Updated: Mar 9, 2018
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
20 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol 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 fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Dear Friends in Christ:
On Tuesday, the Alabama State Senate overwhelmingly approved the passage of a bill allowing the 10 commandments to be displayed in public institutions throughout the state. With the recent Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida, the thought is that the posting of the 10 commandments might help deter such senseless acts in the future. Time will tell, I guess. On Tuesday, the Alabama State Senate overwhelmingly approved the passage of a bill allowing the 10 commandments to be displayed in public institutions throughout the state. With the recent Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida, the thought is that the posting of the 10 commandments might help deter such senseless acts in the future. Time will tell, I guess.
“Just10” is a new revision to the 10 commandments that is supposed to make the commandments easier to relate to in everyday life. Apparently, people don’t relate well to commands anymore. Just 10 is supposed to be culturally relevant. They are supposed to be practical applications for modern lives. “Thou shalt not covet” … has been modified to say: “Find contentment!” “You shall not steal” is now “prosper with a clear conscience.” Such modifications can certainly make me feel better about my selfish lifestyle. Apparently one no longer needs to be concerned about our neighbor’s well being … it’s all about me!
The 10 commandments have been controversial ever since God first gave them to mankind. They have been ignored, forgotten, discarded, ridiculed, and watered down to soothe spineless, pampered sinners. People can write and say what they want, but understand that in the end …
God Still Has the Final Word
His will is cloaked in love
His will is observed in fear
The 10 commandments are the holy will of God. God has said on more than one occasion, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you” (Dt 4:2; 12:32; Re 22:18,19). So, the words before us still stand and confront us with a way of life that no one has ever achieved except Jesus Christ alone. Maybe that is what makes people most uncomfortable about the commandments. They require holiness – unreal expectations for any one! The longer you study the 10 commandments they clearer your sins become to you and the greater your hopelessness of earning salvation.
That is just the point! The 10 commandments were not given to us in order that we might earn salvation by doing them. The first and primary purpose of the 10 commandments is to show us our hopelessness! They are a mirror into our sin infested heart and reveal things about ourselves that we would rather not see or talk about. The way God introduces the 10 commandments makes it very clear that they were not given to us as a means of grace – a way of salvation. They were given to us in order that they may guide us in thankful living. God wrapped these commandments in love before he gave them to man – not our love for God, but his love for us!
“And God spoke all these words.” It is interesting that God doesn’t use the word “command” once here or in the listing in Deuteronomy. In fact, if you were to add up the several different statements of God here you would have a hard time coming up with 10. Really there are 14 words or sayings of God: 1) I am the LORD … 2) You shall have no other gods 3) you shall not make for yourself an idol 4) You shall not bow down to them 5) You shall not misuse the name of the Lord … 6) Remember the Sabbath day 7) On it you shall not do any work 8) Honor your father and mother 9) You shall not murder 10) You shall not commit adultery 11) You shall not steal 12) You shall not give false testimony 13) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house 14) You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … Verse 2 is often treated as the umbrella under which the other sayings align themselves. Verses 3&4 are made into two commandments by Baptists and some Protestant churches.
Our church and other mainline denominations dating back to the time of St. Augustine make two commandments out of the things God says about coveting. Most everyone considers the two words regarding the 3rd commandment as one injunction. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how one numbers them. What matters is that one understands them.
God speaks these words in love to his church. Remember the mountain that had just erupted violently before the children of Israel? The mountain shook. The blast of the trumpet had sounded. And the mountain was still covered in smoke. The glory of the Lord had come to do something special for his people. Out of that scene the voice of God spoke. These may be the first words these people had ever heard God speak to them. And listen to how God begins, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” God set the stage magnificently to assure his church that he loved them.
Three months prior to this God had brought them out of bondage in Egypt. Along the way they faced challenges again and again. God relayed to his people messages through Moses reassuring them along the way that he was with them and would take care of them. And now God spoke to them himself as their Savior God! The God who has freed them from slavery because of his great love for these people is now giving them his will so that they might know how to say “thank you” for his grace and mercy. The commandments are cloaked in love!
As the children of Israel listened they were filled with mixed emotions. They had a holy reverence and respect for God in appreciation for all which God had done for them and promised to them. But they were also terrified because they knew as they listened to God’s will that they had not been showing any appreciation for God’s love for them in their lives. They realized that God expects holiness. They had none! They had the same problem we have! God says, “be holy.” We hear God saying to us: “You are not holy!” So, fear of punishment for sin filled their hearts as well as awe, reverence, respect, honor and praise to God for his great love for us.
Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a book of instruction on Christian living for parents to teach their children. He included the 10 commandments in his catechism and he began his explanation of each of the commandments with the phrase “we should fear and love God.” Can we now look at the commandments that way? Can we understand the commandments as God’s blueprint for us on how to express our love for God in our lives? Can we demonstrate respect for God by both “fearing his wrath” and “love him and keep his commandments?”
An honest answer has to be that we haven’t done any of that! We make excuses for sin and seldom tremble at the thought of disobeying the holy God. We love ourselves too much and find ourselves making excuses for not loving God more. We use these commandments properly when we see our sins as we read them and flee for mercy to the foot of the cross. Jesus obeyed them perfectly and died for our sins against them.
God still has the final word. These words of God compel us to love God above all things. God still inspires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. God still wants us to examine our hearts and feel the sorrow of our sins so that we can turn our eyes away from ourselves for salvation and focus on Jesus alone.
God says here, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.” The word jealous means zealous or serious. Jesus demonstrated God’s zeal in the temple in our gospel reading today. God has the final word. He tells us that he will punish those who hate him. One generation of godlessness breeds a generation even more hardened in sin. If we have no zeal for God’s word, it’s likely that our children will follow our example. If we do not take God’s will seriously, why would our children? Every man, woman and child must answer to God himself for his actions. If a person has no regard for the will of God, he is providing evidence that he has no need for a Savior in his life.
On the other hand, God knows that those who love him are zealous for his word. I urge you to take God seriously and use his commands to drive you to the cross for forgiveness and then use the commandments to guide your life in thankful living. Make the holy will of God your daily companion. Zealously endeavor to do what God says not to save yourself because God has already done that! Do the will of God as an expression of your fear and love of God. Listen to his will as a recipe for thankful living. Just as the message of Jesus Christ transforms your life so the will of God shows you what your life can be like.
Cherish all of God’s Word. The gospel tells you that Christ has freed you from slavery to sin and made you children of God through faith. The law compels you to zealously live your life to the praise and glory of God. His Word never changes. It still makes us afraid when we sin. It still gives us peace and joy through the work and words of Jesus, our Savior. Whether mankind likes it or not, God still has the final word.