John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
All Ten Commandments in principal are reiterated in the New Testament. The Gospel calls us to repentance, holiness, and godliness. Insofar as the Ten Commandments drive us to this, they are invaluable and reflect the eternal character of God.