The Law of God

Exodus 20:1-17

May 14, 2017

Sermon Manuscript

We are in week four of our Discovering Christianity series in which we are getting a big picture view of what God is doing in the world. We covered creation, then the fall. Last week we looked at God’s promise to redeem the world through Abraham. God made a promise to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s offspring.

We follow that theme this week. We are also covering a lot of ground so let me give you some background before we jump into our text for today. Abraham fathers Isaac, Isaac fathers Jacob, and Jacob fathers joseph. Joseph goes down to Egypt with 70 people, and they multiply and flourish in great ways. They become a nation known as the Israelites. God’s promise to Abraham is being fulfilled. The promise to Eve that her seed would destroy the work of Satan continues on.

The Egyptians begin to fear the Israelites because they are so numerous and the Israelites start to cry out to God for deliverance. God ends up hearing their cry. God sends a deliverer to the people. His name is Moses. You might wonder if Moses is the deliverer, serpent crusher, world restorer.

The leader of the Egyptians, Pharaoh shows no regard for God and seeks to destroy God’s chosen nation. He more resembles Satan. But God, through Moses, commanded Pharaoh to release his people. Pharaoh refuses. God sends a series of plagues to punish the Egyptians, but the plagues did not harm the Israelites.

God sent 9 plagues: He “turned water into blood, filled the nation with frogs, gnats, and flies, killed livestock, covered people in boils, destroyed the land with hail and locusts, and brought great darkness over the land.” Remember God saying to Abraham he would curse those who curse Abraham.

In spite of these horrific events, Pharaoh still wouldn’t let God’s people go. So God sends one more plague – a plague that would kill every firstborn person and animal in Egypt while providing a way for the firstborn of the Israelites to be spared. God delivers the people from Egypt, the Egyptians then change their mind and chase after the Israelites. The Israelites cross the Red Sea and the Egyptians are destroyed in the water.

After delivering the people from slavery God then gives them ten words to obey, better know as the ten commandments. Consecrate (Ex 19). It will play a central place in the lives of God’s people. Here are a few things to mention on this law.

First, people don’t like to hear about rules and laws. But this law is nothing less than the expression of God’s holy and moral character (Jam 2:10-11). God also designed humanity and the world to operate in ways that accord with his law. For this reason, when God’s law is rightly understood and applied, it is a joy and delight to follow, a path for successful living, and neither a burden or a curse.

These commands are repeated in Scripture and expounded on by Jesus, giving them a basic place in the Christian faith and therefore they are to be abided by through all of history.

We don’t like to be told what to do so this law of God is offensive for many, but all of us live by a law. What if you had a microphone and it recorded every time you said someone else ought to do something. Don’t be mean to your brother. Don’t speed by my house. Don’t lie to me. Don’t treat me that way. You live by a law it’s just a matter of how good is that law.?

After God delivers the people from Egypt, he gives them this law to live by. Let’s begin reading in Exodus 20:1

Text:

And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "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.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that 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 bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." (Exodus 20:1-17 ESV)

  1. You shall have no other gods before me (v. 3)

This has to do with God’s exclusiveness. God’s claim comes first! Before getting to anything else that people should do, the relationship of devotion to God is established. He is God and should be served as God. The one who is in control over all things, the one who created all things, the one who is in authority over all things. He is God and there is none other. Worship him and him alone.

There should be singular allegiance to him. We read last week that Abram’s father worshipped other gods. In the ancient near east it was common that people worshipped many gods. The worship of other God’s would have been a huge temptation.

One commentator said, “We cannot understand the strange fascination of polytheism. It is a disease of humanity in an earlier stage than ours.” Clearly he was in a different day and time than us. We see other gods all around.

The prohibition of this commandment is not to worship other God. It advocates complete allegiance to God. The first commandment enjoins, or rather blesses us by showing that we are to cherish, worship, love, trust, sacrifice, desire one God, and only one God. Our devotion in life is to be singular. We should love the Lord our God’ with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Mk 12:30).

  1. You shall not make for yourself any idol (v. 4)

The first commandment declares who God is. This commandment declares how he is to be worshipped. We are not to bow down and worship created things. People gravitate to worshipping things in the world. We gravitate to wanting to control things, even God. All of these are reasons we might make idols.

This command has to do with God’s transcendence. He is far greater than anything we can make, picture, or fathom. We ought to worship him and him alone. This command preserves the distinction between God and his creation. God is not to be represented by anything of our making, because anything we make is to small for him.

An idol is anything that we worship (or give our devotion to) above God. It means that He allows for no rival in our hearts’ affection, or in our submission for love’s sake to Him. “A half trust in God is no trust.”

If you are free to do or think about anything at all, where does your mind go? What do you choose to do? (The car, the house, sports, money, food, sleep, control? Three big categories: money, pleasure, power.)

Have you ever devoted yourself to things above your devotion to God? If so, you are lawbreaker, and you are guilty of breaking God’s command…

  1. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (v. 7)

Some translation say “you shall not misuse the name of the Lord.” This includes using God’s name in way that lacks reverence or to swear by. You hear it on the basketball courts, the workplace, when angry.

To speak in vain also means to “speak empty words, falsely” or to use a name unnecessarily, idly.” I think another way God’s name is misused is when people declare God has spoken to them when he has not. You are misusing God’s name. You are speaking empty words and putting his stamp of approval on it.

This can be evidence of a spiritual pride. I have seen couples argue about what they should do and then one of them will throw out, “Well this is what God told me to do.” It’s really hard to give counsel to a person who states God has called him to do something. “God called me to buy that new car without telling you anything about it.” I can’t tell you if that is true or not. Maybe God did speak to you but maybe he didn’t. You need to see the seriousness of what you are claiming. You might just be breaking a commandment. 

If you’ve ever taken the Lord’s name in vain, you are a lawbreaker and guilty of breaking God’s command.

  1. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (v. 8)

This command establishes God’s right to rule over every domain of life. We are to set aside time everyday and all day, but the sabbath is uniquely a day to rest, worship him and listen to God’s word proclaimed along with his people.

We are to have a day of rest. So many people today are burned out. They can never escape the office or their work. They need to get a break. Put the phone down. Leave the computer off. Just rest. Protect the sabbath and the sabbath protects you! Teach that to your kids. If you cannot rest then it is probably an issue of trust and obedience to God. Follow this command. Teach your kids to rest to. Don’t raise them to give into the pressures of modern day business and entrenched in the rat race.

If you are over committed to work you are breaking this commandment. Full commitment to God allows you to balance the things that seem unbalanceable.

 . We make the day holy by worshipping God. The heidelberg catechism, a historic creed, says this command also teaches todiligently attend the assembly of God's people2 to learn what God's Word teaches,3 to participate in the sacraments,4 to pray to God publicly,5 and to bring Christian offerings...” The command does not prescribe just inactivity but holy activity. This command is why Christians gather at church every week.

Let me just say there are a lot of differences between Atlanta and DC. The first thing I notice is how many Christians are down here. The next thing I noticed is how many Christians don’t read their Bible, don’t go to church, and are not involved in advancing the mission of the church. That’s not Christianity.

If you are not diligently attending a church then you are breaking this commandment. But even more you are missing out on a key element of the Christian faith.

  1. Honor your father and your mother (v. 12)

This command shows there should be an attitude of respect, obedience and honor to your parents. That means you do something nice for her on mother’s day! But it is so much more than giving them some recognition on one day of the year. You are to show love and respect in everything. Everything! Your parents have your best in mind. No one on earth should care more for you than your parents. I know many in here have not had the best examples of parents and you have a lot of pain and hurt. You should still honor your parents but it might look different. But remember you will always have a perfect heavenly father!

Kids you need to learn how to honor and respect your parents. You are not going to like everything your parents ask you or tell you to do. But you still have to honor them. The only time you get a pass is if they are asking you to do something that defies God’s word. Even then you should do it respectfully. One of the reasons doing this is so helpful is because you are always going to be under someone’s authority. It is part of the way God designed the world. We are all under the authority of others and we need to learn to do that to God’s glory. And knowing how to live under the authority of others is essential for when you end up in a leadership position. You will never lead well until you know what it is like to follow well. Some of the greatest leaders in the Bible were forced to be under the authority of others for much longer than they wanted.

  1. You shall not murder (v. 13)

You are not to kill anyone. That may seem obvious enough. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone followed these commands!

But Jesus teaches that it is not just murder that is the problem but even hating your brother (Mat 5:22 ESV). You are not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill others; not by thoughts, words, looks, gestures, and certainly not by actual deeds. You must put away all desire for revenge and harm.

You also are not to endanger yourself. Don’t harm yourself. Sometimes things don’t go well for people and they want to take it out on themselves. Kids in frustration will start pounding their head for something they have done. I would also correct them with stern love saying, “I would not let you hit someone else like that, and I am certainly not going to let you hurt yourself like that. I care too much about you to let you do that. If you hurt yourself you will get punished.”

Murder and suicide has always been a temptation Satan uses. It’s a marvelous way for him to accomplish his goal of destroying God’s image bearers. Hear the command do not murder and heed it. If you know someone struggling with this talk to them about getting help.

  1. You shall not commit adultery (v. 14)

It is wrong to sleep with someone who is not your husband or wife. Sleeping with others is up there with killing others and stealing. Can you believe that! That is not what society tells you. They are wrong. We just saw how Abraham slept with another woman and Sarah his wife was enraged with jealousy. Sleeping with another is one of the most intimate and binding acts a person does. It makes a claim on you.  

Jesus also said, “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:28 ESV). You have to control your thoughts too. What you do and look at on the computer, in movies, or magazines matters to God. It has spiritual consequences.

If you have done any of these you have broken God’s commands.

  1. You shall not steal (v. 15)

What do you have to steal to be a thief? You can rob a bank or you can take a paper clip. A thief is a thief regardless of what he steals.

In God’s sight theft includes all scheming and swindling in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves, whether by force or by means that appear legitimate. Such as inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume. Fraudulent merchandising. It can be decisions in a board room with the social elite that takes advantage of others. 

CS Lewis said, “The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."

  1. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (v. 16)

Lie or misrepresenting the truth under any circumstances. In court and everywhere else that we bear witness about an event or a person we ought not lie, misstate the truth, or use our speech for evil device. That also includes online, on facebook, on reviews. People can be so outraged over how they are wronged that they seek “justice” in ways that are inappropriate.

You need to tell the truth in all that you do. If you do not do this then you are breaking God’s law.

Enron...

  1. You shall not covet (v. 17)

This is to desire something that is not yours and want it as if should be yours. If you have ever desired your neighbor’s car, house, wife, possessions, their life, or anything else, you have broken this command. We are not to have even the slightest desire and thoughts contrary to any one of God’s commands. It should even rise in our hearts.

You should be content. Content in the life you have. Content in the life God has given to you. And this brings it all back to the first commandment. Martin Luther said, “”Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”

This also takes us full circle because often the things we covet are things we worship, they are things that take our ultimate allegience, things taht take the place of God. We want money because of the security it gives. We want a boyfriend or girlfriend because of the fulfillment we see it in. An idol is anything that we give our devotion, allegiance, and affection to.

Summary

When you hear these commands you can feel a bit uncertain what to do. You might feel encouraged and enlightened about how to live. But at the same time you might feel a bit depressed because you realize where you have failed, and you realize you have failed bad.

The law is meant to illuminate God’s way to us. It makes God greater. But it also points out our sin. When we see the law we realize we are in trouble and need grace. You realize how imperfect you are. The law points to our need for God’s grace.

Another thing that accompanied the giving of the law was the sacrificial system. Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in garments of skin so now with this covenant God will provide sacrifices of animals as a way for people to atone for their sin and guilt. These sacrifies will be temporary, until God provides the perfect sacrifice. His name is Jesus, and he will atone for sin once and for all. He will also change our hearts so that we worship God will all our heart.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it possible to live without a moral law? If not God’s law what do people normally command others to follow? How would society be different if everyone followed these commands?
  2. What do the Ten Commandments reveal about who God is?
  3. What is the most illuminating commandment? What is the hardest commandment to follow? What is the commandment most needed for people to follow today?
  4. What normally causes you to break the commands?

BEacon of Hope announcement

Today I dropped off 25 bags to Beacon of Hope.They were very thankful and so excited to receive the bags. They said it was perfect timing and God providing because the store that they have is currently under construction so the mothers have not been able to shop. They said the ladies would be very excited to receive the bags tonight at their class. Esther, the community director, gave me a folder with some additional information about their facility and I attached a copy of their 2016 impact report for you all to see what they've accomplished the last year. They reported that 315 lives were saved from abortion in 2016! She also told me that 1 in 4 women 40 and under have had an abortion and these statistics are the same for Christians and non-Christians. They offer post abortion care for women as well.

Overall, I think it was a success and will be an encouragement for the women who have decided to keep their babies. It was even neat to see the store clerk checking us out at Target comment on the items, she thought we were having a party. We were then able to explain that they were Mother's day bags that Bridgeway church was putting together.

I don't believe that the NT teaches that Christians are *obligated* to mark any day as a Sabbath any longer...Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Not a bad idea to take a break though, but I think there is confusion about this in the church today. Sunday is the Lord's Day, Saturday remains the actual Sabbath, but we don't legalistically mark a day without work any longer.

I agree with you. Jesus transforms the commandments. Adulter and murder get ratcheted up and he brings laxity to the Sabbath. I think the pattern remains but he frees us from legalistic observance. Not sure how to say it all in a short period of time.

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Keith Welton

Lead Pastor

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May 14, 2017
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