Ten Not so Simple Commands, Part II
Someday all people will stand before God and receive their judgment. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over the years that think they will stand before Him, get a fist bump from Him, and then be given a giant pat on the back for being such a great person.
And I cannot tell you how many people have graded themselves on a bell curve when asked why God should allow them into His paradise. The standard answers, “I’m a good guy,” or “I do good things for other people” are where they have placed their hope.
Paul tells us in Romans that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. There is nothing wrong with the law of God, the problem rests in us. If we truly measure ourselves against God’s standard, we would not make the error in thinking that everything is AOK.
Instead, we would be utterly depressed at how miserably we failed in meeting His standard. Israel was given an out. It was called the Day of Atonement. Once a year, they could present themselves before the Lord, deny themselves through fasting, and admit that they had not been perfect in relation to His law.
When they did this, they received atonement for their sins for another year. But we don’t have that. All we have is the knowledge that God has a standard and we have not met it. If He hadn’t given the law, we might be able to brush off the idea of judgment, but in the giving of the law, we only see an increase in the sin-debt that we owe.
Text Verse: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20, 21
I said that we don’t have the Day of Atonement, but that’s not really correct is it? We do have it. The law has gone out and along with the law has come a way for our sins to be atoned for. It is in fulfilling the law. If we can fulfill the law, then our sins will be covered.
And the Bible gives us two ways of fulfilling the law. The first one is to live it with absolute perfection, never stumbling on a single point. Today we will look at the last five of the Ten Commandments and you can decide if you want to give that avenue a shot. My hope is that you aren’t that stupid.
The second option is to allow Christ Jesus to fulfill the law for You. He has already done it and all you need to do is receive what He has done. The law itself allows this. Which option suits your fancy best? Me, I’m all in for Jesus.
He is the One who is revealed in God’s wondrous and superior word as doing everything we need in order to be saved. And so in order to see Jesus, and learn how He can do that for us, 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 Sixth and Seventh Command (verses 13 & 14)
The first five commandments followed a basic pattern of filial obedience, as children to their parents. The first four were directed to God, but in them and in keeping them, they were as children honoring their heavenly Father. The fifth was specifically in honoring of one’s parents.
Now the final five commandments take a different angle. They will deal with interpersonal relationships – between man and his fellow man. Thus the words of Jesus are understood through the structure of the Ten Commandments –
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
That “first and great commandment” cited by Jesus was a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5 – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The second was a quote from Leviticus 19:18 – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus pulled those verses directly from the books of Moses as a summary of all of the commands of the Torah, including the Ten Commandments because they encompass every interaction that man has between himself, God, and his fellow man. In essence, they reflect the spirit and intent of the entire law.
Understanding this, it is necessary to remember that stumbling in any point of the law is a violation of the entire law. As James notes in his epistle –
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10
In the previous sermon, it was pretty apparent that by the end of the first commandment, we were all guilty before the law. Israel failed, and we have failed. By the end of this sermon, we should all see the utter futility of trying to attain heaven merely through attempting to keep the commandments.
However, this doesn’t mean that we are to ignore the commandments we are given, nor should we feel that there is no hope because we have broken any of them. Instead, let us be reminded of the reasons for the giving of the 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.
Understanding this, let us continue with the sixth of God’s Ten Commandments…
13 “You shall not murder.
The sixth word. lo tresakh – no do murder. Like the majority of the other commands, this one begins with an absolute negation, lo, or “no.” What follows then is utterly forbidden.
In our interpersonal relationships, this command is given first because it respects the very life of the one we are to love as ourselves. I would suggest that although this deals with interpersonal relationships, it also deals with our duties to God directly as well.
Genesis 1:26 tells us that man is made in the image of God. As this is so, then an attack against God’s image-bearer is also an attack against the One whose image they possess. And so murder is not something that can simply be dismissed as merely being on a human level. It is implicitly an attack against God. But this command is still rightly considered under the precept of loving one’s neighbor.
The word for “murder” here is correctly translated as such. It is ratsakh and this is its first use in the Bible. Barnes notes that “This properly denotes taking the life of another with malice, or with an intention to murder him. The Jews understood it as meaning no more.”
Thus translating this as “kill” as the KJV does, can only confuse the meaning. For example, the Bible mandates that capital offenders such as murderers are to be executed. However, the use of the word “kill” instead of “murder” in this verse has led to both a misunderstanding of the intent of the commandment and a misuse of it against what the law actually prescribes in the execution of offenders.
Because of the faulty translation, it has even been used by some in the nonsensical manner of claiming that the killing of animals is wrong. However, this is a complete misuse of the command. In Exodus 12:21, the people were told to “kill the Passover.” But that verse uses an entirely different word than the one used here.
Using the word “kill” in this commandment also sets up other contradictions in the Bible as well because Israel is often instructed to destroy certain people groups in battle. These instances are not to be considered as “murder.” The Pulpit Commentary, among others, adds in this note concerning this precept –
“The Israelites are told that to take life is a crime. God forbids it. As usual, no exceptions are made. Exceptions appear later on; but the first thing is to establish the principle.” Pulpit
This is incorrect. Exceptions, which precede the giving of the law, already exist. In chapter 17, the Lord told Moses, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek.” After that, it said, “So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
As the incident predates the law, then a distinction is being made between “killing” and “murder.” The word “kill” is too broadly rendered and thus it is a most unfortunate translation. It ignores both previous precedent and later instruction and refinement.
It should be noted that all known codes of societal conduct include this precept, either implicitly or explicitly. It is also a precept which predates the law explicitly. In Genesis 9, after the flood of Noah, the Lord spoke these words to him –
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.” Genesis 9:6
The willful, intentional murder of another human is forbidden. Unfortunately, Israel failed in this command, both individually and collectively, throughout their history. The great king of Israel, King David, violated this precept when he had the husband of Bathsheba murdered.
Likewise, the people as a whole, on several occasions, are noted for their murders –
“Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”
Hosea 4:1, 2 (ESV)
The law was given to show us God’s perfect standard and Israel failed in meeting that standard. Concerning this sixth command, something else was needed. The sixth word only condemns, it cannot save.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
The seventh word. lo tnaaph – “no do commit adultery.” The word naaph deals with literal adultery, but it is also used figuratively in the sense of apostatizing from true faith in the Lord. Again, the command is in the absolute negation, beginning with lo or “no.” Lange interestingly notes a connection between the first and second command and the sixth and seventh –
“This commandment holds the same relation to the sixth as the second to the first. Idolatry proper[ly] corresponds with the murder of one’s neighbor, the latter being an offence against the divine in man. Image-worship, however, corresponds with adultery, as this too rests on a subtle deification of the image of man; it is spiritual idolatry, as image-worship is spiritual adultery.” John Lange
And so following the prohibition against murder, the respecting of the bonds of marriage is highlighted. The act of adultery is a violation of the sanctity of marriage and is as if a foreign invasion has been made upon the household.
When a contract of marriage is made, adultery dissolves the intent behind the contract. The offended party no longer has the ability to trust that any other part of that contract applies. This act is so universally accepted as wrong that almost every society known to man had at one time laws against it and punishments, up to death, associated with those laws.
Only in a society of moral decay and increasing wickedness is this sin considered as the norm. But in God’s eyes, the command remains in force as much today as when it was first given. And in the case of the Bible, the further defining of adultery will show that this is not just a sin targeted against the woman, but the man as well. For example, Leviticus 20 says –
“The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10
In taking another man’s wife, the offender has failed to honor and love his neighbor. For his willful act against God and man, he was to be executed along with the woman.
It should be noted that here in the giving of the seventh command, the word naaph, or adultery, is used for the first time in the Bible. What needs to be understood concerning this, or any command, is that until it is given, there can be no imputation of sin.
It is certain that many people had committed adultery before the giving of the command, but this is the first time the word is used in the Bible. And so, until this point, there could be no imputation of sin for committing adultery. Paul explains this in Romans 5 –
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Romans 5:12, 13
What this means is that from this point on, any committing of adultery carries with it the imputation of sin when the command is violated. As Paul notes later in Romans 7 –
“I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Romans 7:9-12
Paul is specifically speaking about any command which is given. It may be given for a good purpose, but in the end, because of our failure to meet the requirements of the command, it results in death. This is what occurred in the Garden of Eden. Man was given one command and it was in the negative –
“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
Had the Lord not given Adam this command, when Adam ate of the fruit, there could be no imputation of sin. But because the command existed, sin was imputed. Now consider again, before the command to not commit adultery existed, there could be no imputation of sin for the act.
But the word and the command are now introduced into the Bible. From this point on, any act of adultery will result in the imputation of the sin. If you can see it, the law does not bring life, it only brings death. It shows us how utterly sinful sin is to God. When we violate it we stand condemned because of our misdeed.
And more, Jesus the Lord, who wrote the command, further explained it to Israel when He came and taught among them –
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28
Can any one of us here today say that we have fulfilled this law in the manner the Lord expects? Of course not! But let us set aside what Jesus said for a moment and consider Israel’s adherence to it apart from Jesus’ further explanation of it.
Was Israel free from guilt from this seventh commandment? The Old Testament shouts out, “No!” Like murder, Hosea 4 shows that the people of the land reveled in sin, including the sin of adultery –
“Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:|
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
2 By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.” Hosea 4:1, 2
But Israel was even guiltier because they were told that not only was adultery to be considered a sin of the flesh against one’s fellow man, it was also a sin when committed against God. The prophets, time and time again, told the people that when they bowed to other gods, they committed spiritual adultery against the Lord.
And throughout the Old Testament, the people are shown to have committed exactly this against Him. They had forsaken their Husband and gone after others. They had violated the marriage contract that He established with them in the giving of the law; the law that they agreed to with their own mouths.
As is evidenced throughout Israel’s history, concerning this seventh command, something else was needed. The seventh word only condemns, it cannot save.
As an extra note on this command, it is not true that Jesus abrogated it when he had mercy on the adulteress in John 8. The law demanded that she was to be stoned for her crime. When He was asked for His guidance, the response He gave has been often twisted to justify tolerance in the matter –
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’
11 She said, ‘No one, Lord.’
And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you…'” John 8:7-11
If that were the end of the account, which is often where the morally deficient leave off with it, then we may come to a different conclusion about the matter. However, there were a few more words to her before He finished –
“…go and sin no more.” John 7:11
What is implied is that Jesus called her actions sinful and that she was to not continue in her sin.
Murder, me? No, I’ve never done that
Only bad people do that kind of stuff
I’ve said some mean things though, during an angry spat
But calling that murder, it’s just not enough
Adultery? No! I’ve never strayed from my wife
She’s too good to me, so I just stay at home
Sure, I think about the girl at 7-11 every day of my life
But,,, nope! Never from my wife did I roam
Wait, I never noticed this before…
The Bible says whoever hates his brother, a murderer is he
And he who looks at a woman in lust, is an adulterer for sure
I’ve done both of those things… O! Woe is me!
Because of this law, I’m digging an awful deep hole
A pit which is set to consume my very soul
II. The Eighth and Ninth Command (verses 15 & 16)
15 “You shall not steal.
The eighth word. lo tgenov – no do steal. This eighth commandment corresponds well to the third. In the making of, and bowing down to, carved images we in essence rob God of His just due. In like manner, when we steal from others, we deny them of what they have a right to. The structure of the commands is not arbitrary, but rather it is precise and purposeful.
The word ganav means to carry away, secretly bring, steal away, or get by stealth. What is obvious is that something is being removed in an improper fashion. The word has already been used several times in Scripture. It is what Rachel did when she stole her father’s household idols.
It is also what the brothers of Joseph denied doing when they had been accused of taking his cup used for divination. In both of these instances, and in the giving of the command itself, there is the implied concept of “personal property.”
The Bible takes this as an axiom and then solidifies it in this command. People have a right to their possessions. To unjustly deprive them of what they own is theft. In the pre-law biblical references, in the moral guidelines of civilized culture, and even in the simple knowledge of right and wrong instilled in man, the concept that stealing is wrong is well testified to.
Charles Ellicott gives us a most basic and simple description of the moral nature of private property for us to consider –
“Here, again, law has but embodied natural instinct. The savage who hammers out a flint knife by repeated blows with a pebble, labouring long, and undergoing pain in the process, feels that the implement which he has made is his own, and that his right to it is indisputable. If he is deprived of it by force or fraud, he is wronged. The eighth commandment forbids this wrong, and requires us to respect the property of others no less than their person and their domestic peace and honour.” Charles Ellicott
Who could rightly argue that the flint knife made by that man belonged to anyone but him? The answer is the one who is in power. In the greater sense, we would call them the government. Just because the government has the ability to take away one’s personal possessions, it does not mean that it is morally right for them to do so.
Further, for them to pass laws which benefit their own personal agenda at the expense of the efforts of the private individual is theft. At what point something which is good for all, such as proper taxation for the continuance of the government becomes theft may be debatable, but such a point does exist.
Unfortunately, by the time that point is passed, and normally by the way it comes about, there is nothing that the individual can do about it. Adam Clarke rightly states it this way –
“Crimes are not lessened in their demerit by the number, or political importance of those who commit them. A state that enacts bad laws is as criminal before God as the individual who breaks good ones.” Adam Clarke
Clark is right and it shows the immense guilt of those in power, especially the left, who steal from the rich to give to the poor. Albert Barnes notes that, “The right of property is sanctioned in the eighth commandment by an external rule: its deeper meaning is involved in the tenth commandment.”
The idea that the deeper meaning of the tenth commandment, meaning coveting, is affected by the right to private property is beautifully seen in the account of King Ahab and the vineyard of Naboth in 1 Kings 21.
He coveted Naboth’s vineyard, he had others lie in order to bring accusation against him, he then had him murdered because of the lie, and then he stole the property that was left. The violation of one command often results in the violation of several.
Was Israel able to keep from violating this commandment? The answer is, “No.” From the common people even to its leaders, their hands were tainted with thefts. In Jeremiah 7, we read this –
“‘Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,‘ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:9-11
As with the previous seven commands, Israel proved that the law of the Lord only brought guilt. Sin was imputed for the thefts of the people because the law had instructed them that they were not to steal. Concerning this eighth command, something else was needed. The eighth word only condemns, it cannot save.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
The ninth word. lo taaneh bereakha ed shaqer – no do against your neighbor witness false. The word for “false” in this verse is sheqer. It was first used in Scripture by Pharaoh where he ascribed the word of the Lord which had been proclaimed to him as false.
Unfortunately for him, he had a long and painful lesson ahead of him for not simply taking the word of the Lord at face value. But he neither knew the Lord, nor did he understand the nature of the Lord who is perfectly true in His very being.
In fact, in the book of Titus, it explicitly says that God cannot lie. Because this is His very nature, He is asking us to resemble Him by always testifying to the truth. Further, Israel was given this commandment as a protection of the people. Shakespeare said –
“Who steals my purse, steals trash,
But he who filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
Yet leaves me poor indeed,”—
Not bearing false witness against one’s neighbor includes a whole multitude of things. We are not to deprive another of their right to life or property by making false claims. We are to not slander another, tell false tales about them, or even imply that they have committed a wrong which they have not committed.
Further, suppressing the truth when it is known in order to harm our neighbor must be considered a violation of this command. All of these precepts are stated in one way or another in the law itself. Adam Clarke notes that this law should go even to the most incredible extremes –
“He who bears a false testimony against or belies even the devil himself, comes under the curse of this law, because his testimony is false. By the term neighbor any human being is intended, whether he rank among our enemies or friends.” Adam Clarke
We have seen that the first eight commandments could not save Israel. They failed each one alike and the Bible witnesses against them, and thus against us. But surely the ninth commandment was adhered to by them, wasn’t it?
They were a group of people called out to be separate from the nations and to be truthful, just, and upright. They must have seen the value of truthful testimony and upheld this one commandment. Well… no. The Bible witnesses against them once again.
In Isaiah 28:15, the rulers of the people are said to have made lies their refuge and they hid themselves under falsehood. In Jeremiah 6, the same charge is levied against all of the people –
“Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is given to covetousness;
And from the prophet even to the priest,
Everyone deals falsely.” Jeremiah 6:13
The law was given and it was disobeyed. Israel failed to uphold even this basic commandment. Harm was done to others, the Lord was offended through their actions, and judgment for violating the words of the covenant was due.
Once again, the law which had been given resulted not in man’s blissful reconciliation with God, but rather in the imputation of sin. Concerning this ninth command, something else was needed. The ninth word only condemns, it cannot save.
Steal? Me? No, I never did such a thing
Everything I have I earned on my own
Such an accusation, well, it makes my ears ring
All the grain I have popped up from what I’ve sown
And bear false witness? Come on, no way, Jose
I never say anything that isn’t true
My record smells as sweet as a fresh red rose’
It’s the truth! Why would I lie to you?
Well, yeah I did take that kid’s toy back in first grade
And I got caught lying about “not lying” in High School too
It’s just a couple little mistakes that I’ve made
God doesn’t care… it’s all past. On a bell curve, I’m a lot better than you
III. The Tenth Command (verse 17)
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The tenth word. In short, lo takhmod – no do covet. However, this needs to be explained and so the Lord gives examples. The word khamad simply means to desire or to take pleasure in. Elsewhere in the Bible, the same word is used in a positive sense, such as in the 19th Psalm. There we read these beautiful words about Scripture which are to be desired, using this same word –
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11
Therefore, the desiring of a thing is not in and of itself wrong. It is desiring a wrong thing, or desiring something in an unhealthy way, which violates this commandment. And so, surprisingly this tenth commandment is a commandment solely of intent.
What it implies is that we are truly being searched out at all times. The Bible says nothing is hidden from the eyes of the Lord and here we have an explicit reference to that. My coveting, unless acted upon, belongs in my head alone. And yet it is not unknown to the Lord.
And though this commandment is one solely of intent, it is that very intent which can so easily lead to disaster. The first two uses of the word khamad in the Bible are found right there at the beginning of it all. Just after forming the man, and even before the Bible records any words having been spoken to him, we read this, which includes the word khamad –
“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
After this, man was given his single command –
“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
However, on the next page comes the most unfortunate of verses which uses this same word, khamad –
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6
The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life all stepped in and took hold of our first parents. They coveted that which was forbidden and the world was plunged into darkness, pain, and death.
Now, for the third time in the Bible, the word khamad is recorded. The thing which seems so innocuous and so relatively unimportant compared to all the rest of the commandments is that which has caused the greatest of troubles for man ever since.
And what is equally surprising is that the first command ever broken, started with the last of the Ten Commandments! What we think is relatively unimportant is that which has led to every other sin that has ever been committed.
Now, the word has been given and any infraction of it results in the imputation of sin, even if we don’t outwardly act upon the desire within. Isn’t that a scary thought! It is hardly worth guessing whether Israel passed or failed this test.
If this is an evaluation of the inner being of the man, and the Lord is He who searches the minds and the hearts, then who can say they stand guiltless before God? Can Israel? The answer is, of course, “No.” From the time of the giving of the law, until the very last pages of the Old Testament, Scripture is replete with the failure of both individuals and the collective whole to meet this inward test.
In numbers 11, the congregation craved after meat; in Joshua 7, Achan the son of Carmi coveted the plunder of Jericho; in 2 Samuel 11, David coveted another man’s wife; in 1 Kings 21, Ahab coveted another man’s vineyard, and in Micah 2 we read this about the people –
“Woe to those who devise iniquity,
And work out evil on their beds!
At morning light they practice it,
Because it is in the power of their hand.
2 They covet fields and take them by violence,
Also houses, and seize them.
So they oppress a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance.” Micah 2:1, 2
As with all of the previous commandments, Israel failed. Today we would use the term EPIC FAIL. The word of God stands as a testimony against them and against us. We are all guilty of having violated the command, broken the law, and are justly sentenced to eternal punishment. One finite sin against an infinitely pure God infinitely separates us from Him.
Concerning this tenth command, something else was needed. The tenth word only condemns, it cannot save. The law itself says that the man who does the things of the law will live by them. But then the rest of the Old Testament goes on to show that no one could do the things of the law. All stand condemned before it and because of it. Paul wrote these pitiful words in Romans 7 concerning the law, which he calls “a body of death” –
“I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:21-25
The marvelous words of the Bible are that we have failed, but Christ has prevailed. Where the law brings us condemnation, Jesus Christ brings us salvation. The terrible display of smoke and fire and noise which was seen and heard at Mount Sinai during the giving of this law pointed to, and pictured, wrath.
God has a standard, man fails that standard, and man stands condemned in relation to it. But that condemnation doesn’t necessarily have to be imposed on the offender. It is true that every violation of the law must be judged. If God were to simply ignore our sin, then He would be neither righteous nor just. And He certainly would not be holy.
But God is love. He is also love. And we… amazingly, we are the objects of that love. We desired, that urge turned into action, and that action led to death. But God sent something seemingly undesirable into the world to fix that.
The same word used to describe the desirable nature of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is used to describe Jesus in the opposite way. In Isaiah 53, we read this which uses the same word, khamad –
“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2
The very person who seemed undesirable to those He came to save is the very One who could in fact, save them. Isaiah 53 goes on to describe the things this wonderful Savior would do for us, if we would just receive Him.
He came from heaven’s throne and joined with humanity in the womb of a woman. With no earthly father, He was born into the world without sin. And He was born under this.same.law which all of us have clearly violated. And not only was He born without sin, He lived His life perfectly under the law, never sinning.
He thus embodied the law; the very same law which He had given 1500 years earlier. And in the most astonishing aspect of it all, He then received the very wrath and judgment which was pictured at the giving of that law. All of the terror of God’s anger was poured out on the One who personified that same law.
Think of it! As each commandment was being given, He was looking forward to the penalty for each violation of it, knowing… knowing that He would someday assume that penalty for us. To stumble in any command brings guilt for violating the entire law. That penalty of death must be executed and no violation or violator may be overlooked.
And so to take away what we deserve, Christ became sin for us. He bore our guilt and our iniquity right up the hill of Calvary and to His death so that we could live. Imagine it… with each step, He remembered the day He gave this law to the people there on Sinai and reflected on the terror in their hearts as they witnessed the sight and heard the sounds…
“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.
And the anger of God was poured out on the Lord Jesus in exchange for our false worship. His own people spat on His face and beat Him.
“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.
We disobeyed God the Father, setting up every kind of idol imaginable. But in His love for us, He instead punished His own Son in our place. Again, His own people beat Him with the palms of their hands.
“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.
We profaned the Lord’s name, and yet Jesus took our guilt upon Himself. A crown of thorns was twisted and placed on His head.
“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.
Instead of honoring God, we have spent our lives in worthless pursuit of the wind. And yet, Jesus received what we justly deserve. The Gentiles whom He came to save also spat on Him and struck Him on the head with reeds.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
In contrast to us, Jesus never disobeyed His Father. And yet, though He was without guilt, He was scourged as if a hardened criminal.
“You shall not murder.
We have hated our brothers, we have aborted the unborn, and our hands are filled with blood. And yet, it was Jesus who was led up to Calvary where He was crucified. His hands and His feet were pierced through, securing Him to the instrument of His death.
“You shall not commit adultery.
It is our hearts which are filled with adultery, and yet Jesus was punished in our place. His own people sneered at Him and mocked Him as He hung on the cross.
“You shall not steal.
Every one of us has taken what is not rightfully ours. But God instead poured out His fury upon His own Son. The Gentile soldiers mocked Him and treated Him shamefully.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
The words of our mouths are filled with lies and deceit, and yet Jesus, who was without any such fault, gave His life in exchange for ours. When the punishment of the crucifixion had met its purpose, He gave up His spirit and died. God’s precious child died so that we could be called children of God.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
And God’s anger was poured out on the Lord Jesus because we failed to obey. In one final humiliation, they thrust a spear into His side and out flowed blood and water. The cup was drained, the wrath was spent. Out flowed the cleansing life from His death.
I wept as I typed these words, and I wept as I practiced them, because Christ Jesus was punished for my sins. If there were no other person but me, He would have done it just for me. And if there were none other than you, He would have gone to the cross for you too. What a God we serve.
Closing Verse: “For 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, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3, 4
Next Week: Matthew 1:20, 21 (You Shall Call His Name JESUS)
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 II
The first five commands condemned; in them no hope is found
Five more only add to our guilt, this is plain to see
Through the next five, sin does even more abound
A heavy burden surely rests upon you and me
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Five of ten commandments, 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?
What 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…