Exodus: New Direction New Life #12
The Law of God
Text: Exodus 20:1-21
Returning from Sunday School one day, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic, our young son asked his father, "Daddy, what does it mean when it says, 'Thou shalt not commit agriculture'?"
There was hardly a beat between the question and my husband's smooth reply: "Son, that just means that you're not supposed to plow the other man's field," and that answer satisfied everbody. - Reader's Digest, July 1979, p. 87.
Are the 10 Commandments still important today?
A poll done in March of 2018 compared the viewpoints of people in the United States and people in Britain about the 10 Commandments. I was surprised at some of the result found. Honestly, I thought the results would be worse here at home than the poll showed. According to the poll a majority in both countries still believe that murder, theft, lying, adultery, coveting are still wrong, while honoring your parents is still right, though the percentages were much higher in the US than in the UK. The other commandants did not fare as well. Thou shalt not worship idols was rejected in the UK, though 60 still believe it is important in the US. God as the only God was upheld by 59 percent of Americans but 68% of the UK rejected such a commandment. Taking the Lord’s name in vain was almost exactly the same in both countries. Finally, when we come to honoring the Sabbath day only 49% of Americans think it was important while 73% of British responders believe it is no longer relevant.
What do we think of The Law? How do we understand it in our culture our family, our churches and out own lives? What was God’s purpose in giving it to the Hebrews in Exodus 20?
I. God Speaks Exodus 20:1-2
And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
A. The Law and God
1. The great Scott preacher, Alexander McClaren made a statement about the uniqueness of the Law, He says “An obscure tribe of Egyptian slaves plunges into the desert to hide from pursuit, and emerges, after forty years, with a code gathered into ‘ten words,’ so brief, so complete, so intertwining morality and religion, so free from local or national peculiarities, so close fitting to fundamental duties, that it is to-day, after more than three thousand years, authoritative in the most enlightened peoples. The voice that spoke from Sinai reverberates in all lands. The Old World had other lawgivers who professed to formulate their precepts by divine inspiration: they are all fallen silent. But this voice, like the trumpet on that day, waxes louder and louder as the years roll. Whose voice was it? The only answer explaining the supreme purity of the commandments, and their immortal freshness, is found in the first sentence of this paragraph, ‘God spake all these words.’”
2. If those people who took part in the poll had been at Mt. Sinai that day, they would have known without a doubt that the 10 commandments were incredibly important.
a) The Bible says in Exodus 19:16-20 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
b) No other event in the history of the Bible, other than creation itself and the end of the world during the tribulation, has the power, the drama and the spectacle of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai that day. God obviously believed it was important to convey to His people the Law in as powerful a way as possible. No one reading that passage could think anything else.
3. The law was important to God and should be important to us. But in accepting its importance be careful that we do not misinterpret its purpose. It is vital to us as God’s people that we know the purpose of God’s Law.
B. The Law and the Christian
1. First it was giving as a guideline for living.
a) It was not given as a means of eternal life or deliverance. If fact it is was given to a people whom God had already delivered from Egypt. They were delivered not because they kept any law but because they believed God.
b) In the same way the law was never given as a means of salvation, but as a guideline for life, society and civilization.
2. Second, it was giving as guideline of the Holiness of God.
a) In the law we see a holy, righteous and just God. The law provides us with a means of understand the character of our Creator. Through it we see a holy, righteous and just God.
3. Thirdly it is a guideline of man’s sinfulness. The law shows us that we can’t approach God on His level. He is perfect holiness and that is beyond our best efforts. God warns Moses in Chapter 19 about the people coming too close to Mt. Sinai.
a) Exodus 19:12-13 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live:
b) This is what the Law does it allows us to come close enough to God to see his holiness but it prevents us from coming near enough to experience His grace and love.
4. Did the purpose of the law change after Jesus came? Are we supposed to try and keep it now? Or is it now as it was then, a guideline for our behavior, God’s holiness and our sinfulness?
5. This is what the New Testament says about the law.
a) Romans 7:7-13 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
6.What then is your relationship with the Law?
a) It condemns you a sinner deserving of God’s wrath.
b) It brought you to Christ through that knowledge.
c) It is still meant to be a guideline for our society and civilization.
d) But the Law is not the code you, as an Christian, live by after salvation.
(1) You do not live by the law for it was meant to show you your own death. You live by the grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He dwelling in you provides you with the means, the guideline of living as a Child of God.
(2) Galatians 5:18-26 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
C. Illustration: J Vernon McGee. The Mirror and the Basin
1. The Law reveals and there must be a shedding of blood for sin. Just as you have in your bathroom a mirror that represents the law with a basin underneath it. You don’t wash in the mirror. The mirror reveals what you wash in the basin. – J. Vernon McGee
1. We saw the stage that God set for the giving of the law now let us look at the centerpiece of that event, the Law itself.
II. God Gives Exodus 20:3-17
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 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; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 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. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 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: 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. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 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.
A. God Gives The Law
1. The Ten Commandments or Decalogue which means the Ten Words is divided into two tables.
a) The first table consists of the first 4 commandments and they all deal with God.
b) The second table consists of the last 6 commandments and they all deal with Man.
2. The First Table
a) 1st vs. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
b) 2nd vs. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
c) 3rd vs. 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.
d) 4th vs. 8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
3. "The first commandment then guards the unity of God, the second His spirituality, and the third His deity or essence. -James Murphy, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)
4. All these commandments are given so that we might look up to God rather than debase him or try to bring him down to our level.
5. Romans 1:17-25 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
a) When once God is brought down to our level then what is left for man but to go lower than the god he has imagined. For any god, even a false god, must be higher than the one worshipping their god.
b) God through his commandments showed that He was as Isaiah saw, “High and lifted up.”
(1) He is seen as the righteous One who inhabits eternity. The Holy One who rides on the clouds of judgment. He is seen as He truly is, God above all.
6. The Second Table
a) 5th vs. 12 Honour thy father and thy mother. Honor in obedience and in love.
b) 6th vs. 13 Thou shalt not kill. The word means murder and means nothing without capital punishment which God does permit later in the giving of the law.
c) 7th vs. 14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. It means any form of sexual sin. The worst form of theft and leads to the majority of the worlds ills.
d) 8th vs. 15 Thou shalt not steal.
e) 9th vs. 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. It includes any lying that harms or defrauds. It especially deals with false testimony and gossip.
f) 10th vs. 17 Thou shalt not covet. The root of where sin begins. The selfish desire for something you do not have.
7. The first tablet of the law dealt shows us God and the second tablet shows us ourselves. The first tablet shows us God’s holiness, the second shows our sinfulness. The first shows us God in His glory, the second show us in our fallen state.
B. You and the Law
1. What do you see about yourself when you look into the mirror of the law?
2. Do you see yourself trying to keep it? Do you see yourself keeping all of it some of the time or some of it all the time. What you are supposed to see and understand is that if you break one you have broken them all and there is no way, in your own power to repair, the breaking.
a) Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
b) What we are supposed to see in that mirror of the law, is our own sin and guilt before a holy and righteous God. In the law we see through God’s eyes that we are guilty. Guilty now, guilty for eternity, guilty and unworthy to spend eternity in His presence. Guilty!
C. Illustration: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler Matthew 19:16-22
1. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
2. The rich young ruler believed he had kept the commandments but Jesus showed him he did not love his neighbor as himself, nor was he free of covetousness. If he was guilty of breaking one then he was guilty of breaking them all. He walked away from God rather than face that guilt and find forgiveness
Where is hope then? How can we escape the condemnation of the Law before God? Exodus 20 vs 18 shows us, that we need an intercessor.
III. God Intercedes Exodus 20:18-21
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
A. Moses the Mediator
1. The People cannot bear the glory and terror of a Holy God, so Moses must act as the Mediator, their go-between.
2. The people hear the voice and it terrorizes them. The Ten Commandments are given but the people can’t bear to hear the voice of the One giving the law. It is not so much that they fear the Ten Commandments, but they fear the One who gives the commandments. They fear a holy and righteous God.
3. So they plead with Moses to go for them. He will go to God and bring from God that which He wishes to give to his people. Without Moses the people have no hope, they are condemned already in their sins. Only in Moses, acting as a go-between with God, can they find hope.
B. Mankind’s Mediator
1. Like the people at Mt Sinai, we stand today before a holy and righteous God. Just like them we are told that to try and approach God will mean death. A barrier has been erected between us and our God a barrier of the law and the sin it exposes.
2. Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
3. Just like the children of Israel we listen as God speaks the ten commandments. With our hearts we hear and know that we are guilty and that our guilt means that we are doomed with no hope. We cannot approach God. What hope have we? Where is our mediator? Who is worthy enough to ascend to God? Who is loving enough to bring down His grace and forgiveness?
4. There is only one, mightier than Moses. One who came down to earth, one who lived with us and showed His love and sinlessness. That one is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Very God of Very God, God in the flesh.
5. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. God knew that we could not keep the law. He knew that we could not come up to him, and so he come down to us. Jesus, God’s own Son took on human flesh became a man and lived a life without sin. He fulfilled the law that we could not. He then laid that sinless life upon a cross to be crucified for us. He died that we might live.
6. Isaiah 53:3-6 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
C. Illustration: Rembrandt paints himself as one helping crucify Christ
A. What remains for us?
1. We cannot keep the law. We cannot ascend up into heaven on our own goodness.
2. Jesus has come that in Him we can have God’s grace and not God’s wrath but how do I experience it. How do I receive it.
3. Isaiah 53:10-11 says this Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
4. There it is. You must make His soul your offering for sin. Have you accepted your guilt not only in the breaking of God’s law but in the death of His son? Have you asked forgiveness for that, the greatest sin of all? For only when I come to God seeking forgiveness through His Son will I find pardon from my guilt.
5. Only when I place myself at the foot of the cross as Rembrandt did, will I find the grace and love of God instead of the wrath and judgment of the Law.