Summary: In the LORD's schoolroom, the pass-mark is 100% - so contemplating the Law of God, summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, should drive us to Christ as our only hope!
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The first thing that we notice about the Ten Commandments is that they are the words of God (Exodus 20:1). Secondly we notice that the LORD is the God who has redeemed us (Exodus 20:2). It is not the keeping of the Ten Commandments which saves us: salvation is a gift of God.
1. As the LORD is the one true and living God, He will not tolerate any competition (Exodus 20:3). There are no other gods, so we must put nothing before Him in our lives. Neither may we place anything alongside Him, before His face, as if on an equal par with Him.
2. Equally, we are not to make likenesses of anything, real or imagined, in order to worship them or place them alongside the worship of the true God (Exodus 20:4). Our God is a jealous God, and such folly brings curses upon whole families (Exodus 20:5). Yet the same God, who visits this iniquity upon the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5), is merciful to thousands (of generations) of those who love Him and keep His commandments (Exodus 20:6).
3. God’s name is sacred: it describes who He is. To call down His name in imprecation of another, or to use His name lightly or flippantly is to show great disrespect (Exodus 20:7). Our great Redeemer will not be mocked!
4. The Sabbath is to be “remembered” - which implies that it was already known about prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8). It is first a Creation ordinance (Genesis 2:1-3), but is now also revealed as a Redemption ordinance (Deuteronomy 5:14-15). It is to be kept holy, and is symbolic of our entrance into the “rest” of God (Hebrews 4:3).
Work is also a Creation ordinance, and implicit in the command to rest is the command to work (Exodus 20:9). The need to rest from our labours, and to find time to enter into the rest of the Lord, is held in common by all classes and nations: and even workhorses need to rest awhile (Exodus 20:10). There is even legislation about resting the land (Leviticus 25:1-7) - which if Judah had heeded they might not have had to spend seventy years in exile (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
To “enter into His rest” is to enter into the blessing of the LORD (Exodus 20:11). This everyone should seek after. Whether we are seeking salvation, or are pursuing the benefits accruing from our redemption in Christ Jesus, God blesses the effort.
5. The land is mentioned as an incentive to honouring our parents (Exodus 20:12). This is the first commandment with promise (Ephesians 6:1-3). The children of believing parents have responsibilities towards God in ratio to the privileges that they receive from God.
6. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gets into the spirit of the familiar prohibition against murder (Exodus 20:13). An unkind thought or unkind words are as murderous as a fatal wound with a lethal weapon (Matthew 5:21-22). Gossip and slander are as malicious as conspiracy to kill (James 3:8-9).
7. According to Jesus, the prohibition on adultery (Exodus 20:14) includes not only the act itself, but also the thought of it (Matthew 5:27-28). This includes participation by proxy (Romans 1:32). It also reflects our relationship with God, as apostasy and idolatry are viewed in the Bible as spiritual infidelity (Jeremiah 31:32).
8. The right to private property is upheld in Scripture (Exodus 20:15). This includes everything from the moving of our neighbour’s landmark (Deuteronomy 19:14) and the stealing of our neighbour’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-22) - to kidnap and slave trading (1 Timothy 1:10 - “men stealers”). This includes everything from stealing pens from the office, adjusting timesheets, falsifying accounts, and writing dud cheques - to bank heists and the Great Train Robbery.
9. False witness is perjury (Exodus 20:16). It also includes gossip and tale bearing. If we are living in the image of the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) then we know that even so-called ‘white lies’ are anything but harmless!
10. At the root of all these sins is the hidden matter of our own hearts (Exodus 20:17). When the devil came to Jesus, he found nothing in Him into which he might grip with his evil claws (John 14:30). When he comes to us, alas, he finds us all too ready to contemplate sin (James 1:14).
If we disobey any of these commandments, we disobey God. If we break just one link in this chain, we have broken all. The very attempt to keep these commandments alerts us to our inability to do anything to please God outside of our Redeemer, and drives us to Him for mercy (Galatians 3:24).