- Sermon Notes
The Ten Commandments – Part 1
At this point in Exodus, Israel has come to the wilderness of Sinai and specifically, Mt. Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel.
He begins in verse two by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” He was the God who
created them and He was the God who loved them by delivering them out of the bondage of slavery, and He therefore has the right to give them rules,
principals, and laws to guide their lives.
There is much more to the Law, but the Ten Commandments in many ways define the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel.It defines
not only their relationship to God, but also their behavior toward each other.In other words, it defines morality; but because these are decrees
from God, they stand in direct opposition to all relativistic approaches to morality.
Relativistic morality is the notion that each individual or society determines what is right or wrong.However, if society determines what is right,
then who is to say that the Holocaust was immoral?Or, to quote Ravi Zacharias, “in some societies they love their neighbor and in others they eat
them; who decides which is right?”In other words, is there not a law above all laws?If there is a God in heaven, then He most certainly has the
right to determine what is right and wrong.
Most of the commandments are given as prohibitions, “… you shall not.”But this reflects the necessity for people to avoid wrongful and hurtful
behaviors in order to build a strong and stable society.In the words of the famous rule for physicians, “First, do no harm.”
Notice also that the Ten Commandments are given in terms of obligations, not rights or entitlements.Our Declaration of Independence says, “We hold
these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; that among these,
are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We are endowed with these inalienable rights because we are made in the image of God.However, such basic human rights are only possible if people first
feel morally obligated toward others.One of the most famous of God’s laws quoted by Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is written as a moral
obligation to act with love toward your neighbor, rather than as a right — You have the right to be loved by your neighbor.”
What was the purpose of the law?It was for their good, their benefit.In fact, the Apostle Paul said that the Law is good and went on to say that it
is also a schoolmaster that leads people to Christ.
We understand from the New Testament that we are not under the Law, because we are under grace.But that doesn’t mean we are free to sin as we wish.That
doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to live holy, or in a way that doesn’t please Him.That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 6:15, “What then, shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?God forbid.”
Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. Not one jot or tittle shall pass away until all is accomplished.”
The Law describes the righteousness of God.It gives His heart for protecting people from those things which are harmful to their lives. The Law has
not passed away; it has been nailed to the cross and superseded by the law of the Spirit of Christ.
Illus – Flying Aeroflot to Russia, I was worried whether the plane would actually make it off the runway. The law of gravity will always be in place, but it has been superseded by the law of aerodynamics.
Today we will look at the first four of the Ten Commandments.The Ten Commandments can be divided into two groups, the first having to do with relationship
to God, and the last having to do with relationship to others.
I. Love the Lord with All Your Heart
- Someone asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment of the Law, He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
He also said, “The second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
- On these two commandments hang the Law and the Prophets. In other words, the whole of the Old Testament can be summarized by those two commandments.
- The Ten commandments can be summarized in the same way, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor
- We begin with the first commandment.
A.“Have no other gods before Me”
- When God gave these commandments, He was speaking to them personally. He was the One who had carried them on eagle’s wings.In the Hebrew, there is
a ‘you’ singular and a ‘you’ plural.These commandments are given in the singular; they’re meant for each of them personally.
- When people think of false gods, they commonly think of ancient deities such as the gods of the sun or the moon or of rain and fertility.Most people
think this commandment is no longer relevant, but we have as many false gods today as they did in the ancient world.
- When anything else is worshiped, it is a false god.In other words, for a thing or an idea to be a false god, people must believe that it has such value
that they dedicate their lives to it so that it takes a place in their lives higher than God.
- Was this commandment about God’s ego? Not at all. God knew there would be tragic consequences when anything comes before honoring Jehovah in people’s
- This was true for three main reasons:
- No other god is worthy of worship. None of the foreign gods created the universe.No other god is the Master of heaven.
- You become like that which you worship.This would be true regardless of which god someone chose.
Illus-People have a lot of fun associating with their favorite football team. But it can easily become an obsession.You wear the hat, the jersey, the jacket, you know all the statistics of the players.The next thing you know you paint your chest with the team colors – you even spend Sundays with the team.The next thing you know you end up saying something ridiculous like, “I’m a Beaver,” or, I’m a Duck.”
- We become like that which we love; we become like that of which we place our affections and desires.
- But when we worship God, we become like Him; our thoughts and our character become like His.
- Have no other gods before Jehovah because they are cruel masters. God said, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.” They had already been under cruel masters and God set them free.
- Jehovah would love them; other gods would destroy and harm them.
Illus – The god of sexuality is a terrible master that will destroy your life, but God will bless your marriage in marvelous ways.The god of drugs will destroy everything. If
sex truly satisfied the soul, prostitutes would be the happiest people on earth. If alcohol truly satisfied the soul, alcoholics would be the happiest
people on earth, but they’re not.
B. Don’t have idols in your life
- The purpose of this commandment is to prohibit images intended to be representations of God.In Egypt, there were many idols made in the form of animals,
or even people, to represent the god of the sun or moon, or fertility, even sexuality.
- The problem was not having a decoration piece on the living room table; the problem was having any image that represented any of the false gods.
- There were many that created idols or an image to worship.And they believed the thing had power unto itself.
Illus – When I was in high school, I must admit that to some degree my car became a bit of an idol to me. I thought it had power unto itself to make the girls like me.Never mind that my hair was a bushy mess and that I looked like a hokey farm boy.
- Some might believe that an image that represents God will have the power of God; the problem is that it will represent Him falsely.
Illus – If Jordi took my picture and laid it on the pillow and kissed it good night and placed her affection on the picture, and told the children that this was their father, there would be something terribly wrong.
Illus – When the boys left Russia, they were given an orthodox icon to protect them, but it had no power. Some hang a cross on the mirror of their car thinking it will protect them.
Some kiss a crucifix in the belief it has power over Satan. But the crucifix itself doesn’t have the power of what Christ did for us on the cross.
- The soul was made for God alone and anything that tries to take His place is an idol.
- Paul wrote to the church at Rome about those who made an image in the form of corruptible man.
Romans 1:22-23, Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
- The problem is that people become like the idol they create. In Psalm 115 the writer speaks about idols that have eyes but cannot see, ears, but cannot
hear, and mouths, but cannot speak. And that…
Psalm 115:8, Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.
Illus – We don’t have such idols today, we have the Internet. Enough said.
II.Honor the Lord Whom You Love
- If you love the Lord with your heart, soul, mind and strength, then it also follows that you should honor him with your life.
- That’s what the next two commandments are about, that loving God brings changes in your life that reflect His glory and His presence.
A.Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
- In the Hebrew, it’s literally translated, “Do not carry the name of the Lord in vain.”The name of God means something powerful. Do not act in God’s
name while doing the opposite of what God wants – evil.
- I love that worship song that says, “Your name is like honey on my lips…”
- When Moses stood before the burning bush and asked God His name, God gave him the name Jehovah, or Yahweh. It was a name that contained the power of
His presence and the heart that He had for the people of Israel.
- How tragic and dishonoring then to use God’s name as an expletive. Why do people do that?
- Notice that when people hit their thumbs with a hammer, they don’t say, ‘Oh Buddha’, or ‘Hare Krishna!’
- Why use God’s name?Because their souls are bothered by God’s name. They aren’t right with God and they know it, so they try to make the name common,
to keep it under their heel.
- The Lord was drawing them to Himself (Exodus 19:4-6), and making them His possession. In the process He was cleaning up their lives.
Illus – Their garments would stink from being in the wilderness and they were to clean them before they came near the mountain.When we were in the world, our lives stank as well, but then God begins to clean up our lives and teaches us to honor Him.
Illus – We used to associate such words to sailors, but now you can hear these words in hallways of schools throughout the country.
Illus – When my son joined the Marines, I noticed he started picking up a few of these words. We become like those we hang with.
General George Washington wrote a letter to his officers because he heard that the soldiers were taking on the habit of swearing.
- Our mouth cleans up as our heart cleans up because they are both connected.
Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
B. Remember the Sabbath – our rest
- In six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested. That becomes the basis for the Sabbath day. But not just for
rest, but for giving honor to God.
- It is to be sign between a Jew and His God and was intended as something that would help them both physically and spiritually.
- It was never intended to become a burden, but that is exactly what it became. In fact, some of the interpretations of the Sabbath laws became so extreme
they were a bit humorous.
Illus – The Mishna, a Jewish book that interprets the Law, said that there 39 ways to break the Sabbath and 39 ways to break each of those 39 ways. In other words, there were 1,521 ways to break the Sabbath.
You can’t bathe – though later it was said you could bathe if you used liquid soap. This is so you didn’t carry anything.
You can’t kill a flea – that’s hunting.
You can’t carry a pen – that’s carrying a load.
Women can’t look in a mirror – they might pull a grey hair – that’s harvesting.
You can’t spit on the ground; it might make a furrow – that’s plowing.
If your house caught fire – you couldn’t put it out.
Today there are Sabbath elevators that stop at every floor, so no one must push a button. You can’t turn on a light switch.They must not drive, that is kindling a fire.
Illus – Last year when we were in Israel, we couldn’t use the bus on the Sabbath.As a result, we ended up walking for miles.
- It was never intended to be a burden but that’s exactly what it became.
Mark 2:27, Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
- It was to be a picture of Christ and the rest that we have in Him, both because of our trust in Him and in the rest that He brings to our soul.
Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 20: 1-18 NASB
shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the
third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner
who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the 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.
donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
they trembled and stood at a distance.