EXODUS 20: 1-17
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 slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me. “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 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, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“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.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 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. 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.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“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.”
The giving of the law is one of the most beautiful parts of Exodus, and it is key in understanding who we are as the people of God and God’s desires toward us. The law lets us know that we are sick and lets us know how to walk in a way that pleases God. In the law is the fullness of life that God has brought to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The Israelites had been set free from Pharaoh’s kingdom in Egypt about 7 weeks earlier than our text. They were slaves in his kingdom for 400 years. Pharaoh is seen throughout the book of Exodus as all that is contrary to God. In Pharaoh you see the base compulsion of humankind. In giving the law, God shows the stark contrast of Pharaoh’s kingdom and His Kingdom. Pharaoh’s kingdom is what the world values at its base compulsion. It is the antithesis of God’s good and right plan for humanity.
When you put Pharaoh’s kingdom beside God’s commandments you see that God’s way leads to life and human flourishing. However, these Ten Words also lead to an awareness that we can’t live to them (Romans 3:20). Given our base compulsion, if left unchecked, we will line up with Pharaoh’s kingdom and not God’s commands. We need a Savior!
Let’s unpack this text by contrasting Pharaoh’s kingdom to God’s commandments.
Only God Has Complete Control Over Others
In Pharaoh’s kingdom the powerful controlled others. In God’s kingdom and His commandment, God’s authority prevents people from claiming complete or absolute power. This is the first commandment, “You shall have no other God’s before me” (verse 3).
God wants His people to avoid our natural tendency of thinking of yourself as a god and holding such power over the lives of people. This power and complete control over others is reserved for God alone. In Pharaoh’s kingdom, our base compulsion, ”I’m god, and I rule, and people do what I say”.
God Cannot Be Twisted And Used For Gain
Verses 4 and 7 contain the second and third commandment. Do not make a carved image or use the Lord’s name in vain. The heart behind this is that God will not be used for people’s gain. He does not want His people to use His authority to flex power and manipulate and coerce others. This is opposite of the base compulsion of humankind. We naturally are bent to making God serve us rather than bow our knee before God.
God Sets Limits for Production And Consumption
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (verse 8). This fourth commandment is in contrast to Pharaoh’s kingdom where production and consumption are unrestrained and vulnerable workers are exploited and overworked. In God’s commandment, limits are set. There is to be rest for everyone - especially those who might be vulnerable to being overworked.
God knows the base compulsions of humanity. He knows that the elite will rest, but are unlikely to let their slaves and servants rest. In God’s economy, everyone rests. We’re so zealous to produce and show that we have value and worth rather than to rest in what God has said about us. In our culture of now, we need to learn to say no. We must resist the rat race of anxiety and not choose to believe the lie that our lives are defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.
God Commands Parental Authority And Marital Integrity
The reality of our broken world is that family life is subject to destruction. In Egypt, under Pharaoh, we saw a full-scale genocide and families torn apart. The fifth and seventh commandments are God’s opposite, life-giving way (verse 12 and 14).
Once again God’s Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the kingdom of Pharaoh that they have been delivered from. It is natural for us to rebel against authority and have whatever our eyes desire. God says that His people are to honor and respect authority and be loving, kind, and devoted to your spouse.
God Protects The Weak And Vulnerable
The sixth, eighth, and tenth commandments show God protecting the weak and vulnerable (verses 13,15,17). In God’s Kingdom, the powerful become servants - not tormentors. The base human compulsion of the powerful is to use that power to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. We can see this happening today. Jesus challenged this abuse of authority (Mark 9:35).
God Wants Integrity and Impartiality In The Judicial System
This ninth commandment calls for integrity and impartiality in the judicial system (verse 16). Humankind, left unchecked, will provide no effective legal system for the weak and vulnerable. God’s Kingdom values truth and justice - especially for the weak.
Jesus’ Summary Of These Commandments
Matthew 22:35-40 gives us great insight as the heart of these commandments. It may make you wonder why we have the Old Testament law, if it can be summed up in two sentences. The first four commandments call for covenant loyalty and love with God - our vertical relationship. The last six commandments are horizontal and establish our relationship with others.
Jesus’ Fulfills These Commandments
Israel, God’s people, failed repeatedly after receiving these laws. Moses, their mediator, would fail. However, there is a greater mediator who did not fail - the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4-5; Matthew 5:17-18; Galatians 3:10-14; Colossians 2:13-14; Romans 8:1; 1 John 5:3). Our hope does not come from our law keeping but from His law keeping.
Jesus Saves Those Who Cannot Keep God’s Law!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?