Summary: A review of the purpose for the Ten Commandments

In Jesus Holy Name September 23, 2018

Series: Luther’s Small Catechism Series Redeemer

Text: Exodus

“Thinking the Things of God”

The Ten Commandments

Mark Twain told the story about a man who had memorized the Ten Commandments. The gentlemen told Twain that his ambition was to go to the Holy Land, stand on the Mount and recite loudly the Ten Commandments. Twain replied, "Have you ever thought about just staying home and keeping them?"

We live in strange times, don’t we? A recent Gallup Poll revealed that 84% of Americans believe that the Ten Commandments are a valid guide to life. That’s encouraging until you realize that another survey revealed that only 30% of those polled could name even 3 of the Commandments.

So before we go any further… how many can you name? Can you remember the definition to each commandment?

The sad reality is that most American children will grow up and know next to nothing about the Ten Commandments. Several years ago the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Kentucky law requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in public school classrooms. The Supreme Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments would unnecessarily entangle the “Church and State”.

While making that ruling, what is engraved in stone on the Supreme Court building? Moses and the Ten commandments. The men of 1776 who wrote the constitution would be utterly amazed by that ruling. They assumed that all children in every classroom would learn the Ten commandments because they regarded their work as resting on that legal and historical foundation that went all the way back to Mt. Sinai.

To use the constitution against the Ten Commandments would have seemed ridicules and outlandish. These commandments are the basis for a “civil society”. Unfortunately we live in a day when the outlandish has become the law of the land.

The American courts are only answering the question “Can these Ten Commandments be posted?” Should they be removed from public venues? Some things may settled by the courts but the courts have removed the Ten Commandments, they have not found replacement rules for creating a “civil society”. Our present culture has sought to silence any mention of God and His precepts to our own harm.

So without the Ten Commandments what will the rules be for our “civil society”? How will truth be arrived? “He said, She said.?” Or “What is right for me may not be right for you?”

We live in a day when the very concept of objective morality is being questioned. “It may be right for you, but how do I know if it’s right for me?” Once the concept of an absolute standard is jettisoned then we are left with nothing more than dreamy idealism.

With out an absolute standard how do we measure “right from wrong”?

There are only 3 answers:

1. Human feeling (example: Debbie Boone’s “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”)

2. Majority vote: (example: “How can it be wrong if 55% of the people vote for it?”)

The problem with the first two answers is that feelings change. The majority often shifts its position. We are thus left with th shifting and uncertain sands of moral relativism. And what will we do if your feelings conflict with my feelings? Who is right then?

3. We need an absolute standard…. unchanging and unchangeable.

Years ago Ted Koppel delivered the commencement address at Duke University

In that address he asked this question: “Where can we go to find truth that will stand the test of time? From a sermon by Ray Pritchard Keep on Believing

He went on to say: “In its purest form truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten

Suggestions. They are Commandments. The sheer beauty of the Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now but for all time. (Duke University Alumni Magazine. P. 36)

Why did God give the Ten Commandments in the first place?

Let me ask you. Why do you tell your children not to play in the street? It is out of love and protection.

The Ten Commandments were given by God out of love for us. If you love someone, you will love them enough to say “no”.

Before God gave the Ten Commandments he redeemed the children of Jacob from 400 years of slavery. When the children of Israel were hungry in the wilderness. He fed them. When they were thirsty in the wilderness. He gave them water. When God said: “thou shall not….. He is simply saying: “don’t hurt yourself.”

These are not “Ten Suggestions for a Better Life”. They are not “Ten Ways you Should consider” nor “Ten Habits of Highly Successful People” nor “Ten ways to climb the Ladder.” No.

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