THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Reading: Exodus 20:1-17. Commandment I. Exodus 20:1-3 “And God spoke all these words, saying: 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.” “Have no other gods.” This is a prohibition against the worship of many gods (polytheism) or against the worship of any other god except Jehovah. Commandment 2. Exodus 20:4-6 “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; 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 on 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.” Use no “carved image.” Not only the worship of idols but their manufacture is forbidden. This includes pictures, images, and statues used in worship. It does not, however, include all pictures or statues, since the tabernacle contained carved cherubim. Also, God told Moses to make a serpent of brass (Numbers 21:8). The commandment undoubtedly refers to pictures or images of deity. God is “a jealous God,” that is, jealous of the worship and love of His people. He visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations,” through inherited weaknesses, poverty, diseases, and shortened lifespan. But God’s mercy endures to thousands (of generations) of those who love Him and keep His commandments. Commandment 3. Exodus 20:7 “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.” Taking God’s “name ... in vain” is forbidden. This means to swear by God’s name that a false statement is actually true. It could also include blasphemy, cursing, oaths, or swearing to a promise and failing to fulfill it. Commandment 4. Exodus 20:8-11 “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.” “Remember the Sabbath day.” First mentioned in Genesis 2:1–3, and enjoined in connection with the gathering of manna (Exodus 16), the Sabbath was now formally given to the nation of Israel for strict observance. It was a picture of the rest which believers now enjoy in Christ and which a redeemed creation will enjoy in the Millennium. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to keep the Sabbath. Commandment 5. Exodus 20:12 “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Honour “father and mother.” To honour here means to obey. The verse teaches that a life of obedience to parents is the type of life which, in general, insures length of days. A life of disobedience and sin often leads to untimely death. This is the first commandment with a promise attached (Ephesians 6:2). It teaches respect for authority. Commandment 6. Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” “You shall not murder.” This refers especially to murder and not to capital punishment or to manslaughter. The command teaches respect for human life. Commandment 7. Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not commit adultery.” This ban teaches respect for marriage, and warns against taking advantage of another person’s body. It may cover all forms of unlawful sexual behaviour. Commandment 8. Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” “You shall not steal.” This refers to any act by which a person wrongfully takes away another person of his property. It teaches respect for private property. Commandment 9. Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” “You shall not bear false witness.” This commandment forbids damaging the character of another person by making statements which are not true, and thus possibly causing him to be punished or even executed. It teaches respect for a person’s character. Commandment 10. Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbour'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 neighbour's.”
“You shall not covet.” The tenth commandment passes from acts to thoughts, and it shows that it is sinful to lust after anything that God never intended one to have. Paul states that this commandment produced deep conviction of sin in his life (Romans 7:7). Conclusion: Exodus 20:18-21 “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” After the Ten Commandments were given, the people were terrified by the manifestations of the divine Presence. They were afraid they would die if God spoke to them directly, so Moses became their mediator. Exodus 20:22-26 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me--gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” The purpose of the Law of Moses was to show the people their sinfulness. Next, God graciously gave instructions for the erection of “an altar,” reminding the people that sinners can approach God only on the ground of shed blood. The altar speaks of Christ as the way of approach to God. Man could contribute nothing to the perfection of Christ, either by the tools of personal effort or the steps of human achievement. Priests ascending steps in long, flowing garments might accidentally expose themselves in a manner that would be inappropriate for such a solemn occasion.