by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
In Exodus Chapter 20, verses 3-17, there are ten things that we need to take to heart today and keep them there for the rest of our lives. Take a moment to look them over, and keep in your mind what you hear in these verses when you read them because my hope and my prayer is that we will have a new understanding and a new realization about the Ten Commandments.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Have you ever tried to read between the lines of something? Have you ever read a letter that was sent by someone and you tried so hard to make it into something that you wanted it to say? Have you ever tried to change the wording of something, to make it be what you want it to be? Like wishing that your paycheck had one more digit on the end of it or maybe that your taxes had one digit less. That’s what Satan did, he not only wished to change it, he succeeded in changing the Ten Commandments into what he wanted it to say. He has made some Christians and Non-Christians think of them as handcuffs and leg shackles; that they are just some old rules, made up by some old guy, and none of them apply today, they just want to keep us from doing what is fun.
Have you ever heard the Ten Commandments described as a love letter…..A tender heartfelt message from the very heart of God? Probably not. Yet, I am convinced it is one of the most powerful expressions of God’s love in all of the scripture. And you don’t need to read between the lines. You don’t need to add or take anything out. It’s all there. God doesn’t leave anything out. These ten statements are all-encompassing, touching virtually every part of out lives. They are the parameters to live by the truths He knows are going to provide blessing and strength, a future and a hope. These Commandments are so filled with love and hope; they are what we need to live by, not just on Sunday, but every day of our lives, because God knows if we follow these Commandments, our lives will be so much easier. God’s love was so strong that He wrote these Commandments with His own finger; He personally delivered it to His people on top of Mount Sinai. God’s love was written all over ten things carved into stone.
There are several books out today on both the secular and Christian bestseller lists that allege to reveal a “secret code” embedded in the text of Hebrew Scriptures. These books talk about how computer technology has revealed an intricate pattern embedded in the text--a code that supposedly names contemporary political leaders and spells out future events. Today, I’m not arguing that this hidden code is there or not. All I am saying is that I don’t need any secret code. I don’t need to read between the lines. I don’t need to count all the letters and spaces, multiply them by seven, and divide them by twenty-two. I don’t need to borrow a supercomputer from the Defense Department and an analyst from MIT. All I need to know is what God is plainly saying to me on the pages of my Bible. And if you’ve missed the real message of these Ten Commandments, you’ve missed a great deal. In fact, you’ve missed the very heart of God.
Some people, of course, imagine it to be the very opposite. They don’t hear love in these statements at all. What do they hear? They hear the clank of chains and the rattle of padlocks. They hear God saying, “You mess with me, you step out of bounds, and I will fry you like an insect landing in a Bug Zapper.” All of this, of course, plays right into Satan’s master plan--the one he’s had from the beginning. (Why change it, if it still works?) Satan says, “God is a prude. God is a killjoy. God is a harsh old grandfather, with a long gray beard and bushy eyebrows who doesn’t want anyone to have any fun--ever.”
No, it’s not a very original line of reasoning. The enemy began it with Eve, back at the dawn of creation, when he said, “Has God really forbade you to eat this lovely fruit? Oh, my. What a pity. What a shame. He knows that if you ever tasted the fruit from this tree, you would be like God. Nothing could hold you back. God wants to keep you from the tang and sweetness of life. True freedom means freedom from confining restrictions such as these.” It’s what Satan did to Jesus in the wilderness; he took God’s words out of context. And that’s what he’s doing today with the Ten Commandments.
Did you know there was a prior conversation between the LORD and Moses before He gave Moses these Commandments that are carved in stone? God had given Moses specific instructions about what to say to the people BEFORE presenting the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, the people of God. Of course, Satan would prefer that we never learned these prior instructions. Why? Because it suits his purpose to quote God’s words out of context. It always has. If Satan can’t persuade you to stay away from the Bible, he’ll try to wrench God’s words out of their rightful setting. And the rightful setting of the Ten Commandments is the boundless, faithful, Father-love of the living God.
Can you hear God’s heart beating in these words? Let me read to you the conversation that I am referring to; it’s from Exodus 19:3-6, “And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” The LORD was saying, Moses, before you give the people these Commandments, before anything else, you are to remind them that I bore them on eagles’ wings. Why in the world would the LORD say that? It’s a very enduring term. But when did God do that? When did the LORD bear them on eagles’ wings?
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