Ten Not So Simple Commands, Part
Last week we saw the terrifying sight that Israel beheld as the Lord descended on Mount Sinai. The land quaked, the fire burned, and there was smoke like a furnace billowing to the heavens. All of it pictured not just glory, but also wrath. The Lord was about to give His law and with it came a demonstration of the greatest of wrath.
Today, we will begin to see why. Ten simple commands! Yes, seemingly so. But in reality, the truth is no, no, no! Who can look at this terrifying body of law and say, “I have lived these perfectly?” Only a fool would contemplate them carefully and then say, “Yep, I’ve done it. I deserve a seat next to God in heaven. He owes me… big time.”
Text Verse: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:5
How many of us have children here? Did any of you have to teach them to do wrong? Can anyone here say, honestly and with a straight face, “My son or daughter has never told a lie?” How about this, “My son or daughter has never done anything to upset me?” Anyone?
If you answered one or both questions in the positive, I question your truthfulness. And if you didn’t, do you think your parents would have answered any differently? No, certainly not. The law has its purpose, but it isn’t to show us how good we are. Let’s get that straight.
We’ll go over the reasons for the giving of the law again today which we looked at last week. It will be a good reminder for us as we try to grasp the magnitude of the laws we are to contemplate and reflect on. There is a lesson in the giving of the law and it is revealed slowly and methodically in the pages of God’s superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The First Three Commandments (verses 1-7)
And God spoke all these words, saying:
Chapter 20 begins with a verse of preparation. As happens from time to time, the words are offset as a single verse and don’t include anything of what is said. They simply tell us that something was said. The eager anticipation for our ears is, “What did God speak?”
It is of note that “God” was mentioned three times in chapter 19 and all three times a definite article was used – ha’elohim or “the God.” However, chapter 20 begins with the assumption that the One speaking is the One and only God by leaving off the article. It simply says “elohim spoke.” Later in verses 20 and 21, the article will again be included, but until then it will be left off each time.
The coming commandments are known to us as “the Ten Commandments.” However, in Hebrew, they are called asheret ha’devarim, or “the Ten Words.” Other names will be given for them when they are referred to in the Old Testament, such as “the tablets of the covenant,” “the two tablets,” and so on. In the New, they will be referred to simply as “the commandments.”
In this chapter, we are told that it is Yehovah who speaks the words of the law. However, three times in the New Testament – in Acts, Galatians, and Hebrews – it speaks of the law being given through “angels,” plural. There are two things to consider on this.
First, in Acts 7:38, Stephen says that the Angel spoke to them on Mount Sinai and the word is singular. Thus it refers to the Lord Jesus. Secondly, the word for “angel” does not necessarily mean a heavenly being. It simply means “messenger.”
When they are referring to the law in those passages, it is speaking of the entire law, including the Ten Commandments. Verse 19 will explain the giving of the law. Moses will be the mediator between the people and the Lord as he receives it.
Further verse 24 of the previous chapter says Aaron was with him. Thus, they are both considered messengers of God for the giving of the law to Israel, even if Aaron wasn’t with Moses at all times. This then explains the words of the New Testament where the law was administered through angels, or “messengers.” It is speaking of Jesus, Moses, and Aaron.
2 “I am the Lord
anokhi Yehovah – Theses words, are the first words of the Ten Commandments from the mouth of the Lord. In them, they identify that He is Yehovah, the self-existent Creator of all things. To more fully understand what the name Yehovah encompasses, you can go back and watch the sermon on Exodus 3:14. Suffice it to say that He is the One and only true God and yet despite that, he is not the only “god.” This is evidenced quite clearly in the next words…
2 (con’t) your God,
elohekha – Yehovah asserts the right to call Himself “your God” to the people of Israel. They had agreed with their own mouths to receive Him as such in the previous chapter –
“So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.” Exodus 19:7, 8
Though He is the Creator of all things and the Lord of all in reality, He does not push Himself upon either Israel or the people of the world. Even today there are many “gods” in the world. But there is only One true God. Based on the words of their agreement, He now establishes His right to exclusivity over Israel with the words anokhi Yehovah elohekha – I am Yehovah your God.
Note though that this is an individual address to each person. It is not an address to the nation collectively. The singular is intended for all individually. From this moment on He has claimed title and authority over each person of Israel. They now have a God and He now has a peculiar people reserved for Himself.
2 (con’t) who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
The Lord claims the right to be their God not because He created them, but because He had redeemed them. It was He who brought Israel out of Egypt. They were in bondage and He delivered them from that bondage. This is actually rather interesting because the Lord gave Adam a direct command in the Garden of Eden which was based on Him being the Creator –
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'” Genesis 2:16, 17
In the garden He gave the law as the Creator, and so the question arises as to why He didn’t do that again for Israel. The answer is that man is in bondage to another and he belongs to him. This is found all the way towards the end of the Bible in 1 John 3 –
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
All belong to the devil unless redeemed by God. He redeemed Israel out of Egypt and therefore He appeals to them as their Redeemer, not their Creator. His commands then are based on a hope of loving respect from His people and not out of fear. Adam’s command was given out of fear – “in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
However, in these 10 Commandments, there is no note of penalty for disobedience as if they were slaves. Instead they are given as an appeal to conscience as to free men. This does not mean that penalties won’t be forthcoming from the law.
The wellbeing of the entire nation necessitated statutes and penalties for disobedience, but these were not to be the basis of obedience for the true Israelite. For such a person, it was based on love for his Redeemer. However, there is the truth which was seen in the last chapter. In verse 18, we read this –
“Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” Exodus 19:18
The symbolism given was explained at that time as that of wrath and condemnation, not salvation. What was implied is that the law that was to be introduced could never bring salvation. Even the true Israelite who loved God’s law could never fully meet the strict standards of the law. None could meet them perfectly.
Were it not for the provision within the law itself for an annual day of atonement, the law would only bring wrath and condemnation to any and all who attempted to live by it. Thus, the display was messianic in nature. The wrath of God would be poured out on the only One who could ever fulfill this law; the One who embodied it through keeping it. Paul explains this in Galatians 3 –
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” Galatians 3:13
And this brings us to one more point before we look at these ten magnificent laws. As all men are bound under sin and are thus of the devil, and as only God can redeem them from their sin, then it follows logically that Jesus must be God.
Jesus’ appeal to His people, like the appeal here in the giving of the Ten Commandments, is based on redemption, not creation. We are saved by a Savior and redeemed by a Redeemer. As this is so, then Jesus must be the One true God. How so many miss this and reinsert either the law, or defer back to Jehovah, or do both, into their theology is unimaginable. Paul says this in Galatians 4 –
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4, 5
If the law was given to Israel who had been redeemed from the house of bondage, and as they were given the law based on that redemption, then why would those who had been given this law still need to be redeemed from the law? The answer was given in the last sermon and which I will repeat now. There are four major reasons for giving this law –
1) To show us God’s perfect standard.
2) To show us that no person could meet that standard; all are unqualified without God’s grace and mercy being bestowed.
3) To show us how utterly sinful sin is to God. And,
4) To show us our need for something else – that grace which can only come by Someone fulfilling this law on our behalf. And as only God can do that, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ – fully God and fully Man – into the world to do so. It is the grace which we cannot do without.
And so we begin with the first of God’s Ten Commandments…
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
The first word. The command begins with an absolute negation – the word lo or “no.” The majority of the commandments come in the negative form, stating the prohibition which they then explain. The reason for this is that “they presuppose the existence of sin and evil desires in the human heart” (Keil and Delitzsch).
In other words, the commands, like the one given to Adam, point to our limitations. Adam lacked the knowledge of good and evil; we lack the ability to properly exercise the knowledge of good and evil which we now possess. The laws then are given to us because of this. This is well explained by Paul in Romans 3 –
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12
In its entirety, the first command reads lo yihyeh lekha elohim akherim al panaya – “No you shall have to you gods other, before my face.” The verb is singular but the word “other” is plural. What this infers is that it isn’t speaking of just other gods, meaning deity, but other gods of any kind such as idols in thoughts, words, or deeds.
If a person were to make an idol of work, it would be a violation of this command. If a person made an idol of their intelligence, it would be a violation of this command. If a person made an idol of his personal strength, it would be a violation of this command. Anything we place alongside the Lord would be a violation of this command. Adam Clarke defines the sense of this first word –
“This commandment prohibits every species of mental idolatry, and all inordinate attachment to earthly and sensible things. As God is the fountain of happiness, and no intelligent creature can be happy but through him, whoever seeks happiness in the creature is necessarily an idolater; as he puts the creature in the place of the Creator, expecting that from the gratification of his passions, in the use or abuse of earthly things, which is to be found in God alone. The very first commandment of the whole series is divinely calculated to prevent man’s misery and promote his happiness, by taking him off from all false dependence, and leading him to God himself, the fountain of all good.” Adam Clarke
However, although this may be the intent, if we were to stop with this first word and go no further, we can see how clearly it brings wrath. No person can say that they have fully kept this one precept without breaking it. Not only are we not good because of our inclinations, we are not good because of our actions.
Each of us has set up an idol in our heart in one form or another during our lives. We have failed by attempting to find another source of joy instead of seeking the Lord. This law can never bring salvation. It can only bring condemnation. And as James says towards the end of the Bible –
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10
From the very first word, we are guilty of all of the law because we have broken this one point. How terrible is this law upon the hearts and souls of men! And yet, how many stubbornly cling to it and claim that they stand guiltless before God.
Each individual of Israel agreed to this command, and thus each person, as well as the nation as a whole, violated it when they strayed from it. The words of both personal and national violation are many, but Jeremiah 2 gives a good example of Israel’s failure to meet this law –
“But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves?
Let them arise,
If they can save you in the time of your trouble;
For according to the number of your cities
Are your gods, O Judah.” Jeremiah 2:28
Concerning this first command, something else was needed. The first word only condemns, it cannot save.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything
The second word. The first command asserted the unity of God in Israel’s worship. This second command is intended to ensure that the first command is adhered to in a physical sense. Yehovah showed them no form of Himself and therefore no form was to be assigned to Him in worship.
Further, no form was to be worshipped as a god other than Him either. As He is the Creator, then all else is created. Therefore, to worship any physical part of the creation was to worship less than the Creator. This command then shows what is to be considered unlawful worship.
It also introduces two new words into Scripture. The first is pesel. It means and “idol” or “image” and it comes from pasal which means “to cut” or “to hew into shape.” The second is temunah which means “likeness” or “form.”
These words combined thus signify any physical idol or image. The command says lo taaseh lekha – “no make for yourself.” There is an important point to consider here. The Bible does not forbid the making of shaped things such as cherubim for the Ark of the Covenant. It prohibits shaped things for personal use as an idol and it will go further to explain this in the next verse.
The reason I say this is because people who challenge the Bible will say that the making of the things for the tabernacle is a violation of this very commandment. This is not the case. Bible deniers get a demerit for misevaluating the command.
4 (con’t) that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
These words form a triple-division of the sphere of man’s existence in the material universe. It is thus an all-encompassing statement concerning it, and it prohibits against making anything resembling whatever exists in it. This goes from the sun, moon, and stars, to the birds which fly in the sky.
It goes from the plant and animal life on earth to fish in the sea or to any other part of the created order. Nothing in creation is to be likened to God, nor is anything in creation to be likened as a god.
5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
This further defines what was stated in the words, “You shall not make for yourself.” If one makes an image for himself, the intent is that this image is then to be bowed down to and served. This is forbidden.
It needs to be noted that the Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments leaves this command out completely, and they do so without any Scriptural support at all. In order to maintain Ten Commandments, they then divide the tenth command into two separate commands. Adam Clarke rightly sums up this matter –
“This corruption of the word of God by the Roman Catholic Church stamps it, as a false and heretical Church, with the deepest brand of ever-during infamy!” Adam Clarke
Though the law is set aside in Christ, it is still a part of God’s word. To manipulate it such as they have done is the most damnable of offenses. Israel, likewise was guilty of violating this command throughout their history. In fact, they openly sought to violate it, but the Lord told them that they would suffer because of it –
“What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'” Ezekiel 20:32
5 (con’t) For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,
Here the Lord claims that He is a jealous God. The word is qanna. This doesn’t indicate jealously of success in another; rather it speaks of a defense of His honor and glory. When one bows to another god, the Lord isn’t jealous of that false god receiving worship. His jealousy is directed to the violation of depriving Him what He is justly due. His words in Isaiah show the thought well –
“I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.” Isaiah 42:8
This is the first use of the word qanna as an adjective in the Bible. It will only be used six times, always in connection with the Lord, and only in Exodus and Deuteronomy.
5 (con’t) visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
This verse, although scorned by those who hate the God of the Bible as showing a vindictive nature, is intended to show us consequences which naturally result from misdeed. It shows nothing vindictive in the Lord. Rather it shows what is just.
Adam sinned and his sin continues to trouble us 6000 years later. When a person is punished for stealing, he may lose his estate and earnings. That certainly causes the next generation, and even many generations later, to receive the sentence of the offender.
The very person who dismisses God for being vindictive, may sue another person for wrongdoing against them. If they do, then they will actually visit the wrongdoing of the one they sue on the subsequent generations in exactly the manner described here.
To argue against God who is infinitely just and righteous concerning his judgments is an incredibly small-minded thing to do for a person who lacks any true wisdom or knowledge at all.
6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The “thousands” here is not speaking of the number of people, but the number of generations. It is explicitly defined that way in Deuteronomy 7:9. The length of this mercy, or loving-kindness, is for those individuals who love Him and keep His commandments. It doesn’t mean the children who don’t, but the individuals who do.
If a generation is conservatively said to be 40 years, then this would mean 40,000 years. As the Bible speaks of a 7000-year plan for the world we currently enjoy, then the term here is obviously meant to symbolize “forever” or “eternity.” This is demonstrated in the words of the 103rd Psalm –
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.” Psalm 103:17
However, as none are able to meet this standard perfectly, then none can be granted such eternal mercy apart from Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf. All those who came before Christ and trusted in the Lord’s provision are covered by His future mercy. Only those who trust in Christ after His advent will be covered by His present mercy.
It was this mercy of the Lord which called for Christ to fulfill the law for fallen man. Israel individually, and as a whole, is shown throughout the Old Testament to fall short of this second command. Even very quickly after the giving of this command, the entire congregation violated it –
“And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.
Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'” Exodus 32:2-4
Concerning this second command, something else was needed. The second word only condemns, it cannot save.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,
The third word. The Hebrew here is ambiguous and can be taken to mean either forbidding false swearing only, or to include profane or vain swearing. If we look to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, it appears that false swearing is what is being referred to here. He says –
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'” Matthew 5:33
The word for “vain” in Hebrew is shav and is used here for the first time in the Bible. It means falsely, lying, vain, etc. The intent of this command is that one should never invoke the name of the Lord in a false manner. And should they presume to do so…
7 (con’t) for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
This doesn’t mean that there will be immediate punishment on the offender. Rather, it is something that may come in this life as the perjured man is found out and punished, or it may be in the day of God’s judgment in the future. Malachi shows us this –
“‘And I will come near you for judgment;
I will be a swift witness
Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
And against those who turn away an alien—
Because they do not fear Me,’
Says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:5
Of the first three commandments, Lange wisely notes –
“The sin against the first commandment banishes the name of Jehovah by means of idol names; the sin against the second obscures and disfigures it; the sin against this third one abuses it.” John Lange
Abusing God’s name is something that is forbidden. A transgression of this command is a violation the entire law. And yet, the Bible demonstrates that Israel as a whole, individually and collectively, violated it –
“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem;
See now and know;
And seek in her open places
If you can find a man,
If there is anyone who executes judgment,
Who seeks the truth,
And I will pardon her.
2 Though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’
Surely they swear falsely.” Jeremiah 5:1, 2
Concerning this third command, something else was needed. The third word only condemns, it cannot save.
Just three commands so far and already no hope
Even from the first one I was done in for sure
I used to think I was pretty great, but I see I am just a dope
Compared to God’s standard, I am certainly impure
I tremble to think of my guilt, how it weighs me down|
I fear to face God on my own deeds for righteousness
I once thought God would at me smile, but no! It will be a frown
I bear such heavy guilt, My God! I am such a mess
Oh, but then I heard of Jesus, sweet Jesus
He lived the life that I could never ever live
And He gave it up for sinners like me! Yes, for all of us
In exchange for my life of sin, His perfect life He did give
Oh! What a Savior! What a friend He is to me!
Oh! My Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who set me free!
II. The Fourth and Fifth Commandments (verses 8-12)
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
The forth word. This command differs from the others because it begins with the word zakhor, or “remember.” They were given the Sabbath in Exodus 16 at the time of the giving of the Manna and they are now told to remember it forever, keeping it holy. This means that they were to separate the day from all others and observe it as a unique and special day, consecrated to the Lord.
The word shabbat implies rest and cessation from labor. This cessation of labor for Israel looked forward to a different type of rest. It was to be a foretaste of the blessed eternal rest which man lost. He was created outside of the Garden of Eden and was rested in the Garden to worship and serve His God. This was lost.
Everything from that point on has looked forward to the restoration of that day. And it finally arrived when Christ came. Through His work, the seventh day of rest is offered to all of God’s people. This is why Hebrews 4, after the fulfillment of the law by Christ, says –
“For we who have believed do enter that rest.” Hebrews 4:3
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
This is actually an imperative. Therefore the week is divided into two sections, active work and active cessation from work. Man was not to be idle when he should be working and man was not to be working when he should be at rest.
Things that needed to be done were to be done before the Sabbath so that no work was to be done on the Sabbath. This is, however, not to be taken as a command that one must work every day. If so, for example, it would violate the mandated feasts of the Lord when Israel celebrated in Jerusalem. Rather, what should be done was to be done, but not on the Sabbath.
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.
This translation, following the KJV, is confusing and should rather read, “…but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Otherwise, it seems like the Lord is even now working six days and taking the seventh off. Rather, they were to work and then rest to the Lord, honoring Him on this special day dedicated to Him.
10 (con’t) In it you shall do no work:
The commands are specific. The individual whom the Lord is speaking directly to is to not work on the Sabbath. The word “you” is singular.
10 (con’t) you, nor your son, nor your daughter,
Nor were they to work their children, as if the lesser in the house were exempt from the requirement, or that the work of the stronger should now devolve to the weaker.
10 (con’t) nor your male servant, nor your female servant,
Likewise, the servants – both male and female – who bore the majority of the burdens in the house during the week were to be given rest. The unattended labors of the owner were not to devolve to another, even in one’s employ.
10 (con’t) nor your cattle,
What is implied if an animal is put to work? Someone working the animal. Rest is to be rest. Even if someone were to hook up an animal to a grinding mill, he would have to work to do so and he would continue to be profiting from the labors of the animal.
The Sabbath was made for man as a day to the Lord God. If he was thinking about the profit he was making while the cow was grinding grain, then he wouldn’t be thinking about the things of God. Also, these words show that the animal who is a servant of man, was to be given a break from its labors.
The Bible is replete with God’s care for the creatures of the earth. In the sparing of Nineveh from destruction, the mention of “many cattle” along with the people is noted. After the flood, it says that “God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark.” Time and again, care for animals is noted. Even the bird of the air that falls to the ground does not go unnoticed by God.
10 (con’t) nor your stranger who is within your gates.
The stranger within the gates implies someone not of Israel who has taken up permanent residence within a town. This prohibition was certainly so that they wouldn’t become a snare to Israel. If they saw strangers profiting and gaining advantage because they could work while others couldn’t, it would become a problem for all. This exact scenario is found in Nehemiah 13 –
“Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, ‘What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.’
19 So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day.” Nehemiah 13:16-19
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
The creation of the heavens and the earth was done in a specific way for a specific reason. It was first to foreshadow the Sabbath day for man on the seventh day. God could have simply created all things at once, but he did it in a set way to picture something else.
And the six days of the week followed by a Sabbath was ordained in order to show the redemptive pattern of history itself. The six days of the week prefigure the six thousand years of man working towards the reign of Christ, followed by the final thousand years of the millennium where Christ reigns; a time of rest on earth.
The Bible assumes that its reader will accept, at face value, a literal six-day creation. Though many views of creation have arisen in the past 150 years, it has always been the assumption of the text itself that God really created in just six days, and he did it for the patterns which the creation only points to. Also, the reason for the giving of the Sabbath here in Exodus is not the same as that of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy –
“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Deuteronomy 5:15
The first is based on Creation, the second on Redemption. And yet, the two are tied together. Israel was already redeemed at the giving of the law at Sinai. Therefore, as a sign of God’s rest following His creative efforts, which had subsequently been lost in the Garden of Eden, the redeemed of Israel were given the Sabbath.
Thus there is no contradiction between Exodus and Deuteronomy. One acts leads to another. The fallen world could not be redeemed unless it had first been created. Everything is looking forward to God’s rest; a rest which can only be found in Christ. As the law could only bring a curse, then the Sabbath was only a shadow, looking forward to Christ’s fulfillment of it.
Now, with His having fulfilled the law, we do enter God’s rest. The words of Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews all agree that our true rest is found in Christ and in Him alone. The Sabbath was only given as a picture of what was to come, however, it was given. Would Israel obey? The answer is, “No.”
“Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.” Ezekiel 20:13
Concerning this fourth command, something else was needed. The fourth word only condemns, it cannot save.
12 “Honor your father and your mother,
The fifth word. The Ten Commandments are divided up by scholars in several ways. Some see them as logically dividing between commands 1-4 and then 5-10. The first four showing love for God, the last six showing love for neighbor.
Others divide them 1-5 and 6-10. This would then show a distinction between filial and fraternal matters. The first five show obedience to the parent as children, the latter, respect for others. As parents are the image of God to the child until the child can reason out who God is, then this second division makes more sense.
It should be noted that the father is placed first here, but the mother is placed first in Leviticus 19:3 when also speaking of the mandated Sabbath. This shows that both are to be regarded with a like respect, even if there is a hierarchy within the home.
The honoring of the parents is reflective of the honoring of our true heavenly Father. If one is disobedient to their parents, it goes hand in hand that they will be disrespectful towards the Lord. And, as Paul notes in Ephesians 6, this is the first command with a promise attached to it…
*12 (fin) that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
Some look at this as a national blessing for Israel. That if they were honoring of their parents, they would be nationally blessed with the land of Israel. This is incorrect. First, the word “land” here is not the usual term for the land of Israel, which is eretz. Instead, it is adamah. Adamah signifies the ground.
Whatever ground the people possessed, they would possess it more fully if they were honoring of their parents. Second, the command is spoken in the singular to the individual, not in plural to the collective whole. And third, both Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2 explain this verse with words that indicate long life. In essence, “That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
This is a general statement that one will prosper through the honoring of the parents. The world of man in which we live is governed by general laws of God, not by laws which are universal. This promised blessing is one that is therefore generally to be expected, but not necessarily universally received.
Despite being a simple command and one which is almost universally accepted as right, Israel failed to keep it. Both Old Testament and New shows their failure to honor their parents. From Ezekiel 22, we read this –
“In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow.” Ezekiel 22:7
Concerning this fifth command, something else was needed. The fifth word only condemns, it cannot save.
Today, we have looked at the first five commandments and each shows that something else was needed. Each word only condemns. Should we stop here, close the Bible, and await our destruction? Should we say, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die?”
From trusting the law, the answer would be, “Yes.” The law cannot save anything; it can only show us of our utter depravity before an infinitely holy God. But the giving of the law also shows us something else. It shows us a messianic picture.
It shows us that God loves us enough to pour out His wrath on His own Son who did fulfill this law in order to pay the sin-debt that you and I bear. Let this law, and those who lived and failed under it, be a tutor to you. Let it be a learning experience. In the law, there is condemnation; condemnation for you and me; for all.
And in the cross of Christ, there is also condemnation; condemnation of sin. Paul says that “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” Thank God for Jesus.
If you have never received God’s forgiveness through Christ, it’s high time you do so. You don’t know your last moment and the law is waiting to condemn you. Be freed from the law through the blood of Christ. Call on Him today to forgive you of the sins that you have heaped up so high. Let God cast them as far as the east is from the west. Do it today.
Closing Verse: “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:5-10
Next Week: Exodus 20:13-17 (Ten Not So Simple Commands, Part II) (55th Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Not So Simple Commands, Part I
And God spoke all these words, saying:|
These are the words He was relaying
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
Five of ten commands, so simple… and yet impossible to meet
They only bring us a greater consciousness of sin
With them as our hope, there is only defeat
Breaking even one is said to do us in
Oh impossible law, where can I go from you?
Who will from this body of death free me?
To Jesus Christ, I will go; it is what I will do
The law is a tutor to lead me to Him and in Him I am set free
By this law, I have a consciousness of sin
How utterly sinful sin is, by it I can clearly see|
By this law, I am utterly defeated; I am done in
But by faith in Jesus, He has set me free
Thank You Lord God for the giving of Your Son
Thank You that You have broken off the yoke and set me free
By faith alone I am saved; through His cross it is done
Now I can live for You, but when I fail
You have already forgiven me
Thank You for the perfect life of my Lord
Who fulfilled every detail of Your perfect word
Hallelujah and Amen…