God’s Covenant is a light to bless your life1
Introduction. Just as Christ’s life is retold from different perspectives in the four Gospels, the Ten Commandments are also retold with minor variations in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Both accounts conclude with a similar yet slightly different discussion of the reaction of the people of Israel to hearing God’s voice (Ex. 20:18-21; Dt. 5:22-32). To Bible critics, this is evidence that the different authors wrote different parts of the Torah or Pentateuch. But just as four Gospels tell Jesus’ life from four different points of view, Moses’ account retells the reaction of the people to stress different issues. Looking at both post-scripts together reveals the full story. In the post-script, God gives seven important lessons to help you use and comply with the Ten Commandments. First, you must look to the wisdom of His Word as it is interpreted by the Holy Spirit to guide you in the darkness of the world. In order for this to happen, you must understand the power of the Word and learn it well enough for the Holy Spirit to be able to speak to you. Second, because God is holy and you are not, you are in need of a mediator to receive God’s Word. In acting as a mediator between God and the people, Moses foreshadowed Christ. Christ was the Word incarnate. Third, although your heart will cause you to break the Ten Commandments, God wants you to try daily to comply with them out of love and devotion toward Him. Fourth, to keep you directed on your path, God will test you to show you where you have hidden sin in your heart. Fifth, once you understand the wisdom of God’s law, you are to share it with others and teach it to your children. Sixth, because it is impossible to completely avoid sin, you must wash yourself daily in the Word as God exposes your sins. Finally, if you try to comply with the Ten Commandments with the right motivation, God will bless you.
1. God’s Word is a Powerful Light for You in a Dark World. Ex. 20:18; Dt. 5:22-23.
There is great power in God’s Word. In Exodus, the people trembled in fear as they observed the awesome power of God as He spoke the Ten Commandments: “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.” (Ex. 20:18). In Deuteronomy, before Moses repeated the Ten Commandments, he reminded the next generation of people that they were privileged to witness the power of God’s Word: “Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.” (Dt. 4:36). “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice . . .” (Dt. 5:22). Even though the original generation to hear God’s voice had died out, Moses spoke to the second generation in the present tense as if they had directly observed the power of God’s word. He did so for a reason. The power of God’s Word is alive and revealed to any who read it in faith: ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”’ (Jer. 23:29). “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). So powerful is the Word that Christ will one day destroy the unrighteous merely by speaking God’s holy Word: “In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” (Rev. 1:16). The Word has the power to transform lives and even rebuke the devil (Jude 1:9). Maybe the power of God feels remote in your life. If your faith is lacking in God’s power to transform your life and answer your prayers, God promises that you can build up your faith by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17).
Let God’s Word guide your path2
Don’t alter God’s Word to conform to the world. Before Moses gave the rest of the laws contained in the Torah, he advised the people that God had limited His Words to Moses to those contained within the Ten Commandments: “and He added no more. . . .” (Dt. 5:22). We also must be faithful to the Word as it is written, not as we want it to be written. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the Bible: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it . . .” (Dt. 4:2). God will not tolerate anyone who changes, adds to or takes away from His Word (Dt. 4:12:32; Prov. 30:6; Gal. 3:15). In case any believer feels freed from this law, John repeats this commandment in the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18-19). Jesus also warned that those who annul the commandments or teach others not to follow them will be called “least” in heaven (Matt. 5:19). Adding to God’s word can lead to false doctrines, cults, or false religions (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Or, it can lead to legalism and oppressive, needless rules that only “quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). Long before Jesus ever came, God also condemned the Jewish religious leaders who had turned the Law and the festivals into a set of ritualistic obligations (Amos 5:21; Is. 66:3). Likewise, Jesus’ greatest condemnations were therefore directed at religious leaders who turned the Law into a set of legalistic rituals (e.g., Matt. 23:24). Today, there are churches that seek to accommodate God’s Word with popular opinion on matters like abortion, same sex marriage, and other matters. Will you defend the gospel as it is written? Do you pick and choose the portions of the Bible that fit your belief system? Are you ashamed to defend the Bible to skeptics? (Ro. 1:16).
While God’s Word was once written in stone, it is now written on your heart. The Ten Commandments were unique because they were the only writings that God directly penned with His finger for the people: “He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.” (Dt. 5:22; Ex. 24:12; 31:18; 32:15). Today, God has written His Word on our hearts: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”’ (Jer. 31:33). “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8). The Word is “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:3). Are you seeking God’s wisdom in all that you do? (Jam. 1:5).
God’s Word is a light unto your path. Just as it is important to recognize the power in God’s Word, it is also important to treat the Word as being alive. Through the Holy Spirit, it is a light to guide you in a dark world: “And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders.” (Dt. 5:23). It can light your path in dark places where all hope seems lost: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). Through the Word, the Holy Spirit will then guide you in the different circumstances that you will face in life: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Yet, in order for the Holy Spirit to bring you into “remembrance of all that [Christ] said to you” you need to know God’s Word. Have you given the Spirit a lot of verses to work with? He cannot “remind” you of much with only a few memorized verses.
2. We All Have a Need For a Mediator With God. Ex. 20:18-19; Dt. 5:24- 27.
God wants to be reconciled with mankind. Although the people were terrified of God’s awesome power, they marveled that they had heard His voice and survived: “You said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives.” (Dt. 5:24). Although they knew that God’s holy fire could have consumed them because of their sins, the people marveled in God’s grace. God created all the heavens and earth. Yet, He also wanted a relationship with His people: “I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” (Is. 51:16). “They shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 32:38). ‘“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”’ (Jer. 24:7). God wants a relationship with you as well. If you check in once a week at church or at night with a quick list of requests, what kind of relationship do you have?
Sin, however, cannot be in the presence of God. Although God refrained from destroying the sin in His presence, the people knew that they needed a more permanent solution now that their sins had been exposed through the Ten Commandments: “Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Dt. 5:25-26). “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” (Ex. 24:17; Heb. 12:29). God’s Holy Spirit now dwells within you, not on a mountain top (1 Cor. 3:16). He has therefore called upon you to be holy because He is Holy (Lev. 11:45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 1 Pet. 1:16). Are you using His mercy and grace as a license to sin? (Rom. 6:15). Are you renewing your mind each day to stay pure for Him? (Rom. 12:1-2).
God sent us a mediator to reconcile us with God. The Jews then asked for Moses to serve as a mediator to speak to God on their behalf: “Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”’ (Ex. 20:19). “Go near and hear all that the Lord our God says; then speak to us all that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.” (Dt. 5:27). In his role as mediator, Moses foreshadowed the role that Jesus would play: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5). If Jesus is the only mediator between mankind and God, God must not think highly of the attempt by some to pray through angels or Jesus’ mother. God is most likely even less pleased by our society’s attempts to dispense with the Mediator and try to appear righteous before God based upon our good works (Is. 64:6).
Jesus paid the price for our sins and is our one mediator with God the Father3
3. Keep the Commandments and Fear God by Hating Evil. Dt. 5:28-9.
Show your love for God by keeping the Commandments. Even though God knew that the people would repeatedly break His laws, He was pleased that the Jews reacted to the Ten Commandments by at least expressing a desire to try to fulfill them: “The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.” (Dt. 5:28). Jesus says that, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). You can read lots of books, including the Bible, to know about Jesus. Yet, you cannot claim to honestly “know” Jesus and have a relationship with Him if you don’t try to keep His Ten Commandments (1 Jo. 2:3).
Fear God by hating evil. In addition to wanting the people to “have a heart” to keep the Ten Commandments, God also wanted the people to fear Him: “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Dt. 5:29). The beginning of all knowledge is the “fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). Does your heart hate the evil things in the world? Or do you enjoy reading, watching, and talking about them? If you enjoy observing and talking about the evil things of the world, should you be surprised if you find yourself participating in them? (Ps. 81:12; Ro. 1:24).
4. God Will Test You to Show You Where To Correct Your Walk. Ex. 20:20; Dt. 5:30.
God has not given you a Spirit of fear. Although God wanted the people to fear Him by hating evil, He did not want them to fear Him as someone who might desire to harm them: “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; . . . ”’ (Ex. 20:20(a)). “Go, say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’” (Dt. 5:30). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Besides loving evil things, there is nothing that you should fear: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?. . . Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arises against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” (Ps. 27:1-3). “I fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:4). “How blessed is the man that fears the Lord . . . He will not fear evil tidings”. (Ps. 112:7). “Say to the anxious heart, ‘take courage, fear not.”’ (Is. 34:4). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). By contrast, if you fear mankind, you can become enslaved by the Devil to your fears “[t]he fear of man brings a snare. . . ” (Prov. 29:25). Fear of the people or the things of the world also leads to “spirit of slavery.” (Rom. 8:15). If the Jews knew God’s love for them, they would not have feared. There is nothing “able to separate us from the love of God.” (Rom. 8:38). God’s “perfect love casts out fear. . . ” (1 Jo. 4:18). Is the Devil controlling you with fear in any area of your life? If so, rebuke the Devil in Jesus’ name and ask God in faith to cast out your fear.
Accept God’s testing as a way for Him to correct your walk. In the Exodus postscript to the Ten Commandments, Moses warned that God would test His people in their sincerity in keeping His commandments: “for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20(b)). He searches our hearts and tests our minds. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, . . .” (Jer. 17:10). “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked . . .” (Ps. 11:5). “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Dt. 8:2). God’s testing and discipline are done out of love (Heb. 12:6). When we are tested, we frequently find that our hearts are wicked, and we are in need of repentance: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). One of the reasons that God instructed the Jews to wear a tassel was to remind them that their hearts were not inclined to keep the Law, something God lamented (Dt. 5:29). Instead, their hearts were inclined toward wickedness: “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot . . .” (Nu. 15:39). If you find yourself suffering from heart aches, have you asked for God to reveal any rebellion against His Law in your heart? (Ps. 139:23).
5. Be a Witness to Others to the Word of Hope that Lies Within You. Ex. 20:21-22; Dt. 5:31.
Share the Word of hope and wisdom which lies within you to others. Once the people had overcome their fear, God instructed Moses to advise them that a great obligation came with their privilege to hear God’s words: “So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.’” (Ex. 20:21-22). This wisdom and understanding is meant to serve as a beacon to the rest of the world: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”’ (Dt. 4:5-6). According to Paul, the advantage in being a Jew was that God had blessed them to be the holders of God’s Law and the wisdom that came with it (Ro. 3:1-2). God intended for the Jews to use this wisdom to be a light to the other nations (Is. 49:6). All those who responded by blessing God’s people would in turn be blessed (Gen. 12:3). Jesus is the light of the world today (Jo. 8:12). His light burns inside you as a beacon for those around you in a dark world (Matt. 5:14). You are further commanded to share with a gentle heart the hope and light within you with the people around you (1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 28:19-20). Through the Law, you are commanded to live a holy life: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44). When you are holy through moral conduct and a loving heart, your example becomes a light to others (Dt. 4:5-6; Matt. 5:14). Conversely, when you dishonor God and break the Law, you repel others: “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.” (Ro. 2:23-24). You are an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Do your actions fairly represent Christ? Are you a light to others?
Be a teacher and a witness to God’s Word4
Teach the Word to your children and others. Another responsibility that came with receiving the Ten Commandments, was the obligation to teach it to your children and others: “But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’” (Dt. 5:31). “[B]ut make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Dt. 4:9-10). “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). Parents are to look for teaching opportunities from the moment they rise, during mundane travels, and at bedtime. This was so important that Moses repeated this twice: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7). “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19). In case any Christian feels freed of this requirement, Paul is clear that it still applies: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). This was the reason why the Fifth Commandment required that children obey their parents. Do you know God’s law well enough to teach it? Do you teach your children God’s law? Do you talk about the Bible with others?
6. As You Interact with the World, Let Christ Wash Your Daily Sins. Ex. 20:23-26.
Live in the world but not of the World. Before giving the Ten Commandments, God declared that He had freed His people from the bondage of the world: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2). After giving the Ten Commandments, He reminded the people that they were not to use their freedom to return to the slavery of the world: “You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.” (Ex. 20:23). In Deuteronomy, Moses again warned the people before repeating the Ten Commandments do “not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure . . .” (Dt. 4:15-18). Through Jesus’ death, your body has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If you were once a slave to sin, you have now become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). As a slave to righteousness, you cannot follow the morals of the world (Lev. 18:1; Ezek. 20:18-19). God’s ways and His thoughts are not ours (Is. 55:8). He also does not change or evolve (Heb. 13:8). If you love the “things of the world,” more than the things of God, “the love for the Father” is not in you (1 Jo. 2:15).
Christ paid the ultimate price to free you from bondage. In the first reading of the Ten Commandments, God told the people to build an altar for sacrifice once their sins under the law became known to them: “You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’” (Ex. 20:24-26). The altar of sacrifice was necessary because the Ten Commandments exposed sin that separated the people from God (Is. 59:2). Even though many good people tried to comply with the Ten Commandments, God looked down from heaven and observed no one did so properly: “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Rom. 3:10-11). The shedding of the blood at the altar symbolized the exchanging one life for another life (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). The sacrifice had to be without defect (Ex. 12:5; Lev. 22:20; Nu. 28:3; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). Jesus was the “lamb unblemished and spotless” who was sacrificed for us (1 Pet. 1:17-19). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). ‘“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ [Christ] said to them.” (Mk. 14:24; 1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:4-5, 10, 12). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). If you claim to be “without sin”, “the truth” is not within you (1 Jo. 1:8). Likewise, if you return to the bondage of sin that Christ freed you from, how much do you appreciate His sacrifice for you? You can give thanks to Jesus for what He has saved you from by making your life a living sacrifice for Him (Rom. 12:1).
We must wash our sins by reading the Word and confessing our sins. Even after we are saved by Christ, we must still wash ourselves of the sins of daily life (Lev. 1:9). At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). In other words, Christ died once for our sins, but our flesh gets dirty each day and must still be washed. To cleanse your daily sins, you must read God’s Word to expose your sins: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). You must also confess the sins that the Word reveals to you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Are you regularly reading the Word to cleanse yourself? Are you confessing the sins of your daily life to have them forgiven?
7. Walking with God through Obedience Brings Blessings. Dt. 5:32-33.
Excluding salvation, some of God’s blessings are conditional. Through faith in Christ, you have been given: “an inheritance that can never perish . . . ” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Your attempts to comply with the Ten Commandments cannot bring salvation (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:28-30; 4:5; 10:4; Gal. 2:16; 3:24). Yet, your obedience still matters. God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments as His “covenant” with His people (Dt. 4:11-13). He concluded the post-script to the Ten Commandments by reminding the Jews that their obedience would bring blessings. These blessings included a general wellness in the form of peace and a prolonged life: “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). As Moses said when he began, the God who loved them entrusted them with His covenant and laws not to burden them, but so that they “may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” (Dt. 4:40; Lev. 18:5). “If you walk in my statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out . . . So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm my covenant with you.” (Lev. 26:3, 9). “But if you obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:21-22; see also Lev. 26:7-8; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). To have true peace “Shalom” you must trust God and be obedient (Lev. 26:6). To those who have faith and obey, He promises the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). With faith and obedience, He also promises victory over our enemies (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). By contrast, if we fail to trust God and if we are disobedient, God will bring upon us fear and paranoia (Lev. 26:14-17). Is the peace of God missing in your life or in your daily struggles? Are you claiming the blessings of peace and fellowship that come through obedience? Or, have you forced God to discipline you because of your disobedience? If you are enjoying the blessings that come through obedience, are you teaching those blessings to your children and others?