Really? God's mission in Ten Words? Yeah, but it's not what you think, in more ways than one.
Do you like rules and laws? I think we all do, as long as the laws:
We live in a society that has become muddy regarding laws. It seems much of our society only want to follow the laws that benefit them and simply pretend other laws don’t exist.
Those are just two of the big challenges in our country and there are dozens more like them.
When a group of people have a system of laws, if those laws as not followed it leads to confusion and chaos.
To get a little less political – driving in some other countries where the rules of the road mean nothing is downright scary! When we were in Bolivia, the rule when approaching an intersection was to drive and not make eye contact with anyone that might be coming to your lane. If you see them you have to yield, if not, you press on blindly, hoping for the best.
To bring this to our personal microcosms, in our own houses, with our kids. If we have rules with consequences and we fail to hold our children to the rules and follow through with the consequences, we have chaos in our homes.
Some rules are simple – raise your hand before asking a question.
Some rules are obvious – do not murder.
Some rules are stupid. I thought NY had some of the dumbest laws, and then I read these!
It should not be surprising that many people are turned off by “religion” because they believe it is full of rules. The Bible is full of rules, right?
When the religious leaders tried to trip up Jesus, attempting to trap him, they headed to the law:
36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” // Matthew 22:36–40 CSB
Jesus said, ALL the laws and prophets. The entire OT that you and I know about it summed up in 2 laws.
We already shared that we do not mind laws if they are helpful and if they do not take away my freedoms, right? What about these two laws?
Yeah, I think even the naysayers would eventually come to this conclusion if they thought about it long enough.
Before Christmas we left Moses in the Sinai wilderness. He was about to talk to God in person.
The people spent 2 days purifying themselves to get ready for an encounter with God. On the third day, God shows up in fire with clouds and trumpets and thunder. Moses talks with God, goes back down the mountain, grabs Aaron and goes back up the mountain.
We read in Exodus 20 the instructions that God gives the people. We call them the “10 Commandments” but the word commandment is not in the original language. It is more literally the Ten Words.
These 10 are very much a preface and foundation of the rest of the laws God will give after them in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
These are perhaps the most famous laws of all time. They are in many courthouses across our country.
ASK: Can anyone name all 10 of them?
It is not my desire to expound on every one of these. Instead I want us to look at them in light of the big picture mission of God. Let’s see how that works out.
1 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 3 Do not have other gods besides me. 4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands. 7 Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name. 8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. 11 For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. 12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 Do not murder. 14 Do not commit adultery. 15 Do not steal. 16 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. // Exodus 20:1–17 CSB
These 10 can be broken into 2 categories: relationship with God and relationship with others. Sound familiar? What are the 2 greatest commandments? Love God and love others.
These verses may be split out many ways, but I like the way the Hollman Bible Dictionary does it:
“This document seeks not to secure my rights but to protect the rights of others.”
~ Hollman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Again, we can sum up laws 1-4 as LOVE GOD and laws 5-10 as LOVE OTHERS. Pretty simple.
But let’s go back to that point we made in the beginning. We don’t mind laws if they protect us and do not hinder us. We don’t mind laws if they make sense.
My son Tyler was notorious for asking “Why” when it came to rules. If he was told a rule and thought it was not right he would press us for the logic behind it. I cannot imagine where he got that from?
The preface of the Ten Words is vital, for it indicates that God’s gift of Law was preceded by an act of love and grace. The commandments were given to a people who had already been redeemed. They were not given in order to achieve redemption, they were given because of redemption!
The first thing God did was remind them that HE redeemed them from slavery. Can I just say, as Christians, any time we question the goodness of God’s laws and whether or not we should follow them, the first thing we should do is go back to the gospel. Start by remembering that you were bought with a price:
19 … You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. // 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 CSB
The last time God reminded them of the fact that he redeemed them was in the chapter before the Ten Words:
4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, 6 and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.” // Exodus 19:4–6 CSB
This is the answer to the “why these words?” question. God’s desire is to be close to his people. His desire is for relationship and representation.
IF you will keep my commands, YOU WILL BE:
Let’s break out the Ten Words into the Two Great Commandments and see how it fits into the Mission of God.
So now we have these commands: don’t worship other gods, don’t worship the things God created, don’t abuse God’s name and make time with God a priority, follow his example (sabbath).
Those are reasonable.
God is saying to you and me, “I bought your freedom, I sacrificed my own son to cover all your sins so I could have a relationship with you and restore you to the glory of the original creation. Honor me. You will not find satisfaction with other gods because none of them created you, and when I created you I created you with the need for me”
Then we have these commands: don’t murder, steal, bear false witness, covet anything your neighbor has, don’t commit adultery.
Those also are reasonable.
God is saying to you and me, “I created you in my image and I created others in my image. Treat them the way I treat them. Be my image bearers. Do not take for your own gain, give the way I give and love them the way I love them”
It is our nature to be selfish. It is God’s nature to be self-less. We see this in Jesus:
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. // Philippians 2:5–8 NLT
Thus, the role of the Ten Words in ancient Israel was to give direction to relationship and representation. They are not to be obeyed simply for the sake of obedience, as though obedience accumulated some kind of credit. They are to be obeyed in order to discover that life in which the fullness and richness of a relationship with God and others.
Check out this awesome video! [BIBLE PROJECT VIDEO]
The principle of the whole set of Ten Words is the principle of love, the heart of Israel’s religion. God loved Israel and called them in love. He loves us and called us to love him and others.
For the person who loves God, the 10 Words point to a way of life that, when lived, defines our love for God and reflects His love to the world around us.
So, as you go through this week, think about these 10 Words, but not as commands to be rigidly obeyed, rather as a reminder to live each day in love with God and showering that love on others.
1 --- 2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5 --- 6 --- 7 --- 8 --- 9 --- 10 | How are you loving GOD today?
1 --- 2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5 --- 6 --- 7 --- 8 --- 9 --- 10 | How are you loving OTHERS today?