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Summary: The Ten Commandments are both a command of obedience and a statement of commitment to God.

As we continue our summer series, “Classic Chapters of The Bible,” we come to one of the most discussed chapters of the Bible. Its content deals with personal beliefs and behaviors that are assumed by many to be important ones and have been foundational to our thinking and way of life in this country. However, the challenge of this chapter is in the practice of them. The chapter is Exodus 20 and the content of the chapter are the Ten Commandments.

Sometime back I shared with you a statement from a book on preaching which underlined the importance of the spoken word. It was something to the effect that in preaching pastors have the ability to create worlds or tear them down. I am never more aware of this truth than when I preach from a passage like this because the words of such chapters place us under the microscope of the Holy Spirit – and that is both a blessing as well as a discomforting thing.

I want us this morning to hear God’s word to us on these very important matters. These ten phrases have deep and profound implications for us today. May we hear the voice of God this morning.

I recently received an e-mail that contained the cowboy’s version of the Ten Commandments as they appear at Cross Trails Church in Fairlie, Texas: (Overhead 1)

(1) Just one God.

(2) Honor yer Ma &Pa.

(3) No telling tales or gossipin’.

(4) Git yourself to Sunday meeting.

(5) Put nothin’ before God.

(6) No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal.

(7) No killin’.

(8) Watch yer mouth.

(9) Don’t take what ain’t yers.

(10) Don’t be hankerin’ for yer buddy’s stuff.

Of course our children have some unique perspectives on the Ten Commandments as well. For example, a Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her 5 and 6 year-olds. After explaining the commandment "Honor thy Father and thy mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill."

Before we examine them more closely, there is some background information that we need to have from a couple of directions so that we can better understand these important words of God. The first piece of information has to due with the nature of the Ten Commandments. (Overhead 2)

What are the Ten Commandments? Are they law like we think of law? Are they rules of conduct that we must abide by? Or are they something else?

I agree with Gordon Wenham when he says, “The Ten Commandments should … be looked on as a statement of basic religious and ethical principles rather than as a code of law.” He comes to this conclusion by pointing out two important things. First, “no human penalties are specified for their transgression; rather divine curses are pronounced on those who break certain of the laws, and blessings are promised to those who keep them.” Second, “It is misleading to describe the {Ten Commandments} as Israel’s criminal law, for it is not a list of offences that the state would itself prosecute, let alone for which it would always exact the death penalty.”

What does this suggest? It seems that the Ten Commandments are not “law” that we think of when we think of “law.” The Ten Commandments are God’s precise expectations for people who choose to follow Him.

A second piece of background information is an acquaintance with other legal documents of that time period. One important document is called the Code of Hammurappi.

This code was found in the early 1900’s during an archeological dig in the Middle East. Its discovery has been considered a very important one for Old Testament study as it has allowed a comparison of the Mosaic Law with other laws of that time and place.

In an article entitled, “Mosaic and Ancient Near Eastern Laws,” (from the www.theology.edu/Eqypt3) we read that the Code of Hammurappi and the Mosaic code “differ in their moral code.” “In the Hebrew laws a greater value is generally placed on human life, and the Babylonian code has nothing in it corresponding to the twofold golden thread running through the Mosaic legislation: love God and love your neighbor (Mat. 22:37-40).”

The article goes on to say that in the Code of Hammurappi, “There is no control of lust, no limitation on selfishness, nowhere to be found the postulate (or claim) of charity;

every trace of religious thought is absent; behind the Israelite law stands everywhere the ruling will of God; the Mosaic legislation bears a religious character.”

So what this means is that God was giving Moses a set of statements that was consistent with who He, that is God, was, and still is – just, personal, moral, and loving. And just as importantly, who God expected His people to become.

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