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You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below—you shall not bow down to them or worship them. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.
You shall have no other gods before me.
The danger doth not lie in the breaking of one or two of these ten only, but it doth lie even in the transgression of any one of them. As you know, if a king should give forth ten particular commands, to be obeyed by his subjects upon pain of death; now, if any man doth transgress against any one of these ten, he doth commit treason, as if he had broke them all, and lieth liable to have the sentence of the law as certainly passed on him, as if he had broken every particular of them. . . . These things are clear as touching the law of God, as it is a covenant of works: If a man do fulfill nine of the commandments, and yet breaketh but one, that being broken will as surely destroy him, and shut him out from the joys of heaven, as if he had actually transgressed against them all. . . . Though thou shouldst fulfill this covenant or law, even all of it, for a long time, ten, twenty, forty, fifty, or threescore years; yet if thou do chance to slip, and break one of them but once before thou die, thou art also gone and lost by that covenant. . . . As they that are under the covenant of grace shall surely be saved by it, so, even so, they that are under the covenants of works and the law, they shall surely be damned by it, if continuing therein.
Because God created and loves us and knows what’s best for us, he gives us moral and spiritual direction about how to live life in the best way. The Ten Commandments are a love gift to us from God. Of course this is true of all Scripture, but the heart and soul of God’s guidance is found in the Ten Commandments. God spoke the words to Moses, and they were overheard by the children of Israel (Exodus 20). Later, Moses restated the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5). The Ten Commandments are to be memorized, pondered, and committed to as a way of life.
Jesus taught and clarified the deeper meaning of the Ten Commandments for us. As he explained the Ten Commandments in the Gospels, he raised the bar on our understanding of what God expects of us. For instance, in Matthew 5:21, Jesus explained the meaning of the commandment not to murder. He said that actually anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.
The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God, and Jesus summarized them as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The last six commandments address our relationship with our fellow man, and Jesus summarized them as: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
The commandments are our treasure. We cherish them. They’re a great gift, a love gift from God. They guide us. They warn us. They protect us. When we keep them, we show others what God is like. When we fail to live them, we bring great harm to ourselves and we dishonor our Maker.
We have a problem keeping the Ten Commandments because man is born in bondage to sin and selfishness. And in the end we cannot help but break God’s holy law. But when we become a new creature by faith in Christ, we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. We’re freed from having to sin, and we’re given the grace to keep God’s law. Keeping God’s commandments is not onerous but helps us live at peace with God, with ourselves, and with our neighbors.
We can learn to live out the Ten Commandments as we realize that they’re God’s gift to us. It’s like learning to tell the truth. When you’re young, you sometimes feel that you must protect yourself by deceiving others and not telling the truth. You learn as time goes not to deceive others. We learn to speak the truth. We learn to practice honesty.
That’s why the prophets loved God’s law and why we should, too. Keeping the Ten Commandments protects us. It protects society. These principles are at the heart of how God created us to live.
Holy God, you showed your love to your people by giving them your commands. May we always give thanks for your law. You have not left us ignorant of how to walk in the way of righteousness. Help us to glorify you by obeying your Ten Commandments. Amen.