Sunday, September 30, 2007

Exodus 20:1-11 -- The Ten Commandments: God and Man

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...
Image via Wikipedia
Opening thought:This month, two rulings have been issued on Ten Commandment displays in Kentucky courthouses. The rulings come from a 2005 US Supreme Court case which ruled that Ten Commandment displays on government property must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester said in a ruling released September 20, 2007, that the Ten Commandments display at the Rowan County Fiscal Court, part of an exhibit on the foundations of American law and government, "does not have the effect of endorsing religion," while earlier on September 5, Forester refused to dismiss a similar suit in Garrard County, saying that "a reasonable person would conclude that the county's display has the effect of endorsing religion." The ruling allows that case to proceed. He said the history of the display there offered evidence suggesting "that the officially stated purpose ... is a sham" to disguise religious intent.
[1] Accordingly, the Garrard County Fiscal Court this past Wednesday, September 26, removed their Ten Commandments display from the courthouse.[2]

The confusion over Ten Commandments displays on public property points to the confusion and erosion of traditional Judeo-Christian values in our culture. Once honored, now the mere sight of the Ten Commandments evokes offense in some people. Why? Because there is an offense in the Word of God. Today we will look at the first four of the Ten Commandments, the ones which focus on man’s relationship with God.

Contextual Notes:
Having eaten the Passover with the Israelites, gone through the Red Sea with them, and marched across the Sinai Peninsula in new freedom, we now find ourselves at the foot of Mount Sinai with the covenant people of Israel. Today we come upon what Matthew Henry calls, “as remarkable a portion of scripture as any in the Old Testament.”
[3] Some scholars believe that the Ten Commandments were delivered on the day that many years later would be called Pentecost.

Although given over 3000 years ago, they are still relevant today. The Ten Commandments (Hebrew literally עשרת הדברים “The Ten Words.” Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4; Greek: Δεκαλογος, Decalogue, a literal rendering of “Ten Words”) are divided into two sections. The first four govern our relationship with God. The final six handle our relationships with other people.

Jesus referred to this when He summed up the Law: Matthew 22:36-40. 1-Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength. 2-Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets. Jesus fully endorsed the Ten Commandments (Matthew 5:17). Below are the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ similar statements.

Pray and Read: Exodus 20:1-11
Key Idea: God issued “Words” to Israel outlining His standard for them.
Key Application: God graciously sets a standard for our relationship with Him.
Sermon Points:
1. Grace is the authority for the Law. (Exodus 20:1-3)
2. Trust God only (Exodus 20:3-4).
3. Worship God only (Exodus 20:5-6).
4. Use God’s name in ways that honor Him (Exodus 20:7).
5. Rest on the Sabbath day and think about God (Exodus 20:8-11).

Exposition: Note well,

1. Grace is the authority for the Law. (Exodus 20:1-2)

a. Even in the law, grace precedes everything. Before asking anything of Israel, God had shown his character by loving them without requiring anything from them.

b. 1 John 4:19: 19We love because he first loved us.

c. Exodus 20:1-17: God’s mirror reveals but doesn’t cleanse.

d. 2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me

e. APPLICATION: Grace is God’s way of drawing you to Himself. Won’t you respond to His grace toward you? Won’t you think about this: did you deserve it? No. But He is reaching toward you today and offering you graciously His Hand of mercy and salvation. Won’t you even consider it and respond to it?

2. Trust God only (Exodus 20:3).

a. “Thou shalt not” – Law forbids because man is at root sinful. The purpose is not to be negative, but to point us to what we should be doing instead.

b. Keil & Delitszch: “The First Word. - “Let there not be to thee (thou shalt have no) other gods פּני על פּן,” lit., beyond Me (על as in Gen_48:22; Psa_16:2), or in addition to Me (על as in Gen_31:50; Deu_19:9), equivalent to πλὴν ἐμοῦ (lxx), “by the side of Me” (Luther). “Before Me,” coram me (Vulg., etc.), is incorrect; also against Me, in opposition to Me. This first word condemns all idolatry in thought, word, and deed. There is also the exhortation here in the Deuteronomy version is to love, fear, serve, and cleave to the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:5, 13; 10:12, 20).”

c. Can be translated “No other gods before Me, beside Me, against Me, or above Me.” These freed slaves have been slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt where many gods were worshiped. This is a new concept for them. God’s reminder that He had brought them out of Egypt meant He had also defeated all those gods in the ten plagues. God here claims exclusivity.

d. Jesus claimed an exclusive right as God as well. Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters.”

e. Matthew 4:10: 10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'[

f. APPLICATION: The Lord calls you to trust Him above all, not in your ability to work and make money – Your health can fail in an instant; not your company – You could be laid off without a care; not your family – they could be gone in an instant or turn on you for a lifetime; not even your church – it could fail you. No other gods. It means what it says.

3. Worship God only (Exodus 20:4-6).

a. The Hebrew word idol or graven image refers to something in nature that people worship as deity It is also an object that the worshippers believe they can manipulate as suits them. God is not going to be manipulated.

b. Verse 4: Psalm 115:4-8

c. Third and fourth generation: Covenant violation brings guilt on the entire family. Deuteronomy 7:5, 25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:19-20; Exodus 34:7. Notice that His love is to a thousand generations.

d. Luke 16:13: 13"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

e. APPLICATION: You have only one choice when it comes to the worship. What’s on the throne in your life? What takes the place of you serving the Lord fully and without reserve?

i. For some people it is their company. Companies can go under.
ii. For some it is their children. Children fail you.
iii. For some it is money. Paul says in Colossians 3 that greed is idolatry. Money is a tool to serve your family and the Kingdom, not to hoard and count.
iv. For some it is an interest or hobby. Now how smart is it to worship something that you have to put all the energy and money into?
v. For some it is their church. Don’t confuse following Christ and church. Church is an organized fellowship purposed to worship Christ, not Christ Himself.
vi. For some, the most important thing is ME, old #1. If that describes you, you of all men are to be most pitied. Your self-deception is leading you to make an idol of yourself. God destroys idols.

4. Use God’s name in ways that honor Him (Exodus 20:7).

a. This third word forbids the profaning the name of YHWH by using it for untruth or in vain words such as false or idle swearing, cursing, manipulation, magic.

b. The true targets of this commandment are those who will make false promises and seek to give themselves some credibility by invoking God’s authority or “God’s will.” They will lard their deceitful words with phrases like “before God,” or “in God’s name,” or “God knows.”

c. No one is to invoke God’s name with the aim of deceiving someone else.

d. Matthew 5:34, 37: 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne . . . 37Simply let your yes be yes and your no no; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

How do we dishonor Christ’s name?
i. How about when we tear down a brother or sister in Christ on the telephone?
ii. How about when we see politicians talk about their faith in Jesus Christ when it might garner votes, and then push legislation that destroys our moral fabric and murders babies?
iii. How about when we use our tongues to tear apart our church in our community?
iv. How about when we manipulate a situation to our own liking, then say it was God’s will?
v. How about when we constantly run our mouths with religious talk, but then hate our neighbor or our cousin?
vi. How about when use our Christianity to earn someone’s business, and then cheat them on the deal?

How can we honor Christ’s name?
vii. Being true to our contracts when we do business.
viii. Following through on promises to our children and spouse.
ix. Standing for your convictions no matter the cost.
x. Handling money with integrity.
xi. Speaking against injustice and those who cannot speak for themselves.
xii. Living a quiet life, minding your own business, loving the lost to Christ, and being honest with others.
5. Rest on the Sabbath day and think about God (Exodus 20:8-11).
a. This fifth word enjoins rest – personal rest, household rest, and public rest from all labor on the Lord’s Day. It was to be spent instead in His service and for His glory.

b. Another dramatic change for the Israelites. As slaves under Pharaoh’s brutal regime, they worked 8 days a week. Now they are required, by virtue of their freedom, to rest on the Sabbath.

c. This was not a new command. They had seen the principle in the manna (16:22-30), and it goes all the way back to creation (Exodus 20:11; Genesis 2:2-3). In fact, God sees it so important that it was punishable by death (Exodus 31:12-17).

d. Jews observe the Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, but Christians instead celebrated on the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

e. God’s wisdom and our freedom in Christ give us this principle of rest and worship in Him. Jesus is the true rest of God (Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”; Hebrews 4:3, 11: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”)

f. Keeping the letter of the law does not make anyone closer to God. Jesus said He Himself was Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5) and demonstrated that meeting human needs takes precedence over the Sabbath observance (Matthew 12:11-14; John 5:1-9).

g. APPLICATION: Sabbath rest is a celebration of our freedom in Christ from the bondage of slavery. We should use it as an opportunity to draw closer to God. Rest and reflection with God is important and rewarding, but more than that, it is commanded for our own good.

James 2:10 says that “whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All means me. All means you. The good news is that Jesus Christ washed away the guilt and kept the whole law, God’s standard, for us at Calvary. Then he defeated death at the Resurrection and is sitting at the Father’s right hand.
Sources:Tokunboh Adeyemo, Africa Bible Commentary, 110-2.
Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, 207.
Matthew Henry, e-sword.
[1];[2],2933,298479,00.html[3] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Exodus 20.