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The Ten Words, Part 2

The Gospel According to Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:58
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There was a cartoon in a magazine about 20 years ago. Moses is standing on top of God’s Mountain (Mt. Horeb/Mt. Sinai) holding the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. And Moses is beaming.
“Hey, these are great,” he says enthusiastically.
“From now on, nobody will have any trouble distinguishing right from wrong.”
What makes the cartoon funny is that obviously we still have trouble distinguishing right from wrong.
The problem is not with the Law of God; the problem isn’t with the Ten Commandments.
The problem is with us.
We fail to measure up…and we never will measure up—not on our own. We lie and cheat and steal. We worship myriad things that are not deserving of our worship. We ignore God’s law. We disobey. We sin—it’s ingrained in us. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell in the garden, doing what was expressly forbidden by God. And we fell right along with them.
“These [Ten Words] are great! No one should have any trouble distinguishing right from wrong!”
Boy, we know that’s not the case. If we spend any time at all considering the Ten Commandments, we will realize we are sunk. The commands bellow from the mountain of God. With smoke and fire and trumpet blast, the Law thunders, commanding our obedience.
We tremble, along with those standing at the foot of the mountain, as we consider the weighty, heavy responsibility of keeping God’s law.
And we rejoice as those who take shelter in Jesus, trusting in Him who alone fulfills the demands of the law. Jesus, the only One who perfectly obeyed the Law, has given to us His perfect record; Jesus imputes to us His perfect righteousness when we, by faith, believe in Him.
Christianity is not a system of rules and regulations by which we succeed or fail. We don’t have to hope we make a passing grade. We only have to belong to Jesus by faith. He passed the test for us. He was obedient for us. He secured our salvation. We are those who trust in Him, and those who by faith receive from Him everything we need.
So don’t these Ten Words weigh you down. Don’t falter under the mistaken assumption that you have to obey these perfectly; don’t start to believe that you have to be your own savior. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you could ever save yourself.
Christianity is not about being perfect. It’s not even about being good.
Christianity is about Christ. It’s about Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One of God and all that He has done for us.
Don’t let these Ten Words weigh you down. When you fail (when, not if)—when you fail, repent and run to Jesus. Trust not in your ability to do, but in what Jesus has already done.
Don’t let these Ten Words weigh you down. Let these Ten Words—spoken by God Himself—be your guide. Let these Ten Words instruct you in the way of loving God and loving people more and more, better and better.
>I pray you spent some time this week contemplating the Ten Words (the Ten Commandments).
It’s a really good exercise and act of devotion to immerse ourselves in God’s Word—to see ourselves, to see our sin, and, then, to see our Savior.
As we look in the mirror of God’s Word, specifically at the Ten Words and realize we have not, cannot, and will not do these well or all the time—but then we see and know and belong to the One who has, and we rejoice.
Our time last week was focused on the big picture, how these verses break down into two categories:

Love God. Love People.

The first four commandments, the first four “words” focus on our loving God properly. And then springing from those foundational commandments, we have the last six which focus on our loving those around us—our parents, our spouse, our neighbors.
This week, we are going to look at each of the Ten Words, one at a time, to see what each command means and what each command teaches us about God.
I know what you’re thinking: “He’s going to preach a 10-point sermon?!?!
To answer you: “Yes, I am! Ha ha ha ha!”
I could have preached 10 sermons, one on each of the commandments, but thought I’d go this route rather than dragging it out for the next 2.5 months. You’re welcome.
So, as we go along, keep these two questions in mind:
What does the command mean?
What does this command teach us about God?

No Other gods than Yahweh (20:3)

Exodus 20:3 NIV
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

No Other gods than Yahweh (20:3)

The first commandment does away with atheism on one hand and pantheism (everything’s a god) and polytheism (there are many gods) on the other.
There is One True God and no other.
This prohibits relating to or believing in anything/anyone as if they are on equal footing with God.
The first commandment sets Yahweh, the Lord, the God of Israel alone as the only God.
This is a good word—prohibiting the recognition of any other so-called god—especially in their day. Egypt, the country in which they had lived for 430 years and from which they were just rescued, was a heavily polytheistic (they believed that there were gods for everything—water, animals, sun, moon, stars).
So God tells His people, commands them:
Exodus 20:3 NIV
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
Everyone is a worshipper of something or someone. We call this idolatry—putting someone or something in the place of God; exchanging the glory of the Creator for the creation.
Our worship must be clearly focused on the Only One who deserves it—God alone. There is no God but Yahweh.
This commandment, like the next, highlights the jealousy of God. God is jealous. He will not share His glory with another.

No Idolatry (20:4-5)

Exodus 20:4–5 NIV
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

No Idolatry (20:4-5)

This commandment warns us against having the wrong object of worship and against worshipping the wrong way.
Carved images were manmade objects for worship. These idols have no comparison to the true God. They are impersonal and powerless—deaf, dumb, and dead.
Every sort of idolatry is outlawed here. Some faithful followers of Jesus believe that any image, even a family picture, can become an idol. I don’t know about that as a blanket rule, but if it’s something that steals your worship away from God, then it is.
“Nothing from anywhere can be copied and used as an object of veneration.”
Sadly, Israel would fail to keep this commandment really soon, shockingly soon.
Psalm 106:19–21 NIV
19 At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. 20 They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. 21 They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt,
God is supreme. He is over all these things that His people worship. And, once again, this commandment highlights the jealous God. “For I, the Lord you God, am a jealous God...”
He is right to want what is rightfully His; namely, the praise, worship, adoration, devotion of His people and all creation.
Notice: there is punishment for those who commit the same sins as their parents and ancestors who worship idols and images, who make objects of worship and give their worship to another.

Speak God’s Name Respectfully and Honestly (20:7)

Exodus 20:7 NIV
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Speak God’s Name Respectfully and Honestly (20:7)

The command literally says, “Do not raise up Yahweh’s name for no good.”
The focus is on the name of the Lord, Yahweh. But the name in itself is not the focus; rather, it has to do with all that’s connected to that name.
The focus is on God’s essence. God is to be highly valued. He is worthy of highest honor.
In college, there were a few Jewish students who attended classes with us. One of them had what sounded like an odd request. He asked that none of us take our backpacks into the restroom with us, because the books we carried (including the Bible) contained the name of the Lord Yahweh, and it would be disrespectful.
I still think that’s an odd request, but then again, they are honoring and respecting the name of the Lord—fearing the guilt that accompanies misusing His name.
To use His name flippantly or in vain is to insult who God is.
We are elsewhere instructed against:
invoking His name as a guarantee, using it as part of an oath (i.e. “I swear to God...”)
making light of His name or mocking it
speaking about Yahweh disrespectfully
speaking lies in Yahweh’s name (as some OT false prophets did; as some false teachers do today)
Growing up, I thought this commandment was exclusively forbidding bad language which included God’s name and even the expression “Oh my God” or the updated “OMG”.
I hate all of those, and I tend to think all of those break the 3rd commandment.
But understand, this command goes deeper than that. It’s more than speaking God’s name.
We who carry His name must exalt God’s reputation by living in a way that honors Him. We must not use God’s name meaninglessly, mouthing songs or prayers without actually thinking about God.
God is worthy of all the respect we can give Him, and more. Don’t speak His name thoughtlessly or disrespectfully. Carry His name well.

Observe the Sabbath in a Holy Way (20:8-11)

Exodus 20:8–11 NIV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Observe the Sabbath in a Holy Way (20:8-11)

Sabbath means “stopping, stoppage, cessation.”
Throughout the explanation of this commandment (the longest explanation of any of the commandments), a balance is struck between “stopping” and “keeping holy”.
The purpose, then, of the Sabbath isn’t limited to a break from one’s work or to the setting aside of a day of the week for special attention to godliness. It’s both.
Sabbath is a sign of the covenant. Most ancient covenants (agreements) had some sort of sign—something visible that would remind people of the covenant, lest they forget it (think: rainbow, circumcision, communion).
Sabbath is a sign; it’s a reminder.
It’s a regular, weekly reminder for everyone. As people keep the Sabbath, stopping their work and devoting themselves to worship, they demonstrate opening that they are keeping the covenant.
Sabbath is a setting aside of the normal routine in order that one might focus on God.
Maybe you believe you don’t need to stop and rest (and if you really don’t, good for you. For the record, I’d argue with you about your need for rest).
Maybe you believe you don’t need to stop and rest, but you absolutely have need of stopping and refocusing on the Lord and all His blessings.
Stuart: “To love God is not to have a lazy day one day a week; rather it is to focus on doing His will specially on one day a week—to worship, learn, study, care, and strengthen the spirit.”
Sabbath is rooted in creation. The Lord established the pattern for us. Who are we to think He doesn’t know how we best operate and function?
This commandment reminds us of God’s power in creation, His sovereignty, His authority over us.

Honor Father and Mother (20:12)

Exodus 20:12 NIV
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Honor Father and Mother (20:12)

God commands each person to honor his or her parents. All the parents in the room say, “Mmhmm, that’s right!”
Honor implies acknowledging the weight of something. That is, we are to give the proper weight and respect to our parents’ position.
Anyone who scorned their parents was in danger of being put to death, in some cases by stoning (Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:8-11).
All the parents in the room say, “Mmhmm, that’s right!”
We give respect. We give honor. We commit to caring for our parents in their old age. I’ve watched several of you do this so well. In honoring your earthly parents, you honor your Heavenly Father.
Those who honored their parents would live long in the land the Lord was giving them.
Our Heavenly Father is generous and good. He, too, is worthy of honor and respect.

You Must Not Murder (20:13)

Exodus 20:13 NIV
13 “You shall not murder.

You Must Not Murder (20:13)

Pretty cut-and-dried, this one. Another way of saying this is: Never Murder.
The KJV is deficient here. It reads, “Thou shalt not kill.”
But the word is murder (Hb. rsh)—putting to death improperly.
There are allowances in the OT Law for putting someone to death when justice demands it and in case of a holy war (when God calls His people to war).
Never murder.
“No Israelite acting on his own could decide he had the right to end someone’s life.”
You, friend, are not qualified to decide you have the right to end someone’s life, ever. This applies to abortion, euthanasia, and every moment in between.
No unauthorized, private person or group has the right to end human life.
Life is sacred. All life. Every person’s life.
God is the giver of life. Every person is made in His image. This gives inherent worth to every person, from conception to the grave.

You Must Not Commit Adultery (20:14)

Exodus 20:14 NIV
14 “You shall not commit adultery.

You Must Not Commit Adultery (20:14)

This commandment addresses sexual purity.
Most important is marital fidelity.
“No one is allowed to have sex with any married person except his or her spouse, and no married person is allowed to have sex with anyone other than his or her spouse.”
The commandment specifically addresses adultery: a wife stepping out on her husband, a husband stepping out on his wife.
But every other form of sexual immorality is in view here.
Don’t think it’s okay to sleep with your girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s normal; it’s wrong. Pornographic images and literature (50 Shades of whatever)—it’s all evil (porneia is the Greek word for evil).
The issue at hand is a pure heart. God’s people are to be a pure people, holy as God is holy. God’s people are to be faithful, as God is faithful.

You Must Not Steal (20:15)

Exodus 20:15 NIV
15 “You shall not steal.

You Must Not Steal (20:15)

Taking that which does not belong to you: stealing.
This goes back to the Garden of Eden, when man sought to take what did not belong to him—the fruit of the tree.
Don’t steal. Remember what God has graciously given to us. Rather than steal, we should have thankful hearts that rejoice in all God has provided.
Stealing threatens the social order and causes pain to others. If you can’t leave your home without concern that someone is going to break in and steal your stuff, society starts to collapse.
Because God gives His people everything they need, we do not steal. God is our Provider.

You Must Not Give False Testimony (20:16)

Exodus 20:16 NIV
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You Must Not Give False Testimony (20:16)

This is more than not lying, but certainly not less. This is a call for honesty toward and about anyone you come into contact with.
It speaks to what should happen in a court of law—legal testimony and the witness. Rather than providing false testimony, the witness should give truthful and honest testimony.
We will be held accountable for our words.
We speak truth because God is Truth. He cannot lie. His people must be the most concerned with truth, with honesty.

You Must Not Covet Another’s Possessions (20:17)

Exodus 20:17 NIV
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

You Must Not Covet Another’s Possessions (20:17)

Herein lies the sin of discontentment. Instead of having a thankful heart, the coveter desires what others have.
Coveting is desiring, wanting, craving.
Covetousness is about the heart.
Coveting could lead to stealing, to adultery, breaking the 7th and 8th Commandments.
This is a good word. If you pay attention, you’ll see most people are not content. What they have is never enough.
Their station in life isn’t what they want. They’d really like to have just a little more. They would really like their house, that car, that person’s paycheck.
I’d like to have his head of hair. Heck, I’d take her hair.
And I know you all secretly covet my ‘99 Honda. I get it. I’m tempted to get rid of it because I realize it’s leading many of you to sin, breaking this command.
Here’s the thing: what we have, God has given to us. The Father knows our needs and our deepest longings. He is faithful and good. He will provide for us. Trust me: He wants you to find your contentedness in Him and Him alone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Ten Words are not a bunch of stuff you have to do be saved, but a list of reminders that reveal God’s character; He is jealous, supreme, worthy, powerful, holy, faithful, pure, and true.
The Ten Words are meant to conform us, His people, to His image.
And by our obedience, we reflect Him and give Him glory.
How are we to worship the Lord? How do we best love God and our neighbor?
The Ten Words are a really good start; they lead us to worship our Father, to love our fellow man, and to be ever-thankful for Jesus.
Non-Christian friends: if you read the Ten Words and think, “How can I be saved when I can’t keep God’s law?”
There is only one way: Jesus.
Look to Him and believe. Receive His perfect righteousness by faith alone. He is your hope. Look to the One who kept these commands perfectly and then died for those who broke them.
Christian friends: rejoice that you have a Savior who lived for you and died for you. And by the power of the Spirit, as a new creation, live out these commands to the glory of our great and awesome God.
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