Week 9 – The Ten Commandments (Part 2)

With four children, sometimes I feel as if I am more of a referee than a parent. I guess one could make the argument that being an effective referee is part of parenting, though. Regardless of how you view the role of referee in relationship to parenting, I often find myself quoting Jesus when trying to put out a fire between two or more of my children.

Luke 6:31

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Usually, the flame of anger and argumentation has happened because one child has done something wrong to the other, causing hurt or causing the other to feel devalued or aggravated. The Holy Spirit still has His work cut out for Him in each of my children for them to be willing to obey this command of their Lord because every time I remind them of their Lord’s words, they reply, “When they do or don’t do ________ then I will or won’t do ________.” I always respond that someone must go first to break the cycle. As I write, an even better answer comes to mind, our decision and willingness to obey Christ are independent of what others do or how others treat us. Jesus told His disciples that,

John 14:15

If you love me, obey my commandments.

Regardless of how one of my kids speaks to or treats another, the offended can obey God’s commands or blame their sibling for their decision to disobey God’s commands. However, as we have seen in the garden of Eden and in Luke 6:27-36, trying to blame others for our disobedience doesn’t make the passing grade with God. God calls us to imitate Him in every way, even by extending love, grace, and mercy to those who have wronged us (Matthew 5:43-45; Luke 6:35-36). Matthew and Luke provided tangible ways in these respective chapters for the original hearers to love their enemies – those who would cheat, harm, persecute or use them.

When asked what the greatest commandment of God was, Jesus said that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He went on to say that there is a second command of equal importance,

Mark 12:31

“… ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

I mentioned it last week, and it bears repeating the ten words that God gave Israel informed them on how they were to practically demonstrate their love for God and others. For us to demonstrate our love of God, we obey the first four words and love our neighbor as ourselves. The final six words instruct us on what loving our neighbor looks like in real life! If we are not loving others like ourselves, we are not able to love God supremely like He deserves and as we so deeply desire to do so as His children. The second part of the ten commandments referees us in how God wants us as His people to love others.

Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

To honor implies acknowledging the weight of something. In this context, it means that children give proper respect to their parents’ position. God has given parents the task and weighty privilege of representing God to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:5). For children, this is the first and primary relationship where their understanding of who God is and how He relates to them is shaped. As parents, may we humbly ask God our Father to imitate Him in everything so that our children can have a healthy picture of who their Creating Savior is (Ephesians 5:1). It is also the primary relationship where children learn submissiveness and obedience. The ability of each generation to honor their Heavenly Father is learned and possible if they learn how to honor their earthly parents. If a generation doesn’t honor authority in their own family structures, they will also likely dishonor God too.

Like the now classic country song, Time Marches On, by Tracy Lawrence, children become adults, and parents become gray. During this life stage, believers are to honor their parents by taking care of them in their old age. We honor them by making sure their needs are met (physically, emotionally, spiritually), practicing patience, and even honoring their last wills and testaments while maintaining unity among the remaining family.

The promise attached to this verse contains several nuances. Within the immediate context for individuals, one who despised or scorned their parents was at risk of being put to death by the community (Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Within this setting, disrespect almost guaranteed a shorter individual lifespan by one who neglected this command. Secondly, if this command was followed faithfully by parents and children throughout all of life’s stages, it provided healthy family units and an adequate care system for life’s basic needs making longer lifespans possible. Finally, obedience to this instruction and the covenant, in general, meant that the nation would enjoy success in the land God was giving them. Still, disobedience would lead to God’s judgment of the country.

Exodus 20:13

You must not murder.

God instructs His covenant people to never murder. Since people are made in the image of God and thus are highly valuable, taking someone’s life for selfish reasons is forbidden. This command does not include capital punishment, self-defense, or divinely ordained holy war. Israel was a theocratic community. God delegated the right to take human life only at His command or direct call to holy war. In the immediate setting, no Israelite was permitted to take someone’s life by their own authority.

Today, we do not live in a theocracy, so God has delegated the state to carry out acts of justice (Romans 13:1-5). This command teaches us that God values life; it is sacred to Him. Since life is of value to God, we should treasure life too. Everyone, the unborn and born, the young and old, the healthy and unhealthy, the abled and disabled, is made in God’s image and thus deserves love and respect. Since life is precious to God, it has to be dear to God’s people. Jesus shows us the heart behind this commandment by liking hate to murder in Matthew 5:22. May we love life because the Giver of Life loves life, and may we demonstrate this love for life even in how we speak towards or about others (James 3:9).

Exodus 20:14

You must not commit adultery.

Leviticus and Deuteronomy contain other prohibitions of sexual immorality and regulations for sexual purity, but this word of God focuses on the marital relationship. No one is allowed to have sexual relations with anyone but their spouse. The author of Hebrews calls us to honor marriage by being faithful to our spouse and marriage (Hebrews 13:4). God’s desire through His command is for His people to have pure hearts. Jesus would explain years after Moses received this word that even if a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Of course, the same purity that God desires out of His sons, He also wants from His daughters. Marital fidelity provides a sure foundation of trust for the relationship between spouses to flourish and provides safety and stability for the family to thrive. This call to purity and faithfulness to our spouse reflects God’s pure and faithful love to us as His people (Ephesians 5:25-30).

Exodus 20:15

You must not steal.

This instruction means that God allows personal ownership and possession of things; otherwise, how could one steal something unless it belonged to someone? Plainly stated, this command forbids taking anything that does not belong to us without permission. Stealing threatens social order and peace and causes pain to others by undermining the process that allows them to access and possess those things needed to live. I tell my youngest son that stealing hurts people because it takes away what they have worked for and keeps them from providing for their needs. If we steal, we do not love others as we love ourselves because we don’t want anyone to take away the equivalent of my son’s blankets in our lives.

As God’s people, we ought to be people of thanksgiving. Having a thankful heart helps us focus on God as our provider. Since He has provided for us in the past, He will also provide for us in our present and future (Matthew 6:31-33). An attitude of thankfulness also curves our craving for more moving us from a place of discontentment to being content (Proverbs 30:7-9; Philippians 4:12-13).

Exodus 20:16

You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.

While this word is often summarized as always telling the truth and never lying, it is directly related to legal testimony and witness. For Israel or any other society to have a fair and right justice system, its people must be people of truth. Witnesses must be truthful in reporting what they saw and not withholding information that is important to reaching a just decision on a matter (Deuteronomy 19:18). A society’s judges must also act according to the law unbiasedly and without accepting bribes; they must act in a truthful and honorable manner. God knew that a nation’s court system solely rests on its people’s honesty. Since God cannot tell lies and we are to imitate Him, we, as followers of Jesus, are always to speak truthfully and never tell lies (Titus 1:2; Ephesians 4:25; 5:1).

Exodus 20:17

You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

To covet something is to desire, want, or crave something. This final command does not say, “do not covet.” There is a Scriptural difference between wanting something one should desire and craving something that already exclusively belongs to someone else. We can covet people’s prayers, for God to work in us, and even for Jesus to return. We can have holy cravings for even God in His holiness desires Mount Zion in Psalm 68:16.

However, coveting is sinful when we strongly desire something that belongs to anyone else. The word neighbor isn’t just referring to those who live close to you, but to anyone, you come in some form of contact with. The Hebrew word for house could be easily translated as “family and property.” Verse seventeen then includes specific things that we shouldn’t covet. Coveting is the starting point for breaking the seventh and eighth commandments, so we ought to be on high alert when it comes to selfish desires that arise, tempting us to satisfy those cravings by violating God’s law if we were to act upon them. The remedy for covetousness is trusting that God knows what is best for us and that He has given us everything in life that we have and withheld everything we don’t have so that we might know Him the way we do or lead us into a deeper relationship with Him.

The other week I took Zoey and Landyn over to my parent’s to let them try out the bow and arrow they received for Christmas. They did pretty well for the first time. While we were enjoying our time together, the Holy Spirit helped me see an opportunity for a faith talk. While we were taking turns shooting, I explained to them that one of the meanings of the word sin is “missing the mark.” God has called us to be holy as He is holy, and if we were to do that, then we would have to hit the bullseye when it comes to keeping all of His commands and loving Him supremely. I went on to say that just like we have all missed the bullseye with most of our shot attempts; we have not always perfectly obeyed God’s laws – we have missed His mark.

Just like every arrow that misses the bull’s eye informs us that we need to make some adjustments on our next attempt to hit the target (or at least get closer), when we see that we can’t keep God’s words perfectly, it shows us that we need help in being holy as God is holy. We cannot maintain God’s standards perfectly, which is why Paul says that God’s law shows us that we are sinners because we cannot hit the bull’s eye of obedience 100% of the time (Galatians 3:29).

Yet, the Good News of Jesus is that He did keep all of God’s commands perfectly in heart and deed! The Bible tells us that Jesus was sinless and completely righteous, hitting the mark of God’s law flawlessly (2 Corinthians 5:31; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22). He loved the Father supremely and others perfectly! Because of this feat, we can enjoy a right relationship with God by admitting to Him that we have not and can not keep His commands wholeheartedly all the time. In other words, we agree that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that what we deserve for our cosmic law-breaking is an eternity separated from Him (Romans 6:23). We have to accept this bad news before we can be recipients of the blessings that come from the Good News as the result of Jesus’ person and His work. The Good News is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 6:23; John 3:16). When we believe this news as fact, we demonstrate that our belief is genuine by turning away from our sin and turning to Jesus by confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 4:12). When we place our trust in Jesus, God credits Christ’s righteousness to us, and we stand before God, holy, because of what Jesus did on our behalf (Hebrews 10:14).

These ten words of Exodus 20 serve as a compass, pointing us down the path of right living with God and others. They also tell us our need for a Savior and that this Savior is Jesus. I pray that our Lord uses these couple weeks of focusing on the ten commandments to help you love Him supremely, love your neighbor as yourself, and, if need be, open your eyes to your need for rescuing from your sin by Jesus, the only one who can save us from our sin!

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