Summary: The commandments are meant to crush us...and then draw us to Christ.
Christ and the Commandments
Rev. Brian Bill
I heard about a guy who bought a new refrigerator and didn’t know what to do with his old one so he put it in his front yard with a sign that said, “Free to good home. You want it – you take it.” For three days the fridge sat there without even one person looking at it. He decided that people thought it must be too good to be true. So he took the old sign off and made a new one: “Fridge for sale – $50.” The next day someone stole it.
There’s something within us that seeks to do what we’re not supposed to do, isn’t there? As we’ve been learning in our “Stone Tablets in a Wireless World” series, we’re all lawbreakers.
The 10 Commandments are not like rungs on a ladder one must climb in order to get to heaven. Instead, the commands ultimately point us to Christ. Galatians 3:24: “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” One of the most important uses of the 10 Commandments is to show sinners their need for the Savior. I like what John Calvin wrote: “Moses had no other intention than to invite all men to go straight to Christ.” By the way, it is essential to preach the law in order to reach the lost. People must know they are sinners before they will seek out the Savior. We’re going to see how Jesus did that today.
But before we do that, let’s focus on how God’s people responded to the giving of the commands. But before we get to that, let’s review the commands one more time.
1: Hold up one pointer finger - point to the sky (one God; no other gods)
2: Hold up two pointer fingers – have one bow before the other (no idols)
3: Hold up three fingers – place over mouth (don’t take God’s name in vain)
4: Hold up four fingers – place on cheek as if to nap (Sabbath rest)
5: Hold up five fingers – place hand over heart (honor parents)
6: Hold up five fingers on one hand and the pointer finger of your other hand – turn pointer finger into a “gun” and aim at the other hand (don’t murder)
7: Hold up five fingers on one hand and the pointer and middle finger on the other – intertwine them by putting the middle one over the pointer to show that they are bonded together (no adultery)
8: Hold up four fingers on one hand and four on the other – using one hand grab the other four fingers (no stealing)
9. Hold up four fingers on one hand and five on the other – move the four up and down as they face the five to show that they are lying or bearing false witness about others (no lying)
10. Hold up five fingers on each hand – pull fingers toward you (no coveting)
After receiving these commands, the people responded rather strongly in Exodus 20:18: “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.”
Let me remind you what happened before the commandments were given. After three days of preparation where they were told to wash and keep away from the mountain and abstain from intimacy, everyone in the camp “trembled,” which means to shudder with terror and to quake. Then we read that the whole mountain “trembled violently.” After the commandments are given, the people “trembled with fear.”
The trumpet blast, which was the sound of a shofar, was “exceedingly loud” and it grew “louder and louder.” This was not happy harp music. Along with thunder and lightning and a thick cloud representing God’s Shekinah glory, there was smoke rising up as if from a bellowing furnace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a serious matter to approach the Almighty. We cannot and must not be irreverent or bored or passive or come to Him on our own terms. Most of us are way too casual with God and we don’t take His commands or His commission seriously enough.
How Christ Used the Commandments
One of the best ways to convince someone of their need for the Savior is by helping them see their utter sinfulness. We can do that by going to the 10 Commandments and asking this question: “How are you doing at keeping these?” Greg Steir suggests that we need to use the “hammer of the Law” before we can introduce someone to the “healer of their soul.” It’s only after admitting our brokenness can we be put back together. We must acknowledge our lostness before we will be attracted to the Lord. If we don’t see our need, we’ll walk away.