About Jesus      Steve Sweetman

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ch. 20:1-21    ch. 20:22-26 

The Ten Commandments (ch. 20:1 - 21)


We now begin the massive topic in the Bible known as the Law of Moses.  In summery, the Law is divided into three parts, the moral law, the civil law, and the ceremonial law.  This chapter concerns the moral law.     


This chapter is famous because it contains the Ten Commandments.  Some people view the Ten Commandments as totally separate from the Law of Moses, while others say they are part of the Law of Moses.  I tend to believe they are part of the Law of Moses, mainly because they begin the dictation of the Law to Moses from God.


The one thing that I would like to say about the Ten Commandments before I start with verse 1 is that in one real sense of the word Jesus redefined the Ten Commandments.  For example, in Matthew 5:22 to 30 Jesus states that the Ten Commandments say, not to lust after a woman.  Yet in verse 28 of Matthew 5  Jesus says, "but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart".  Note the words "I tell you".  To me this suggests that, "the law says this, but I say this."  What Jesus said went far beyond the boundary of the law.  The law simply said, "don't commit adultery".   Jesus went to the heart of the matter, which is our hearts.  Sin always starts in our hearts.  Jesus was just as concerned with heart adultery and He was with out and out adultery.  In this sense of the word, Jesus redefined the Ten Commandments. 


I say this because some people hide behind the commandments.  They say that they have not committed adultery, so they haven't broken the command, when in fact they have broken the command as Jesus has redefined it.  Everyone has thus committed adultery.  I doubt that no one has never lusted after someone of the opposite sex.  The intent then by Jesus is to tell us all that we are all sinners.  No one can escaped this pronouncement.


The other thing to note here is that Jesus lived the sinless life on our behalf.  He obeyed the Ten Commandments on our behalf.  Because Jesus was sinless, He has lived the righteous life on our behalf, making us sinless and righteous in one real sense of the word.


Verse 1 simply states that God spoke all these words.  God dictated the Ten Commandments to Moses. 


Verse 2 states that Israel 's God is the Lord who brought them out of Egypt.  This is Yahweh Elohim.  He is the Almighty Creator God who has covenanted with Himself to be Israel 's God and to bless them with certain blessings.  By reminding Moses that He brought Israel out of Egypt, God is restating the fact that He is Israel 's Deliverer, or Saviour, as we say in Evangelical circles.  God had delivered Israel once, and if Israel can trust Him, He can do it again, and He will one last time at the end of this age when He returns to earth and Israel returns to Him in repentance.


Verse 3 says that "you shall have no other gods before me", or beside me.  There is only one God, and He is the God of Israel, and Israel must know this and obey this command.  But as is the case with Israel, they did not always obey this command.  The did have other gods.  One way in which they had other gods were that they adopted gods from other civilizations from time to time.  We do the same today.  We adopt worldly philosophies and ways of thinking and incorporate them into our Christian doctrine.  We've done this throughout the ages.  The paganization of the church in fourth century under Rome is one prime example.  We are doing the same today as we allow pagan thinking into our churches.


In verse 4 the command is not to make any idols of things in heaven above, the earth or water beneath.   The "heaven above" part is easy to understand.  All civilizations back then were making idols from wood and stone, and whatever to represent some kind of spiritual being.  I don't believe that God wanted Israel to copy this pagan practice. 


I do wonder, and especially in the Catholic church about all their images in their buildings.  Personally speaking, I think all the statues and things in Catholicism goes against this command.  I also even wonder about paintings of Jesus.  They too might well go against the spirit  of this command. 


The idols or images of things under the earth and water might cause some debate.  What would these things be?  Well, I don't think they are fish.  I would not think that God would have any problem with a carving of a fish, unless this fish represented a god.  So this is how I see this.  It could refer to images and idols that represent demons.  Or, it could be an image or an idol of an animal that is seen as a god, or something to be worshipped.  Verse 5 would confirm this, because God commands that you don't bow down and worship these idols.


Verse 5 is hard for some to understand.  First of all God says that He is a jealous God.  We often think in terms of jealously as a negative trait, and in some cases it is.  Yet being jealous is also a positive trait.  If a wife flirts with a man who is not her husband, and if her husband does not get jealous, I would think not being jealous is a negative trait.  I believe the husband should be jealous.  The wife has no right flirting with someone who is not her husband.  God does get jealous when we give ourselves to someone other than to Him.


The rest of verse 5 is also hard for some to understand.  God says that He will punish the children to the third and fourth generation for those parents who hate Him.  The hard thing for some to understand is that does not seem fair.  So what does this mean?


First of all I'd like to make a comment on what has become to be known as "generational curses".  This is a doctrine that states that God will curse future generations for the sins of the present generation, and this verse is often used to prove the teaching.  This verse is speaking of punishing future generations, not cursing them.  You cannot use this verse to support generational curses. 


Note the reason why future generations get punished.  They get punished because their parents, grand parents, or great grand parents, hate God.  They don't get punished because of any particular sin.  It is out and out hatred of God.  Those who believe in "generational curses" believe we are cursed because of past sin.  This verse is not saying that.  It is all about "hating God". 


The way I see this punishment is that the whole generation is punished, not the individual  The individual can still be blessed.   It is the society that is punished in which the individual grows up in that is punished.  This punishment is seen in God's judgment on a nation or civilization.  A whole generation can grow up in a nation the is poverty stricken. This poverty might well have something to do with a generation in the past hating God.


Verse 6 says that the opposite is true too.  Children and grand children can be blessed because of a past generation who loved God.  I believe the western world has been so blessed because of such movements as the Reformation, and other times of revival.  I also believe that since we are now departing from loving God as we should, and coming to the point of even hating Him, our future generations will suffer.  This is how I see this verse at the present time.  I see it as more of a societal thing instead of an individual thing.


Verse 7 says that "you will not misuse the name of the Lord your God".  I take the following few paragraphs from an article I wrote on this verse and on the phrase "the name of Jesus".


Jason and Richard had just graduated from the police academy and began working at the local police force.   They swore an oath to uphold the law.  Their lives were meant to reflect the fact that they represented both the law and the police department they worked for.  If they didn't live lawfully, their work as a policeman would be in vain.


One day while investigating a robbery, Jason and Richard had a dispute.  They discovered that a mutual friend was the culprit.  Richard suggested they tamper with the evidence to protect their friend.  Jason refused.  Jason knew that such tampering would mean that he wore his badge in vain.  He would be a poor representative of those who sent him to the crime scene.  Jason would uphold the law, even if that meant arresting a friend.   


A few minutes later, two other officers came to the crime scene and Jason was called back to the station.  While Jason headed for his car, Richard tampered with the evidence.  When the other two officers approached  the evidence, they had no idea it had been tampered with.  Eventually the truth of Richard's tampering was exposed.  He was subsequently fired.  He failed to uphold the law by taking matters into his own hands, thus misusing the authority given to him.  He wore his badge in vain.   


Throughout the New Testament we see the phrase, "in the name of Jesus".  We often associate these words with the way we end Sunday morning prayers, but there's more to these words than that.    


Jason and Richard represent the law in their community.  In like fashion, Christians represent Jesus in their communities.  Jason and Richard literally bore the name of the local police department on their chest.  Again, in like fashion, Christians bare the name of Jesus.       


Will we bare the name of Jesus as Jason bore the name of the police department, or as Richard bore the name of the police department?  Will we represent Jesus in vain?  The word "vain" reminds me of the third of the Ten Commandments.  It states, "you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain". (KJV)  The NIV puts it this way.  "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God."   Richard took the name of the police department in vain and misused his authority by taking matters into his own hands.  As Christians, and as the church, we often do the same.  We misuse, or misrepresent Jesus to the world, and in the process bring disgrace to Jesus in the eyes of the world.  


Taking the name of the Lord in vain has little to do with swearing or using bad language. Saying "in the name of Jesus" has little to do with ending a prayer.  As a woman takes the name of her husband in marriage, so we take the name of our Lord in salvation.  It is our duty to represent His name as He wants.  When we promote ourselves, our ministries, our denominations, our doctrinal disticntives, our programs, our buildings,  more than promoting Jesus, we take His name in vain.  It's a blatant misuse of the name we have been given to represent.  No wonder the world can't see Jesus.  It only sees us.


I believe the name of Jesus is not well understood in Christian circles.  Like many other Biblical issues, Christians are ignorant of this issue.  Hopefully this short article will help explain the importance and meaning to what the name of Jesus means.  We bare His name, and in so doing, we represent Jesus to the world, or at least we should. 


Hopefully this article has explained this command not to take the Lord's name in vain.  This verse is often misunderstood.


The last half of verse 7 states that "the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless" for the sin of misusing God's name, something churches do all the time.  He doesn't hold us guiltless means that He will hold us guilty.  So if we claim to represent the name of God, the name of Jesus, and don't, but represent us instead, or else misuse His name, we are guilty.


The command to keep the Sabbath day holy is seen in verses 8 through 11.   We need to note that the Sabbath is the seventh day, not the first day of the week.  We also need to note that this day is to be a "day of rest to the Lord'.  It's a day of rest, not a day of business, and we are to rest to the Lord.  I'd suggest that all the business of the so-called Christians Sabbath would not constitute a day of rest. The reason for this rest is because God rested Himself from His labour of creation.  I don't believe that God was tired.  I believe He simply ceased from working.   


The command in verse 12 is to honour your father and you mother.  You know this is important in the eyes of God, especially you can see it in the days of Moses.  How many times have you seen the Bible speak of the God being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And how many times have we seen God saying to pass along to the next generation the knowledge of the good things God has done for Israel.  The knowledge of God was to proceed from one generation to the next, and that would mean the next generation would have to respect and honour the past generation before they could accept what was passed along to them.


You often hear that this command is the only command with a promise. Those who say this also say that if you honour your father and mother, you will live long, but the text doesn't exactly say this.  The text is actually speaking to the Jews.  God says that if you will honour your father and mother, Israel would live long in the land that God was giving them.  It isn't that the individual will live long.  It's that Israel would live long in the promised land.  This is nothing supernatural here.  It is simple. God was telling the Jews to honour the generation of Moses, and even the past generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  By honouring these men, they would in fact be obeying the commands of God because these men tried to obey God.  Thus God would bless them in the land of Canaan , which is the land this text speaks of.  This verse isn't speaking of individual people living a long life.  This verse also tells us that these commands were directed specifically to Israel, but we know from earlier passages that Israel was chosen to be a special people to be an example of how all other nations should live.  Thus, if Israel could do that, other nations would be expected to follow these commands as well.  Israel, for the most part failed in this respect.  They failed to be the example to other nations.


Verse 13 says "you shall not murder".  There's been much debate over the words "kill" and "murder".  The Hebrew word translated as "murder" in the NIV and "kill" in the KJV seems to suggest premeditated killing.  I will not get involved in the discussion here, but many people have a hard time with this command in light of the fact that God tells Israel to kill their enemies in many places in the Old Testament.


Verse 14 says not to commit adultery. This is purely a relational command, to keep personal relationships between a husband and wife healthy.  Of course, as I stated earlier, Jesus redefines this command to say if you lust after a woman, you commit adultery in your heart.


Questions are also raised about how this command applies to concubines.  God appears to allow concubines.  As of yet, I have not fully understood  how Jewish men could have concubine and not break this command.    


Verse 15 simply says, "you shall not steel".  There is nothing real spiritual about this command.  It's relational.  We shouldn't steel from one another. We shouldn't steel from any one, any government, or any company.  We just shouldn't steel.


The command in verse 17 is that we should not give false testimony against our neighbour.  I believe this means more than lying about your neighbour.  It would include spreading a false report about someone.  It would include misrepresenting someone to someone else.  It would include painting any false representation of anyone. 


Verse 17 says that we should not covet, and the specific case here concerns coveting things that belong to your neighbour, but I think that you can take this as not coveting anything that does not belong to you.  God was to be Israel 's security.  He was to be all in all to the Jews.  Their contentment was to be found in God.  If this was truly the case, then there would be no need to covet.   Covetousness shows a lack of contentment, which in turns shows a lack of trust in God.


In verse 18 we see that the people of Israel trembled with fear.  This is only normal when someone finds themselves in the immediate presence of God that does not happen very often, and for most of  never happen.  Christians do find themselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit, but in the immediate presence of God is something different altogether.  I use the term "immediate presence of God" because I believe that even though God is everywhere, His essence is centralized in one place.  This centralized presence of God appeared to Moses this day.  It would be seen in the smoke, the thunder, the lightening, and the sound of the trumpet.  These are things you see in the book of Revelation.  These are manifestations of God's immediate presence.  When God Himself appears things happen.  Creation cannot stand in the presence of God. That is why creation trembles in His presence.


One thing I'd like to say about these commandments is that for the most part, we often think of them being directed to individual people, and I have no problem with that.  But I also believe they were directed to Israel as a nation.  For example, "don't covet" could easily mean, "Israel, don't covet your surrounding nations," although she did just that when it came to coveting other nations gods.   


In verse 19 we see that the people of Israel were so afraid that they told Moses to speak to them what God had spoken to him.  They were afraid if God Himself spoke to them, they might die.  That's how serious these people felt about the immediate presence of God.  I suggest that we should be just as serious, but for the most part we aren't.


Verse 20 is very important.  Moses responds to the people by saying that God is testing them in order for the fear of God to be in them so they will not sin.  The display of power by God that caused Israel to be greatly afraid, was meant to be.  God wanted Israel to be afraid of Him so they would not sin.  This is what the "fear of God" is all about.  The "fear of God is more than reverence.  It is literally being afraid of God.  Few Christians really understand this.  Over and over again in the book of Proverbs, the author says "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God."  In this since of the word few are wise.  Many Christians think fearing God is just an Old Testament concept, but it's not.  You see it in the book of Revelation, and that is in the New Testament.


Verse 21 simply states that the people stayed at a distance while Moses approached God.


Idols And Altars (ch. 20:22- 26)    


In verses 22 and 23 God told Moses that now that Israel had seen Him speak from heaven, they should not make any idols to be "alongside" of Him.  This is interesting because all cultures back then were polytheistic, meaning they believed in more than one god.  You might remember Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, saying that the God of Israel was the most high God over other gods.  Others would have believed this after they saw how the God of Israel delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians.  Simply believing that God was the chief among many gods is not what God wanted Israel to believe.  Elohim Yahweh was the only God.  There were no other gods.  They were all products of man's imagination. 


In verses 24 through 26 God instructs Moses concerning building altars to Him.  They were to be built from earth or stone, and not with tools that they had made.  If they used their tools in the building process the altar would be defiled.  I think that clearly suggests that anything of man defiles anything of God.  How true.  The sad fact of the matter is that today, way too much of our Christian faith is defiled with humanism. 


We see the mention of sacrifices and burnt offerings here that were to be sacrificed on these altars.  These sacrifices had not yet been dictated by God to Moses.  Again, we see many aspects of the Law of Moses already in existence prior to the institution of the Law.


In verse 25 we see that wherever God chooses His name to be honoured God would bless Israel.  Israel was to represent God to the world, and if they did that properly, God would bless them. Like Israel of old, Christians and the church represent God, we bare His name.  If we don't represent God's name as we should we will not be blessed, but if we do, He will bless us.


In verse 26 we see that there were to be no steps built to these altars.  The reason was if one walked up the steps, and if he had no undergarments on his nakedness would be exposed to the altar.  Concerning nakedness we should note that God was the one who made our naked bodies in the first place, and He said that they, along with everything else He made, was very good.  So our naked bodies in one sense of the word are good and beautiful.  The problem came at the fall of man.  Once man sinned they felt the need to cover their naked bodies.  The text doesn't really say why Adam and Eve had this understanding.  We see from the text as well that God had the same understanding because He provided animal skins to replace the skins made of leaves that Adam and Eve made.  So why was nakedness suddenly a problem when it wasn't before the fall?  I could be wrong, but I think the covering of the body had more to do with hiding sinful man.  Man as he was created was now sinful, and God did not want to look on sinful man.  So sinful man had to be covered.  What God had created as good, was now sinful, and He was disturbed by the sight of man.  This is possibly the reason why clothes were provided for man.       

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