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            If you would please turn in your Bibles to the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus and I want us to look at the last of the Ten Commandments. I hope you have enjoyed this study and feel like you better understand the Ten Commandments. I know that I have learned a great deal in my study for this series. I want to read this last word or pronouncement that the Lord gave the children of Israel in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land. Follow along as I read verse 17.

            As you look at the Ten Commandments, I have mentioned several times that they can be divided into two tables: one dealing with our relationship with God (Commandment 1 to 4) and one dealing with our relationship with others (Commandment 5 to 10).

            Also, I noticed that in these commandments and with the help of commentators and sermons that these commandments have three dimensions to them. First, there is a Godward (upward) dimension to them. The first four commands deal with our relationship with God. In other words, we are to respond to God the way He demands to be worshipped. Also, the fifth through the tenth command is Godward (upward) because our Heavenly Father tells us how we ought to relate to one another and in so doing shows our love for God.

            Another dimension is what you might call an outward focus. This is something that is tangible and practical. In other words, you not only love God but you love others the way God instructs us to love others. The Apostle John in his first letter said how we can say we love God if we are not willing to love others. So your walk and talk line up, you practice what you preach. So there is an upward and an outward focus.

            Yet, there is a third dimension, which is covered in the tenth commandment and that is an inward focus. God is not only concerned with our outward actions; He is also concerned with our heart, as well. Even a pagan understood this. A tribal chief among the Indonesian people known as the Torajas declared, "I would rather have the 7777 commandments and prohibitions of the Toraja Adat than the Ten Commandments of the Christians, for the Ten Commandments demand my whole heart, whereas the 7777 ancestral commands and prohibitions leave room for a lot of freedom!" [Douma, 352]

            With all this being said, let us look into the tenth commandment. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

            To begin with, the word "covet" is used both positively and negatively. It is a "neutral word" ...that "only when misdirected to that which belongs to another that such 'desire' becomes wrong" [Derek Kidner, TOTC, 161]. The Hebrew word hāmad originally meant "be pleasant," expressing "desire, delight in." But the word further carries the idea of "covet, lust after" [Harris, Archer, Waltke, eds. TWOT, I, 294-295].

                 In the positive sense, desire or delight is a good translation for this word. Not all desires are forbidden. Things like sleep and hunger and thirst can be good because everyone does desire rest and food and drink. The Bible says in Psalm 68:11 God desires Jerusalem for His abode. Also, the Psalmists says the Lord’s commands are more to be desired than gold, even fine gold (Psalm 39:10). But in this context, it refers to “inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire.” For example, God commanded the Israelites not to covet the gold adorning idols (Deut, 7:25), to lust after prostitutes (Prov. 6:25), or to covet fields (Micah 2:2, Ex. 34:24).

            In verse 17, the command is clearly stated what is meant by coveting. Again, as with the previous commandment, the use of the term "neighbor" reminds us that we are not an island; that we are related to others both in the immediate community of relations and beyond. God was not forbidding one having a house or a wife or, in that ancient context, a servant or farm animals or other things. Rather the prohibition involved desiring or longing for what belonged to one's neighbor. At the heart of this sin is the unwillingness to be content with what God in His kind providence has provided for you.

            Brian Edwards has identified a number of common areas of coveting that we find in this commandment [256]. To covet a man's house is to desire his security; to want what he has that causes him to feel secure in life. It might be his literal house or it might be his position in the company or it might even be his family and their standing. To covet a man's wife is to desire his marriage. That breaks the 7th commandment, and as Jesus warned, even if it is only in the realm of desires we've already committed adultery in our hearts (Matt. 5:27-28). How many homes have been destroyed that began with what some considered "innocent" daydreaming? To desire a man's male or female servants is to desire his leisure, since the existence of such servants enabled an ancient to spend time at the city gates in leisure activity. Is this not an area where we easily succumb to coveting? We see someone's recreational activities or hear of his travels or see pictures of his trip to some exotic place, and then covet in our own hearts, wishing that it had been us rather than the other. To covet his ox or donkey is to desire his wealth, work, and status. A man in the ancient world was known by the amount of his livestock. When the prophet Nathan sought to convey a particular image to King David as a rebuke, he compared Uriah to the poor man who had only one little ewe lamb. Here the longings of the heart to have more things, to have someone else's job, and to achieve a certain standing in society move from sanctified desires to coveting. Just in case anything might be left out, the Lord added, "or anything that belongs to your neighbor." In other words, coveting or uncontrolled, ungoverned desires can touch any area of life, so we must guard against it.

            The Bible is filled with examples of various individuals who have coveted what others had in possessions or experience. Let me name a few of them. In 1 Kings 21, there is the story of Ahab and Naboth. Ahab approached Naboth about his vineyard because it was near the palace. He offered him money for it or promised to give him another vineyard if he would give him his vineyard for a vegetable garden. Naboth refused to give Ahab his vineyard because it was the inheritance of his fathers. Ahab went home and sulked about it, but his wicked wife, Jezebel, devised a plan to help Ahab get the vineyard by lying about Naboth and having him stoned to death.

            The story of David and Bathsheba illustrate covetousness. 2 Samuel 11 and 12 tell this story. David decided to stay home instead of going out to war like the rest of the kings. One afternoon while on his back deck, he hears a beautiful young lady splashing in her tub and David desires her. As a result of David’s sin he broke the seventh commandment. Yet, this night of pleasure backfired because Bathsheba became pregnant and David had to come up with a plan to cover up his sin. He brought Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, home from war but Uriah remained faithful to David and the men in the army by not going home to be with his wife. So David had to have Uriah killed which violated the sixth commandment, then he broke the ninth commandment by lying about what he had done.

            The prophet Amos proclaims that the merchants of his day were coveting material things. In chapter 8:4-6, these merchants took advantage of the needy and the poor. They couldn’t wait until the Sabbath was over to make a profit. They were deceitful in their deals by having unfair balances. They had broken the 4th and the 8th commandment.

            Jeremiah 17:1-15, tells of the citizens of Judah, who had sinned against the Lord by worshipping idols on high places. God promised that He would take their material goods and give them to another and they would serve their enemies because they were trusting in themselves. And their wealth was coming because of injustice. The people of Judah broke the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 9th commandment.

            Today, covetousness is rampant in our society. Covetousness is never having enough and being discontent with what we have in life. John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company of Ohio, was once asked by a reporter, “How much money does it take to be happy?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”

            Let me give you a couple of examples of men who did not have enough. In 1989, Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, looked across the sand to the small, defenseless nation of Kuwait. He was fascinated by what he saw: billions of barrels of easily accessible oil, a portfolio of overseas investments valued in hundreds of billions of dollars, and people wallowing in the lap of luxury. He had a powerful army, while Kuwait virtually had none. In a matter of hours this treasure was his for a time being.

            In the 1930s another dictator named Adolf Hitler began to covet what belonged to his neighbors. He wanted the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. He wanted the Rhineland. He wanted the port of Danzig in Poland. Ultimately, he coveted all of Europe and Russia. His excuse was not coveting but needing more living space for Germany. He destroyed cities and villages, homes and factories to get what he wanted and in the end fifty million people were slaughtered by this ruthless dictator.

            This was true of Alexander the great, the Romans, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, the Turks, the Spanish empire, Napoleon, etc. They simply were not satisfied with what they had and wanted what their neighbors had.

            In the New Testament, Paul said that it was this sin that led him to see that he was a sinner. Turn with me Romans 7:7. Look at the second part of verse 7. This commandment not only teaches us the inwardness of the law; that is, this commandment teaches us that God is concerned about the state of the heart; this command also shows us the inwardness of sin. You know, a lot of people think that as long as I am moral, as long as I don't do something that is a violation of the civil statutes, as long as I don't do something that is a violation of the community, and the context of the church, then I am an upright person. I am a blameless person. Paul thought about himself in those terms. He described himself as a Pharisee who was blameless with regard to the law. But He also tells us in Romans 7:7 that it was this commandment that taught him that he was a sinner. It was this commandment that taught him that his keeping of this commandment was rubbish. It was this commandment that taught him that he needed grace. It was this commandment that taught him that the law couldn't save him, because the law condemned him through this commandment. Look what it says in Romans 7:7: "I would not have come to know sin except through the law, for I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, 'you shall not covet.'" Paul, in this passage, is defending the integrity of the law. He is saying, "Look, I’m not making disparaging remarks about the law of God. In fact, it was the law of God that taught me that I was a sinner."  And so he tells us how the law taught him the sinfulness of sin, and the way it taught him the sinfulness of sin, it talked about something in his heart. Paul, like so many of the religious people of the day, thought in external terms in regard to righteousness. But he says that when he came to this command, that this command showed him the inwardness of his sin.

            So as you can see that all sin is a matter of the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” That is what Paul was communicating in Romans 7. So sinful desires begin in the heart and we must be careful to guard against this condition of the heart. It is what is in the heart that leads to potential action. This is what Jesus taught the people in Mark 7 beginning in verse 14. If you will turn in your Bibles to this passage and let me read you the words of Christ.

            So how do we combat such behavior? How do we keep our hearts from such sin? I believe Paul’s words to Timothy give us some great advice. In 1 Timothy 6:6, Paul wrote, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment. This word contentment was used by the Stoic philosophers to mean self-sufficiency, but Paul had something different in mind. What Paul referred to was contentment that was founded in the provision of our heavenly Father, who knows our needs and in turn supplies what’s best for us. Derek Prime wrote, “Our contentment needs to be not in what we expect others to give, or what we may strive after, but in what God unfailingly provides for us by one means or another.”

            Paul goes on to tell Timothy that we brought nothing into the world when we arrived. Job said it this way, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb” (Job 1:21). In other words, there were no possessions in my hands when I came into the world. And Paul said we can take nothing out of the world. Again Job said, “And naked I will depart” (Job 1:21). We are going to depart this world with nothing in our hands. So what Paul is suggesting is for us to say no to covetousness and yes to contentment. We should be content with food and clothing, these are sufficient enough says Paul.

            Now I do not want you to misunderstand Paul and think that he is calling you to a vow of poverty or such a simple life that you cannot enjoy things beyond these basics. No, we ought to be grateful for the luxuries that have been afforded us. What Paul warns us about is not money being evil, but the love of money being evil. In 1 Timothy 6:10, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Remember Ananias and Sapphira, a co-worker with Paul named Demas, and one of Jesus’ disciples Judas Iscariot. There are people who do well for a while, but then as Jesus warns they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures” (Luke 8:14).

            Therefore, contentment is something that has to be learned in Christ. It is a continual trust in the heavenly father providing for us and not coveting what God has given to someone else. Alistair Begg, wrote, “This will not happen in a moment in time. It will take all our Christian life to learn this lesson. Instead of looking to others to meet our needs, our contentment is to be discovered in learning to live at God’s disposal in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.

            I believe there was a lady who expressed it best when she wrote: “Years ago I stopped looking to anyone but God to satisfy me. There is no man that can love me enough, no child that can need me enough, no job that can pay be enough, and no experience that can satisfy me enough! Only Jesus.”  

            So as we close our series on the Ten Commandments, I want to remind you that you cannot look into the mirror of God’s law and feel good about yourself. Not if you are honest. The Ten Commandments were not given to save us or to become a step-ladder to climb our way to heaven. No, the Ten Commandments were given to point out that we are sinners who have a serious problem. A problem so that that we cannot by willpower or great effort can fix. Begg said, “The gravity of our condition is brought home to us not simply by realizing the extent of our predicament but by pondering the length to which God went in order to rescue us. God sent His only and one Son to die in our place.

            The only answer for our problem is Christ and the work He did on the cross. So ask yourselves: Am I Christian? Do I have a personal relationship with Him through faith alone? Am I trusting Him for my salvation? One of the greatest hymns written in our day, which the choir has song, says this: In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My comforter, My All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.

            C.H. Spurgeon encouraged the members of his congregation when he wrote: It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as to Christ, look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him. Do not let your hopes and fears come between you and Jesus: follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.

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