Session 14: The Ten Commandments
And God spoke all these words: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me ." Exodus 20:1-3
Exodus 20, Key verses: 20:1-3
Timeline, about 1500 BC . During the time of the early Israelites, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the great ancient cities are built, and the Iron Age is at its beginning.
Key personalities: God, Moses, Aaron and two million Israelites
The epic Exodus story continues. As the people fled the tyranny of Pharaoh, they go to meet God where He speaks to His people. This is where we are introduced to the Law; the quintessential covenant in Scripture is the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments! The purpose of the covenants that God has made with us through time is to establish who He is, His Holiness, power, character, as well as His love and promise. This also establishes our responsibility toward Him and others around us, and to convey His promises--of which we are the ultimate beneficiaries. We receive eternal promises and blessings through His covenants of grace. Other covenants can be found in Scripture between God and Noah, God and Abraham, and God and Moses (Gen. 2:16-17; 9:1-17; 15:18; 26:3-5; Deut. 4:10-14; 10:4; Gal. 3:16-18; Luke 1:68-79; Heb. 13:20).
Key Happenings: We are to Honor our LORD God!
Exodus Chapter 20, The Ten Commandments, called the "Decalogue," meaning ten words or sayings, are set up as a code of covenant between two parties--God and His nation and to each of His people. This was called an apodictic law, where the ground rules, behaviors, expectations, and penalties for the people who will be living in the king's land are set forth. Here God is King, and we are His servants who He rescues and redeems; He, as Creator and Lord, expects us to behave His way, as a loving parent does to raise a child to maturity and wellness in life.
The first four commandments are about God's authority and our covenant relationship with Him--that He is our God and we are to respond with worship, reverence, trust and obedience as His faithful, loyal people.
The fifth through tenth commandments are about our covenant of community--our relationships with one another. We are to honor God by our benevolence and goodness to one another in family, clan, community and nation. Just think this through. If you have love for your neighbor, you will not steal from him, kill him, devise ways to get even, seek to acquire their possessions, or cheat on your spouse... In turn, you will live in peace and harmony by receiving the same from your neighbor!
Vs. 20:1, And God spoke, I will be their God . This is the King Creator of the Universe, claiming His people and calling to a nation in history and us as people here and now to Who and What He is and does and how to know Him. The Prophets had this, as did Moses and many others, but it alluded most of the Jews and peoples of the earth. This is the essential aspect of the covenant of God to His people, the Jews. This is a commanding, yet loving promise for them to be His people. It comes with two sides. One, He will be our God; two, our part is that we must respond by faith and obedience. The difference is that now, it is easier to know Him. We have the Holy Spirit, Christ's work, His Word in the Bible, and His grace. God is declaring a peace treaty with us as an agreement, (what a covenant means) (Heb 8:1-13).
· Vs. 20:2-3, The First Commandment, I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me . There is One God and He is to have absolute allegiance! Nothing is to take the place of God in prominence and worship. God reminds what He has done and our response must be awe and gratitude. As He is always LORD and we are always in His presence. The contrast is other nations' gods were in a pantheon of hierarchy; they were petty tyrants who manipulated people. God wants our best so we bring out the best in others. We are to surrender to His Lordship with gratitude, honor, worship and reverence (Gen. 1:26-27; His. 2:13; Col. 1:15; 2:19).
· Vs. 20:4-6, The Second Commandment, You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below . God is too great, powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent, as well as to mysterious and incomprehensible to a human mind to reduce Him to any symbol or art form or idol. Something we create is something we control. God cannot be controlled! This is about how we worship God; we do not worship Him by magic, spells, incantations, or meaningless rhetoric or by man's pride and performances. In addition, idols are not to be the focus, because God is personal and not regulated to something that is manmade as others gods were approached as tools for manipulation by kings and priests. Here God is to be honored and addressed as LORD, and He wants to recognize His Lordship and power by our surrendered devotion. He is not to be portrayed by any image or representation.
Good Christian art, like Michelangelo, is something we do not bow down too; rather, it helps us be reminded and learn the stories, themes and precepts of the Bible.
· A jealous God . God's passion for Himself and His people. We are to honor and worship only Him. He has forbidden us to worship anyone or anything besides Him! This means to honor God, glorify Him, and His good works, gifts, greatness, graciousness, mercy, judgment, power, instruction, and knowledge ( Deut. 6:15; Josh. 24:19 ).
· Punishing the children for the sin of the parents . Meaning the severity and necessity of God's law and the dreadful repeating consequences of sin. This is also about how children repeat the sins and patterns of their parents when they grow up, creating generational dysfunction to family and others. This is also about guilt that is created when one is not faithful and loyal. Right relationship with God and family are paramount to healthy living and prosperity as well as solidity and blessings to a nation.
· Showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments . God has steadfast love and honors our loyalty and devotion to Him.
· Vs. 20:7, The Third Commandment, You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God . This is also about honoring God by proper reverence. God is not to be manipulated or controlled or worshiped falsely! We must know that God controls us; we do not control or exploit God. God is absolutely trustworthy and dependable and we are not to blaspheme Him (Psalm 110:4; Isa. 45:23; Jer. 22:5; 49:13; 51:14; Amos 4:2; 6:8; John 17:17; Titus 1:2). This was not about foul language, rather about "hexing," using God's name to manipulate others or used to make oaths. As in oaths, we swear to something greater than ourselves. Also, this means not to say God told me…when in fact He did not and it was our impulses and desires. God is infallible and is above such things, as He is even more binding because God is God--there is nothing to bind Him; He is ultimately trustworthy and thus binding to Himself (Gen. 15:8-21; 22:17; Deut. 28:58; Psalm 89:35, 49; 106:26; 132:11; Matt. 6:9; Heb. 6:13-20). Should Christians swear oaths today? See Matthew 5: 33-37.
· Vs. 20:8-11, The Forth Commandment, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy . This is a symbol of God's sovereignty and Lordship. Meaning to cease work and worship God and reflect that we have a purpose in God and He blesses. This law was unique then, no other nation had a day off for its people, unless it was to honor the king like for his anniversary of coronation or pagan feast, even then, they worked. This was not about restrictions; rather, this was a great comfort, especially after being released from slavery this was and should still be. God wants us to live well, take breaks, to be with and enjoy our families. When we honor our family we also honor God. This becomes a weekly celebration of rest and worship, lasting Friday evening through Saturday evening. The Sabbath was instituted at Creation. This was celebrated at the temple meeting (tent of the Ark), and then centuries later in the temple of Solomon. It is also a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ ( Deut. 5:12-15; Matt. 11:28; 12:1-8; Mark 2:27; Heb. 4:1-11 ).
Why do Christians worship on Sunday? The Christian church today as a whole recognizes Sunday as the Sabbath and day to do church because it is the day Jesus rose from the dead (the exception is the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Baptists and some Christian Messianic groups such as Jews for Jesus). But, Scripture is clear that day now is irrelevant, pointing out that every day is a day to honor God and worship Him (Matt. 12:1-12; Rom. 12:1; Acts 20:7; Rom. 14:5-6; Col. 2:16-23; Heb. 4:8-11).
· Vs. 20:12, The Fifth Commandment, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you . The home was the cradle to learn faith, worship, and God's instructions. Parents are to represent God's authority by honoring God by to instructing, protecting, nurturing, and representing the faith and children are to respect, listen and pass it on. So, when we disrespect our parents, we disrespect our Lord. This does not mean to take abuse. The purpose is to honor the family, and preserve their reputation and the nations and showcase the goodness of God to the world. When the Israelites failed at this, a generation was lost, and they were invaded by foreign kings or had bad kings. Most of the ills and dysfunction in the world are because parents did not do as God said, and the children become pagan and corrupt and pass on more dysfunction and hurt. The breakdown of the family comes before the breakdown of a nation; the strength of the family creates the strength of a church and nation.
· Vs. 20:13, The Sixth Commandment, You shall not murder . We are not too intentionally or premeditate take the life of another, because life is sacred. The exception is capital punishment for heinous crimes or in the case of self defense or in war. This is also to prevent blood feuds, in those cultures where when a family member is killed by intention or accident, the other family can go after that family and this can last for generations (Gen. 9:5-6; Lev. 24:7; Num. 35:30-34).
· Vs. 20:14, The Seventh Commandment, You shall not commit adultery . This was to preserve the family--betrayal is the worst thing a relationship can sustain. This was also to preserve the family's lineage and reputation and assure that children had the proper parents and name. In most cultures then, women were considered property; here, women were given higher status, but still dependent on the man. God wanted the integrity of the family preserved as the foundation to His nation and its solidarity (Deut. 22:16-21; 23:2; Mal. 2:16).
· Vs. 20:15, The Eighth Commandment, You shall not steal . The call was to respect one another's property, from land, goods, to not keeping two sets of books to defraud, lying about the time you put in at work or to take others herds, animals and as well as kidnapping people or stealing ones reputation and dignity by cheating or manipulation (Deut. 24:7).
· Vs. 20:16, The Ninth Commandment, You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor . This covers the slander of one another, so reputations and truth are preserved. But this is more about truth in justice. This is essential to have an honest and effective justice system. If the enforcement of the law, the testimonial of the victims and witness is not true, then there is no reliability or justice. This does not mean to never lie, as the midwives and Moses parents lied to protect him as a baby, or to lie to an invader or to protect someone. What is evil is to lie to cause harm, what is good is to lie to protect life (Neh. 5:12).
· Vs. 20:17, The Tenth Commandment, You shall not covet . This means the illegitimate desire to have what does not belong to us. This is about controlling our hearts and then desires so we do not steal or cheat on our spouse or doing any wrong. To want even crave and rationalize what is wrong as OK. The counter to coveting is to be in prayer seeking reconciliation and not division (Prov. 10:24; 13:23; Phil. 4:12; James 4:1-6).
· Do not have God speak to us or we will die . The realization of God's glory that is so awesome and powerful, they feared Him beyond respect, to actual terror (Prov. 1:7; 3:5).
· Do not be afraid . This is the essential call to trust in God . For the Christian, this is a call to a personal relationship-unity with conviction with Christ, and it is a command to step up to faith, our response to the call of God with trust in Him through times of danger and fear. He is the Eternal God on whom we can rely and not only give our life to, but also live our life for (2 Sam. 2:3; Isa. 8:17; 28:16; Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14-18; 28:16; John 13:36; 14-15; Heb. 2:13)
What do The Ten Commandments give us? They deal with how we are to be to each other; and how we are to be before God (Ex. 20:1-17). Jesus summarizes them as, love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). In Jesus time, most Jews then, as well as now, would claim they keep the commandments (Matt. 19: 13-30)!
Key Takeaway: The Ten Commandments are also laws of love. To love and serve God and to love others around us too, so we can thrive. This is not just a set of rules and regulations; rather, it is how we must live to create happy effectual relationship with God and with others around us. This is a Covenant; we have that binds our faith and duty to God as our one and only LORD.
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? This points out that a more effectual covenant was needed; Christ IS IT. This passage is also a depiction of a righteous person's proper dependence upon Jesus as our Sanctuary and LORD.
Questions to Ponder
1. How do you honor God? How do you relate to His blessings of you and others?
2. How are The Ten Commandments laws of love? What do they show about our relationship with God and to others?
3. What are some of other gods do we have today? What gets in the way of a proper worship of Christ as LORD?
4. Why does God demand absolute allegiance? What happens when we refuse, even in subtle ways? How have you see this?
5. How do these commandments equate to God's promises, of which we are the ultimate beneficiaries?
6. How and why when we honor God, we show benevolence and goodness to friends and family?
7. What do The Ten Commandments show us with responding by faith and obedience?
8. Why does God say He is jealous? How is this different form us being jealous?
9. What do you think this phrase means, punishing the children for the sin of the parents? Does this make God unfair? Why not?
10. God has steadfast love to you. So, how does this help you honor, worship and give Him your loyalty and devotion to Him?
11. How and why does the breakdown of the family comes before the breakdown of a nation and church? What can the church do?
12. God wants our best so we bring out the best in others. What would this do if you fully engaged being your best in our family, work, friendships and at church?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org