Commandments, Life’s Guidance

* Purpose of Ten Commandments

Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God’s new nation?  At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of his laws.  The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness.  In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live.  The commands and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner.  By Jesus’ time, however, most people looked at the law the wrong way.  They saw it as a means to prosperity in both this world and the next.  And they thought that to obey every law was the way to earn God’s protection from foreign invasion and natural disaster.  Law keeping became an end in itself, not the means to fulfill God’s ultimate law of love. (NLT)

* Significance of the first one of Ten Commandments

The Israelites had just come from Egypt, a land of many idols and many gods.  Because each god represented a different aspect of life, it was common to worship many gods in order to get the maximum number of blessings.  When God told his people to worship and believe in him, that wasn’t so hard for them—he was just one more god to add to the list.  But when he said, “Worship only me,” that was difficult for the people to accept.  But if they didn’t learn that the God who led them out of Egypt was the only true God, they could not be his people–no matter how faithfully they kept the other nine commandments.  Thus, God made this his first commandment and emphasized it more than the others.  Today we can allow many things to become gods to us.  Money, fame, work, or pleasure can become gods when we concentrate too much on them for personal identify, meaning, and security.  No one sets out with the intention of worshiping these things.  But by the amount of time we devote to them, they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies.  Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.

Exodus 20:1-6 – Then God instructed the people as follows:

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.

“Do not worship any other gods besides me.

“Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish.  You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!  I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.  But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations.

* Why we should still obey the Ten Commandments

If observing the Jewish laws cannot justify us, why should we still obey the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament laws?  We know that Paul was not saying the law is bad, because in another letter he wrote, “The law itself is holy and right and good.”  Instead, he is saying that the law can never make us acceptable to God.  The law still has an important role to play in the life of a Christian, the law (1) guards us from sin by giving us standards for behavior; (2) Convicts us of sin, leaving us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness; and (3) drives us to trust in the sufficiency of Christ, because we can never keep the Ten Commandments perfectly.  The law cannot possibly save us.  But after we become Christians, it can guide us to live as God requires.   (NLT)

Galatians 2:15-16 – You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the gentiles.  And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ—and not because we have obeyed the law.  For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.”

* Commandment regarding God’s name

God’s name is special because it carries his personal identity.  Using it frivolously or in a curse is so common today that we may fail to realize how serious it is.  The way we use God’s name conveys how we really feel about him.  We should respect his name and use it appropriately, speaking it in praise or worship rather than in curse or jest.  We should not take lightly the abuse or dishonor of his name. (NLT)

Exodus 20:7 – “Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

* Commandment regarding the Sabbath

The Sabbath was a day set aside for rest and worship.  God commanded a Sabbath because human beings need to spend unhurried time in worship and rest each week.  A God who is concerned enough to provide a day each week for us to rest is indeed wonderful.  To observe a regular time of rest and worship in our fast-paced world demonstrates how important God is to us, and it gives us the extra benefit of refreshing our spirits.  Don’t neglect God’s provision. (NLT)

Exodus 20:8-11 – “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.  On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work.  This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day.  That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”

* The first commandment with a promise attached

To live in peace for generations in the Promised Land, the Israelites would need to respect authority and build strong families.  But what does it mean to “honor” parents?  Partly, it means speaking well of them and politely to them.  It also means acting in a way that shows them courtesy and respect.  It means following their teaching and example of putting God first.  Parents have a special place in God’s sight.  Even those who find it difficult to get along with their parents are still commanded to honor them. (NLT)

Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and mother.
Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God will give you.”

* Commandment not to testify falsely

To testify falsely means lying in court.  God knew that Israel could not survive unless its system of justice was incorruptible.  We should be honest in our private dealings as well as in our public statements.  In either situation, we “testify falsely” by leaving something out of a story, telling a half-truth, twisting the facts, or inventing a falsehood.  God warns us against deception.  Even though deception is a way of life for many people, God’s people must not give in to it! (NLT)

Exodus 20:16 – “Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.”

* Commandment not to covet

To covet is to wish to have the possessions of others.  It goes beyond simply admiring someone else’s possessions or thinking, “I’d like to have one of those.”  Coveting includes envy—resenting the fact that others have what you don’t.  God knows, however, that possessions never make anyone happy for long.  Since only God can supply al our needs, true contentment is found only in him.  When you begin to covet, try to determine if a more basic need is leading you to envy.  For example, you may covet someone’s success, not because you want to take it away from him, but because you would like to feel as appreciated by others as he is.  If this is the case, pray that God will help you deal with your resentment and meet your basic needs. (NLT)

Exodus 20:17 – “Do not covet your neighbor’s house.  Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns.”

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