Introducing the Ten Commandments

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Introducing the Ten Commandments - Exodus 19.1 - 24.18 (Part 8 in a Series of 11)

October 19, 2008

The Promise of God’s Presence (Exodus 19.1-6)

In Exodus 3:12 God had said to Moses, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Now, Moses is going up to God upon the mountain just as promised.  Psalm 36:6 compares the righteousness of God to the great mountains.   The Lord calls to Moses from the mountain and the heart of the OT is formed:

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’” (Exodus 19.3b-6a).

1.      “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians” - God reigned supreme over the gods of Egypt and Pharaoh Himself.

2.      “[You have seen] how I bore you on eagles’ wings” - God protected Israel by nurturing her and caring for her as an eagle does for its young.

3.      “[You have seen how I] brought you to Myself” - God brought Israel to Himself - to the holy mountain.

God has shown Himself faithful to us as well.  We were in bondage to sin and He showed us that He reigns supreme through Christ, our Passover.  He provides for us and bears us up on eagle’s wings.  He pulls us close to Himself. 

We are a special treasure to God, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation:

·         Special treasure - special property; treasured possession requiring great attention and protection

1 Peter 2:5-9 “…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

·         Kingdom of priests - mediators to other nations; Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this mediation, but Israel must guard and represent Christ to all people; we too have a ministry of reconciliation; priests in the sense of bringing people to Christ

·         Holy nation - separate; different from other people; separation from the world, purity from sin, and obedience to God

God delivered Israel from bondage and then gave them His law.  God did not require that they obey first.  If He had, no exodus would have occurred.  God rescues us from sin, and then requires our obedience.  God did not require that we purge our lives from all sin first.  If He had, we would never be saved.

“We are saved in Christ to live for Christ.” (Ryken, 495)

The Danger of God’s Presence (Exodus 19.7-25)

·         God came down to His people; He is willing to do so because of His care for us.

Isaiah 57:15 “Thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’”

·         God came down in a thick cloud (19.9).  Clouds in Scripture of hide the presence of God and manifest His glory at the same time. 

Psalm 97:2 “Clouds and darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.”

Matthew 17:5 “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’”

o   While God is near, He is also transcendent.  This means that He is God, separate from those He creates. 

o   This doctrine is reinforced by the command to not touch the mountain.  It is one thing to know God; quite another to demand to know that which He will not reveal. 

o   The transcendent God is near in Christ (Emmanuel). 

§  Jesus revealed God to us.

§  He suffered all the sin and indignity of life on earth.

§  He died on the cross for our sins.

Revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”  How is this possible?  Jesus did what we cannot nor ever will be able to do!

Prelude to the Ten Commandments

Paul said that law is holy.  He continued his thought by adding “and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom 7.12).  It is at this juncture we come to The Ten Commandments

Before we study each of them, there needs to be an understanding of what the word ‘law’ means and how believers should view these commands. 

Primary Meanings of ‘Law’

There are three primary meanings for ‘law’ in the Old and New Testaments:

·         The natural law possessed by all men (Rom 2.14 f.)

Romans 2:14-15 “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)…”

·         The laws enacted by men (1 Tim 1.8-9)

1 Timothy 1:8-9 “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers…”

·         The Mosaic law (e.g., The Ten Commandments)

The Mosaic law encompasses more than The Ten Commandments; however, the essence of the Mosaic law is within the Decalogue (‘Ten Words’).

Aspects of the Mosaic Law

There are three aspects of the Mosaic Law:

·         Civil law contains specific instructions about inter-social relationships within Israel’s theocracy. 

·         Ceremonial law involved the religious life of Israel and included laws regulating sacrifices, holy days, and priestly functions.

·         Moral laws set forth principles for holy behavior in all areas of life.

            A Closer Look at Civil Law

·         Civil laws for Israel are not binding upon us today, but the principles behind them are timeless. 

·         Modern farmers may not leave gleanings in their fields to feed the poor, but they should use part of their earnings to do so (Deut 24.19-22).

·         I don’t need to build a parapet around the roof of my house, but I should make my house and property as safe as possible (Deut 22.8).

            A Closer Look at Ceremonial Law

·         Ceremonial laws were highly symbolic and presented many spiritual truths. 

·         They are not practiced by believers today, but they provide valuable insights in the understanding of doctrines like holiness, propitiation, and atonement.

            A Closer Look at Moral Law

·         Moral law contains principles for holy behavior in all areas of life.

·         Moral law is as binding today as when it was given by God.

·         For example, it is always wrong to lie, cheat, steal, and murder.

·         Sin was a violation of the law long before God inscribed it on the stone tablets of Mt. Sinai (e.g., Cain’s murder and Sodom’s perversions).

The Purpose of the Moral Law

Every family sets down a standard of conduct; the family of God is no different in this respect.  God gave commands to the children of Israel after He redeemed them.  They were now His.  The law was kept as evidence of Israel’s redemption; Israel was now free to serve God and reflect His holiness.

Parents give rules to foster security and show concern.  Without the rules, home can be a frustrating place because children never know what to expect.  God was gracious and merciful to give the law to Israel and by extension to us.

1 John 3:22  “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Your view of God’s commands is a good gauge of your spiritual condition.  Those who resist rules and authority have deep spiritual problems.  We see them in the world around us every day.  The so-called ‘freedoms’ in the world simply reflect bondage to sin.  True freedom is found in Christ and is demonstrated by your obedience to God.

One thing about the 10 Commandments that we should all realize:  We cannot keep them; therefore, we fall short of God’s perfect standards.  Galatians 3:24 states that “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The law acts as an old schoolmaster and brings us to an awareness of sin and guilt.  Romans 3:20 “…By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” 

We cannot keep the law; Jesus can and did.  Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law …”  Jesus was born under the law and met all the obligations of the law.  No one had ever done this and no one else ever will. 

That’s why the righteous life of Jesus satisfied the demands of the law.  The death of Christ paid the penalty and curse of the law.  Keeping the law has nothing to do with salvation or the forgiveness of guilt.  Faith in what Christ has done, not what we do, removes our unrighteousness. 

            Colossians 2:14 [Christ has] “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was            against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it      to the cross.”

            Isaiah 53:6 “[God the Father] has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.”

Reasons for Obeying the Moral Law

We must obey the moral law to show that we are saved and have become children of God.  Exodus 20:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (cf. Deut 5.6).  Here we learn two reasons for obedience:

1.      Who God Is - “The Lord your God”; Creator with the right to command His creation and look after their welfare

2.      What God Has Done - “Brought you out”; If God redeems, we must serve and submit (1 Cor 6.20)

Upon this foundation, we will look at each commandment under the following traditional arrangement:

The Two Tables of The Ten Commandments:

·         Commandments 1 - 4:  Rules for Living with God

·         Commandments 5 - 10:  Rules for Living with Man

1 John 4:20 states:  “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”  Both tables of the 10 Commandments are inextricably linked.  You cannot truly love God while hating your fellow man or love your fellow man without loving God who instills love. 

Jesus shows that the desire behind obeying is just as important as the act itself (see Matt 5).  Keeping all the law boils down to loving God and others. 

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