Summary: If we would keep our freedom, we must hear the Lord God say that you cannot exercise a line-item veto on any of the Ten Commandments.
In Exodus 20, God's people are free for the first time in four hundred years.
They're now free for three weeks, and Moses has done as God commanded. He brought them to Mount Sinai, close to the place where God first spoke to Moses in the burning bush. This is the place where God intended to speak to all of His people.
However, the people decided they would not live long if they were in His presence or heard Him face to face like that. So they told Moses, "We want you to go for us." It was never God's intention for there to be a
go-between like this, but Moses became the spokesman of God to the people.
These are the things God intended him to say to them. They are free people, made free by God. That's what the preamble to the Ten Commandments tells us.
The subject of the Ten Commandments is freedom. It's God telling these people how to keep the freedom He has given them. You should never entertain the idea that when Moses came down off the mountain he was a preacher with ten suggestions for people who wanted to be religious. He was the leader of a brand-new nation with ten, God-given principles to keep free.
So today, we look at Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
Does that part about "...live long..." bother you? Does it confuse you because you've known children who have honored their father and mother who did not have a long life? Let me tell you what I think it means. I believe it means when your parents raise children who honor their father and mother, they will pass on the character it takes to keep free, and the land can continue in its freedom, prosperity, and with the blessings of God. But if the children cannot honor their father and mother and, therefore, grow to be honorable citizens, then they will not pass that freedom on.
Let's read what Moses said later in Deuteronomy 6, beginning in verse one.
They have now come to the edge of the Promised Land, and Moses is soon going to die. He's reviewing with them all the things God has said, and he's reviewing again the giving of the Ten Commandments those forty years before: "These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you."
In this setting, it seems as if Moses is saying, "The Lord has said all of these commandments are part of what it means to live long and keep freedom."
Then, of course, we have that Scripture in Ephesians 6:1: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' ... which is the first commandment with a promise ... 'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'"
There are three, key words in this statement: obey, honor, and enjoy. Many people live a long time without ever really living and enjoying life. However, those who enjoy life will be those who obey and honor their parents and, therefore, become people who can enjoy the kind of life those things bring.
I'm convinced here the real emphasis is upon living well and keeping freedom, and the link is connected in this context and in Exodus 20:12. It is saying, "As you raise children who obey their parents, they, in turn, will become citizens who will be able to keep the freedom I have given to them." I believe this is consistent with what the Bible is saying.
What a great part mothers play in that. We have often heard about how hard it was for Abraham Lincoln growing up, how impoverished he was. Some say the log cabin didn't have a south wall in it. But what you read is that Abraham Lincoln had something much more valuable than anything he didn't have. He had a possession which is probably the greatest thing a person can have. He had a great mother and an even greater step-mother. They taught him how to live ... and that honor and honesty are unconditional. Because of that, I contend that Abraham Lincoln had something more valuable in his life than any of the material things he didn't have.