A FRESH LOOK  – Part One

Ted Turner – the founder of CNN and other cable networks – commented that the Ten Commandments were given with the sole purpose of taking the fun out of life

He told the “Dallas Morning News” that Christianity was “a religion for losers”

He commented that he had lived a bit on the wild life, and if that sentenced him to hell, then so be it

Later he stood before the American Humanist Association and proclaimed that it was time to update the Ten Commandments

They were grossly out of date, he said.

It was time for his “Ten Voluntary Initiatives,” which took a much more politically correct direction

These included:

            • A vow of nonviolence
            • An effort to be friendlier
            • The promise to have no more than two children (he already had five)

Some people scoffed at “the Mouth of the South” as he was known

But in some humanistic circles, Turner’s Top Ten list is still admired and studied

It certainly tells many people what they already want to hear without making any demands of personal morality or, for that matter, any mention of God at all

Something in us really doesn’t like rules

When you are late for an appointment, and you’re slamming down the accelerator to get across town quickly, that stop sign seems like a real annoyance

And if no other cars are coming, it feels like another “silly rule”

On the other hand, if you move into that intersection and spot another speeding car coming at you and ignoring the sign

Well, then the rules look a lot better

At that moment, you appreciate stop signs and you understand how they were placed for your protection

The Ten Commandments are stop signs at the prime intersections of life

They were given by a God who loves us and wants only the best for us

A personal note:

Many years ago I read a book by a pastor (now in heaven) – Ron Mehl – called “The Ten(der) Commandments

It had a major impact on my life – I remember the book among the many hundreds that I have read since … 

So it was and is very special and had an impact on my personal journey with Jesus

He wrote that these Ten Commandments are an expression of love from a Father to His children

I quote: 

“a tender, heartfelt message from the very hand of God .. It’s all there. He doesn’t leave anything out. The ten statements are all-encompassing, touching virtually every part of our lives. They are the parameters to live by — the truths He knows are going to provide blessing and strength, a future and a hope.”

One of my favourite teachers – British preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) – said:

“That law of the Ten Commandments is a gift of great kindness to the sons of men, for it tells us the wisest and happiest way of living. It forbids us nothing but what would be to our injury and it withholds from us nothing which would be a real pleasure to us … God does not make laws denying us anything that would really be for our good … We ought to see the love of God in the gift of law (the Ten Commandments)”

Makes sense then why the Psalmist could say:

Psalm 1:2 NASV “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”

Psalm 19:9b-10 NRSV “the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey,

and drippings of the honeycomb.”

We don’t understand this because we tend to think of the Law as a dead and limiting set of rules and regulations

But the Psalmist thinks of the Law as a living and a loving thing

The Psalmist recognizes it as the expression of the will of the living God and His way of expressing His love to us, His children

Some believers and leaders today teach and believe that Jesus somehow make the commandments obsolete

That since we now live under grace we need not bother with the baggage of commandments and law

A common misconception and false teaching in the Church today

Jesus made it clear that He honoured the Ten Commandments and considered them to have eternal authority

Jesus said:

Matthew 19:17b NRSV “ If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments”

Jesus did not cancel the Ten Commandments – He extended them past the physical realm into the heart realm

      • Hate is now equal to murder
      • Lust is adultery in God’s eyes
      • Matthew 5:21-30

Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17 NRSV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

Jesus does not break with the Old Testament Law — He is the Law’s perfect expression

Solomon – the wisest man to ever live other than Jesus summarized his accumulated wisdom when he wrote:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 NKJV “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

So, today and next time, I want to take a fresh walk through the Ten Commandments – the immortal directives

I think that it is good that we rediscover what they mean then and what they mean now

Let’s start by reviewing them …

Exodus 20:1-17 MSG “GOD spoke all these words:

1> I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery.

No other gods, only me.

2> No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.

3> No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.

4> Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

5> Honour your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that GOD, your God, is giving you.

6> No murder.

7> No adultery.

8> No stealing.

9> No lies about your neighbour.

10> No lusting after your neighbour’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbour’s.”

The first four commandments – the relationship between you and God

The last six commandments – the relationship between you and others

The First Commandment: The Fundamental Rule

Exodus 20:1-3 NET “God spoke all these words: ‘I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”

The first commandment is like the hub of a wheel from which all the others are spokes

This isn’t simply another commandment — it’s the one that brings all of them together. 

In context – the story leading up to the giving of the commandments, God’s love is on display

When Moses arrives at the top of Mount Sinai to receive the commandments — God tells him to remind the people of His great love for them in the past and His careful watch over their lives throughout their redemption from Egypt

Exodus 19:3-4 NET “Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, ‘Thus you will tell the house of Jacob, and declare to the people of Israel: ʻYou yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eaglesʼ wings and brought you to myself.’”

Later, as Moses returns to the mountain, bearing the second set of two stone tablets, God passes before His servant again and refers to Himself as…

Exodus 34:6-7a NET “The LORD passed by before him and proclaimed: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

Israel stands are a crossroads in its history

Behind, the pagan gods of the Egyptians

Ahead, the pagan gods of the Canaanites

The Israelites have been and will continue to be caught up in cultures of false gods

So the one true God now wants His people to know that He insists on an exclusive relationship with them

There are no others like Him

They must not allow their spirits (hearts) to wander after the false hopes of pagan gods

God is saying in very strong terms:

“If you will have no other gods, it is only then that you can have Me.”

There is no middle ground here

The Lord God will not be one option among many

It still holds true today

Idolatry (worshipping other gods) is no outdated sin but the same threat it has always been and will always be

The gods have changed their names, of course

They are no longer called Baal and Ashtoreth

Now they call themselves wealth or power or comfort or appetite or pornography, or pleasure or success …

Or whatever it is that is controlling your heart today

Counterfeit gods never die

They simply come up with new disguises and continue trying to lead us away from the only true God who offers a relationship of love and personal care

Martin Luther wrote:

“That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is … really your God.”

I recently read about a series of religious services that were advertised in Scottish newspapers

The first part of the ad was printed on page 1, and simply directed readers to the last page of the paper

There, in large print, was the question, “Is this where you are putting God?”

Many Christians today have regretfully pushed God to the back page

They have allowed other ‘gods’ to clutter up their lives

God does not ask for a prominent place among all the other gods

He insists that there be no other gods, period

A half-forgotten God is no God at all

He demands page 1 of our lives

God wants an exclusive love relationship with you

He wants to be the hub of the wheel called life as this is how life was meant to be lived and enjoyed

A wheel can only have one hub

Try to set it spinning around any other point, and you crash

In the same way, God is the hub of the universe and is asking to be the hub of your personal life

T.S. Eliot said it this way: “…the still point in the turning world”

No one else can be at the center of your life

Exodus 20:1-3 NET “God spoke all these words: ‘I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”

It was the love of God for us – His people – that caused Him to limit the worship of His people to Himself alone

To tolerate worship of other gods would have turned the Israelites loose to explore a multitude (pantheon) of lifeless idols utterly incapable of meeting their needs or bringing them fulfillment and contentment

“Worship any god you choose” would have been the most unloving thing God could have said to His people — then and now

It is God’s love for us, not selfish love, that is behind His jealous desire to be worshipped

The Second Commandment: The Focus Rule

Exodus 20:4-6 NET “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

If the first commandment is about WHOM we worship

The second commandment is about HOW we worship

We must worship the right God, and we must worship Him the right way

That proper worship comes from hearing Him rather than seeing Him

Worship from the heart is elusive and demanding as we hear and feel but don’t see

Causing us to listen in our spirit (heart) and not simply see with our eyes and touch with our hands as you can do with an idol

People demand gods they can see and touch

The Israelites never stopped struggling with this concept

Even as Moses received this commandment at Sinai, the people were down in the valley, melting their gold rings to create a calf idol

They threw a great party afterward, pointed to the calf, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4)

The people obviously couldn’t wait for Moses to return, so they decided to take a shortcut

But God is telling us that nothing must be used to attract the eyes and thus distract the soul – the mind, the will, and the emotions) as well as our spirit from Him

An image of God is limited

God is unlimited

An image of God is local

God is universal

An image of God is temporal

God is eternal

An image of God is material

God is spiritual

When you make an image — an idol — it distorts God

This explains why God provides no likeness of Himself and no one really can show us what Jesus looked like

Many have tried and failed … but should have never tried as then the image comes an idol of the eyes

I have personally seen Jesus in the flesh and many ask me what He looked like ….

Today – God continues to be heard and yet unseen

Idols, on the other hand, are seen but never heard

The prophet Isaiah mocked those who revered impotent idols — Isaiah 44:13-20 NLT

Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood

and draws a pattern on it.

He works with chisel and plane

and carves it into a human figure.

He gives it human beauty

and puts it in a little shrine.

He cuts down cedars;

he selects the cypress and the oak;

he plants the pine in the forest

to be nourished by the rain.

Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.

With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.

Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it

and makes himself a god to worship!

He makes an idol

and bows down in front of it!

He burns part of the tree to roast his meat

and to keep himself warm.

He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”

Then he takes what’s left

and makes his god: a carved idol!

He falls down in front of it,

worshiping and praying to it.

“Rescue me!” he says.

“You are my god!”

Such stupidity and ignorance!

Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.

Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.

The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,

“Why, it’s just a block of wood!

I burned half of it for heat

and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.

How can the rest of it be a god?

Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”

The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.

He trusts something that can’t help him at all.

Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,

“Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”

The second commandment comes with a warning

Disobedience will visit “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5)

Is that unfair — punishing children for what their parents did?

The meaning is actually that the children (generations) are punished BY their parents’ sin

Our failures — our idols — leave a legacy

Alcoholic children often come from alcoholic parents

And even if the children do not become alcoholics they suffer the inner distress and wounds of being raised in the home of an alcoholic

Adult children of alcoholic parents

Materialistic parents nurture the same values in their children – intentional or not

Sin is contagious within families 

Idols (alcoholism, materialism) are passed down from one generation to another

God says to us:

“The reason I’m asking you not to place any object or enterprise or image or desire ahead of Me is because I don’t want you to wake up one day with a broken heart, as you watch your loved ones making the same mistakes you made, tripping over the same rocks you tripped over, and struggling with the same cynical attitudes that afflicted you.”

The good news, however, is that we can leave positive legacies as well!

So, this second commandment…

Exodus 20:4-6 NET “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

This commandment springs from God’s perfect love

“For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God,” (Exodus 20:5)

Jealousy is a word used by lovers — and God is a perfect Lover

He created us to be in relationship with Him

He knows that any other way will destroy our lives

And the lives around us – the lives of our children and our grandchildren

I, for one, am grateful that He is a jealous God and shows His love and loving care for us in giving to us the Ten Commandments…

Commandment number one – The Fundamental Rule

Commandment number two – The Focus Rule