The Ten Commandments1
Introduction – The boundaries for living a blessed life: Today, the Ten Commandments are best understood as the responsible use of God-given liberty. In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers of America recognized that God was the source of our freedoms: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As the founding fathers of America understood, God wants us to be free from tyranny and prejudice. Because God loves liberty, He gives us all free will. But He also is a God of order. He does not want us to use our freedom to rebel against Him. He wants to bless us. Yet, when we misuse our liberty to do evil, He cannot do so. Adam and Eve had complete freedom. But they misused their freedom and rebelled against God’s instructions. The results were disastrous. Where are our boundaries within which to exercise our God-given freedom while still enjoying His blessings? Our boundaries lie within the Ten Commandments.
Introduction – the forgotten boundaries of the Ten Commandments. Sadly, mankind’s knowledge of God’s Ten Commandments has gradually eroded over time. The early Jews understood that the Ten Commandments were so important that they recited them every day. That practice ended shortly after Jesus’ death. Although the exact reasons are disputed, some believe that the rabbis removed the Ten Commandments from the daily liturgy to dispute a claim by early Christians that God handed down only the Ten Commandments and not the rest of the law at Mount Horeb /Sinai. Although the daily reading of the Ten Commandments ended at that point, both Christians and Jews for centuries considered them central to their faiths. Many of the founding fathers in the United States openly embraced the use of the Ten Commandments in civil law. According to historian David Barton, all of the Ten Commandments were once incorporated into the laws of the original 13 Colonies. The only exception was Rhode Island. Yet, it omitted only the first Four Commandments from its civil laws. Even today, the Ten Commandments are carved into a marble frieze above the heads of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Yet, beginning in the 1960s, America began to rebel first against itself and then against any references to God and Biblical morality in public life. In 1980, after a long series of court battles, the United States Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to require public schools to post the Ten Commandments in each classroom (Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)). In 2005, the Supreme Court also held that a Kentucky court’s display of the Ten Commandments was also unconstitutional (McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union, 545 U.S. 844 (2005)). Although these rulings were not responsible for America’s ignorance of the Ten Commandments, they symbolized the increasing secularization and humanism that came to dominate American thought. Yet, the greatest fault for the decline in our knowledge of the Ten Commandments is with the Church, not the state. The Church has done little to ensure that its believers know the Ten Commandments the same way the early Church did. Amongst practicing believers, few today could recite all Ten Commandments. Even fewer could explain how they remain relevant and vital to our society. Hopefully, this study will challenge you to know the Ten Commandments and be able to explain to others why they are vital to our society.
God’s covenant with us: Although the Ten Commandments consist of many words, they are sometimes referred to as the Greek term “Decalogue” or “ten words”. The word Decalogue in Greek “δέκα λόγους” comes from the two root words for ten “δεκά” and word “λογος.” In the original Hebrew, the Ten Commandments “עשרת הדברות,” pronounced as Asereth ha-Dibroth, translate as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters.” Amongst the 603 other laws that Jews have counted in the Torah, the Ten Commandments are unique because they are the only laws “written with the finger of God.” (Ex. 31:18). The Ten Commandments represent His covenant with us for receiving the fullness of His blessings here on Earth. For non-believers, they also set forth the conditions for living eternal life with God in heaven as well. Although we can never hope to live up to our side of the contract, Jesus paid the price for our breaches and our failure to perform. For a believer in Christ, God will honor His contractual promises in full. Unless we study the Ten Commandments, we have little reason to be thankful for what Jesus did for us. Without studying the Ten Commandments, we cannot fully appreciate how far we fall short of God’s terms and conditions for eternal life.
The wedding that wasn’t completed. In Hebrew, a couple enters into the wedding contract before they dwell together. In Jeremiah 2:2, God tells us that He was betrothed to Israel. He was faithful to His bride (Ps. 18:25). He therefore implored the Jews to return to their husband: ‘“Return faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband.’” (Jer. 3:14). And at Mount Horeb, God made a marriage contract. The Jews accepted God’s marriage proposal: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Ex. 19:1-8). Yet, a wedding contract must be signed by a friend of the bride and a friend of the groom. Moses was a friend of the bride, Israel. But God did not allow him to sign the contract. Instead, Moses broke the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:19). The sin that caused the people to break the wedding contract was spiritual adultery and idolatry. Rather than accepting their bridegroom and waiting on Him, they made for themselves a new bridegroom out of a golden calf (Ex. 32:24). Adultery is the one sin that Jesus said would justify divorce (Matt. 5:32). God then killed off the entire generation that sinned against Him in the wilderness. Only two witnesses to the contract, Joshua and Caleb, would be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments2
The new wedding proposal. Although God killed off the generation that broke the wedding contract, He extended the same contract to future generations of believers. When Moses repeated the Ten Commandments to the next generation in Deuteronomy, he did something intriguing. He emphatically stated that it was not their forefathers who received the covenant at Mount Horeb, it was them: “The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.” (Dt. 5:2-5). Based upon Moses’ words, the Jews have taught for centuries that the covenant was made with every Jew who has ever lived, even those who were never there. In the same way, Christ paid for the sins of everyone, even the people who were born centuries later. All people need to do is believe in Him.
Extending the proposal to all the nations. In addition to making a wedding contract with the Jews, God wanted to offer this to other nations as well. This was to fulfill His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 32:12; Heb. 11:12). God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments because He wanted His people to be Holy (Ex. 19:6; Lev. 11:44; Is. 42:6). As a result of being holy, He expected the Jews to become a light to the rest of the world (Is. 49:6; 60:3). He wants us to be Holy as well (1 Pet. 1:16; 2:9). Through moral conduct based upon His law, we become a light to others (Dt. 4:5-6; Matt. 5:14). Conversely, we dishonor God and repel others when we break the law (Ro. 2:23-24).
The future wedding. Jesus will one day complete His marriage with His Church (Rev. 19:7-14). The bridegroom and the bride then are able to dwell together (Rev. 20:4).
The guide posts of person protection. The number ten also symbolized God’s protection. God requires order. The Ten Commandments were kept inside the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:16; Heb. 9:4). This symbolized the order required for God to be present. The tabernacle was protected with ten curtains (Ex. 26:1; 36:8). It was held up by boards that were to be exactly ten cubits in length (Ex. 26:16; 36:21). There were exactly ten pillars with ten sockets (Ex. 27:12; 38:12). These served as a barrier between man’s sin and God’s holy shekinah glory. Without these barriers of protection, the people would die (Ex. 33:20). The Ten Commandments therefore provided protection from our own sinful hearts by guiding our choices as free individuals. We all are given free will and liberty to live our lives as we choose. Yet, only when we live within the guideposts of God’s protection will we enjoy the fullness of His blessings and His protection from the evil one. Stepping outside the protection of the Ten Commandments is like moving from the safe zone in a war area to an active area of combat. You might get lucky and escape the “fiery darts” of the evil one (Eph. 6:16). Yet, chances are that you won’t.
The guideposts of protection for society. The Ten Commandments are also important to the protections of a society. They govern our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with each other. The first five Commandments govern our relationship and worship of God as a society. The last five, with the Fifth Commandment falling into both categories, govern our relationships with each other. They protect the bonds between generations, the Fifth Commandment, the greatest injury to a person, murder (the Sixth Commandment) and the greatest injury to the bonds within a family, adultery (the Sixth Commandment). The remaining Commandments are also crucial to, among other things, the protection of a legal system that promotes and protects commerce, (the prohibition against bearing false witness), the protection against theft and the protection against a host of self-destructive behaviors that flow from coveting.
God’s revelation of the need for salvation through Christ. The number ten also symbolized God’s complete revelation of the need for salvation through Christ. Through the Ten Commandments comes the knowledge of our sins (Ro. 3:20). God brought exactly ten plagues on Egypt. The ten plagues symbolized God’s judgment. The Egyptians symbolized the flesh and our old lives in bondage to sin. Like the Egyptians, we too have been judged under God’s law. Even Moses, the giver of the law, could not comply with it to enter the Promised Land. The people needed someone to atone for their sins. Again using the number ten, God revealed the answer to the Jews’ dilemma centuries before they even knew that they had a problem. Hidden in the names of the first ten generations from Adam to Noah, God revealed that He would send His son to die for the people’s sins. In Hebrew, each name has a meaning. The following is the translation of each of the first ten listed generations: (1) Man (Adam) [is] (2) appointed (Seth) (3) mortal (Enosh) (4) sorrow (Kennan) [but] (5) the blessed God (Mahalalel) (6) shall come down (Jarred) (7) teaching (Enoch) (8) His death shall bring (Mathuselah) (9) the despairing (Lamech) (10) comfort (Noah). Christ also confirmed His divinity as our savior. Exactly ten times in the Book of John, He revealed Himself as God.
God’s revelation of faith. The Ten Commandments also reveal our need for faith in God as we are tested with our willingness to comply with them. Abraham had ten trials of faith. These include: (1) his willingness to leave his old life in Haran behind, (2) his flight to Egypt from the famine, (3) the Egyptian king’s seizure of Sarah, (4) his willingness to fight for Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, (5) his taking in Hagar, (6) his circumcision, (7) the second seizure of Sarah at Gerar, (8) the expulsion of Ishmael, (9) the expulsion of Hagar, and (10) the offering of Isaac. Ten also reveals faith in other portions of the Bible. The Lord’s Prayer, for example, has exactly ten parts.
“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:2-3; Dt. 5:6-7).
The first five commandments3
To many people, the First Commandment may seem like the easiest commandment to obey. The formal worship of multiple deities is mostly limited to Hinduism and the remaining indigenous religions of the world. For those who accept that God exists, most people have accepted that only one God exists, even if they disagree as to who He is. Yet, the First Commandment governs more than the formal worship of a deity. It governs who you serve with your time, talents, thoughts, and treasures. According to the Apostle Paul, we are slaves to whatever we serve: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). Paul also tells us not to trust in our riches but in the God who provides them: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17). In other words, if your heart is focused on your money, yourself, success, reputation, or something else, that is your “god.” Thus, an atheist, a humanist, a secularist, or a carnal believer are all just as guilty of breaking this Commandment as the person who worships a pagan god. Once we understand and accept this, we must come to accept that the First Commandment is both the hardest commandment to obey and the one that we most frequently break. With the struggles and stresses of life, keeping God at the center of your life requires constant effort. Ask God to reveal if your “treasure” is with Him or if it lies in prestige, recognition, work, money, family, lust, or something else. If God is the focus of your life, how often do the stresses and struggles of the world overtake Him?
Satan was the first to break the First Commandment. He loved his own beauty as an archangel so much that he sought to have others worship him (Is. 14:12-14; Ez. 28:14-19). He later tried to tempt Jesus with the world by asking that Jesus worship Satan (Matt. 4:9-10; Lu. 4:7-8). Satan’s tool is deceit: “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.” (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). He lied to Eve by promising her that she could become “like God” if she ate from the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:4-5). Throughout the Bible, he has tried to entice God’s people to turn from God by worshiping other gods, idols, or other men (e.g., “Baal” and Ashtaroth - Judges 2:13-15; 10:6-14; Dan. 3:5-18; “the creation” Ro. 1:25). During the end times, Satan will again seek to have others worship him (Rev. 13:8-12). The day of judgment will come after Satan again “exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” (2 Thess. 2:1-4).
Many people serve God intensely. Yet, our service to God is frequently divided. Once we understand that God will not accept divided allegiances, we realize how frequently we fall short in complying with this commandment: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). “[B]ecause the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,” (Ro. 8:7). “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is god, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kin. 18:21). “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15). Are you divided in your heart between the things of God and the things of the world? Do you seek recognition, wealth, or power for yourself? If so, you are “double minded” in your faith, and you have fallen short of the First Commandment.
The First Commandment has always been about love. Before stating that they must have only one God, God reminded the people that He loved them enough to bring them out of bondage from Egypt (Dt. 5:6; Ex. 20:2). While the Jews traditionally quote the reference to Egyptian bondage when quoting the First Commandment, both Protestants and Catholics traditionally drop this preceding verse when quoting the First Commandment. As a result, the love behind the commandment is sometimes lost on people. God did not want their worship merely because He is an abstract God. He wants their worship because He loves them. Once we understand this, Jesus’ summary of the first half of the Ten Commandments makes more sense. A Pharisee lawyer once sought to test Jesus. He asked Jesus to name the greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:34-35). Jesus responded by quoting Moses to identify the “greatest” commandment: “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:35-38; Dt. 6:4-9; 10:12-13; Ex. 20:1-8). Although this may sound easy at first, Jesus warns that your heart lies in what you “treasure” in life. Because love comes from God, it is the only kind of love that endures: “[F]or love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 Jo. 4:7-8). If we love God, we will want to keep His commandments out of love: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments ; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 Jo. 5:3). Jesus’ test for you is whether you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Would you pass this test? Or, do you at times love other things more than God?
Before Jesus came, God condemned the Jews for turning their worship of Him into mindless ritual: “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21; same Is. 66:3). Jesus also warned that if we worship Him out of ritual or based upon the doctrines contrived by mankind, we worship Him in “vain”: “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Mark 7:7). Paul attempted to have people worship with their hearts by freeing them from obligation to follow the dietary and certain other Old Testament laws. Yet, Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, brought Paul before the judgment seat and accused him “persuad[ing] men to worship God contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:12-13). Are you showing up to church on Sundays out of ritual? Do you feel like you are going through the motions when your church observes major holidays like Christmas and Easter? Do you mouth the words of worship songs? Do you quickly repeat the Lord’s Prayer without thinking about what you are saying? All of these things constitute worthless rituals.
While many may be comfortable with generic prayer references to “God,” the prayers become controversial if they include Jesus’ name. There is only one God (Dt. 32:39; Is. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5). Yet, Jesus is equal to the Holy Spirit and God the Father: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 22:13). “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (Jo. 8:58-9; 10:30, 38). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh.” (Jo. 1:1-3, 14). When Jesus made a post-resurrection appearance to Thomas, the disciple worshiped Him by calling Him: “my Lord and my God.” (Jo. 20:28). Paul also worshiped Jesus as the Creator of all things (Col. 1:16-17). The wise men also came to “worship” Jesus at His birth (Matt. 2:2). When you pray out loud, do you include Jesus’ name? Or, do you remove His name from your prayers so as not to offend others around you?
As society has become informal in work and in relationships, the modern Church has tried to adapt to meet people where they are. If you want to be informal about everything in life, surely God must be fine with that in our worship as well. But the Bible tells us that we are to be reverent in our worship: “Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” (Ps. 2:11). “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Ps. 95:6). “Worship the LORD in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth.” (Ps. 96:9). “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His footstool; Holy is He.” (Ps. 99:5). “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the LORD our God.” (Ps. 99:9). “Let us go into His dwelling place; let us worship at His footstool.” (Ps. 132:7). “For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. (Ps. 96:4). Jesus began the Lord’s prayer by referring to God the Father’s Holy name: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (Matt. 6:9). Are you reverent in your worship? Do you refer to God as being holy, awesome, or powerful in your prayers? Do you dress appropriately for church?
Worship is also a time to give thanks and acknowledge that all that is good in your life comes from God (Ja. 1:17). He loved us so much that He sent His son to die for us and to give us eternal life (Jo. 3:16). “Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loving-kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Ps. 107:8-9). ‘“Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God” (Dt. 26:10). “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.”’ (Dan 3:28; Zec. 14:16). “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good . . He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary . . Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Ps. 107:1, 2, 22; 116:1, 17-18). In “everything”, you are to “give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18; Phil. 4:6). Do you regularly thank God for all that is good in your life? Or, do you take credit for your accomplishments?
God will not withhold any good thing from you when you walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11; 19:7). Yet, failing to worship God as He requires will only lead to sorrow and heartache in your life. For the unsaved, the penalty for worshiping other gods is death (Dt. 13:6, 10; 17:2, 6; Ex. 22:20). “It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish.” (Dt. 8:19). “So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel . . .” (Jdgs. 2:13-15). “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth . . . The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines . . . so that Israel was greatly distressed . . .” (Jdgs. 10:6-14). “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel . . .” (1 Kin. 9:6-7; Ex. 20:5; Dt. 5:9). If you seek fulfillment in things other than God, God may remove His protections from you. False gods will inevitably disappoint. Only worshiping God will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
As you study the First Commandment, your sins will become known to you (Ro. 3:20; 7:7). The law is a mirror that reflects your sins (Jam. 1:22-25). Our God is “jealous” of anything that draws you from Him (Ex. 34:14; Dt. 5:9). “You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.” (Ex. 23:24). “They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth ; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.”’ (1 Sam. 12:10). Your study of the law should also make clear you can never fulfill it on your own. Only through your redeemer Christ is your salvation possible (Ro. 3:9-12; Gal. 2:16; 2:21; 3:23-24). Is there any area that you are convicted to repent of where your worship is divided, irreverent, or ungrateful? Have you given thanks to Jesus that, because of Him, your prior transgressions of the First Commandment will not cause you to lose your salvation?
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10).
Introduction: The First and Second Commandments are so closely related that, unlike Jews and Protestants, Catholics and Lutherans teach that they are both part of the First Commandment. In the Fifth Century, St. Augustine merged the first two Commandments together and divided the Tenth Commandment against coveting into two separate Commandments. The Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther and later the Lutheran Church adopted the Augustinian method of counting. Both the First and Second Commandments prohibit the worship of other gods. This includes both alleged deities and things of the world that you depend upon. Jesus also spoke of these two commandments together. He advised that the desire to follow both Commandments will be a natural outgrowth of your walk with God if you “love the Lord God with all your heart, and all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:35-38; Dt. 6:4-9; 10:12-13; Ex. 20:1-8). Yet, despite their similarities, the Second Commandment has a separate and distinct role in our worship. In addition to addressing who you worship, it also addresses how you worship God. As set forth below, sometimes even well-meaning worship of God can go astray when we seek to create physical images of God. The first part of this study will provide a historical overview of how Christians have struggled with the role of religious icons over the centuries. The second half of this study deals with areas where all believers struggle to comply with this Commandment. The Apostle Paul also directly linked the Second Commandment with the Tenth Commandment against coveting. The struggle against coveting and the things of the flesh is something where all believers must remain vigilant and repent when temptation overtakes us.
A central dividing line between Protestants and Catholics is whether the use of images for God the Father, Jesus and / or the saints is idolatrous.
a.) An overview of the historical Church divisions regarding the use of religious images. Dating back to the earliest believers, the Church has gone back and forth between whether to embrace or reject religious images in worship. From the Catacombs of Rome, pictures left behind from the first believers show that they used pictogram symbols like the fish and the Lamb of God to represent Jesus. Over time, early believers began to use religious images in worship more freely. In 313 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine I proclaimed in the Edict of Milan that all religions throughout the empire would be tolerated. He converted to Christianity and began the state-sponsored building of large churches with mosaics of Jesus and the saints. Yet, in 726 A.D., 415 years later, Emperor Leo III decreed that the use of religious icons violated the Second Commandment. Between 730 and 787 A.D., a period referred to as Byzantine iconoclasm, the Church destroyed religious images. But this was not the last word on the matter. In 787 A.D., 61 years later, a counsel of religious leaders called the Second Council of Nicaea reversed Emperor Leo’s decree. But that again was not the end of the controversy. In 815 A.D., 28 years later, another religious counsel reversed the 787 A.D. ruling and banned the use of religious icons. Yet, the controversy would simply not go away. In 843 A.D., after another 28 year-period, another counsel met to reconsider the subject. It decided that it was permissible to venerate religious icons. For the next 680 years, the debate largely subsided. Both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches extensively used religious icons as part of their regular worship. The two churches, however, drew slightly different lines in deciding what is and is not permissible. The Roman Catholic Church adopted a slightly more liberal approach. It taught that a person could use the “likenesses” of any religious object or person for worship so long as the object itself is not worshiped. Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church taught that images of Christ in His human form were not prohibited. Yet, it differed from the Roman Catholic Church in prohibiting images of God the Father. Thus, it never would have permitted Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation of Adam with God the Father reaching out to Adam. Beginning in the 1530s, the Protestant reformers shattered the truce that existed regarding the use of religious icons in worship. John Calvin argued that the use of religious icons in worship violated the Second Commandment. Martin Luther also pushed for changes. Yet, he was less opposed to the use of publicly displayed religious images than Calvin. Luther’s main objection was to the Roman Catholic Church’s practice of using religious images to evoke the saints. Thus, while Calvinists removed all religious images from worship, Lutherans did not. The Amish are the only Christian group that forbids the use of images in secular life. To answer where we are to draw the line today, we must look to Scripture.
b.) Examples of well-meaning religious images that crossed God’s line. The best example of how the well-meaning use of images can turn to idolatry comes from the Jews’ decision to build the golden calf at Mount Horeb. When Aaron built the golden calf, he did not intend to create a new god. He instead tried to use a golden calf to depict Yahweh so that the people could touch and look upon the deity that delivered them from Egypt. ‘He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” (Ex. 32:4). God did not accept the well-meaning but misguided attempt to worship Him. He told Moses that the Jews’ worship of Him had become corrupted: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them.” (Ex. 32:7). Even though well meaning, their corrupt acts resulted in their deaths (Ex. 32:27). The Jews later misused the bronze serpent in a similar way. In a foreshadowing of Jesus, the bronze serpent symbolized God’s power to heal those afflicted from their own sins when they looked upon it in faith (Nu. 21:8; Jo. 3:14). Yet, the people later began offering incense (a symbol of prayer) to the symbol and not directly to God. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, King Hezekiah ordered his men to destroy this symbol of faith that had become idolatrous (2 Kings 18:4). Although that symbol has been expunged from Jewish worship, it can still be seen today as the symbol used for the medical profession in many parts of the western world.
c.) Avoid all symbols or statutes for prayers to the saints or Mary. If a Christian offers prayers directly to a statue of a saint, Jesus’ mother, or some other physical sign, the Christian’s sin is no different than that which King Hezekiah condemned. Jesus taught that worship should be directed to only God alone (Matt. 4:10). There is also only one mediator between man and God, Jesus Christ: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, praying or petitioning to Mary, the saints, or any other person usurps the role that God the Father has appointed exclusively to Christ. It also most likely violates the Second Commandment.
d.) Religious symbols that God found acceptable. Although some might feel that the rules on this subject are black and white, the Bible is clear that not all religious images are prohibited. God, for example, told Moses to add cherubim figures on the curtain which separated the tent of meeting from the Holy of Holies (Ex. 26:31). Jesus also stated that because His disciples had seen him, they had seen God the Father (Jo. 14:7-9). Paul also referred to Jesus as the “image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15). Thus, we need not recoil simply because someone has created an image of Jesus.
e.) Worship Jesus in spirit and truth. Where should we draw the line today? We should first note that everything God does is done for a reason. Jesus could not have come earlier than He did. The time of his exact crucifixion had been prophesied by Daniel. Moreover, the Jews had to learn of their need for a savior through their inability to comply with the Law. It is also important to note why Jesus did not come later. In addition to coming at an exact time to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy, Jesus also came at a point in history when His image could not be captured in an oil painting, a picture, or by video. We can infer from this that Jesus did not mean for us to know or worship His image. The definition of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). Jesus never wanted us to know if His skin was dark or light. He did not want us to know if He had dark eyes or green eyes. He did not want us to know if He had a large nose or missing teeth. Jesus also never wanted us to know if He became muscular working as a carpenter or if he was skinny. He also never wanted us to know what His hair and beard looked like. Jesus is much bigger than any image that we can create of Him. Most attempts to portray Jesus today also show Him in a more charismatic human form than He most likely had: “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Is. 53:2). Oddly, in paintings or depictions of Jesus, almost none show Him wearing phylacteries or tassels. Yet, because Jesus kept the Law, He would have worn both (Dt. 6:8; 11:18; Nu. 15:38). Jesus did not criticize those who wore them as being misguided. He instead criticized those who wore excessively long phylacteries or tassels merely to be noticed by others (Matt. 23:5). Jesus said that we should worship God the Father in His spirit form: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, . . . true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (Jo. 4:21-24; Dt. 4:12-19). Because we don’t know what Jesus looked like and because most historical depictions showing Him without Jewish attire are most likely wrong, worshiping Him in spirit is also the safest way to avoid misrepresenting what He really looked like on Earth.
When the Apostle Paul lived, the use of idols to worship other false deities was widespread. For example, he created conflict when he preached against the pervasive use of idols in Ephesus (Acts 19:26). Yet, Paul was also clear that the Second Commandment is not limited to the worship of other gods. It also addresses any desire for something physical that is not Holy, including the things of the flesh and greed: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5). David also warned against turning your job and the things that you can create with your God-given talents into idols: “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man's hands.” (Ps. 135:15; same 115:4). Jesus also warns that you must choose between a love of the world, or the flesh, or money, and a love of God: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24). Would you give up your wealth or some worldly passion if Jesus called you to do that? Or, would you be saddened by such a request like the rich seeker who loved his money more than God? “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matt. 19:21-22; Mk. 22:21-22; Lk. 18:22-23). Commentator Herbert Schlossberg once said: “anyone with a hierarchy of values has placed something at its apex, and whatever that is is the god he serves.” Likewise, commentator Adrian Rogers once said: “Anything you love more, fear more or serve more than God is an idol.” When we deny God and exalt ourselves, we commit a form of idolatry. Isaiah warned against those who proclaimed: “‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (Is. 47:8-10). Sadly, self-worship, promoted through popular culture, has become a pervasive form of idolatry today.
Although many people chase after idols, especially money, fame, or power, they only create fleeting or momentary joy for those who obtain these things. The reason for their fleeting pleasures is that they are all spiritually dead with no power to sustain our souls: “There you will serve gods, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Dt. 4:28; 28:36; 28:64). “They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see.” (Ps. 135:16). “They have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.” (Ps. 135:17). Paul also believed that idols were fake: “We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” (1 Cor. 8:4). Because an animal sacrifice had no real power, Paul had no problem if a believer ate one without worshiping it: “we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better off if we do eat.” (1 Cor. 8:8). His only warning was for believers not to eat food sacrificed to idols if the perceived power of the idols caused another believer to stumble (1 Cor. 8:8-12). The lure of an idol is also based upon a lie and deception: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” (Ro. 1:25). The idols of mankind are all death and dumb: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.” (Rev. 9:20). It is often said that money cannot buy happiness. The reason why this is true is that the money is spiritually dead. If either a rich person seeks to hoard their money or if a poor person becomes obsessed with accumulating it, the person will eventually become miserable. That is why Solomon, the richest man in the world once prayed that he would never be in a position to obsess about money: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? Or, lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Prov. 30:8-9). Do you fantasize about the lure of wealth and power? Or, do you long for the things that are of God?
As stated above, idols are deaf, blind, and mute (Dt. 4:28; Ps. 135:16-17; Rev. 9:20). For those who trust in them, they eventually become spiritually deaf, blind, and mute like their idols. “Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them.” (Ps. 135:18, same 115:8). Is it any surprise that Hollywood marriages almost always end in divorce? Should it surprise anyone that the most common thing to happen to couples who win the lottery is to get divorced? Likewise, the highest rates of depression and suicide are found in the richest countries in the world. The Western world has become rich in material things. Yet, it has become spiritually deaf, blind, and dumb from its material idols. The American writer and philosopher David Henry Thoreau said in 1854 that “the mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation.” The Bible offers a path that does not involve a quiet life of desperation. The Bible instead offers a life of joy. Yet, you must first leave behind the idolatrous pursuit of the things of the flesh and instead seek after God.
Although idols like money have no real power by themselves, the unbridled desire for these things causes addiction and puts a person in communion with demonic forces: “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” (1 Cor. 10:19-20). God will never leave or forsake a believer (Heb. 13:5; Dt. 31:6). Yet, God cannot stop you if you choose to give into an addiction by listening to the demons over the Holy Spirit. Ask yourself what you desire most in life. If your answer is something material or the flesh, you are receiving the counsel of demons, not the Holy Spirit.
Jesus met with sinners to heal them. We should follow His example by helping those who have either strayed from God’s light or those who have never sought it out. Yet, you must be careful that your ministry to help others trapped in darkness does not become a snare in your own walk. A believer who hangs out on a social basis with another believer gripped with an addiction can easily be pulled off his or her walk. “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:3). You can also cause others to stumble in your walk through your own idolatry. You must: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9). Do you hang out with people who love the Lord and enjoy reading and following the Word? Or, do all your close friends love most things in the world? If the latter is true, should it be any surprise if you become addicted to the worldly idols of the flesh around you?
God repeatedly commanded the Jews not to turn to idols (Ex. 20:4; 20:23; 34:17; Lev. 19:4; 26:1; Dt. 4:16, 23; 2 Kings 17:12; Ps. 78:58; Ez. 20:7). This prohibition is repeated in the New Testament. “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” (1 Cor. 10:7). The prohibition against idolatry is one of the three prohibitions from the Old Testament mentioned in the Apostolic Decree: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts. 15:28-29; same 21:25). Paul lists it as one of the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Although God has given you a mind to overcome temptations, you are not to reason with something that tempts you to be idolatrous. Instead, just like sexual temptation, you are commanded to flee from anything that tempts us to be idolatrous: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14). The apostle John warns you to be innocent like little children: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 Jo. 5:21). Thus, if watching something, reading something, being somewhere, or with someone makes you stumble in an addiction, you must flee from these things or persons. Are you leading a double life in any area of your walk?
As part of the Second Commandment, God warns that He will punish both idolaters and their descendants to the third and fourth generations: “[F]or I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me . . .” (Ex. 20:3-6; Dt. 5:7-10). ‘“Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.”’ (Dt. 27:15). This can be seen in countless families today. If a man or woman lets drugs, alcohol, or lust become an addiction in their lives, their children will suffer. Many times, the damage inflicted upon children is played out again upon the children’s children. The curse that God refers to is frequently the removal of His hedge of protection. When you embrace idolatry instead of fleeing from it, you may inflict damage upon your children and sometimes even your children’s children.
An idolater who has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven (Ex. 22:20; Dt. 13:6, 10). “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5; see also Rev. 2:14; 2:20).
Through the study of the Second Commandment, any honest believer will recognize that he or she has sinned (Ro. 3:20; 7:7). We all at times put worldly lives above God. Our God is “jealous” of anything that draws us from Him (Ex. 34:14; Dt. 5:9; Ex. 23:24). Your study of the Second Commandment should again make clear you can never fulfill it on your own. Only through our redeemer Christ is your salvation possible (Ro. 3:9-12; Gal. 2:16; 2:21; 3:23-24). Is there any worldly thing in your life that you use to get through the struggles of life? If you are seeking comfort and protection through the things of the world, the things of the world have become a source of idolatry in your life.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished [or guiltless] who takes His name in vain.” (Deuteronomy 5:11; Exodus 20:7).
Introduction. For some believers, the Third Commandment is a mystery. People know that they are not supposed to use God’s name as a swear word, but that’s about it. Why, for example, did God pick this to be one of the Ten Commandments? Why does it come before the Commandment against murder? Why would God care if someone takes His name in vain? The purpose of this study is to demonstrate why the Third Commandment exists. Unless you understand the hidden meanings behind God’s many names, the rule against profaning it will have little meaning. Hopefully, once the meanings of God’s many names are revealed, you will do more than simply avoid using God’s name in a profane way. You will instead hopefully be motivated to glorify God’s name by actually using His many names for their intended purposes in prayer. Likewise, you will hopefully seek to avoid profaning God’s name through unholy words or conduct.
We start our study by examining the very different roles between Biblical names and modern names. In modern culture, personal names frequently do nothing more than to distinguish one person’s name from another. A person does not select a name for a child based upon the child’s characteristics. English speakers frequently use the term “God” in the same way. It is to some simply a means of distinguishing the Supreme Being from ordinary people. Yet, in the Bible, a name was not only a means of identification. It expressed a person’s identity as well. “A good name is to be more desired than great riches.” (Prov. 22:1).
Names that God changed in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, God changed a person’s name to tell us that He changed that person. God, for example, changed the name Abram, which means “high father” to Abraham, which means the “father of many nations.” (Gen. 17:5). Abraham became the father of many nations only through faith and God’s sovereignty. God changed the name Jacob, which means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter” to “Israel,” which means “God contended.” (Gen. 32:28). God transformed Jacob through His many struggles into a man of God. Jesus likewise changed the name Simon, which means “God has heard” to Peter, which means “stone.” (Jo. 1:42). Although Peter was a failure while Christ was alive, Peter heard His calling and became an important “stone” of His Church after Jesus died. Jesus was the Rock upon which his stone rested. These examples tell us that God sees us for who we will become, not the failures we made in our past. No matter how much we have failed in the past, those failures are forgotten when you accept Christ as your Savior.
God will one day give you a new name. If you are a believer in Christ, you will also receive a new name in heaven (Rev. 2:17). Just as Adam named the animals to show his dominion over them (Gen. 2:20), God will name you to assert His dominion over you. “Everyone who is called by My name . . . I have created for My glory.” (Is. 43:7). You can safely assume that the new name will reflect some aspect of your character that God will develop in you.
The reverence given by orthodox Jews. The Jews considered God’s name to be so holy that they did not say the name “YHWH,” or Yahweh, out of fear for mispronouncing it. For orthodox Jews, they also cannot utter His name casually. Orthodox Jews further cannot erase or deface God’s written or printed name. In Deuteronomy 12:3, Moses commanded the people that when they took over the Promised Land, they should destroy all the idolatrous temples, including any written names of the pagan gods. Yet, immediately after that commandment, Moses commanded the Jews not to do the same to their God. Based upon this commandment, some rabbis taught that the Jews could not erase or deface God’s name in any printed form.
Examples of reverence for God’s Holy name in Scripture. Jesus instructed that the model prayer should specifically start by acknowledging God’s holy name: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name . . .” (Matt. 6:9). To “hallow” a thing is to make it holy or to set it apart as being worthy of absolute devotion. Alternatively, to “hallow” the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration. Throughout the Psalms, the psalmist also specifically and repeatedly referred to the “glory” God’s holy name as an example for us in both prayer and song: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him; worship the Lord in holy array.” (1 Ch. 16:29). “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Ps. 34:3). “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.” (Ps. 29:2). “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” (Ps. 86:9). “God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel.” (Ps. 76:1). “A Psalm, a song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;” (Ps. 92:1). “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” (Ps. 7:17). “Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.” (Ps. 66:2). “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him.” (Ps. 68:4). “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.” (Ps. 135:3). Are you specifically calling God’s name “holy” in your prayers?
Give thanks in God’s name. The Psalmist also gave thanks for God’s holy name: “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” (Ps. 54:6). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 92:1). Are you giving thanks in God’s name? If you are not comfortable calling God’s name “holy” in your prayers or giving thanks in His name, perhaps you have never considered what His name means.
Overview. Commentator Walter Kaiser once stated: “What then is involved in the ‘name’ of God? His name includes: (1) his nature, being and very person (Psalm 20:1; Luke 24:47; John 1:12; cf. Rev. 3:4), (2) his teachings and doctrines (Ps. 22:22; John 17:6, 26), and (3) his ethical directions and morals (Mic. 4:5.)” His holy attributes are revealed through countless adjectives, nouns, and proper names. The following is a listing of some of the names used to reveal God’s holy character.
Adjectives used to describe God. An adjective is the most common way that a modern speaker would use to describe someone’s qualities. In the Bible, adjectives used to reveal God’s holy name and character include: holy (Lev. 11:44; Rev. 15:4); lovingkindness (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10; Ps. 144:2); omnipotent (Rev. 19:6); omniscient (Ps. 147:5; 1 Cor. 2:10); omnipresent (1 Ki. 8:27; Ps. 139:7); eternal (Dt. 33:27; 1 Jo. 5:20); everlasting (Gen. 21:33; Is. 9:6); majestic (Ex. 15:6); heavenly (Matt. 5:48); excellent (Ps. 148:13); compassionate (Dt. 4:31); forgiving (Nu. 14:18); merciful (Jer. 3:12); slow to anger (Nu. 14:18); mighty (Is. 9:6; 60:16); most upright (Is. 26:7); comforting (2 Sam 14:17); perfection (Ps. 50:2); almighty (Rev. 15:3); and wonderful (Is. 9:6). God is also called Qanna (kan-naw), which means “jealous.” It appears six times in the Old Testament to describe God (e.g., Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). Qanna expresses that God is jealous of our devotion and praise for Him alone.
Nouns used to describe God. A noun is also frequently used in the Bible to describe God’s holy name and character. Examples include, but are not limited to the following: “my redeemer” (Job 19:25); “my rock . . . my salvation” (Ps. 18:2); “my strength” (Ps. 28:7; Jer. 16:19); “my shield” (Ps. 28:7; Gen. 15:1); “my deliverer . . . my merciful one, my fortress, my stronghold” (Ps. 144:2; Na. 1:7); the “strong tower” (Prov. 18:10); “fortress” (Jer. 16:19); “refuge” (Jer. 16:19); “our shade” (Ps. 121:5); “hiding place” (Ps. 32:7); “my savior,” (2 Sam. 22:3); “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29); “the wall of fire” (Zech. 2:5); “refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2); our “purifier” (Mal. 3:3); “judge” (Ps. 82:8); “fountain of living waters” (Jer. 2:13); “love” (Dt. 7:7); “truth” (Gen. 24:27); “creator” (Ecc. 12:1); “maker” (Job 35:10; Ps. 95:6); “architect” (Heb. 11:10); “breath of life” (Gen. 2:7, Rev. 11:11); “gentle whisper” (1 Ki. 19:12); “Jah” (Ps. 68:4)(kjv); “keeper” (Ps. 121:5); “lawgiver” (Is. 33:22); “like an Eagle” (Dt. 32:11); “lily of the valleys” (So. 2:1); “living God” (Dan. 6:20); “our portion” (Ps. 73:26; 119:57); the “potter” (Is. 64:8); our “Shiloh” (Gen 49:10); our “song” (Ex. 15:2; Is. 12:2); the “Stone of Israel” (Gen. 49:24); “Scepter” (Nu. 24:17); “our Father” (Matt. 6:9); and “Abba” (Ro. 8:15). The name Abba stresses God the Father’s provision, discipline, care, and how believers are to address Him in prayer (Matt. 7:11; Jam. 1:17; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:16; 16:23; Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 1 Thess. 3:11).
The 21 Old Testament Proper Names for God. Unlike modern culture, God also has multiple proper names. Because there is no equivalent for these terms in English, they are lumped together under the generic terms “God” and “Lord.” In the order that they first appear in the Old Testament, the following is a list of the 21 Hebrew or Latin proper names for God. These names reveal things about God’s character and His identity.
(1) Elohim (el-o-heem). El is translated as “God.” As set forth below, this name is frequently used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. The name appears more than 2,600 times in the Old Testament. The name Elohim appears in first verse of the Bible (Gen. 1:1). The name references His power, His might, His role as Creator, and His attributes of justice and rulership. The name, however, is also used in conjunction with other terms to show that He is personable and connected to us. This was the name that He used when He reminded Moses that He was the God of Moses’ ancestors: “I am the [Elohim] of your father, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6). The name also provides evidence in support of the Christian understanding that God is one entity consisting of the three individuals, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Elohim is the plural of El. Any Hebrew word ending in “im” is the plural for a masculine word. While creating mankind, Moses quoted God as stating, “Let Us make man in Our likeness. . . ” (Gen. 1:26). After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, the Father Almighty declared, “The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22). Likewise, in the story of the tower of Babel, Moses quoted God as stating, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Gen. 11:7). Isaiah also referred to God in the plural form: “Who shall go for Us?” (Is. 6:8). King Solomon also referred to the God in the plural form: “Remember now thy Elohim [Creator(s)] in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw night, when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecc. 12:1). In the New Testament, God reveals Himself to be plural in the form of the Trinity. The name reflects the Triune God who created all life and the universe. It also reflects the Triune God who is connected to us through the Son who became flesh and died for us.4
(2) YHWH (Although an orthodox Jew would never try to pronounce this name, others interpret it as either Yahweh (yah-weh) or Yehowah). The name appears 6,518 times in the Hebrew text. It first appears in Genesis 2:4. Yet, God does not reveal this name to mankind until the third chapter of Exodus when He speaks to Moses. In Hebrew, the name appears with four consonants and without vowels as “YHWH.” These letters are also called the Tetragrammaton or “the four letters”. It is related to the root word Hei-Yod-Hei, which means “to be.” The name reflects that God’s existence is eternal. Jesus, Yeshua, or Yehoshûa is a Hebraic personal name meaning “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” God is both eternal and the source of our salvation.
(3) Jehovah (yeh-ho-vaw). The name Jehovah is the Latin version of YHWH. Thus, it also appears 6,518 times in the text. Jehovah is translated as “The Existing One” or “Lord.” Because the exact vowels of YHWH are missing, the exact pronunciation is unknown. The orthodox Jews therefore feared violating the Third Commandment by mispronouncing it. By Jewish tradition, Moses also feared mispronouncing it because he allegedly was a poor speaker (Ex. 4:10). To avoid mispronouncing YHWH, many orthodox Jews substitute the names Jehovah or Adonai (see below) whenever YHWH appears in the text. For the English speaker, the names YHWH, Jehovah, and Adonai are all translated as Lord or God, something God apparently never intended.
(4) El Elyon (el el-yone). This name appears 28 times in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 14:18, 19-22; Ps. 57:2; 78:35; Is. 14:13-14). It means the most high God. It expresses God’s preeminence.
(5) Adonai (ad-o-noy). The name appears in the Old Testament 434 times (e.g., Gen. 15:2; Mal. 1:6). It means “Lord” in the context of God’s Lordship over mankind.
(6) El Roi (el-rowee). The name means “the God who sees” (Gen. 16:13). This refers to God as all-knowing. There is nothing good or bad that is hidden from Him.
(7) El Shaddai (el shad-di). The name appears 7 times in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 43:14; 48:3; Ps. 91:1). It refers to the God of the Covenant. It means the Lord God Almighty, the God who is Sufficient, or the God of the mountains.
(8) El Olam (el o-lawm). The name appears at least 4 times in the Old Testament (Gen. 21:23; Jer. 10:10; Is. 26:4; 40:28-31). Olam means “forever.” It can also mean “world.” Together, the name means God everlasting, the God of eternity, the God of Ancient Days, or the God of the universe.
(9) Jehovah-Jireh (yeh-ho-vaw' yir-eh'). The name Jehovah-Jireh is a combination that appears only once in the Bible (Gen. 22:13-14). In English, the name means the “Lord will see.” In this context, it means He will see to it or provide. It is the name Abraham gave for God at Mount Moriah for providing a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac. The name is a great name to invoke when asking in prayer for God’s provision.
(10) Jehovah-Raah (yeh-ho-vaw' raw-aw'). The name Jehovah-Raah appears several times in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ps. 23:1; 80:1). The name means “the Lord saw”. Some also translate it as the Lord my healer. The words suggest an intimacy between God and His people. God is our friend and protector.
(11) Ehyeh or Ehye-Asher-Ehyeh “I am” or “I will be” or “I Am that I Am.” When Moses asked who had sent him to free the Jews in Egypt, God said to Moses, “I am that I am. . . . Thus, you shall say to the sons of Israel, I am has sent me to you.” (Ex. 3:14). When Jesus made statements about Abraham as though He personally knew him, the Jews asked him: “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (Jo. 8:57). Jesus responded: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (Jo. 8:58). At that point, the Jews picked up stones to kill him for claiming to be God (Jo. 8:59). The name expresses that God has existed for all eternity. Jesus as well is the Alpha and the Omega who has existed for all time (Rev. 22:13).
(12) Jehovah-Rapha (yeh-ho-vaw' raw-faw'). The name appears in Exodus 15:26. Rapha can mean “to heal” or “to restore.” Together, the name means the Lord or Jehovah that heals.
(13) Jehovah-Nissi (yeh-ho-vaw' nis-see'). The name only appears once in the Old Testament (Ex. 17:15). In this verse, Moses built an altar to Jehovah Nissi after He defeated the Amalekites in battle. The name means the Lord my banner. It also means Lord my miracle. This name refers to the fact that God is the source of our victories. He is the one who fights for us. This is a great name to invoke when you petition God in your prayers to fight your battles for you.
(14) Jehovah-Maccaddeshem (yeh-ho-vaw' M-qadash). The name means “the Lord who sanctifies”. Alternatively, it means the Lord who makes holy. It can also mean the Lord who sets apart. The name only appears twice in the Bible (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 20:8).
(15) Jehovah-Shalom (yeh-ho-vaw' shaw-lome'). This name only appears in Judges 6:24. The name means “the God of peace.”
(16) Yahweh Elohim Israel: (yeh-ho-vaw' el-o-heem' Yisra’el). “The Lord, the God of Israel” identifies Yahweh as the God of Israel. This distinguished Him from the false gods of the nations (Jud. 5:3.; Isa. 17:6). “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord [Yahweh], which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel (Elohim Yisra’el)” (Is. 45:3, KJV).
(17) Jehovah Sabaoth (yeh-ho-vaw' se ba'ôt). Sabaoth means “armies” or “hosts.” The name means the Lord of Hosts or Lord of Armies. The names Jehovah and Elohim appear with Sabaoth more than 285 times in the Old Testament. The name first appears in 1 Sam 1:13 and again in 17:45. This name establishes God’s sovereignty over every army. He is the king of all heaven and Earth (e.g., Ps. 24:9-10; 84:3; Is. 6:5; Hag. 1:5).
(18) Jehovah-Rohi (Ps. 23:1). The name means that the Lord is my shepherd. The name shows God’s care for His people.
(19) Jehovah-Tsidkenu (yeh-ho-vaw' tsid-kay'-noo). This name only appears twice in the Old Testament (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). The name means “the Lord our righteousness”. It also refers to a God who will make us righteous.
(20) Jehovah-Gmolah (yeh-ho-vaw' gimolah). The name means the Lord of Recompense (Jer. 51:6).
(21) Jehovah-Shammah (yeh-ho-vaw' shawm'-maw). This name only appears in Ezekiel 48:35. The name means that the Lord is present or the Lord who is there. In context, it refers to the God who will not abandon Jerusalem. Rather, He will restore it to its intended purpose as a beacon to the nations. The name signifies His personal presence during the Millennial reign.
Although the Hebrew Bible is remarkable for the number of names used for God, it sometimes does not use a specific name at all. These generic references to the “name” of God include the power of all the names listed above. For example, in two places in the Book of Genesis, Abraham called upon the “name of the Lord.” (Gen. 12:8; 13:4). In two other places, it was referred to as an act of worship when someone called upon “the name” of the Lord (Gen. 21:33; 26:25). Likewise, on two occasions in the Book of Exodus, God proclaimed His “name” to Moses (Ex. 33:19; 34:5). Three times in the Book of Leviticus, God warned first the Jews and then the gentles not to profane “the name” of the Lord (Lev. 13:21; 22:2, 32). The Third Commandment, the subject of this study, also warns against taking “the name” of the Lord in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses also commanded the priests to minister in “the name” of the Lord (Dt. 18:5; 21:5). Joshua likewise called “the name” of God wonderful (Josh. 13:18). To fully know God’s “name” means that the person has put complete trust in all the Holy attributes of God to solve any problem or dilemma that the believer confronts: “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Ps. 9:9-10). God will also protect His name: “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath.” (Is. 48:9).
The divinity of Jesus Christ’s name. Throughout the New Testament, the divinity of Christ is confirmed by the names given to Him. In Greek, the name “Theos” means “God”. The name Theos is also used for Jesus (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Likewise, in Greek, the name “Kurios” means “Lord.” The term stresses authority or supremacy. Although the term can refer to Jesus as a rabbi (Matt. 8:6), it is used to refer to Him as God as well (John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11). The term “despotes” in Greek for “Master” is also used in reference to Jesus (Luke 2:29; 5:5; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4). Jesus “manifested [God’s] name to the men who [God] gave to [Jesus].” (Jo. 17:6). Jesus also prayed “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me.” (Jo. 17:11). Many other names stress Jesus’ divinity. He is the “Lord of All.” (Acts. 10:36). He is the King of Glory (1 Tim. 1:17). He is also the King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17). He is the creator (1 Pet. 4:19). He was also called “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He is the “firstborn,” which means preeminent one (Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5). He is the only begotten son (Jo. 1:18). He is the “highest.” (Lu. 1:76). He is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). He is also the gift of God (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “Word” of God that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). He is described as omnipresent (Matt. 28:20); omniscient (Jo. 16:30); omnipotent (Matt. 28:18); and as the holy one (Acts 2:27, 3:14). He is our “all in all” (Col. 3:11) and the “heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:2). He is the “ancient of days.” (Da. 7:9). He is also the author of our peace (1 Cor. 14:33). He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). He is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). He is the Radiance of God’s Glory (Heb. 1:3). He is potentate (the supreme power) (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8). He is the Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Harvest (Matt. 9:38). He is the Lord of Righteousness (Jer. 23:6). He is Love (1 Jo. 4:8). He is the Majesty on High (Heb. 1:3). He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is also the “beginning” and the “end.” (Rev. 21:6).
Salvation comes through Jesus Christ’s name. Belief in the name of Jesus Christ alone brings the salvation (Jo. 1:12). He is both the “anointed one” and “chosen one.” (Ps. 2:2; Is. 42:4). He is the “branch” (Jer. 33:15) and the “vine” (Jo. 15:5) leading to salvation. He is the “Christ.” (Matt. 16:16; 22:42; Lu. 2:11; 9:20). He is Jesus (Matt. 1:21). He is also Jesus Christ our Lord (Ro. 6:23). He is the “door” leading to salvation for those who believe in Him (Jo. 10:7). He is the “truth” (Jo. 14:6) and the “way” (Jo. 14:6). He is the “true light” (Jo. 1:9). He is the Light of the World (Jo. 8:12). He is the Arm of the Lord (Is. 53:1). He is the Bishop of Souls (1 Pet. 2:25). He is the King of Saints (Rev. 15:3). He is the Messenger of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1). He is the Messiah (Jo. 4:25). He is the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15). He is our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). He is the Price of Life (Acts 3:15). He is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He is our propitiation (1 Jo. 2:2; 4:10). He is the resurrection (Jo. 11:25). He is the rewarder (Heb. 11:6). He is the righteous one (1 Jo. 2:1). He is our rock (1 Cor. 10:4). He is our stone (1 Pet. 2:8). He is the Witness of God (Is. 55:4). The “sun” of righteousness (Mal. 4:2). He is our Temple (Rev. 21:22). He is the Ruler over Israel (Mi. 5:2). He is our Savior (Lu. 2:11). He is the blessed and Holy ruler (1 Tim. 6:16). He is the Captain of Salvation (Heb. 2:10). He is the “fuller’s soap” (Mal. 3:2)(kjv). He is the “desired of all nations” (Hag. 2:7). He is the “just one” (Acts 22:14). He is life (Jo. 14:6). He is the living stone (1 Pet. 2:4). He is the lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). He is the living water (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “true witness” (Rev. 3:14). He is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). He is both our “cornerstone” and “foundation” (Is. 28:16; 1 Cor. 3:11). He is both the bread of God and the bread of life (Jo. 6:33-35). He is the author of both our salvation and our faith (Heb. 5:9; 12:2). He is also our “deliverer” (Ro. 11:26). He is both the “elect one” (Is. 42:1) or “the one” (Ps. 144:2, 10). He is the “horn” or power behind our salvation (Lu. 1:69). He is the holy one of Israel (Is. 49:7). He is the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16). It is the name of Jesus that everyone will one day bow down to and confess as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
The compassion, humility, and humanity of Jesus Christ’s Names. The names given to Christ reveal that He is not only divine, He also humbled Himself so that we would know that He can relate to us in our earthly needs. His other names include: carpenter (Mark 6:3); avenger (1 Thess. 4:6); advocate (1 Jo. 2:1); intercessor (Ro. 8:26-27, 34; Heb. 7:25); counselor (Is. 9:6); mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); chief shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4); the good shepherd (Jo. 10:11); the great shepherd (Heb. 13:20); the high priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 6:20); friend (Matt. 11:19); faithful and true (Rev. 19:11); faithful witness and our hope (Tit. 2:13); commander (Is. 55:4); consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25); dayspring (Lk. 1:78); crown of beauty (Is. 28:5); “diadem of beauty” (Is. 28:5); King (Zech. 9:9); King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11); the “Lamb of God” (Jo. 1:29); the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45); leader (Is 55:4); man of sorrows (Is. 53:3); bridegroom (Is. 62:5); and husband (Is. 54:5; Jer. 31:32; Ho. 2:16). He was a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23). He is the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). He is our physician (Lk. 4:23). He is a prophet (Acts 3:22). He is the prophet of the Highest (Lk. 1:76). He is a Rabboni or teacher (Jo. 13:13; 20:16). He is the Root of David (Rev. 22:16). He is the Rose of Sharon (So. 2:1). He is the Son of David (Matt. 1:1). The Son of Man (Matt. 8:20). He is the Servant (Is. 42:1). He is the Star out of Jacob (Nu. 24:17). He is also the Seed (Gen. 3:15).
The power of attorney given to use Christ’s name. Believers are also commanded to gather in Jesus’ name (Matt. 18:20). We are to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). In the book of Acts, the early disciples also frequently referred to their service, worship, and suffering as being done in Jesus Christ’s “name.” (e.g, Acts 4:18; 5:28, 41; 10:43; 19:17). The name of Christ will, however, be a stumbling block to non-believers. Christ warns that those who bear His name will be hated (Matt. 10:22). Yet, for those believers who pray in faith, Jesus has given us the legal equivalent of a power of attorney to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Jo. 14:13-14). “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (Jo. 15:16). “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (Jo. 16:23). The name is so powerful that the archangel Michael was able to drive Satan away merely by rebuking him in Jesus’ name (Jude 1:9).
Prayer in Christ’s name while doubting or mindless repetition will not be answered. If you pray with doubt about the power of Christ’s name, your prayers are worthless and will not be answered: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:6-8). Likewise, mindlessly invoking Jesus’ name in prayer will be meaningless to God (Matt. 6:7).
Prayer in Christ’s name without knowing His will also will not be answered. Jesus also said ‘“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:21-23). If we pray in Christ’s name, but our conduct or beliefs do not conform with God’s will, our prayers also will not be answered when we use His name.
A broken wedding vow or other promise profanes God’s name. Both our words and our conduct can take the Lord’s name in vain. When we enter a Holy covenant like marriage we are to make a vow using God’s Holy name: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” (Dt. 6:13). Yet, Jesus warns us that the consequences of a broken vow to God are so serious that we should not in many cases make them at all (Matt. 5:33-37). God, for example, warns us not to break a Holy wedding covenant. When we do so, we take the Lord’s name in vain. Thus, we are warned not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12).
Stealing profanes God’s name. When we steal, we not only break the Commandment against theft, we also take the Lord’s name in vain: “Two things I asked of You . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9).
Abortion profanes God’s holy name. Many persons in Canaan in Old Testament times sacrificed their children to a local god named “Molech” out of the false belief that they would have a better life and more children in the future. But God warned that this profaned His holy name: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.” (Lev. 18:21). Today, people sacrifice their unborn children out of the belief that they too will have a better life without that child. Can we really say that this is any less detestable in God’s eyes?
Showing favoritism to the rich and powerful blasphemes God’s name. For those who show favoritism in favor of the rich against the poor, James warns: “Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (Jam 2:7). Are you judging people by their outward success?
Failing to tithe profanes God’s name When we fail to tithe, we also profane God’s holy name: “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says the Lord. ‘But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.” (Mal. 1:11-14). Have you withheld any monies owed to God?
Other sinful conduct profanes God’s Holy Name. Isaiah warned about those “’Who swear by the name of the Lord . . . and call upon His name, But not in truth nor in righteousness.’” (Is. 48:1-2). Paul says that we are “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). This means that we represent Him through both our words and our deeds. If we engage in sin, we cast both His name and what it means to be a Christian in an unholy light. Is there any conduct of yours that does not reflect fairly upon Christ?
For the unsaved, profaning God’s name is punishable by death. For the unsaved, the penalty for profaning God’s name was not a quick and painless death. It was death by stoning: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16(a)). Before we casually dismiss this as an Old Testament penalty that only applied to the Jews, God makes clear that it applied to non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16(b)) “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Deut. 5:11). In many translations, the word “unpunished” is also translated as guiltless. An unsaved person who curses in God’s name also has a death penalty.
Profaning God’s name can also bring curses. The punishment for profaning God’s name also is not limited to events that happen after we die. For either the saved or unsaved person, there are consequences to profaning God’s name while we are still on earth: “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you until you are destroyed. Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God.” (Dt. 28:58-62).
Profaning the name Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven Although Jesus will pardon a non-believer who repents of his or her sins, the sin of profaning the name of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. Jesus warned that: “blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” (Matt. 12:31-32). To understand this, we must understand what the Holy Spirit does. He testifies of Christ (Jo. 14:26). A believer blasphemes the Holy Spirit when the believer rejects the Spirit’s testimony and disavows what Christ did on the cross: “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29). In other words, any sin can be forgiven with faith in Christ’s blood. Yet, if a believer consciously disavows the power of Christ’s blood, that (former) believer’s sins will not be forgiven. This profanes God’s Holy name and the power behind Jesus’ miracles.
When Satan afflicted Job, his wife at one point advised him: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Satan was at this point speaking through Job’s wife. While we might understand the word “die” at the end of this to be a mere flippant expression, Satan knew that Job would have suffered an eternal death if not a physical death if he had cursed God. When we are angry, depressed, or consumed by our flesh, Satan always tries to have us use the Lord’s name flippantly or without good purpose. Satan’s goal is to have us insult and reject each and every aspect of His Holy character as identified by the many names listed above. If someone says “Jesus C _ _ _ _ !” as a swear word, that person is treating with contempt the name that holds the power of creation over a trivial daily dilemma. We say these names when we are angry or consumed with ourselves. Do you have control over your flesh? Do you stop and pray when you are angry? Or, does Satan allow you to profane the Lord’s Holy name by your words or your conduct?
Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). Yet, He made clear that you should want to follow the Ten Commandments if you love Him (Jo. 14:15; 15:10). Paul said that through the study of the Law our sins are revealed to us (Ro. 3:20). Is there any area of your life where you need to repent? Have you used the Lord’s name when you were angry? Are you praying in “Jesus’ Holy Name?” Are you giving thanks for God’s Holy name? Do you actually use any of God’s proper names in prayer? Is your conduct profaning God in any way? Are you praying for your nation to repent?
Introduction. Unlike the other Nine Commandments, the wording of the Commandment regarding the Sabbath differs slightly between the time that Moses first gave it in Exodus and the time he repeated it in Deuteronomy. The first reading commands the Jews to remember the God of creation.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11; accord, 31:13-17).
In his second reading, Moses commanded the Jews to remember the God who delivered them from bondage.
Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-16).
Move at God’s pace and He will lead you to a better place. Beyond agreeing to what the text says, believers can agree on little else when it comes to this Commandment. They do not even agree on what number this commandment is. For Jews and for most Christian denominations, this is the Fourth Commandment. Yet, for Roman Catholics and Lutherans, it is the Third Commandment. When Jesus came to fulfill the Law, did He fulfill any obligation to observe the Sabbath? If we observe it, do we observe it on Saturday or Sunday? Can we engage in manual labor or personal errands if we are not paid? Can we spend the day at the beach or watching movies? If we give an hour or two to God at church, is that enough? To answer these questions, we examine how God’s commandments regarding the Sabbath changed throughout the Bible. If God articulated a principle in the Old Testament, did Christ fulfill the purpose behind that principle in such a way that we no longer need to observe it? What can we learn from how Christ lived His life regarding how, if at all, we should observe the Sabbath? When Paul addressed a division between Jewish and Gentile believers about when to observe a Sabbath, was he also addressing whether to observe a Sabbath at all? Will there be a Sabbath when Christ returns? To answer these questions, we turn to Scripture.
(1) For Believers in Christ, Give Thanks that Christ Paid the Penalty for Breaking the Sabbath. In the Old Testament, the question of whether to follow the Sabbath was not taken lightly. God commanded that those who intentionally violated the Sabbath be put to death: “Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.” (Ex. 31:14). The penalty of death was further carried out by stoning, the most painful kind possible: “Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. . . Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”’ (Nu. 15:33-36). “My Sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them.” (Ez. 20:13). God even sent the Jews into 70 years of exile in Babylon for failing to observe the Sabbath years to allow the land to rest (2 Chr. 26:20-21). Orthodox Jews therefore still observe the Sabbath by doing no work. Yet, Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). For believers in Christ, your legal obligations were “nailed to the cross.” (Col. 2:14). Thus, Paul says “[l]et no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of . . . the Sabbath days.” (Col. 2:16). These things are the “shadow” of Christ (Col. 2:17; see also Gal. 4:10-11). Thus, the failure to observe any Ten Commandments is no longer a test of salvation (Jo. 3:16; Ro. 10:9-10). How then should a believer respond? First, you should give thanks. If you know that your acts during the Sabbath were worthy of death under His Law, you should give thanks for the penalty that He saved you from. Yet, if Jesus spared you from the penalty, how should you use your freedom? If you spend time engaged in selfish pursuits, are you really thankful for what He did? If you are free to ignore the Sabbath, can you ignore the other Nine Commandments? To answer these questions, we turn to Jesus.
(2) For Believers in Christ, Observing the Sabbath Should be an Act of Love, not Obligation. There is a difference between what one is legally obligated to do and what one may do as an act of devotion. Jesus warns: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10). “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Whether you keep the Commandments out of love (and not obligation) is also the test regarding whether you “know” Jesus: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3). The “commandments” that Jesus referred to were the Ten Commandments. Before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb, He revealed His name to be the great “I AM” (Ex. 3:13-15). Jesus later revealed that He was the great “I AM.” (Jo. 8:57-58). Thus, Jesus gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb. As a devote Jew, Jesus further would not have casually used the word “commandments” for anything other than the Ten Commandments. The Jews carefully divided God’s Law between the Ten Commandments, the interpretive statutes in the rest of the Torah and the interpretive ordinances found in the Talmud. Thus, Jesus was not referring to either His sermons or other expressions when He said that if you love Him you will keep His Commandments. Moreover, in response to a question regarding “which is the great commandment in the Law?,” Jesus did not drop the Sabbath Commandment. Instead, He included it with the other Nine Commandments as an act of devotion that comes from our love for God, “‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:35-40; Lu. 10:27; Dt. 6:5). Thus, Jesus never excluded that Fourth Commandment from His statement that if you loved Him you would keep “My Father’s Commandments.” (Jo. 15:10). On the other hand, merely going through the motions in keeping His Ten Commandments means nothing to Him. At the end of time, some will come to Him boasting of their works or compliance with the Ten Commandments. Yet, if their works or their compliance with the Ten Commandments are not motivated by a thankful love for Him, He will respond “I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:23). He does not want your worship if you are burdened by it. The same is true with tithing. Thus, He would not want you to observe a Sabbath if it stressed you out or caused you to feel burden, loss, or sorrow. Only if you can voluntarily observe a Sabbath while feeling joy and devotion toward Him, will you fulfill “the great and foremost commandment.” (Matt. 22:8). Observing the Ten Commandments should be like observing a birthday for your children or an anniversary with your spouse. You are not legally obligated to observe a birthday or an anniversary. Yet, it is something that most gladly do out of love and devotion.
(3) Your Freedom to Observe the Sabbath Any Day Is Not the Freedom to Never Observe it. The Apostle Paul observed: “one person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must also be fully convinced in his mind.” (Ro. 14:5-6). When asked about the Sabbath, many Christians will cite this verse for the proposition that that Commandment no longer applies. Many feel emboldened to not attend church at all and spend the day pursuing personal matters. As long as the person is “fully convinced in his mind” (Ro. 14:6), some might feel tempted to say who are we to say otherwise? And most churches avoid the subject. Thus, most believers have few memorized words on the subject that the Holy Spirit can use for instruction (Jo. 14:26). What then did Paul mean? Paul was addressing a division that arose between Messianic Christians and the Gentile Christians about whether to observe the Kosher laws and whether to observe the Sabbath on its actual day of Saturday or on Sunday, “the first day of the week” when Christ rose from the dead (Mk. 16:9). Paul never addressed whether someone should not observe any kind of Sabbath. For the person who observed it on Saturday or Sunday, what mattered was that the person observed the day for the Lord and not for personal pursuits. In the very next verse, Paul observes: “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” (Ro. 14:6). For those who might feel tempted to never go to church or serve God in some weekend ministry, Paul then warns: “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Ro. 14:7-8). Paul then warns that: “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Ro. 4:10, 12). If God didn’t care how you spend your Sabbaths, He would not have said that “not one of us lives for himself?” Likewise, if it doesn’t matter what you do with your Sabbaths, God would not warn that each will stand before Jesus’ judgment seat to give “an account” of what each did with his or her time. Moreover, if you could completely ignore the Sabbath, Jesus would not have repeatedly said that if you loved Him you will keep His Commandments. Finally, if the Sabbath ended with Christ’s death, God would not have stated that the Sabbath is a covenant that would be observed “forever”: “So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever;” (Ex. 31:17). During the Millennial Reign when God’s perfect rule is restored, the Bible says that people will treat the Sabbath as holy: “‘from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the Lord.” (Is. 66:22-23; Ez. 20:12-26). If the Sabbath disappeared at Christ’s death, it would not be observed when He returns. When all Scripture is read in its proper context, the meaning of the Sabbath should be self-evident. If you devote your time to yourself, you have made yourself or the things that you pursue on your Sabbath an idol. Thus, a Sabbath devoted to yourself violates the Second Commandment. Paul’s point in Romans 14:5-6 is that if your job requires that your Sabbath be on Saturday, Sunday, or some other day, you should never feel condemned about the day you observe it. Yet, your love for God should still motivate you to spend at least one day giving thanks for being delivered from bondage. If you are ready to observe a Sabbath out of love for Him, how should you observe the day? The Bible gives you several answers.
(4) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows God to “Refresh” Your Body. In Moses’ first reading of the Fourth Commandment, he reveals that God created for six His days. God then “rested on the seventh day.” As a result, “the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:11; Gen. 2:3). God does not sleep or rest like you do: “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:4). He merely stopped creating. The day is also special because, unlike the first six days, His seventh day does not list an end to it. The reason for this is that mankind is still living in His seventh day. Throughout the Bible, God refers to His present “rest” as ongoing. Those who are not saved will never enter into it: “Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Ps. 95:11). Yet, “we who have believed enter that rest, . . . So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:3, 9). Jesus also referred to God the Father’s Sabbath as ongoing. His rest was a temporary break in creating. He continues to be involved in your life as a personal God who cares for you. After being challenged for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus responded: ‘“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working. For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”’ (Jo. 5:17-18). On His eighth day, He will create again a new Earth and a New Jerusalem (Rev. 21). He will also give believers new bodies in heaven that will not undergo death or decay (Rev. 21:4; Ro. 8:21-23). The Sabbath therefore also foreshadows a day when, thanks to Jesus, you will no longer need to tire from the daily struggles of life (Heb. 4:9-10). Thus, when you believe in Christ, God has an even better creation that awaits you in heaven. Yet, until that day comes, your body needs rest. Because of our original sin, all creation is condemned to struggle here on Earth (Gen. 3:17; 9:2; Rom. 8:19-22). Like God did, you are expected to work hard six days a week as a believer (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:10). Also like God, you too are commanded to rest from work one day a week: “[F]or in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:17). The Sabbath in turn allowed believers to “refresh themselves.” (Ex. 23:12). Jesus revealed that He is Lord of the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5). He meant to give your body and our mind the rest you need: “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. ‘So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Mk. 2:27-28). Some people, however, believe that God is holding back the best in life with restrictions. Yet, countless studies have shown the importance of rest in preventing high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, anxiety, and other disorders. As Christians have chosen to ignore the Sabbath, is it any wonder that rates of hearts disease, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress have risen? If you want God to “refresh” you (Ex. 23:12, 31:17), keep a voluntary Sabbath. Because He created you, He can do a better job restoring you than you can.
Mankind’s biological programming for a seven-day week. Because God has programmed mankind in His image, mankind has adopted a seven-day week across all cultures. Each time mankind has tried to move to a different cycle, the result has been disastrous. From October 1793 until April 1802, French revolutionaries tried to abandon the seven-day week along with other connections to the Bible. They adopted a 10-day week, called the décade. In the Bible, the number ten is a number associated with the Ten Commandments and judgment. Their experiment was a failure and soon abandoned. Communists in Russian also tried to break with the seven-day week because of its connections to the Bible. From 1929 through 1931, they imposed upon the USSR a five-day week. Their experiment also failed. In 1931, the communists tried a six-day week. Yet, this experiment also failed. In 1940, the USSR returned to the seven-day week used by the rest of the world. Despite the wide variety of cultures across the world, all use a seven-day week, and all have at least one day of rest. This is evidence of God’s fingerprints upon mankind. We are all made in His image.5
(5) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows Time to Worship and Study God. In Moses’ second reading of the Ten Commandments, he provides a second rationale for observing the Sabbath. In addition to giving your body and mind rest, you are to use the time meditating upon the freedom from bondage that God had given you. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Dt. 5:16). It is a day for believers to study and learn God’s Word. It was also a day to teach the Word to your children. As an example to you, Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue on the Sabbath (Lk. 4:31-43). Like the Jews, you have also been delivered from bondage. Like the Jews, you need to learn God’s Word. Like the Jews, your children also need to learn God’s word. Yet, Jesus freed you from the obligation to do this because He only wants your freely felt devotion: “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.” (Lev. 22:29) (NKJV). If you find it a burden to read the Bible or to sing, don’t do it. That kind of worship is meaningless to God. Yet, if you are motivated by love and not by obligation, spending at least one day studying the Word and praying will be a “sweet aroma to God.” (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3).
(6) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Gives You the Protection and Accountability from God’s Flock. You are warned not to “forsak[e] the assembling together, as is the habit of some. . . .” (Heb. 10:24-25). The reasons for this include encouraging and exhorting one another, stirring up love, and promoting good works. (Id.) Paul, for example, envisioned that believers would without question use the Sabbath to attend church so that they could, among other things, collect and set aside money for God’s work (1 Cor. 7:1). The Bible reveals that believers are like sheep, dumb and defenseless animals (Is. 53:6). Outside of the flock, you are most vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. A Sabbath that includes regular church or small study group attendance helps to protect you and keep you accountable. Have you placed yourself at risk for spiritual attack by separating from the flock? If you are part of a large church, have you found a small group or a prayer partner to stay accountable in your walk? Keeping the Sabbath with regular church attendance is also important to keeping oneself separated from the world. You are to be a salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). You are also called upon to be “unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). If your boss insists that you work seven consecutive days in a row or if your friends ask you to spend the Sabbath drinking, being part of a church can give you the courage to say no, and makes you stand out like salt in a wound of sin for God. Does your use of your Sabbath make you a light to others?
(7) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Gives You the Opportunity to Volunteer and Help Others. One of Jesus’ most interesting lessons stem from His many miracles and healings that took place on the Sabbath. While it is important that you: (1) rest, (2) study the Word, and (3) worship corporately, you are also commanded to use your time to help others. Consider the times the Pharisees attempted to charge Jesus with breaking the Sabbath. First, the Pharisees accused Him of breaking the Sabbath when He allowed His followers to eat grain in the field when they were hungry (Matt. 12:1-14; Mk. 2:23-28; Lk. 6:1-5). Jesus was merely repeating what David did for his men when they were hungry (1 Sam. 21). The poor were allowed to glean the fields so that they would not go hungry (Ex. 23:10-13; Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19-21). Jesus’ point was that “work” that involves helping the poor or the needy is not just an acceptable use of the Sabbath, it was one of its intended purposes. Second, the Pharisees also sought to charge Jesus when He healed on the Sabbath. These included the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-21, Mk. 3:1-6; Lk. 6:6-11), the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (Jo. 5:1-18), a woman who suffered from a disease for 18 years (Lk. 13:10-17), and a man swollen with fluids (Lk. 14:1). Jesus compared these acts to freeing a trapped animal on the Sabbath. He again wanted people to understand the work that involves helping others is expected on the Sabbath. The Jews had taken all the joy out of the Sabbath by their oppressive rules and regulations: “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14; Ho. 2:11). His point was certainly not to ignore the Sabbath altogether. Instead, “[t]he righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). God repeatedly tells us to practice “justice” for those in need (Prov. 28:5; Jer. 22:3; Eze. 18:21; Zeck. 7:9; Matt. 23:23). Jesus commands that you serve the poor, the sick, and the hungry (Matt. 25:31-46). When you devote your Sabbath to helping the persons in need, you are serving Christ: “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). Part of “true religion” also involves helping those in need (Jam. 1:27). If you do nothing to help those around us, your faith is “dead” (Jam. 2:17-20). As many can attest, hard work on a day off from work to serve others is more fulfilling than a day spent serving oneself. Without a day off, your busy life would not give you the chance to help others. Do you use your day off to solely benefit yourself?
(8) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Does Not Include Fulfilling Selfish Desires. For generations, both Jews and Christians have observed a Sabbath, even though the day may have differed. In Lamentations, Israel’s enemies (i.e., the devil and his demons) gloated when the Sabbath was not observed (Lam. 1:7). All 12 of the original colonies included the observation of a Sabbath in their founding charters. On May 2, 1778, then Commander George Washington ordered to the troops at Valley Forge “that divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock in those brigades to which to which there are chaplain; . . . It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example for their men.” When drafting the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers excluded Sundays for the President’s 10-day deadline to sign a bill because they assumed that the President would observe a Sabbath (Art. I, Sec. 7, ¶ 2). In the 1700s and the 1800s, most states passed laws prohibiting certain kinds of legal actions from taking place on Sundays, many of which remain in place today. In 1845, Congress nationalized the first Tuesday of November as election day. It sought to prevent some states from holding election day on a Monday because that would have required rural voters to travel on Sunday, the Sabbath for most believers. Most states also passed “blue light laws” that ordered businesses to be closed on Sundays and that alcohol not be sold on that day. Between 1859 and 1900, the Supreme Court heard eight cases involving these laws. For example, in 1885, the Court upheld a law that barred physical labor on Sunday (Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U.S. 703, 5 S. Ct. 730 (1885)). In 1961, almost a hundred years later, the Supreme Court rejected challenges under the Establishment Clause and the 14th Amendment to these laws. It upheld a law that ordered that businesses in Maryland be closed on Sundays (McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S. Ct. 1101 (1961)). Yet, in the 1960s, legislatures around the country began to repeal these laws. Prior to this time, Sunday was not a day for shopping because many stores were closed. It also was not a day for little league games because families went to church and observed the Sabbath. Today, the only vestige of the blue laws that remains is the prohibition on alcohol sales on Sundays in a few Southern states. And even that is rapidly disappearing. The modern Church has largely stayed silent as the Sabbath has all but disappeared. Yet, God intended the Church to be a salt and light to protect the Sabbath. For example, through Isaiah, God rebuked the Jews who had turned the Sabbath into a day of hedonistic pleasure. He warned that only if you spend your time devoted to God will you find true pleasure through God: “If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from speaking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord. . . ” (Is. 58:13-14(a)). At other times, Isaiah also warned against corrupted Sabbath traditions (Is. 1:13). The Jews took these warnings so seriously that it is customary not to even talk about money or business matters on the Sabbath. God gave this warning before people had the distractions available to people today. The Jews could not spend endless hours shopping, or watching television, sporting events, and shows. Their hedonistic use of their Sabbaths would have seemed rather boring today. God’s warning in Isaiah’s day should convict us today. God created the day for the purpose of rest, devotion, learning fellowship, and service. Hedonism is not a proper use of this time.
(9) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Does Not Include Personal Errands and Professional Work. During the Sabbath, the Jews were prevented from engaging in commerce (Jer. 17:21-27; Am. 8:5), field work (Ex. 34:21), chopping wood for heating and cooking (Ex. 35:2-3), and causing servants to work (Dt. 5:12-15). God repeatedly warned that He did not create the Sabbath as an extra day of commerce or for personal errands and work. Through Moses, God warned them not to spend time gathering or preparing food that required extensive cooking: ‘“Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ . . . ‘Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.’ It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” (Ex. 16:23-28). The Jews were also to stay in their houses instead of searching for food or traveling: “He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” (Ex. 16:29). Today, some Orthodox Jews will not drive or travel anywhere because of these warnings. In Jeremiah’s day, God also warned against those who used the Sabbath as a time to run personal errands, which He referred to as “carrying a load”: “But if you do not listen to Me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.” (Jer. 17:27). These warnings should give us pause about what we do with our Sabbaths. Yet, Jesus came to rebuke those who imposed burdensome rules and regulations for the Sabbath. If you need to run an unexpected errand, we should not feel condemned. He has freed us from judgment (Col. 2:16). Yet, we certainly should not make a practice of saving our personal errands or “loads” for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day for you to fulfill your obligation to “[s]et your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:2-3). When you feel we must work on the Sabbath and run errands, you imply that you do not trust God to provide for you if you observe the Sabbath.
(10) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows You to Receive a Double Blessing from God. Through your study of God’s Law your sins become known to you (Ro. 3:20). If the Holy Spirit calls you to do that, obey and correct your life accordingly. If you observe the Sabbath as an act of devotion, not obligation, God will reward you. How do we know this? We begin by turning to the book of Numbers. There, the Jews were told to make daily sacrifices or devotionals, our prayers today (Nu. 28:3-8). Yet, on a Sabbath, the daily devotional offerings were doubled, i.e., four lambs instead of two (Nu. 28:9-10). In other words, the Sabbath involved double the normal daily worship. The double worship on the Sabbath was to allow God to provide a double blessing of rest and delight. Among other things, God will “refresh” you (Ex. 32:12). Jesus promises those who are “weary and heavy-laden” rest when they come to Him (Matt. 11:28). He also promises that those who spend the Sabbath seeking after Him instead of their own pleasures will find great delight: “Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” (Is. 58:13-14). He also promises to “bless” you if you voluntarily observe the Sabbath: “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil . . . To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Is. 56:2, 5-7). The Apostle John, for example, was blessed during his devotion during the Sabbath. He received his end time revelation while “in the Spirit on the day of the Lord.” (Rev. 1:10). If you don’t spend a Sabbath reading the Word, how can God reveal His truths to you? Are you weary, heavy-laden, and in need of rest from your struggles? Are you missing out on this double blessing?
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you (Ex. 20:12).
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you (Dt. 5:16).
Introduction: The Fifth Commandment is something that believers agree with in principle. Yet, they rarely cite it. What exactly does it mean? How seriously do we need to take this Commandment today? In what way do we honor our parents? What if a parent does not deserve this honor? What must parents do to deserve this honor? What benefit is there to us when we do what God says? Why would God place this Commandment before the Commandment against murder? Although largely ignored today, the Fifth Commandment serves a vital purpose in keeping the family unit in order. God intended for a mother and father to raise their children in God’s ways and statutes. The family, however, cannot fulfill this role when children do not honor their parents’ instruction and when the parents do not give the children a reason to receive the honor that God has entrusted to them.
It is often incorrectly assumed that only the first four of the Ten Commandments guide us in how to recognize, worship and obey God. Many assume that the next six Commandments only guide us in how to live in harmony with others. Yet, God does everything in perfect order and symmetry. The Fifth Commandment applies to both our Heavenly Father and our earthy parents. It is a “bridge Commandment” that links together the Commandments about God and other people. As children of the flesh, you are God’s “adopted” children (Rom. 8:14-17; 1 John 3:2; John 1:12; Gal. 3:26; 3:29). You are also an “ambassador” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). This means that you represent Him through both your words and your deeds. If you engage in sin, you cast both His name and what it means to be a Christian in an unholy light. Thus, like the first Four Commandments, the Fifth Commandment requires that we honor our Heavenly Father. How do you “honor” your Heavenly Father? The Hebrew word for “honor” is kabeid, which can also be translated as “glorify.” You can “honor” or “glorify” your Heavenly Father in at least seven ways. First, you can study the Law so that your sins become known to you (Ro. 3:20; 7:7). You can then repent of your sins once they become known to you. Only then can God forgive you and cleanse you for His holy use (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 5:23; Mark 1:15; Acts 3:18; Eph. 1:7; 1 Jo. 1:9). Second, Jesus said, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38; Luke 10:27, quoting Dt. 6:5). This includes having no other gods or idols like money, hobbies, or your career that you place on a higher level than God. It also includes treating “the name” of God as holy through both words and conduct. It also includes keeping at least one day a week as a holy and voluntary Sabbath dedicated to God. Third, you should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 22:39-40). This includes keeping the remaining Five Commandments. It also includes practicing justice and mercy to the poor and those in need. “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). Fourth, you can pray to the Lord in holy supplication as an intercessor for others: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.’” (Matt. 6:9). “O God of hosts, restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” (Ps. 80:19). There are many examples in the Bible where God spared others from judgment after intercessory prayer (e.g., Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 11:2; 14:18-22; 16:21-24). Fifth, you can tithe out of thanksgiving to support the ministries of the Church (Mal. 3:8). This includes giving the “first fruits” of your own life (Lev. 23:17). Sixth, you should be transformed daily to be a witness to others (Rom. 12:1). This includes living by the Spirit that lives within you and not according to your flesh (Rom. 13:14, 1 Cor. 3:16). Finally, Jesus asks that you “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19).
The Fifth Commandment also requires that we “honor” our earthly parents. The family is God’s appointed institution for raising up children in God’s laws. Thus, for the unsaved, the penalty for dishonoring a mother and father was death. As a child, did you ever strike either of your parents in anger? Without Christ, your penalty would have been death: “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:15). As a kid, did you ever curse your parents out of anger? Without Christ, your penalty would have been death: “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:17). Did you ever refuse to accept your parents’ discipline? If so, your penalty under the Law was the worst kind of punishment, death by stoning: “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.” (Dt. 21:18-23). “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.” (Prov. 30:17). Because Ham dishonored his father Noah, the entire Canaanite people was cursed (Gen. 9:20-27). If you don’t know what Christ saved you from under God’s Law, His death on the cross won’t mean as much to you, and you can easily take it for granted. How do you show your appreciation to Christ for what He did at the cross? You show Him that you love Him when you follow His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10; Matt. 19:17). “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3). This includes honoring your earthly mother and father. Yet, how do we do this exactly? We turn to Jesus for His example.
Part of “honoring” a parent is providing for a parent in times of infirmity, poverty, or old age. Through His example, Jesus showed us that we should make provisions to care for our parents in their old age, even when we are not present to help them: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple [John], “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (Jo. 19:25-27). In Biblical times, the parents lived with one of their children. The children were the system of old age social security. In modern times, mankind has set up systems of taxation to provide housing, food, and medical care for people in their old age. These programs serve the noble purpose of saving lives and lifting many elderly individuals out of poverty. Yet, paying taxes for these programs does not mean that you can forget about your elderly parents. Jesus condemned those who claimed that they did not need to help their elderly parents because they had already tithed: “Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matt. 15:3-6). Today, many elderly people in nursing homes have their physical needs met. Yet, they receive no love from their children. There are many sad circumstances where a parent can no longer recognize a child to appreciate his or her love. Yet, there are even sadder circumstances of lonely elderly parents who have their mental faculties, but their children make little effort to see them. “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Prov. 23:22). If you feel too busy to visit an older parent or grandparent, remember that this is one of the uses of the Sabbath that God would encourage.
In addition to providing for a parent in need, God commands you to submit to a parent’s authority: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ep. 6:1). “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” (Col 3:20). Your obedience will “honor” your parents by bringing them joy: “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother.” (Prov. 15:20). “The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” (Prov. 10:1). “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.” (Prov. 17:21, 25). “A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” (Prov. 19:13). God commands that you submit to His appointed leaders, including your parents. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb. 13:17). First, you submit to God through his Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20; Heb. 13:17). Second, you submit to your civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, you submit to your parents (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). All of Satan’s 12 rebellions in the wilderness sought to depose Moses as the leader of the Jews. Satan tries to make us rebel against each of these three institutions of authority. In quoting a prophecy, Jesus revealed what happens when we submit to Satan’s attempts to make us rebel: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). You must accept a parent’s authority, even when you are being punished: “A wise son accepts his father's discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” (Prov. 13:1). When you say that you can make better decisions than your parents, you in effect covet their authority over you. Satan’s covetousness and his pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Those who “covet” are disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). When you seek to usurp your parent’s authority over you, you also break the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17). You are to be an imitator of Christ’s leadership (1 Thess. 1:6; 1 Cor. 11:1). You are not to follow the doctrines of men when they suggest that you ignore authority. This includes your parents’ authority (Col. 2:8).
God uses His leaders as His “avengers” to administer His justice (Rom. 13:4). This includes parents. God even uses the parental relationship to show that He must discipline us out of love. “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19). “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7). “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5). If a parent does not discipline a child, the child will become spoiled: “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Prov. 3:24). Yet, we must never disciple out of anger. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). When (not if) you discipline your child, make sure that you are doing so out of love and not the flesh.
A parent’s authority is not without limits. A child is only required to submit to a parent acting within the scope of his or her God-given authority: “[O]bey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ep. 6:1). A parent’s sins can in fact be passed down from generation to generation unless the children break the parent’s sins. For example, a parent who has an idol like alcohol or drugs can inflict punishment through his or her selfish conduct on both his or her children and even the grandchildren: “[F]or I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Ex. 20:5). This does not mean that children will suffer eternal judgment because of the sins of their parents (Ezek. 18:20). Yet, just as you should not submit to a government that tries to cause you to reject Christ’s teachings (e.g., Acts. 4:19), you should not submit to parents if they abuse you. Abused children frequently carry on a cycle of abuse from generation to generation.
What do you do when you feel persecuted by one or both of your parents? First, you show them love and pray for them: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44). Second, to the extent you have added fuel to a cycle of conflict and strife, you must apologize and repent for your own actions (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 5:23; Mk. 1:15; Acts 3:18; Eph. 1:7; 1 Jo. 1:9). Third, you must forgive your parents for the times they have sinned against you. One of Christ’s last seven statements before His death was the following prayer: “Father forgive them for they known not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). God will not forgive you if you hold onto resentment towards one or both of your parents: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions” (Mk. 11:25). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:36). “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15; 18:34-5; Mk. 11:26). This does not mean that a parent’s crimes against a child should go either unreported or unprosecuted by civil authorities. A victim can and should be removed from an abuser’s house to allow God’s appointed civil officials to prosecute the guilty parent. Yet, the victim can free him or herself of a lifetime of bitterness by forgiving an oppressive parent. Forgiveness will allow the victim to release emotional baggage that he or she may carry against the parent for a lifetime. It also will help free the victim from ruining his or her relationships with his or her children and spouse. Forgiveness is the greatest gift that you can give yourself.
In the New Testament, Paul warns: “do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22). You will know Godly leaders by their fruits (Matt. 7:16, 20). A prospective leader must be content (1 Tim. 6:6-9). The leader must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2). The leader also must not be “addicted to wine or be pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:6-10). A leader must further not be a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6). A leader must also lead by being a servant to others (1 Tim. 6:2). Finally, a leader must also show that his or her children follow the Fifth Commandment: “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” (1 Tim. 3:4). Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households (1 Tim. 3:12). Thus, a child who selfishly rebels may disqualify his or her parent from leadership within the Church.
With the Fifth Commandment, parents have been given a great honor. God has given you His children as a “gift”. “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Ps. 127:3). God has given you this “gift” for a reason. It is not to comfort yourself. You are both a spiritual guardian and a steward of a child-like mind that will hopefully become a God-fearing adult: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” (Heb. 13:17). God shows “lovingkindness” to you (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10; Ps. 144:2). Do the same with your children. God is “compassionate” to you (Dt. 4:31). Be the same with your children. God is both “forgiving” (Nu. 14:18) and “merciful” with you (Jer. 3:12). Be the same with your children. God is “comforting” with you (2 Sam. 14:17). Be the same with your children. God provides for your needs, not your wants (Matt. 6:25-34; Jo. 6:33-35). Do the same for your children. This includes providing an inherence for your descendants (Prov. 13:22). You should have a reverent fear of God when you do evil (Prov. 1:7). Your children should have a reverent fear of you when they do evil: ‘“Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths; I am the LORD your God.”’ (Lev. 19:3). God loves you (Dt. 7:7; Jo. 3:16). Love your children the same. God wants you to trust Him with a child-like faith: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3). Allow your children to trust you in the same way. Your loving Father also set the example for you by teaching you His Words: “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). God in turn expects you to teach His laws to your children (Dt. 4:9-10). “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; 31:12-13). “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). You may say that you don’t have time to learn the Law yourself or teach it to your children with school, work, and weekends packed full of activities. But this is one of the reasons why God gave you the Sabbath. Do you teach your children God’s Law? Have you raised your kids in a manner deserving of their honor?
Amongst the many blessings for being obedient to God’s Law (Lev. 26:1-13; Dt. 28:1-14), the Fifth Commandment is unique. It is the only Commandment where God included the blessing along with the Commandment. Moreover, each time God stated this Commandment, He expanded the blessings. When He first gave it to Moses, the blessing was limited to a longer life for the Jews who lived inside the Promised Land: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex. 20:12). The second time God gave it through Moses, He repeated this blessing: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Dt. 5:16). When God restated this commandment through Paul, He expanded it to include a longer life and a blessed life for believers in Christ anywhere on the earth: “Honor Your Father and Mother so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” (Eph. 6:2-3). How will God bless your children for honoring you? If you have raised your children in God’s laws, God can use the Holy Spirit to remind them of His words. This in turn will allow them to find salvation through Christ. “[F]rom childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15). God’s Word will also help them to lead lives that promote longevity: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep My commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” (Prov. 3:1-2). God will also bless you and your children through good relationships and peace: “All your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great.” (Is. 54:13).
“You Shall Not Murder.” (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17).
Introduction: The prohibition against murder is something that all societies agree to. It is part of God’s Law that is written on our hearts: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them . . .” (Ro. 2:14-15; same Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10, 16; 2 Cor. 3:3). The Bible, however, has much more to teach us about murder. God used murders to deliver His Laws to show that we all need mercy and grace and that God can forgive even the worst of our sins. Jesus expanded the definition of murder to include hatred, anger, and even name calling to show us that we all are guilty under the Law and in need of repentance. The Bible also teaches that not all killings are the same. Intentional and unintentional killings must be judged differently using standards of due process and proportionality for punishment. The Bible also teaches that some types of state-sponsored killings are permitted. These include capital punishment and certain deaths caused during wars or when a law enforcement official enforces the law. But the Bible also teaches that some kinds of killings might be ordered or allowed but still violate God’s law. These include the killings of noncombatants during war and abortion. Finally, the Bible teaches you to repent of your hatred and anger toward others. If others have shown anger and hatred toward you, forgive them so that God can forgive you. As you read this study, if the Holy Spirit reveals any sins in your life, repent of your sins and conform to God’s will for your life.
The sixth through tenth commandments6
Moses’ murder of an Egyptian. Moses did not begin his life as a saint. Instead, he was a fugitive from the law after committing murder: “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Ex. 2:11-12). “On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’” (Acts 7:26-28). Why would God select someone who had murdered to give the law against murder?
Moses was the most humble man because he knew the price of his sins before God. The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man on the planet (Nu. 12:13). Moses had no reason to believe that God selected him because of his righteousness. He has had reason to be prideful. From the Law, he knew that the penalty for his sins was death.
David’s murder of Uriah. God said that David was “a man after My heart, who will do my will.” (Acts 13:22). God also used David to write many of the Psalms and to unite the Jews. Yet, David also was not a saint. While Davis sent his troops to battle the Ammonites he slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:1-4). After she told David that she was pregnant, David first tried to deceive Uriah by sending him home from the war to stay with his wife (2 Sam. 11:5-8). When Uriah refused to stay with his wife while his troops were in battle, David then tried to deceive Uriah about the pregnancy by getting him drunk to entice him to go to his wife (2 Sam. 11:9-13). When that plan of deceit failed, David tried to cover up his adultery by writing a letter to his commander Joab to order that Uriah be sent to his death on the front lines of battle: “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” (2 Sam. 11: 14). The Bible records that the Messiah would come from the line of David: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:7; 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 132:17). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by being a descendant of David (Matt. 1:1; Ro. 1:3). Why would God pick a murderer for the line of the Messiah? If God could use David, an adulterer and a murderer, is there any sin of yours that is too great for God to forgive? Is there any past sin that should hold you back from service?
Paul’s murder of multiple Christians. Paul also killed and imprisoned Christians: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.” (Acts 22:4). “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3). “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;” (Gal. 1:13). God selected him to write most of the New Testament because Paul would know he did not deserve this honor: “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (Col. 15:9). Paul also would not have fully understood universal sin and the need for God’s mercy and grace unless he knew how much he needed it himself (Ro. 3:20). If God could use Paul for His will, is there any reason why He cannot use you?
Anger, hatred, and even name calling is murder in God’s eyes. Satan was the first to sow the seeds of murder and hatred within mankind (Ez. 28:14-16). According to Jesus, whoever murders or even hates another is under Satan’s influence and is guilty of murder in God’s eyes: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matt. 5:21-22). “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 Jo. 3:15). Have you ever been angry with someone? Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever called someone a fool, an idiot, or some other similar insult? Can you say before God that you have never violated His Commandment against murder?
If you have broken one Commandment, you have broken them all. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (Jam. 2:10). Even if you have never hated someone, but you have broken some other Commandment, are you in need of God’s mercy and grace from His punishment for murder (Ro. 3:20).
The punishment for intentional murder is capital punishment. Although some Christians believe that capital punishment is immoral, it is the punishment that God prescribed for intentional murder: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6). “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:12). “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 24:17). “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death . . . .” (Nu. 35:30).
For the unsaved, the punishment for murder is also eternal death. As set forth above, Jesus expanded the types of actions that fall under this crime. He also expanded the punishment. All unsaved murderers and people filled with anger and hatred towards others: “shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matt. 5:22; 15:18-19; Gal. 5:21; 1 Jo. 3:15).
There is nothing that you can pay to God to forgive your murder. “Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Nu. 35:31). Besides accepting in faith what Jesus did for you at the cross, is there anything that you could offer God to pay for your murder, anger, or hatred towards others?
God’s many warnings about the “hindered” prayers of sinners. For unrepentant sinners, God warns: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). If you are filled with unrepentant anger or hatred, your prayers will be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).
A person who has wronged another in secret is cursed. When Cain murdered his brother Abel, God cursed the land that he tried to cultivate (Gen. 4:8-15). This same curse applies to anyone else who murders or harms a person in secret: ‘“Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret’… ‘Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’” (Dt. 27:24-25). If you have hurt another person in secret, you cannot expect that your sins will go unnoticed before God (Heb. 4:13; Jer. 16:17).
A unaddressed murder will also defile the land. Murder also defiles the land (Nu. 35:33-34; Ps. 106:38; Ho. 4:1-3). A defiled land can bring about famine, drought, disease, and economic decline. The western world cannot embrace violence and expect to be blessed.
Our modern laws distinguish between intentional and unintentional crimes. Meditate on the following verses, for who desires credit for the laws that we celebrate in the Western world.
Assault with a deadly weapon resulting in death is a capital crime. God commands: “But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.” (Nu. 35:16-18).
Assault with hatred or while lying in wait resulting in death is also a capital crime. God also commands: “If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer . . .” (Nu. 35:20-21).
A person who commits manslaughter (second degree murder) shall not be put to death. “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.” (Ex. 21:12-13). A person was entitled to refuge confined to a city of refuge if he or she killed someone “if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury . . .” (Nu. 35:22-23).
A person who kills in self-defense is not guilty under the law. God further commanded that: “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” (Ex. 22:2). Jesus commands that we turn cheek when we are injured by another (Matt. 5:39). God’s law, however, suggests that a person who kills while defending his property and presumably oneself has not committed a crime under God’s law. Thus, under some circumstances, Christians may have the right to bear guns to defend their homes and families. Where would you draw the line between Jesus’ words and the law of the Old Testament?
The criminally insane should be treated differently. Many people cringe at the insanity defense available in Western countries. Yet, God’s law distinguished between intentional and unintentional killings. If an insane person kills without the knowledge between right and wrong, it would not be proper under God’s law to execute such a person.
Capital punishment requires at least two witnesses. “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” (Nu. 35:30). “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” (Dt. 17:6). The Catholic Church teaches that Capital punishment is morally wrong. Yet, this teaching is not consistent with the Bible. Many Protestant Churches endorse state laws requiring capital punishment when a murder is committed with “special circumstances,” but not with the testimony of two or more witnesses. This teaching also is not consistent with the Bible. Capital punishment is maligned because of innocent deaths based upon the faulty testimony of only one witness. Would these problems exist if governments used God’s standards of due process for capital crimes?
Capital punishment requires a trial by jury. In the Old Testament, a family or tribal member who tried to avenge the death of another family or tribal member was called a “blood avenger.” In cases involving death, God required that an impartial jury in a neutral “city of refuge” was to judge between the blood avenger and the accused: “[T]hen the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances. The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled. . .” (Nu. 35:24-35). The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, like the Sixth Commandment, requires the right to an impartial jury for a criminal offense: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” People celebrate this as a great achievement of secular mankind. But where is true credit due?
A soldier or law enforcement officer is God’s appointed avenger. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Dt. 32:35; Ps. 94:1-2, 16, 23; Rom. 12:17, 19). Yet, God uses government officials to carry out His vengeance: “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:14). If a soldier is commanded to kill in time of war or if a police officer shoots to stop another killing, either person is God’s appointed “avenger.” Neither has committed murder. “ Joab . . . shed the blood of war in peace.” (1 Kings 2:5-6). When a group of soldiers asked Jesus what they needed to do to be righteous, Jesus said nothing about putting down their weapons. He instead told them to be content with their wages: “Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, ‘And what about us, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’” (Lk. 3:14). Many veterans sadly carry guilt believing that they have murdered others in combat. The high rates of homelessness, drug abuse, and other problems amongst veterans indicate that this is a serious problem. Yet, if the Church properly taught God’s Law, they would not carry guilt.
A soldier must fight if his or her objections to a war are only political. God warns that: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:1-2). If a soldier does not agree with the politics behind a war after voluntarily enlisting in the armed forces, the soldier must still be obedient.
The killing of noncombatants is not allowed, even when state sponsored. In the Old Testament, God ordered the Jews to clear the Promised Land of the ungodly, including women and children: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites . . . then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them.” (Dt. 7:1-2; 7:16; 20:17; Nu. 31:7-8; Josh. 11:10-14). These commandments, however, were special commandments that only applied to the clearing of the land of Israel. Their only application today applies in the spiritual context of rooting out sin. The laws previously quoted for intentional and unintentional crimes, normally prohibited the killing of non-combatants like children because they were innocent of any crime: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people . . .” (Lev. 19:18). During the holocaust, Hitler killed 6 million Jews, including 1 million children. The Germans should have refused to follow human law when Hitler’s law broke God’s law: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Thus, there is a limit to when a soldier must obey the commands of a government. A soldier cannot object to the politics of a war. Yet, a soldier must object to the intentional killing of non-combatants, like women and children.
The prohibition against killing children. God makes each child within the womb (Ps. 139:13). Thus, child sacrifices to the gods of that time (i.e., Molech) were expressly prohibited: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21). ‘“I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.”’ (Lev. 20:3-4). Today, the god of our world is ourselves (Is. 47:8-10). Would sacrificing an unborn child to meet our own selfish desires be any less of an abomination in God’s eyes?
A society that fails to stop child sacrifices will also be cursed. God warns: ‘“If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech.”’ (Lev. 20:5). He also warns that He punished the people of Canaan for their immoral practices (Lev. 18:24-29). Their curse dated back to the curse against Noah’s son Ham (Gen. 9:24-25). He also warned the Jews that He would curse the land if they sacrificed their children: “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.” (Ps. 106:38). God does not desire that any nation or any person perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He spared the people of Nineveh after they repented (Jonah 3:10). Yet, not wanting to punish an unrepentant nation doesn’t mean that God won’t eventually do so. God repeatedly judged Israel when it failed to follow His rules. Since 1973, Americans have aborted more than 50 million babies. Should we think our nation is exempt from God’s discipline if He repeatedly disciplined the Jews?
Give thanks that Jesus Has Paid the Price for Your Sins. Without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be forgiven: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). The blood also had to be from an animal “without defect.” (Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1; 22:20; Ex. 12:5; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). Christ offered a one-time blood sacrifice for all our sins. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and releases us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners, including murders: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Is there any guilt remaining from any confessed sin in your life that is holding you back from service? If so that guilt is from the devil and not from God (1 Jo. 1:9).
Renew your mind and release any anger or hatred in your life. God is not just the God of the Spirit, He is also “the God of the flesh.” (Jer. 32:27; John 17:2). He made us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). He can also wash our flesh of any iniquity (Ps. 51:1-3, 7). We must first read the Word to know our sins (Eph. 5:26). If we confess and repent of “unrighteousness,” God is faithful to forgive us (1 Jo. 1:9; Jo. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). We must then renew our minds every day to release any anger or hatred that may form in our lives (Rom. 12:1-2). Does anger easily boil up in your life? If so, ask God in prayer to remove this from your life.
Reconcile with any aggrieved brother or sister before you go to God in prayer. If you have hatred toward someone else, Jesus says that you must first make restitution with the person you have wronged before you go to God. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Is there anyone you have shown hatred or anger toward that you have not apologized to?
Forgiveness allows you to be forgiven. If someone sins against you, Jesus says that you must forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22). If a believer does not forgive another believer, God will not forgive the believer: ‘“I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:32-35). Have you refused to forgive someone who hurt you?
Pray for those who persecute you. What must we do if another person is angry with us and will not accept our apologies or efforts to resolve the situation? We must pray for them: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44).
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18).
Introduction. Adultery was once considered one of the worst imaginable sins. But that changed with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Today, social morals have changed so much that adultery is considered an exciting part of movies and television shows. The word “adultery” has also been changed to an “affair.” There are websites that help promote adultery and couples who wish to share spouses. The penalties for adultery have also been removed with “no fault divorces.” Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. The rate of the divorce within the Church has mirrored that of society around it. The rate of people choosing not to marry at all is rising steadily. Within some communities, nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Hollywood role models divorce multiple times and have multiple partners. With the institution of marriage in such poor shape, resistance to changing the definition of marriage has also crumbled. The Church has largely stayed silent as the institution of marriage and the stigmas of divorce and adultery have changed. This study explores the Bible’s reasons for Satan’s attack on marriage and the consequences for the Church if it fails to take action. It also explores steps that should be taken to prevent temptation leading to adultery. It also explores steps that should be taken once temptation is present. This study also explores when the victim should forgive and how the perpetrator can learn from his or her prior mistakes with the goal of sinning no more.
Marriage is God’s system for raising children to know His laws. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the Bible says that they have become one (Gen. 2:24). This means that each spouse must treat the other spouse as an equal part of one unit. A leader for God cannot ignore this by having more than one spouse (1 Tim. 3:1-2). The reason for this is that the family was meant to raise up children to know God’s laws (Dt. 4:9-10). “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; 31:12-13). “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). What kind of witness are the parents if they cheat on each other or divorce? Are you a role model to your kids? Are you teaching them God’s laws?
Satan’s goal is to break down the institution of marriage and destroy its purpose. Satan’s first attack in the garden of Eden caused people to question God. His second attack was to set Adam and Eve against each other (Gen. 3:15). Today, Satan has been extremely successful in attacking traditional marriages. Even when a marriage survives, Christians are not using their marriages for God’s intended purpose of raising up Christian believers.
Satan can only offer fleeting counterfeit pleasures. The pleasure Satan offers for the adulterer does not last long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). In reference to sinners, David said: “[God] gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:105). When you have sinned in the past, did the pleasure of the sin last long?
Satan seeks to place people into bondage to sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place people into bondage and cause them to turn away from God. He seeks to make us slaves to the flesh. Ultimately, this can become a form of idolatry when it manifests in addiction. According to the Apostle Paul, we are slaves to whatever we serve: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). Satan has placed our flesh at war with God’s Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; same 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, we must pick which we will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). Which master are you serving?
Ignore Satan’s plans at your own peril. God says that only “fools mock at sin . . .” (Prov. 14:9). A sinner can become “bound by the cords” of his or her “sin” if the person does not repent (Prov. 5:22). “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions . . ” (Rom. 1:26). The unrepentant sinner will become like a dog that returns to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22). The first step to avoid becoming trapped in sin is to recognize that you are at risk.
A lustful look toward the wrong person is an act of adultery. Some might be inclined to think that these are problems for someone else to worry about. Yet, Jesus tells that the mere act of lusting after another who is not that person’s spouse is an act of adultery: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Is anyone truly free from this sin? (Rom. 3:20).
The laws of sexual purity were expanded in the New Testament. Many Christians believe that the laws of the Old Testament no longer apply. Many believe that if they no longer need to make blood sacrifices or follow the Kosher laws, why should they have to follow the sexual purity laws? Yet, Christ did not come to destroy the Law (Matt. 5:17-19). He also warned that “sexual impurities” are among the things that defiled a man (Matt. 15:19-20; Mark 7:20-23). Of the few laws that Christians are told that they still need to follow, the laws against sexual immorality are among them. We are warned to avoid “food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:20). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;” (1 Thess. 4:3). Are you maintaining the highest moral standards before God?
All fornication and sex outside of marriage is against God’s law. Christ specifically expanded the laws of the Old Testament to include not just lustful looks but all kinds of fornication and sex outside of marriage: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb. 13:4). After the temple was destroyed, the Holy Spirit resides in us (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Have you kept the temple of the Holy Spirit holy?
Remarriage is only condoned following adultery. Jesus also tightened the standards for remarriage to only allow for it in the case of adultery: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9). If Christians want to divorce because one person is mean or if they simply don’t get along, that is not acceptable in Christ’s eyes. If you know a believer who is considering a divorce, are you counseling that person to honor their vows and make the marriage work? Likewise, if you know someone who is harming their marriage, are you counseling them?
Adultery is a capital spiritual crime. God’s grace is only valuable if you know what you have been spared from: “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, the one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 20:10). “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Dt. 22:22). Have you given thanks to Jesus for what He has spared you from? Is your life a living witness to your thanks? (Rom. 12:1).
A person who breaks a wedding vow to commit adultery has a double death sentence. The rate of divorce within the Church would suggest that people believe that God does not impose a cost upon believers who break their holy vows. Yet, God warns those who have made wedding vows not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). This violates the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). Because a broken wedding vow profanes God’s holy name (Lev. 19:12), the penalty is also death. “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16). “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16). “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11). Because adultery was already punishable by death, a person who breaks a wedding vow before God to commit adultery has two separate death sentences under the law. The beginning of all knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). The Church and our nation has lost the fear of the Lord.
The sexually depraved also engages in idolatry, which is separately punishable by death. Paul warns that sexual immorality can become an idol to the person consumed by it: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). A person can become addicted to their lusts as if they were serving an idol. Because idolatry breaks the Second Commandment, the penalty is also death (Rev. 21:8; 22:15; 9:21). Thus, an adulterer who breaks a wedding vow can in fact have three death sentences before God.
The unsaved who engage in sexual immorality are barred from heaven. For the unsaved, there are eternal consequences to adultery and sexual depravity: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,… nor the covetous,… will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “But for the . . . unbelieving and . . . immoral persons . . . and idolaters . . . , their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8, 9:21). “Outside [of heaven] are . . . the immoral persons and . . .the idolaters . . ..” (Rev. 22:15). For “. . flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 15:50). “For the mind set on the flesh is death . . ” (Rom. 8:6). Thus, “[i]f you live according to the flesh, you must die. . . ” (Rom 8:13). If you have engaged in any sexual sin, how have you thanked Christ for what He has done for you on the cross? Or, have you used your freedom as a license to sin?
A person who sleeps with a harlot shares in the harlot’s sins. Paul separately warns about the consequences of sleeping with a prostitute: “Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one with her?” (1 Cor. 6:16). “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matt. 7:6). “Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.” (Prov. 7:27). “For her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead;” (Prov. 2:18). Thus, a person who sleeps with a prostitute becomes one with the prostitute and shares in her sins.
When left unchecked, lust can lead to adultery and other sins. In addition to the penalties imposed upon the adulterers, there are other consequences. David first saw Bathsheba and lusted after her: “Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” (2 Sam. 11:2). David obviously made no effort to look away. His secret lust later led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4). When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’ pregnancy and he could not convince her husband to be with her, he later committed murder to try cover his tracks (2 Sam. 11:14-17). David also became numb to his sin. He was not remorseful about sending Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to his death until God confronted him. Because of his sins, David’s physical health suffered (Ps. 38:3, 18). His family also lived in conflict because of his sins.
The Arab Israeli conflict is a result of Abram’s adultery. The Bible is full of misery following sexual sins. As a consequence of Abram’s decision to sleep with Sarai’s servant Hagar, his marriage suffered. Moreover, his descendants, the Arabs and the Jews, would live in conflict for generations to come (Gen. 16: 3-16; Hosea 8:7; Gal. 4:22-24). Thus, sexual sins can have long-lasting consequences.
Abram’s sexual sins caused a separation with God. After Abram slept with Hagar, he had to wait 13 years before God spoke with him again. When you openly sin, your prayers will be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (John 9:31; Psalm 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15). The reason for this is that sin cannot be in God’s presence, and He “cannot look on wickedness.” (Hab. 1:13). Are you doing things that might hinder your prayers?
Reuben’s tribe lost its first born status after he slept with Bilhah. Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. He was born to Leah, the unloved first wife of Jacob (Gen. 29:30-31). Reuben was entitled to a double blessing as the firstborn (Dt. 21:15-17). Yet, Reuben defiled the maid servant of Rachel named Bilhah. Under the law, sleeping with a person’s step mother was forbidden under all circumstances (Lev. 18:8). It also violated the Seventh Commandment against adultery (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). The penalty for Reuben’s acts was death (Lev. 20:11). The consequence for Reuben’s actions was that he and his future generations lost their firstborn status (Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chr. 5:1-2). Adulterers rarely think about how their actions can hurt their kids. Yet, God is filled with mercy and grace and wants none to perish. Even after his sins, Reuben’s tribe continued to be one of the 12 founding tribes of Israel.
Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah caused jealousy between the wives. It was against God’s law for Jacob to marry both Leah and her sister Rachael (Lev. 18:18). Yet, he did so anyway because of his lust for Rachel. Jealousy was one of the fruits of this unholy union. While Leah had children, Rachel’s jealousy drove her to feel that she would die unless she had a child (Gen. 30:1). Jealousy eventually drove Rachel to have her husband Jacob sleep with her servant Bilhah (Gen. 30:1-6). Jealousy in turn drove Leah to have Jacob sleep with her servant Zilpah to increase the number of her kids. She did this even though she already had four sons and she had only had one year after their marriage without a pregnancy (Gen. 30:9-10). These examples show that there can be no family peace when a man has two wives or a wife and a mistress (Dt. 21:15-17). God shows by example that every person in the Bible who engaged in this sin brought disaster to themselves, their spouses and their children. Having more than one spouse almost never results in happiness.
Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah also caused jealousy between their children. Leah’s children’s jealousy over Jacob’s love for Rachel’s children later drove Reuben to defile Rachel’s maid servant Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). Jealousy later drove nine of the boys to sell Joseph into slavery because Joseph was one of two sons of Rachel that Jacob loved more (Gen. 37:18-36). His multiple marriages sowed the seeds of misery and chaos.
If you are unfaithful to God, you also commit spiritual adultery. In addition to pain being imposed upon an adulterer, innocent spouses, and children, an adulterer also causes pain to God. God says that He is a “jealous God.” (Zech. 1:14; 8:2). Our God is “jealous” of us because He created us and joined us (Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16; Jos. 24:19; Nah. 1:2). God analogized the spiritual wanderings of his people and their disobedience to the pain that a spouse feels when the other is engaged in adultery (Jer. 3:20-25). God even told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute so that he could understand the pain that God feels when we are unfaithful to Him: “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.’” (Hos. 1:2). God warns that spiritual adultery through disobedience is so serious that He will punish the third and fourth generations of those who commit it (Ex. 20:5). The Church was meant to be a light to the rest of the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 5:14). Yet, it cannot be that light when it is mired in sexual sin and divorce. Have your actions been pleasing to God?
We are the future bride of Christ. We also have another reason to stay pure. Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 8:1). As our High Priest, He will one day marry His Church to form a bond of spiritual intimacy with it (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-8; 21:1-9). Yet, as a High Priest, He can only marry His people if they are spiritual virgins (Lev. 21:13-14). If He does not do so, He will “profane” His offspring (Lev. 21:14). We are the adopted sons of God the Father (Rom. 8:15, 23). We are therefore commanded to remain spiritual virgins to marry Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4). Your bond with Christ should be like your bond with your spouse. You are told to be sanctified and holy (1 Thess. 4:3-8; 1 Peter 1:14-16). Your body is now the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (Matt. 6:22-23). You misrepresent the light of God to others when you engage in adultery, lust, or fornication.
Live in the world but not of the world. The Jews were warned to only follow God’s Law (Lev. 18:1). When the Jews later invaded Canaan, Joshua was ordered not to let the locals stay because God knew that His people were too weak to avoid their temptations (Josh. 10:40). God says that His ways and His thoughts are not ours (Isa. 55:8). God also does not change or evolve (Heb. 13:8). Popular culture will always conflict with the Word because the devil controls it as the ruler of this world (Jo. 12:31; 14:30). As stated above, under God’s Law, even a lustful look at another person is an act of adultery (Matt. 5:27-28). Thus, believers cannot look to popular culture or what is politically correct for guidance on what sexual conduct is appropriate. God’s laws about sexual morality will always be unpopular to nonbelievers. Are you ashamed to defend them to nonbelievers? (Rom. 1:16).
If you love the world’s standards, God’s love is not in you. “[T]he lust of the flesh . .. is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16). These lusts include “immorality, impurity, sensuality.” (Gal. 5:24). If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Even Solomon, the wisest man alive and the author of most of the proverbs, loved the women of the world around him. He gave in to the lusts of the flesh and strayed from God by taking 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-8). Lust also frequently brings down powerful politicians, leaders, sports heroes, and actors. Do you love the popular shows, movies, and magazines that glorify sexually immoral things?
Once we recognize the seriousness of the sexual sin, the question then becomes what can believers do to minimize their risks of committing this sin. There are seven things spouses can do to “not give the devil an opportunity” to cause sexual sin. (Eph. 4:27).
(1) Submit to each other and not to selfish desires. One of the number one causes of adultery is when a spouse feels neglected or if the spouse feels emotionally unfulfilled. The emotional hurt or neglect that one spouse feels causes the spouse to look to others for emotional intimacy. Paul gives practical advice to help avoid this. While the wife submits to a husband when he acts in a Godly manner, husbands are to serve their wives the way that Christ served the Church: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, . . . So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Eph. 5:25, 28). Are you placing your own needs and desires above your spouse? Are you loving your spouse the way that Christ served the Church?
(2) Create ways to solve conflict within the marriage. The forbidden fruit was tempting for Eve. In the end, however, the results of taking it were disastrous. God warned that there would be conflict between Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15). Paul warns “not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Eph. 4:26). Do you talk through conflicts with your spouse? Or, do you let things bottle up?
(3) Avoid small sins that can lead to larger ones. People who engage in sexual sins get there through multiple small steps. Adultery is never the first step of a sinner. It happens after a long descent into sin. Small sins lead to bigger ones. Pornography, for example, is claimed by some to be harmless. Yet, in addition to being addictive, it is also a gateway to more serious sins like premarital sex, fornication, and adultery. This in turn leads to divorce and misery for entire families. Thus, one sin leads to another. Most people remember Joseph’s story because of the final temptation of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12). But she built up to her advance after tempting him daily (Gen. 39:10-11). Moses warns that when we sin against God: “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). Are you willing to “. . .put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”? (Rom. 13:14). Have you entertained small sins believing that they are no big deal in your life? If we fail in the small temptations, should we expect to be able to resist the large ones?
(4) Set God’s hedge of protection around you. One of the best preventive steps to avoiding sexual sin involves setting a hedge of spiritual protection around your life. Before Satan was allowed to test Job, he complained to God that Job was protected by “a hedge about him…” (Job 1:10). One of the most important ways to create a hedge of protection is to be in constant prayer (Jam. 1:5). Also, a believer must read the Word to create light unto the believer’s path (Ps. 119:105). Third, the believer must put on the armor of God, including the shield of God to quench the fiery darts of the enemy (Eph. 6:11). God creates a shield for those who submit to Him (Prov. 30:5; Ps. 115:11). An example of when God’s people dropped their hedge of protection took place at the end of the Jews’ 40-year march in the wilderness, the Jews “dwelt” at Shittim for many months (Nu. 25:1). The Jews were slowly seduced into temple prostitution there. It would have started off slow and appeared innocent at first. King Balak might have sent peace envoys to greet their Jewish cousins (The Moabites were the descendants of Lot and his daughter) (Gen. 19:30-38). Balak might have invited the warrior men to a banquet with lots of alcohol and with temple prostitutes assigned to seduce each man. At any step in this process, the Jews could have said no. More importantly, this all implies that the Jewish leaders set no boundaries on what the Jews could do with the Moabites. They also were not seeking God’s will in their actions. Are their “hedges” protecting what you do? Do you have boundaries on who you e-mail or who you meet with? Do you drink alcohol in the wrong settings where your hedges might be lowered? Do you set boundaries for your kids?
(5) Make a covenant with your eyes. God warns that “Marriage is to be held in honor among all . . ” (Heb. 13:4). This includes what we look at. It is part of a covenant that you formed with the Creator of the universe. Jesus therefore warns that you must keep your covenant pure by being careful what you look at: “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Lk. 11:34). How do we keep our eyes pure? Job said that he created a “covenant with his eyes” to guard himself from looking at the wrong things: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Have you placed any limitations on what you look at?
(6) Beware of sexual temptation when times are good. Power, wealth, and complacency can also fuel a sense of entitlement. This can lead to sexual temptation. An example of this can again be found at the end of the Jews’ 40-year journey in the wilderness when they dwelt at Shittim in the country of Moab (Nu. 25:1). They stayed at this place until Joshua led them from there into the Promised Land (Nu. 33:49; Josh. 2:1). In Hebrew, Shittim means “a grove of acacia trees”. The Jews had an easy life in this place. They also had lots of time on their hands. The Bible does not mention any sexual seduction while the Jews struggled through their 40-year journey in the wilderness. Besides Joseph, there also is no mention of any sexual seduction during their 400 years of Egyptian captivity. Their complaints mostly focused on their provisions. It was only after the Jews found comfort that they succumbed to sexual temptation (Nu. 25:1-3). Joseph was also tempted at a time when he was in charge of his master’s household (Gen. 39:6). David was tempted when he held the unchecked power as the King of the Jews (2 Sam. 11:2). If everything is good in your life, it is easy to let your guard down. For example, the most common thing to happen to couples who win the lottery is to get divorced. Satan uses sexual temptation to seduce Americans who are successful or comfortable. Has your wealth or comfort caused you to drop your guard? Are you using your money and free time to feed your flesh or the Spirit? Do you find more joy reading popular culture magazines and stories of debauchery or the teachings of the Bible?
(7) Go in groups of two or more godly companions when with the opposite sex. Finally, as a preventative measure, men and women should avoid being alone together. To protect the disciples, Jesus sent them out in twos: “He called the twelve disciples and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6:7). This kept them accountable to each other. It also protected them from sins that they might engage in when they might feel that no one was looking. We are to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). We are also commanded not to forsake the fellowship, which brings accountability (Heb. 10:25). We are further told to confess our sins to each other (Jam. 5:16). Yet, being with another member of your sex is by itself not a guarantee of accountability. If the other person is not a serious believer, you can be unequally yoked and weighted down by the other person’s sins: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.”’ (1 Cor. 15:33). Believers who date should also avoid being unequally yoked to guard against sexual temptation (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Have you placed yourself alone in places where you might be compromised? Do you have someone that you are accountable to?
Rebuke the devil and he will flee. The Bible promises that if we rebuke the devil in Christ’s name, He will flee. “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9). “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9). When Joseph was tempted, he protested: “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Have you rebuked Satan’s attacks? Or, have you invited them?
Flee sexual temptations. If a believer forgets to rebuke the devil and he does not flee, God promises not to put us in a place beyond our ability to resist the temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). When Potiphar’s wife was alone with Joseph, he could have given in to her advances and experienced a moment of pleasure without being caught. But he refused to do evil in God’s eyes (Gen. 39:6-9). He knew that God would have known his sins if he had agreed (Prov. 15:3). According the Bible, to fear God we must “hate” evil (Prov. 8:13). When he failed to stop her advances, he fled: “She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.” (Gen. 39:12). Yet, just as Joseph fled when tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12), we are commanded to “flee” sexual temptation: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:22). After the sin of Adam and Eve, our sexual desires became distorted (Gen. 3:15-16; Rom. 8:20). God knows that we are most likely destined for bondage if we try to reason with temptation. Before God gave the Ten Commandments, He declared: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2). His rules are meant to protect us from bondage. Through Jesus’ death, your body has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You are now His servant (Lev. 25:55). If you were once a slave to sin, you are now a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Are you “fleeing” sexual temptation? (2 Tim. 2:22). Or, are you hanging out with people in the wrong places where you might be lead back to bondage?
The Devil causes us to rationalize our sins. When we don’t flee temptation, the devil will try to have us rationalize our sins. Sarai blamed God for her inability to bear children. She had waited 10 years for God to fulfill his promise. But she was not willing to wait any longer (Gen. 11:30; 16:1-3). When Sarai proposed that Abram sleep with her maid Hagar, Abram failed to seek God’s guidance (Gen. 15:1-4; 16:2; 25:21; Jam. 1:5). Abram likely rationalized that God had meant for him to sleep with his wife’s servant based upon what God told Abram in Genesis 15:4. Satan also tried to rationalize with Eve that God would not let her die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Has the devil caused you to rationalize your sins? If so, that is usually the first step into the abyss caused by sin.
If you repent, God is faithful to forgive you. God delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt (Ex. 20:2). He can also deliver any person from any type of bondage (Phil. 4:13). He is not just the God of the Spirit, He is also “the God of the flesh.” (Jer. 32:27; Jo. 17:2). He made you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He can also wash your flesh of any iniquity or bondage (Ps. 51:1-3, 7). You must first read the Word to know your sins (Eph. 5:26). If you confess and repent of your “unrighteousness,” God is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9; Jo. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). You must then renew your mind every day (Rom. 12:1-2). Is there unconfessed sin in your life?
Jesus spared the prostitute from the penalty for her adultery. Some might feel the adultery is unforgivable. Yet, Jesus did not punish the prostitute when others wanted to stone her (Jo. 8:5-7). Jesus also offered the water of eternal life to the adulterous woman at the well (Jo. 4:14). Thankfully, God is slow to anger (Ex. 34:6; Nu. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). When a couple is engaged in adultery, God knows it at the moment the thought first enters the sinner’s head. From Jesus’ example, God seeks repentance from the sinner as His primary goal (Lk. 5:32; 15:7). Yet, once you repent and He forgives you, He wants you to sin no more. This is what Jesus told the forgiven prostitute (Jo. 8:11).
God forgave David for his adultery and murder. God also forgave David after he committed adultery. Is there any sexual sin of yours that is too big for God to forgive?
If God can forgive Judah’s sexual sins, He can also forgive yours. Judah was Leah’s son and Jacob’s fourth child (Gen. 29:35). After the sins of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, the blessings of being firstborn fell to him. Yet, he was also a sinner. He was the first-born by default and encouraged his brothers to sell Joseph to the Midianites, the descendants of Ishmael, out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). Er was the firstborn of Judah. God later killed Er for refusing to follow God’s directions (Gen. 38:7). Onan was the next in line to be the firstborn. But God took his life after he also disobeyed God by refusing to give Er’s wife Tamar an heir (Gen. 38:8-10). The law required that Onan give Tamar an heir who would receive the blessings of the firstborn (Dt. 25:5-10). Judah, however, broke the law by withholding his third son Shelah from her (Gen. 38:11, 26). Judah later negotiated with what he thought was a “temple prostitute.” Tamar was in fact the prostitute in disguise. Judah had no trouble knowing what the price was, suggesting that he was no stranger to this practice (Gen. 38:16-17). This meant that he was also guilty of fornication. Judah later also showed himself to be a hypocrite for saying that Tamar should be burned for what he thought was her adultery (Gen. 38:24). For breaking God’s law, Judah was deserving of the same fate as Onan – death. Yet, he later confessed his sins, and God forgave him. God further gave Judah the pre-emanate role amongst the tribes (Gen. 49:8-12). By the beginning of the book of Numbers, Judah’s tribe had grown to 74,600 fighting men, the largest tribe (Nu. 1:27). Jesus later picked the line of Judah to be identified as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (Rev. 5:5). God also named one of his 12 gates to heaven after Judah. This shows that God is full or mercy and grace. If God can forgive and use Judah, is there any sin of yours that is too big for God to forgive?
God hates divorce. God says that He “hates divorce.” (Mal. 2:16). Jesus broadened the prohibition against divorce to state that anyone who divorces a woman (except in the case of infidelity) and marries another commits adultery (Matt. 19:8-9). Yet, God only allowed for divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts: “They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”’ (Matt. 19:8). Thus, even when a person has a right to a divorce, this is not the step that God wants the victim to take. He first seeks repentance.
Forgive others to be forgiven. Maybe you are unwilling to forgive a spouse who has sinned. After the Pharisees spoke to Jesus about “stoning” the prostitute, Jesus wrote on the ground (Jo. 8:6, 8). Adultery was punishable by death. Yet, stoning was reserved for only two adulterous offenses. The first involved when a person lied about his or her virginity in getting married (Dt. 22:13-21). The second involved when a person had adultery with someone engaged to another (Dt. 22:13-21). Interestingly, the only person identified in the Bible who could have tried to stone a woman was Joseph if he had doubted Mary’s story. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were looking to test Him. Thus, He did not correct the Pharisees for their incorrect interpretation under the law. Instead, he wrote on the ground (Jo. 8:6, 8). Under Roman law, a judge first wrote down a sentence and then read it. He likely wrote their names because they were guilty of the same sin. Or, they may have slept with her in the past: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2). This also fulfilled a prophecy: “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.” (Jer. 17:13). Will you judge others for their sexual sins if you have your own? “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15).
God tests us to show us where our hearts are evil. Your old sins should not weigh you down. Instead, rejoice that God has given you the chance to learn and change from your prior mistakes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt us (Jam. 1:13-14). He does, however, test us (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). He tests us to show us where our hearts have evil (Jer. 17:9). David, someone who committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder, later invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you willing to let God show you your hidden sins? If you say to God that there is no need for Him to test you because you have no sin, the truth is not within you (1 Jo. 1:8). Do you think God prefers the sinner who is willing to let God show him or her their sins or the self-righteous person who claims they have none?
Learn from your mistakes by cutting out the things that make you stumble. God told the Jews to be holy and to draw a distinction between the clean and the unclean because He is holy (Lev. 11:44-7). Jesus said that the consequences of sin in our own lives are so severe that we would be better to cut out an eye or an arm or a leg if it causes us to sin (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:8; Mark 9:43-45). Jesus warns that “if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matt. 6:23). Have you removed things that have caused you to sin in the past?
Jesus’ lesson for the Church to learn from its past sins. Jesus also warned the Church of Pergamum to learn from the past sexual sins of God’s believers at the hands of Balaam. Although God prevented Balaam from cursing Israel (Nu. 23-24), Balaam wanted to earn the pay that Balak offered him to bring a curse upon the Jews (Nu. 22:17). He learned that God was protecting His people (Nu. 23:8). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke God’s Law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one law he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Judg. 2:17; 1 King. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite women, who together formed an alliance against Israel (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. Jesus later condemned the church of Pergamum for leading believers into the same kind of sin: “you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” (Rev. 2:14). Pergamum symbolized the union of the church and the world. What lessons can the Church today learn from Balaam?
God meant for the cost of a broken vow to be expensive. To break a vow to God, including a wedding vow, a man would need to pay the priest 50 silver shekels (Lev. 27:3). Or, the priest would determine a fair amount based upon what he could afford (Lev. 27:8). The average male laborer’s wage in Biblical times was approximately one silver shekel per month. Women received about 50-67 percent of a male laborer’s pay (Wenham, Gordon, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), p. 338). Thus, for the average male laborer aged 20 to 60 making 1 shekel a month, it would take 50 months, or 4 years and 2 months, to pay for a broken vow. Breaking a vow to God was not done lightly. Unlike today, divorce was a rare event because of the costs involved. Imagine what would happen if society increased the financial cost of adultery and divorce?
If the Church does not act, it will have lost its “saltiness”. Today, many churches have stayed silent while television, movies, magazines, and online entertainment glorify acts of sexual immorality. This has contributed to the rates of divorce, premarital sex, adultery, sexually transmitted diseases, and depression to explode. Jesus warned: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Once the Church loses its moral “saltiness” it is hard to get it back: “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?” (Mk. 9:50). If the Church is to take the lessons from Balaam’s doctrine in society around us seriously, it must be praying for society to repent. It must be a holy light by its own example. Motivated by love, it must also be “salt”, an irritant in the wound of sin. Are you playing your part to restore others?
“You shall not steal.” (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28).
Introduction: God’s commandment against stealing is something that exists in all cultures. Like the prohibitions against murder and adultery, the non-Judeo-Christian nations of the world have rules against theft because it is part of God’s “Law written in their hearts . . .” (Ro. 2:14-15; same Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10, 16; 2 Cor. 3:3). Yet, like murder and adultery, theft is a crime that most people believe is a problem that belongs to someone else. God, however, makes clear that theft can come in many forms. Many kinds of theft, like failing to properly tithe, are also things that many believers are guilty of. To prevent theft, we must first understand why believers do it. Moreover, to motivate ourselves to change our behavior, we must understand why theft is so offensive to God and harmful to the winning of souls when a believer engages in it. To appreciate the mercy and grace we have received, we must also know the consequences of theft for the unsaved and the saved. We must also look to the many examples of theft in Old Testament times and understand how they correlate to business practices in modern times. Once we learn of our sins through the study of God’s Law, we must repent of those areas where our conduct has fallen short of God’s standards. In order to be forgiven in God’s eyes, we must also learn to forgive those who have stolen from us. Finally, God requires that we pay restitution to any person that a believer has stolen from. Although God will forgive you of your sins to allow you eternal life when you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, He still expects you to make right with those you have wronged here on Earth. Restitution includes returning anything that does not belong to you with interest.
(1) Theft is the result of a covetous or greedy heart. The primary root behind theft is a heart that is filled with coveting or greed. Coveting is the desire to have which you do not own. Greed is the desire to have more of something that you already own. The theft of money can involve both sins. God warns us that: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). If we are motivated to take that which is not ours or consume more than God intended for us, that desire will never be quenched by stealing (Is. 56:11). If a thief is successful, it won’t be long before the thief steals more. Where in yourself do you draw the line between loving money and simply collecting what you need? If you don’t draw a line, Satan will do it for you.
(2) Theft is the result of a selfish heart. Another root to the evil of theft is the desire to place your own wants above the person or entity that you steal from. When asked to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus said that it was to ‘“love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”’ (Matt. 22:37-8). ‘“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt. 22:39-40). Paul restated that a believer should: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘ . . . you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:8-10). If you have ever been tempted to steal from an employer, customer, partner, or client or take something that another lost, have you ever stopped and wondered how you would feel if someone stole from you?
(3) Theft is also the result of a faithless and untrusting heart. Jesus says that we are not to worry about God’s provision (Matt. 6:34). An example of theft caused by the failure to trust God can be seen in Rachel’s theft from her father. When Jacob decided to deceive Laban and flee with his two daughters, his family and his flocks, Rachel felt the family needed protection. Thus, “Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s.” (Gen. 31:1). Assuming she had told Jacob that she had adopted Yahweh as her God, she did not show much trust in Him. She made Jacob a poor witness to Laban about their faith in Yahweh. Can you find the trust to sing praise for God in your darkest hour? (Ps. 118:24). Do you believe in your times of need that all things are working together for good because you love God and are called according to His purpose? (Rom. 8:28).
Failing to tithe is robbery against God. The number one area where believers steal is in the area of tithing. A believer steals and breaks the Eighth Commandment any time he or she fails to fully tithe to God: ‘“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’” (Mal. 3:8-10). Do you faithfully give ten percent of your wages? Tithing is the only area where God invites us to test Him. (Id.) When times are tough economically, do you tithe more than you do normally? If you are only tithing when times are good, how much trust are you showing God?
A believer who withholds tithes robs the Church of funds that it needs. Tithing is the means by which God uses the blessings in your life to help others in need. We need only look to the story of Ananias and Sapphira to see how seriously God takes theft within the Church: “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?’” (Acts 5:1-3). Both Ananias and Sapphira died for lying about the price they received from selling their land (Acts 5:4-10). The two were likely motivated by a combination of greed and failing to trust God to provide all that they needed. Tithing allows God to support those in ministry full time, missionaries in other countries, the poor, and members of the Church who are in temporary need. Just because we don’t see believers dying today when they withhold tithes, should we assume that God no longer cares? If you are between churches, is that an excuse not to tithe? Likewise, if you don’t like your church, is that an excuse not to tithe?
Share the wealth that God has given you. Every good and perfect thing is from above (Jam. 1:17). This includes your wages. Thus, Jesus expects you to share that which He has given you with others: “And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’” (Luke 3:11). “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40). Do you recognize that everything you have was given by God? Or, do you believe that what you have earned is the result solely of your labor? If the latter is true, are you likely to be a cheerful giver to help out those in need and to advance God’s kingdom on earth?
If you steal, you show God that He cannot trust you with big things. Jesus warns that God watches to see if we misuse the money that He has given us to determine if we are ready for bigger things from Him: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Lk. 16:10-13). If God cannot trust you on a small matter like tithing back from the money He gives you, can He trust you with even bigger assignments?
We are to work hard to provide for others in need. Jesus tells us that we have all been given “talents” or abilities from God. If we fail to use our talents for God, we are robbing from the labor and talents that God meant for His Church: “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.”’ (Matt. 25:26-27). If God has given you the ability to labor for His Kingdom and those in need and you don’t work, your slothfulness is also a form of theft from God: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” (Eph. 4:28). “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Are you laboring as hard as you to support God’s Kingdom and those in need around you? Or, are you looking to be supported by others?
A believer should not be a burden upon others if he or she can work. Although God expects believers to provide for others in need, it is a sin for a believer to look for handouts from others if he or she can work: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;” (2 Thess. 3:7-8). If you are depending upon handouts from the government, your parents, or others when you could be working, are you generating tithes to support others in need? Or, are you diverting help from those who truly need it? For these reasons, it is not God’s will for governments to set up welfare eligibility standards that penalize recipients when they work.
A believer who steals profanes God’s name. Paul says that you are an “ambassador” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). This means that you represent Him through both your words and your deeds. If you steal as an ambassador for Christ, you cast both God’s name and what it means to be a Christian in an unholy light. Thus, when you steal, you not only break the Eighth Commandment against theft, you also take the Lord’s name in vain: “Two things I asked of You . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9). If you steal, how many people will likely inquire with interest about your faith?
Religious leaders who pressure tithing for self-indulgence also defame God. Religious leaders are held to a high standard because they purport to represent God. Thus, they fall under Christ’s condemnation if they pressure their flock to give in a way that results in their own self-indulgence: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” (Matt. 23:25). A religious leader who engages in self-indulgence with God’s property will frequently appear on the outside to act with sound motives. For example, Judas Iscariot complained that certain perfume could have been sold and given to the poor (Jo. 12:5). Yet, he had hidden motives behind his outward acts of piety: “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” (Jo. 12:6). If a successful church leader leads a large congregation, the church puts limits on the leader’s pay. The opulent lifestyle of a successful church leader might cause others to stumble.
A teacher of false doctrine also robs God of His sheep. Jesus says that His is “the door of the sheep.” (Jo. 10:7). All those who offer another way to salvation “are thieves and robbers.” (Jo. 10:8). God warns that those false shepherds who scatter His flock will be punished (Jer. 23:1-2; Eze. 34:1-10). If you are leading others, be careful in what you say or do.
God hears the cries of those cheated financially. Christ warned that “the flesh profits nothing.” (Jo. 6:63). God also warns that He hears the prayers of those who are cheated: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath.” (Jam. 5:4). If you steal, you cannot live in peace. Eventually, “your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23).
For the unsaved, theft also bars the person from heaven. God’s grace only has meaning if you know what you are saved from. Without a savior, a thief is barred from heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither . . . thieves, nor the covetous . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). For the unsaved thief, his or her actions also profane God’s name. (Prov. 30:7-9). This separately brings a death sentence upon the thief: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16). Before we casually dismiss this as an Old Testament penalty that only applied to the Jews, God makes clear that it applied to non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16; Deut. 5:11). Have you given thanks to Christ that you are spared from your penalty?
A thief can bring both prison time and shame upon him or herself. A thief who is caught will face the full penalties of the law. This may include jail time. Government officials who prosecute theft do so as God’s avengers of evil (Rom. 13:4). God also warns that the thief will be convicted by shame: “the thief is shamed when he is discovered. . . ” (Jer. 2:26). If the Holy Spirit convicts you of theft, repent of your sins (Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Mk. 1:15).
A believer who steals also brings shame upon his or her family. Some thieves may claim that they don’t care about the consequences to themselves for their actions. Yet, King Solomon warns that a thief also brings shame upon his or her family: “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house . . .” (Prov. 15:27). An example of this can be seen in Rachel’s theft of her father Laban’s idols. When Laban discovered his missing idols, he pursued after Jacob believing that Jacob took them. Not knowing that Rachael took them, Laban accused Jacob of theft: “Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house; but why did you steal my gods?” (Gen. 31:30). Jacob did not know that Rachel took the idols. He said that whoever took them would die, a sentence that would fall upon her upon Benjamin’s birth (Gen. 31:32; 35:19). Rachael then hid the idols by sitting on them and falsely claiming that she was having her period (Gen. 31:3-35). After Laban could not find the idols, Jacob protested that he had been falsely accused of theft after 20 years of faithful service (Gen. 31:38). Rachael’s one act of theft ruined Jacob’s 20 years’ worth of hard earned integrity. Likewise, when a believer steals, he or she stigmatizes his or her family. If a thief spends time in jail, the children and the spouse will never really escape the stigma of the thief’s actions.
Failing to pay taxes is a sin. Some believers believe that they can refuse to obey tax laws that they believe to be unfair. God’s Eighth Commandment does allow for the protection of private property. Although God’s laws called for social welfare, they did not call for socialism. Yet, Jesus said that you are to obey your tax laws: “‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matt. 22:21). The authorities who impose taxes have the authority vested by God: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Rom. 13:1-2). The proper remedy for Christians in a democracy when faced with unjust tax laws is to pray and vote. Rebellion and theft are all tools of the devil.
An aggrieved employee cannot try to make things right by stealing from an employer. Some aggrieved employees feel justified pilfering if everyone does it or if the employer pays unfairly. Paul, however, warns us that it’s never proper to steal from an employer: “Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” (Titus 2:9-10). If you work for an ungodly employer, what kind of witness are you if you respond to evil with evil?
An employer’s failure to pay wages in a timely manner is also theft. Employers are conversely warned not to withhold employee wages: “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” (Lev. 19:13). “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it became sin in you.” (Dt. 24:14-15). “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (Prov. 22:16). If an employer is having cash flow problems, the employer can never delay paying an employee’s wages. “The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” (Lev. 19:13(b)).
The use of deceptive business practices is theft. In Old Testament times, the primary means of calculating a fair price in commerce was with a scale. God’s people were warned that severe punishment awaited them if they manipulated the scale to increase their profits: “‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord.’” (Lev. 19:35-37). “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1). “Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good.” (Prov. 20:23). Today, few people use scales in commerce. Yet, there are many modern equivalents. A doctor, a chiropractor or a hospital should not inflate their services or their bills merely because the government or an insurer is paying the bill. Are you inflating your hours or prices on a bill to a client or customer thinking that you will never be caught?
King Ahab’s theft through fraud of Naboth’s vineyard. King Ahab wanted the vineyard belonging to Naboth because he liked it. Yet, Naboth refused to give it up because the land was an inheritance for his family (1 Kgs. 21:1-3). King Ahab and his wife Jezebel then wrote a letter to the elders in Naboth’s town and told them to proclaim a fast. They then used that fast as an opportunity to declare Naboth as someone who had blasphemed against God. Thus, they had Naboth killed (1 Kgs. 21:8-14). They then took possession of Naboth’s land (1 Kgs. 21:15-16). God then proclaimed judgment upon King Ahab through Elijah for his fraudulent theft and murder of Naboth (1 Kgs. 21:17-24). If you defraud others and fail to repent, can you expect that God will not punish you?
Charging usury interest is also theft. God’s law allowed for lending. He just prohibited “usurious interest.” (Lev. 25:36). The devil, however, will try to enslave you with high interest debt. God will provide for our needs, not wants (Matt. 6:25-34). If you are running tight on money, the high interest credit card or mortgage debt is not the means that God provides to supply your needs. He wants you to be patient, pray hard for your provision, and seek help if needed. Likewise, if you have money, it is never acceptable to charge multiple times the normal interest rate to someone who is a high credit risk under the pretext that banks will not lend to the person. An economist might say that such a “hard money” lender helps to create a market where none would otherwise exist. Yet, this is not God’s will.
Charging more than the proper rate for your services can also be a form of theft. Jesus gave advice to a group of tax collectors seeking to be baptized that applies to anyone in a business with the authority to set his or her own rates for their services: “And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’” (Lk. 3:12-13). If a natural disaster strikes, a Christian business owner or provider should not raise his or her prices beyond the cost of his or her supplies. To price gouge against those afflicted by disaster reflects poorly upon the light of Christ within you.
Being in partnership with a dishonest business person can also impute theft to a believer. Solomon also warns that “He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life . . .” (Prov. 29:24). Thus, we are warned not to associate or even dine with those who swindle money from others: “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, . . . or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). If your partner is a thief, what kind of witness are you to others?
Failing to return a loan is also theft. David also warns that: “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.” (Ps. 37:21). If you borrow money and fall upon hard times, it is not right to stiff a lender if you can repay a loan.
The exception of debt forgiveness during the Jubilee Year. There was one exception to the rule requiring the repayment of debt. Every 50th year, each person was to receive back any property that he or she might have lost through debts (Lev. 25:8-22). Having a year when debts are canceled and the land is redeemed would open some lenders to fraud. Yet, God also protected lenders from fraud (Lev. 25:14-17). The modern rules for bankruptcy have their origin in these laws. God does want you to be bound by your mistakes or misfortune forever. If God has forgiven your debts, you should also forgive those who owe you debts.
7 Only When Needed to Prevent Actual Starvation is Theft Tolerated by God.
God gives mercy and grace to the starving thief. God tells us to show compassion upon the thief that steals out of true hunger: “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.” (Prov. 6:30). Yet, if the thief is caught, he or she is still responsible for repaying the victim (Prov. 6:31). If a person is hungry today, that person typically has remedies that do not involve stealing. These include the Church and welfare.
Give to charities to help those who are hungry. Solomon says that: “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.” (Prov. 11:24). A believer cannot assume that the government will always take care of the needs of the hungry. Nor should believers aspire to create a state where all welfare responsibilities are assumed by the government. If people create the perfect social welfare state where every need of the poor is met by the government, believers would have no need to show love or care for the poor. If you and your children live in comfort and never give to those in need, how much compassion will you and your children have for the poor? Love and compassion are like muscles. If you never exercise them by helping others, they will wither.
Repent and God will forgive your thefts. Through the study of the Law our sins are revealed to us (Ro. 3:20). John the Baptist and Jesus both taught that people needed to first “repent” before their sins could be forgiven (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mk. 1:15). Have you repented of the times you have failed to properly tithe, from failing to use your talents, or from stealing from others?
Once you repent, any guilt you feel is not from God. If we confess our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and savior, He is faithful to forgive our sins (Eph. 1:7; 1 Jo. 1:9). God further promises: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 10:17; Rom. 8:1). Like the Jews, there is nothing you have done to earn God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, it is “impossible” to please God when you lack faith (Heb. 11:6). If you continue to feel guilt for thefts after repenting, what are you saying about Christ’s power to forgive your thefts?
Give your life as a thank offering. Today, you are God’s anointed priest (1 Pet. 2:5). You no longer need to buy or butcher the most expensive possessions to forgive your sins. You also don’t have to bear the “yoke” to earn your salvation (Nu. 19:1). Christ did that for you (Jo. 3:16). This should motivate you to give your life as a thank offering to Him (Rom. 12:1-2). Out of gratitude, are you giving Him the best of your life?
Forgive those who have stolen from you to be forgiven. In His model prayer, Jesus tells us to forgive those who owe us money or who have stolen from us: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12). He further warns that you must forgive others to be forgiven: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15). Do you still harbor any grudges against people who have stolen from you? Have you fully forgiven them in your heart?
Forgive those who steal from you and be blessed and receive mercy. If you forgive, Jesus also promises: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). If you are in need of mercy, will you show mercy to those who have hurt you?
Pray for those who have stolen from you. Sometimes, it is hard to forgive. This is especially true when the thief shows no remorse. In these circumstances, Jesus tells us “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44). When Moses pleaded for God to spare the people after they built the golden calf, God did so (Ex. 32:14). Moses also prayed for Miriam and saved her (Nu. 12:11). Thus, intercessory prayer for your enemies works. Are you praying for those who have wronged you or stolen from you?
God requires that a sinner restore his or her victims. In the case of embezzlement, theft, extortion, or the theft of lost property under false pretenses, God required the return of the stolen property: “[I]f they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die.” (Ez. 33:15). God separately required a “guilt” offering to fully restore the victim (Lev. 6:1-4). The Hebrew word for “guilt offering” is Asham. It means that the sinner must make the victim whole. Saying that you are sorry does not by itself fulfill God’s law. Are there victims of your sins that you need to make whole? If you have stolen from God, you can again repay Him by making your life a thank offering (Rom. 12:1).
Even accidental theft must be repaid. Even if you did not mean to steal, you must repay the damages caused by your actions: “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.” (Ex. 22:5). If a believer fails to pay for his or her damages, what kind of witness is the believer?
God also requires payment of at least a 20% penalty for theft. In the case of any type of theft, the sinner was to restore all stolen funds plus at least a fifth of the value of the stolen property as a penalty or 120% total (Lev. 6:5). Where the theft deprived someone of their livelihood (symbolized by animals), the penalty was twice the value of the stolen property: “If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.” (Ex. 22:4). If the sinner had no remorse, the penalty was four times the value of the property: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” (2 Sam. 12:6).
Christ did not relieve us of the need to pay restitution. Although seldom preached in churches today, Christ did not relieve us of our obligation to restore our victims. After Zacchaeus accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, he promised to pay restitution four times above the amount that he had defrauded from others in the past: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’” (Lk. 19:8). This suggests that Zacchaeus had defrauded others in the past without any remorse (2 Sam. 12:6). Jesus did not correct him or say that this was unnecessary. Christians correctly teach the need for forgiveness. Yet, Christian churches still need to preach the need to pay restitution. If you fail to restore your victims, what kind of witness are you?
God will not accept our offerings unless we first restore our victims. God further commands that a person pay restitution “on the day he presents his guilt offering.” (Lev. 6:6). Jesus later clarified that you must restore your victims before you seek God’s forgiveness: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Although failing to do this will not affect your salvation, failing to do this will affect your fellowship with God. Are there any people that you have wronged who need to be made whole? If so, restore them without further delay.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20).
Introduction: The Narrow Interpretation of the Ninth Commandment. To some, the Ninth Commandment is a technical sin that is limited to perjury in a court of law. The Ninth Commandment does prohibit perjury. God is just (2 Thess. 1:6; Job 8:3). This means that God cares deeply about divine order and the fair treatment of the accused. He intended a fair and unbiased court system to exist to judge the accused. He also cared so much about protecting the accused, that He requires two or more witnesses to prove a criminal allegation. To ensure the fair treatment of the accused, He prohibits false testimony. For these reasons, witnesses who provide false testimony are subject to severe punishment under God’s law.
The Broad Interpretation of the Ninth Commandment. Others believe that it is wrong to limit any discussion of the Ninth Commandment to technical acts of perjury. With all of the Ten Commandments, God’s intention was not to prohibit only the final and ultimate sin. He also sought to prevent the factors that lead to the most severe sins. Adultery is a perfect example of this. A narrow reading of the Seventh Commandment only prohibits relations between a man and a married woman. Yet, Jesus came to dispel that kind of legalism. He instructed that a mere lustful thought toward someone who is not your spouse is an act of adultery (Matt. 5:28). Thus, God cares that we address the underlying sins that lead to perjury. At its root, the Ninth Commandment in its broadest sense addresses sins of the tongue. This includes all forms of lies. It includes the negligent spreading of lies about another through gossip. It also includes speech that may be truthful yet calculated to hurt another. These are all forms of evil in God’s eyes. Just as God intends to protect a neighbor’s physical property with the Eighth Commandment, He intends to protect a neighbor’s reputation with the Ninth Commandment. Because God wants us to remove all lies in our lives whether they are acts of perjury or not, this study adopts a broad interpretation of the Ninth Commandment. This study examines why God is so offended by lies and gossip. This study also examines the kind of speech that God expects from believers.
God defines bearing “false witness” as lying. In the context of perjury, God sees anyone who provides false statements as treacherous and deceitful. “A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.” (Prov. 14:25). “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 12:17). By contrast, God calls a truthful witness “trustworthy:” “A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies.” (Prov. 14:5). If God were to pull all of your tax returns signed under penalty of perjury and income statements on any loan applications, would He find any lies?
A truthful witness is critical to God’s administration of justice. Perjury is offensive to God because it undermines His perfect justice: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” (Dt. 19:15). Have you judged others based upon only one witness? Would you want that standard applied to you?
A broken vow to testify truthfully profanes God’s name. When being sworn in by a court officer or court reporter, a witness typically states a vow to tell the truth “so help me God.” Because the administration of justice is so important to God, God commands that court vows be in His name: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” (Dt. 6:13). Yet, Jesus warns us that the consequences of a broken vow to God are so serious that we should be careful in making them (Matt. 5:33-37). When a person gives false testimony after giving an oath under God’s name, that person takes the Lord’s name in vain. God expressly warns perjurers not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). Paul says that you are an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). What kind of ambassador are you for Christ if you are lying? When you lie, how attractive is your light to others?
Lies, gossip, and rumors have the power to inflict evil and pain on another’s reputation. Although you may not realize it, your tongue is a potential weapon that can inflict pain and hurt upon another: “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.” (Prov. 5:18; 25:18). “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (Jam. 3:5-6). “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” (Prov. 16:27). “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:19). When you lie or tell gossip, you hurt others. This is something that God does not call you to do.
When you gossip you may spread lies, even if they are unintentional. Some may draw a distinction between lying and gossiping. But God does not differentiate the two: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” (Prov. 26:20; 16:28). (Note: “whisperers” in the NASB are referred to as “gossips” in the NIV). A whisperer or a gossip cannot know if the information he or she is spreading is true or false. A gossiper acts in a negligent manner without concern for the truth of the gossip or the damage to the accused. Most studies find that gossip is the number one type of conversation amongst office co-workers. Do you gossip about others? If you spread gossip, do you try to verify its truth before you spread it? When you spread gossip, what kind of witness are you to others about what it means to be a believer?
Because of the harm they create, God “hates” perjurers, liars, and gossips. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). The fear of the Lord is defined as “hating” evil and a “perverted mouth”: “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; Ps. 97:10). Perjury, lies, and gossip are amongst the evil sins that God “hates.” “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16-19). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Prov. 22:22). Have you made any false statements or have you spread gossip or rumors to cause God to “hate” your words?
Because of original sin, we have inherent tendencies to lie at even the youngest of ages. As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, all creation has been cursed (Rom. 8:20; Gen. 3:17). Among the many consequences of this curse, we are all born with the congenital birth defect of being liars: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” (Ps. 58:3). “You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; and you have been called a rebel from birth.” (Is. 48:8). Without exception, every unsaved person is a liar in God’s eyes: “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar . . .” (Ro. 3:4). As any parent can attest, no one needs to teach a child to lie. Children lie as soon as they can speak. If you think you are free from lies, what does God think about your opinion? (1 John 1:8).
A person who claims to know Christ, but does not keep His commandments is a “liar.” “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;” (1 Jo. 2:4). “[B]ut if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Do you think that you are keeping all of Jesus’ commandments in the way that He expects? If you do, what does that make you?
A person who claims to love God but “hates” another is in God’s eyes a “liar.” The Bible warns that: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 Jo. 4:20). According to Jesus, one of the two great commandments is that: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39-40). “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:8-10). If you say that you love God, but you tell lies or gossip and slander others, what does God think of your love for Him? Are you “loving” people when you are gossiping about them?
When you lie, you have come under Satan’s influence. Satan is the father of all liars. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Thus, when you lie or gossip, you have placed yourself in communion with the devil.
Things gained through lies are short lived. Satan can only offer counterfeit pleasures: “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” (Prov. 21:6). If you gain attention at work or with friends through gossip, is the joy long lasting? Or, do you need to keep telling gossip to gain the interest of these persons?
A liar, gossip, or perjury deceives him or herself into believing that God will not hear. “Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; swords are in their lips, for, they say, ‘Who hears?’” (Ps. 9:7). When you gossip or tell “white lies”, do you convince yourself that God does not care about your actions? Have you used His forgiveness as a license to sin?
The false accuser of the brethren is also under Satan’s influence. God called Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” (Rev. 12:10). He seeks to condemn each and every one of us before God (Job 1:6; 9-11; Zech. 3:1). Like Satan, a person who spreads lies, gossip, or slander is called “a fool” in the Bible (Prov. 10:18). Slander, gossip, perjury, and lies are all signs of a “depraved mind” living by the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 1:28-30; Matt. 15:18-19). Thus, we are not to speak ill of one another (Ps. 15:3; 50:19-20; Prov. 6:16-19; Jam. 4:11). When you put down one another through false words or gossip, you are doing Satan’s work for him. He doesn’t even need to lift a finger.
A liar can sometimes deceive with eloquent speech. Unlike other sins, it is sometimes hard to know a liar by his words alone: “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (Ps. 55:21). Some of the greatest liars and false prophets in history were those who led others away from the truth with lies. Jesus warns that the false messiah will be so clever with his tongue that he will deceive even the elect (Matt. 24:24; Mk. 13:22). To protect yourself from deceit, you must pray and read the Word on a regular basis (Jam. 1:7; Ps. 110:05).
A perjurer may face criminal or civil punishment. Although God will forgive those who repent, God will not spare a perjurer or liar from the consequences of his or her actions: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” (Prov. 19:5). Under state or federal law, perjury can be charged as a felony offense with jail time exceeding a year for each act of perjury. Criminal prosecutors, judges, and juries act as God’s appointed “avengers” when they punish perjury in their official capacity (Rom. 13:1-4). Perjury, however, is only rarely prosecuted. Today, perjury in loan applications, insurance claims, during depositions, and during court proceedings is rampant. Are you staying vigilant to avoid even small lies in your dealings with others?
Under God’s law, a perjurer will suffer the same fate as the accused. No law in America punishes a perjurer with the crime of another if a witness gives false testimony. Yet, this is exactly the punishment that God proscribes under His law: “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus, you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Dt. 9:16-21). If we charged a perjurer with the crime of the accused when a person gives false testimony, what might happen to the rate of perjury today?
Lying will defile you, lead you astray and remove God’s shield of protection. Jesus said that lying and being a “false witness” are amongst the things that “defile” a person (Matt. 15:18-19; Rom. 1:28-30). In addition to being defiled; lies, slander, and gossip will also lead you away from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, ‘ . . .Their lies also have led them astray, . . .” (Amos 2:4). Although God will not leave or forsake a believer (Heb. 13:5), He will not “abide” with liars (Ps. 15:1-3; Prov. 10:31). Among other things, God will remove His shield of protection, which is only available to those who take refuge in Him: “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Prov. 30:5; Ps. 18:30). Yet, God cannot be your shield if you spread lies and gossip: “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, . . ” (Hos. 10:13). If you want to find the light to guide you in God’s path as opposed to your own deceitful path, you must read His Word (Ps. 110:05). If you don’t have God’s shield of protection, you are exposed to the attacks of the devil (Eph. 6:16).
A liar or perjurers will have God’s hand against them. Even if civil authorities ignore perjury, God will not ignore it: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord God.” (Ez. 13:8). If you lie and God promises to be against you, your prayers may also be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7; Jo. 9:31). Should you expect His full blessings?
A person who spreads lies through slander and gossip will also lose friends. God also warns that those who spread lies through gossip will lose their friends: “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” (Prov. 16:28). (Note: “slanderers” in the NASB are referred to as “gossips” in the NIV). (Id.) Have you passed along gossip about others? How would you feel if others did that about you?
For the unsaved, a perjurer who profanes God’s name will also be punished by death. For the unsaved, the penalty for profaning God’s name through perjury brings eternal death: “A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.” (Prov. 21:18). “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16). This applies to both the Jews and Gentiles: “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16). “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11).
Unsaved liars are also barred from heaven. For those who might feel confident that they are in no need of God’s mercy and grace because they have never committed perjury in its strictest definition, He warns that His wrath will be poured out upon all of the unsaved who suppress the truth or lie: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish.” (Prov. 19:9). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Rom. 1:18). Unsaved liars of any type are barred from the kingdom of heaven. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8). “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:27). Christ has saved you from your eternal death. You can thank Him by making your life a thank offering (Ro. 12:1).
Those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, will suffer the same fate as other liars. God does not agree to disagree with those who would call Jesus a mere prophet or a good teacher. Those who deny that Jesus is “the Christ” are liars in God’s eyes: “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 Jo. 2:22-23). “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:25). If a family member or friend tells you that we are all entitled to our own opinions about Christ, are you doing that person a favor by dropping the subject?
Unsaved gossipers will be judged by their standards in gossiping. If you pass judgment upon others in your speech through gossip, lies, or simply by being judgmental, you will be judged according to the same standard: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-7). Christ has saved you from being judged by your own gossip. If you continue to spread gossip about others, how grateful are you for what Christ has done for you?
God our Father and role model cannot lie. Unlike Satan, “it is impossible for God to lie . . .” (Heb. 6:18). “God . . . cannot lie . . .” (Tit. 1:2). His is also the God of truth: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5). Although mankind struggles with honesty and “white lies,” we can give thanks that God does not suffer any of these struggles: “God is not a man, that He should lie, . . ” (Nu. 23:19). God has shared His truth with us through His Word, which we can rely upon (Heb. 6:19). Jesus is the truth incarnate: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jo. 14:6). He is also the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14). If you practice truth and speak no lies, you have come to the Light: “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (Jo. 3:31). Yet, in God’s eyes, if you speak evil you “hate” the Light (Jo. 3:20; 1 Jo. 1:6).
A godly person only speaking the truth. You are to follow the light of truth that Christ leads for you (Jo. 1:4). Christ’s Word and His truth sanctify you: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (Jo. 17:17). If you follow His Light, you also become God’s child, and the Holy Spirit will speak the truth through you: “For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely.’ So He became their Savior.” (Is. 63:8). “A trustworthy witness will not lie . . .” (Prov. 14:5). “He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend.” (Ps. 15:3). “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” (Ex. 23:1). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 2:17). “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.” (Prov. 24:28). “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.” (Zech. 8:16). “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble.” (Zech. 3:13). If Christ were to look upon a transcript of all your words, would He find that you speak only truths?
A believer who speaks truth from the heart abides with God: Even when saved, if you want God’s Holy Spirit to be in your continuing presence, you must speak only the truth: “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.” (Ps. 15:1-2; Prov. 10:31). By contrast, a liar abides in deceit: ‘“They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; . . . And they do not know Me,’ declares the Lord. . .. ‘Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; . . . And every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor and does not speak the truth, they have taught their tongue to speak lies; . . . Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me,’ declares the Lord.” (Jer. 9:3-6). Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to be in your presence with truthful words?
A godly person also knows when to be silent and not inflict pain with the truth. You must also be careful not to speak the truth in a way that is designed to hurt others: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.” (Jam. 1:26). “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” (Ps. 39:1). “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Ps. 141:3). “[A] babbling fool will be ruined.” (Prov. 10:10). “Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.” (Prov. 10:14). “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Prov. 13:3). When others fall short or make mistakes or drive poorly, do you lash into them with truthful, yet hurtful statements?
A godly person speaks words of praise and healing. Solomon warns that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21), and that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life” (Prov. 15:4). Your tongue was meant to restore others, not to put them down: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov. 2:18). You are to “speak the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Eph. 4:15). You are also to speak “only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29). Your goal should be to restore those who are hurt or who have sinned in love: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). Are your words healing or incendiary to others? When people around you sin, do you gossip about them? Or, do you seek to restore them?
A godly person speaks words of blessings to others. Throughout the Bible, godly people spoke words of blessings to others as an example for us to follow. As a priest, Aaron concluded his prayers by speaking words of blessings to the people (Lev. 9:22-23; Nu. 6:23-26). In a similar way, Isaac blessed Jacob (Heb. 11:20; Gen. 27:27-29; 28:3-4). Paul also spoke words of blessings to others (2 Cor. 13:14). Today, you are part of God’s “nation of priests.” (1 Pet. 2:5). When was the last time that you prayed for God to bless someone who was not a family member or friend?
Let the Holy Spirit be your voice through silence. Jesus was silent when the false charges were leveled against Him (Matt. 26:62-63; Mk. 14:60-61; Lk. 23:8-10; Is. 53:7). Moses never complained when he learned that Miriam and Aaron had slandered him (Nu. 12:5-8). God warns that the gentiles will slander or gossip about you, even when you do good (1 Pet. 2:12). When you “keep a good conscience” in the face of slander or gossip, what does God promise to those who seek to harm you? (1 Pet. 3:16).
Let God avenge the wrongs against you. God says that vengeance belongs to Him alone (Dt. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Thus, we should not seek to correct the wrongs perpetrated against us. If you want God to protect you from those who speak falsely about you, slander you, or gossip about you, follow David’s example in his cry for help: “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” (Ps. 120:2). When you try to defend yourself, the ugly sin of pride will likely emerge (Prov. 16:18).
A believer’s lying will be silenced at the time of judgment. Although it is in your human nature to lie, God will at one point put an end to your lies: “But the king will rejoice in God; everyone who swears by Him will glory, for the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.” (Ps. 63:11). “Let the lying lips be mute, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.” (Ps. 31:18). “Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.” (Prov. 12:19). As a believer, give thanks that you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Although you may struggle with your flesh now, these verses imply that you will be freed from your desire to lie in your new body in heaven (1 Cor. 15:53). You give thanks for what Christ has done for you by making your life a living sacrifice to Him (Rom. 12:1).
Repenting and speaking the truth will also set you free from guilt. There is no condemnation for those who repent and accept Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom. 8:1). If we speak the truth of Christ out of love, we will be set free from guilt: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jo. 8:32). If you are weighted down by guilt of prior lies and gossip, repent and Christ will set you free from your guilt (1 Jo. 1:9).
Pray for God to root out lies in your heart. As a new creation in Christ, you must pray for God to purify you of the lies that lie within your heart: “Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, . . .” (Prov. 30:7-8). “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” (Ps. 120:2). Isaiah feared when he was in God’s presence because: “I am a man of unclean lips.” (Is. 6:5). The flying seraphim then used a burning coal to purify his lips. (Is. 6:6-7). Are you praying for God to cleanse your mouth?
Purge evil words from your tongue. God also expects your conduct to change with the mercy and grace you have been given and in response to the power He gives you through prayer. “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,” (Col. 3:9). “Therefore, lay aside falsehood . . . (Eph. 4:25). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth . . ” (Eph. 4:29). “Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the Lord.” (Zech. 8:17). If you continue to lie, slander, or speak hurtful words, do you really appreciate God’s mercy and grace?
A repentant nation must also root out a culture that accepts lying. Isaiah once lamented a similar culture of pervasive lies and deceit that was open and tolerated in the nation of Israel: “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.” (Is. 59:14). God will not accept the nation of Israel until “the remnant of Israel will not wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths . . .” (Zeph. 13:12-13). In the book of Revelation, God says that “no lie was found in their mouth . . .” amongst the surviving 144,000 Jews (Rev. 22:15). He also warns that there are “curses” (not eternal damnation) for those who fail to follow His Law (Lev. 26:14-37; Dt. 27:15-26; 28:15-68). Conversely, He promises “blessings” (not salvation) for those who follow the Law motivated by love and devotion (Lev. 26:3-13; Dt. 28:2-14; Ex. 15:26). Should our nation expect God’s blessings if lying is rampant at work, in commerce, and the law?
Forgiveness allows you to be forgiven. If someone has lied, gossiped or slandered you, Jesus says that you must forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22). If a believer does not forgive another believer, God will not forgive the believer: “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:32-35). Have you refused to forgive those who have made false statements, lied, or slandered you?
Pray for those who persecute you. What must you do if a person will not stop lying about you? You must pray for that person: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44). Are you praying for those who persecute you?
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17).
“You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Dt. 5:21).
Introduction: Coveting of the Devil vs. the Covenant of God. The Tenth Commandment addresses the unholy desires of the heart. These include the passions of the flesh and the desires for wealth and status. In the Fifth Century, St. Augustine proposed dividing the Tenth Commandment into two separate commandments and merging the first two commandments together. He believed that one commandment addressed the sin of coveting the flesh while the other covered coveting property. Yet, the problem with his proposal was that God switched the order of the prohibitions on coveting between the first and second readings of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Thus, the Ninth and Tenth Commandments would differ between the first and second readings of the Ten Commandments in the Bible. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and later the Lutheran Church all adopted the Augustinian method of counting. Yet, the Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Evangelicals, and all other Protestants count the last commandment as one. However it is counted, this Commandment addresses the feeder sins that cause you to break the other commandments. If you covet or long for something or someone, that can become your god. That then violates the First Commandment. The Apostle Paul also warned that coveting can become a form of idolatry, which violates the Second Commandment. As representatives of Christ, our coveting can also “profane” God’s name by casting a bad light on what it means to be a believer. This then breaks the Third Commandment. Coveting the things that gratify yourself, can also lead you to break the other Commandments. These include the Sabbath, placing your desires before your parents, hatred or murder, adultery, theft, and lying. The struggle against coveting is something that all believers fight with in some form. If you give in to coveting, you form a bond of communion with Satan. If you fail to rebuke him or flee from Satan’s temptations, God will eventually allow Satan to bind you into an addiction. Yet, God is graceful and will give you the power to break free from any kind of drug, alcohol, or sex addiction. For those who repent and forgo “coveting”, He promises to bless you with His “covenant”. This is not the covenant of eternal life. Only faith in Christ can provide that. Instead, He promises you the covenant of peace and fellowship with Him.
1 Coveting Things of the Flesh is the Root of Many Evils.
Coveting is a sin of the heart that leads to more serious sins when left unchecked. The later version of the Tenth Commandment begins with a prohibition against “coveting” a neighbor’s wife. The narrow wording might imply that the prohibited coveting is limited to a married woman who lives next door to you. Yet, Jesus came to shatter these legalistic interpretations. He explained that the mere act of lusting after another who is not that person’s spouse (an act of coveting) is a form of adultery: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Coveting, like the other Ten Commandments, are sins of the heart that defile us: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). God prohibits lusting or coveting the things of the flesh because it leads to other more serious sins. Lusting after another, whether it be in person, through pornography, or soft porn on television or in magazines, can lead to more serious sins like fornication and adultery. Moreover, these lusts put you in communion with the father of the world, not your Father in heaven: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16). Every believer is at times guilty of this sin (Rom. 3:20). Jesus and Paul analogized sin to yeast, the fastest growing microorganism (Mk. 8:15; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). If you are entertaining small sins of the flesh with your eyes, they will not stay small for long.
David’s example: coveting that led to adultery, deceit, and ultimately murder. David’s many sins all began as he stood on his roof top and lusted after or coveted his neighbor’s wife: “Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” (2 Sam. 11:2). David most likely knew when to be on his roof to see what he wanted to see. Over time, his coveting could not be satisfied by merely looking. Eventually, his secret coveting led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4). When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’ pregnancy, he tried to convince her husband Uriah to be with her to conceal his sin. When that did not work, he had Uriah murdered to try to cover his tracks and to win Bathsheba to himself (2 Sam. 11:14-17). David also became numb to his sin. He was not remorseful about sending Uriah to his death until God confronted him. Thus, nothing good comes from David’s unrepentant coveting (Ps. 38:3, 18).
Coveting money will lead to many kinds of other sins. The other part of the Tenth Commandment prohibits the coveting of another’s wealth or property. Coveting money, a form of greed, is also a feeder sin that can lead to a multitude of other sins. These sins can include theft and gambling addictions. God warns us that: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). Solomon wrote: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:8-9). If you covet a life filled with wealth, you will face temptations to hold back on your tithes, underreport your taxable income and steal from employers, clients, or others. You will also face other temptations to lie and be deceitful. You may also face temptations to gamble or argue with your spouse. Studies show that the most common thing to happen to couples after winning the lottery is to get a divorce. If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Is your heart willed with a love of money?
Have the right motives at work. God wants you to work hard in your job: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (Prov. 22:29). Yet, work hard for Christ, not for the rewards of mankind: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:23-24). If you work out of a desire to be rich, you work for yourself and not for Christ. If you work for Christ, you should also be motivated to share your wages because your wages come from God (Ja. 1:17). Are you working hard to help others or yourself?
Balaam’s example: coveting money leads to rebellion against God. The Apostle James warned Christians against the “error of Balaam.” (Jude 1:11). Jesus later condemned the church of Pergamum for leading believers into “ the doctrine of Balaam . . .” (Rev. 2:14). One of Balaam’s many sins included coveting money (2 Pet. 2:15). Balaam was a well-known sorcerer in his day. King Balaak solicited his help in casting a curse upon the Jews because the Jewish armies were too strong for Balaak to defeat in battle. God permitted Balaam to go with Balaak’s dignitaries on the condition that he only say what God commanded (Nu. 22:20). Balaam, however, later became filled with greed and planned to earn his money by cursing Israel (2 Pet. 2:15). Yet, God knew his thoughts and became angry with Balaam for his plan to deceive God (Nu. 22:22). God prevented Balaam from cursing the Jews and instead had him bless the Jews (Nu. 23-24). Yet, Balaam coveted the money that King Balaak offered him (Nu. 22:17). He knew that sorcery could not break God’s protection of His people (Nu. 24:1). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke God’s law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one law he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Judg. 2:17; 1 King. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite woman, who together formed an alliance against Israel (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balaak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. While Balaak gave into the sin of coveting money, the Jews gave into the sin of coveting what the women had to offer. In both cases, the coveting led to rebellion against God. Are you content with what God has given you? Or, are you rebelling against God’s laws to seek after riches, women, or your own pleasures?
King Ahab’s example: coveting can lead to lies and murder. King Ahab coveted a vineyard belonging to Naboth (1 Kgs. 21:1-3). King Ahab gave into his coveting by stealing the land by murdering Naboth and by speaking lies and false charges against him (1 Kgs. 21:8-16).
Anya and Saphira’s example: coveting money can cause you to rob God of tithes. Coveting can also cause you to rob from God by withholding your tithes. ‘“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.’” (Mal. 3:8-10). The coveting of money overcame both Ananias and Sapphira by causing them to withhold tithes from their church (Acts 5:1-3). Their coveting not only caused them to break the Eighth Commandment against theft, their coveting also caused them to break the Ninth Commandment against lying. God then struck them both dead as an example for the Church (Acts 5:4-10). If you seek God first, you have no reason to worry about money or anything else. He will provide for you (Matt. 6:33). Does your love of your money make it hard for you to give back a part of God’s money? Will you tithe when times are tough?
Pride can also cause you to covet power or prestige. Pride is an inflated view of yourself. Pride can also cause you to covet power or prestige and rebel (Is. 1:23). Satan was blessed with great beauty as one of God’s angels. His pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Pride may also lead to coveting and your eventual downfall (Prov. 16:18). Do you feel entitled to more power or prestige because of your talents?
Coveting power is also the source of most wars. The coveting of leaders is also the source of wars amongst mankind: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source of your pleasures that wage war on your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel . . .” (Jam. 4:1-2). Unlike the NASB quoted above, the New King James version and the New International Version translate the word “envious” as “covet.” God condemned one of last kings of ancient Judah for his covetousness that led to his “dishonest gain” and the “shedding innocent blood and practicing oppression and extortion.” (Jer. 22:17). World War II provides just one example of how the coveting of leaders leads to wars. On June 14, 1940, the Nazis and the Soviets signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Eastern Europe between them because both coveted these foreign lands. Yet, the Soviets had made a Faustian bargain. On June 22, 1941, after the Nazis had gained control of the continental Western Europe, they attacked the USSR and within weeks took Soviet occupied Eastern Europe. Their coveting could not be satisfied. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the American Navy in Pearl Harbor because America was blocking their invasion of the oil fields in South East Asia. They needed to invade oil fields to invade other lands that they coveted. How many wars could we avoid if leaders did not covet their neighbor’s lands?
Korah’s example: pride leading to the covetous desire for power and rebellion. While the Jews wandered in the wilderness, Korah was the head worship leader. His name meant “ice,” and he coveted the power and prestige that Moses had amongst the tribes. His inflated view of himself caused him to believe that he was entitled to more power and respect. He secretly conspired with 250 “men of renown” to demand that Moses share power with them (Nu. 16:2). Being blinded by their pride, these men believed that God would accept their fire and incense offerings (Nu. 16:18). Yet, because of his covetousness and rebellion, God opened the ground and swallowed up Korah. He was sent “alive” into Sheol (Nu. 16:31-33). God then killed the other 250 rebellious leaders with fire (Nu. 16:35). God later used a plague to destroy 14,700 others who rebelled to protest the loss of the 250 leaders (Nu. 16:49). Unless you are asked to violate God’s laws, a Christian is never permitted to rebel against authority (Ro. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). How should a believer know if a prospective leader is a Godly leader or one who simply covets power? (Matt 7:16-20; Jam. 1:5).
Aaron and Miriam’s example: coveting power can lead to gossip and slander. While camped at a place called Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron sinned against God by murmuring against their leader and brother Moses (Nu. 12:1). They complained that Moses did not share authority with them. They believed that they were entitled to more power because God had prophesied through them in the past (Nu. 12:2). Because Miriam initiated the murmuring, God afflicted her with leprosy for seven days (Nu. 12:10-15). We are not to covet what another person has. Aaron and Miriam felt that they deserved more power because they were filled with pride. Do you feel underappreciated in your job because you believe that you are smarter, better educated, more talented, or more charismatic than those around you? Should you worry more about this sin when you struggle or when everything is going well?
Anything you covet can become an addiction and your idol. If you covet the escape offered with drugs or alcohol, money, gambling, pornography, power, or prestige, those things will eventually become your idol and addiction: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). David also warned against turning your job and the things that you can create with your God-given talents into idols: “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands.” (Ps. 135:15; 115:4). If you covet the initial pleasures of drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, money, power, or prestige, eventually those unholy things will turn you against the Lord: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [Mammon] [or greed].” (Matt. 6:24). If you covet something unholy, you will eventually become addicted to it. If you enjoy an evil escape, your passions may burn to return to it (Ps. 81:12). Is there anything in this world that you crave more than God?
Solomon’s example: his coveting sex turned his heart to idolatry and away from God. Solomon was the wisest man alive (1 Kgs. 4:30). Yet, he coveted women who liked him for his wisdom, wealth, and power. His coveting led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines, who led him astray (1 Kgs. 11:3). His lusts turned his heart away from God: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:4). He then began to serve other gods and did evil in God’s eyes (1 Kgs. 11:5-6). Do the lusts of the flesh rule over you? Or, do you control them?
Jesus’ test for idolatry. How do you know if something you crave or covet in your life has become an idol? It is an idol when it becomes an addiction that you cannot ignore. Ask yourself if you would willingly or easily part with it if Jesus asked you to do so. When Jesus asked a rich man seeking to follow Him to give up his wealth, the young man left with sadness in his heart because he was unwilling to do so: “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matt. 19:21-22; Mk. 22:21-22; Lk. 18:22-23). When we deny God and exalt ourselves, we also commit a form of idolatry. Isaiah warned against those who proclaimed: “‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (Is. 47:8-10). Do you place your own desires before God?
Satan can only offer fleeting counterfeit pleasures. The pleasure Satan offers to the person who gives into covetousness never lasts long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting. Alcohol is just one of many examples of this: “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.” (Hab. 2:5). The greed or coveting of money can also never be satisfied with more money. “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11). “Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough’”. (Prov. 30:16). The pleasure of alcohol, drugs, adultery, and theft all quickly fade. If a gambler is successful, how frequently is the gambler content not to gamble? If an adulterer escapes being caught, how frequently is the adulterer content to stay monogamous? If you spoil your child and give them every gift that he or she wants for his or her birthday or Christmas, how long will it be before your child wants something else?
The example of the Jews in the wilderness. While the Jews wandered in the wilderness, they repeatedly gave into covetousness. They left with “a large number of livestock” (Ex. 12:37). Yet, they still coveted the “pots of meat that they had in Egypt.” (Ex. 16:3). God promised to “rain bread from heaven for you . . . every day, that I may test them . . .” (Ex. 16:4). The Jews failed God’s tests. They tried to hoard the Manna that God provided. They did so even when told not to do so (Ex. 16:20). They were then told not to collect the Manna on the Sabbath. But they tried to do so anyway (Ex. 16:27). Later, the Jews complained about the Manna that God gave them (Nu. 11:34). They again craved the meat that they had in Egypt. To show them the evil in their hearts, God promised to give the complaining Jews meat for an entire month, until it went out the peoples noses. He promised that it would become loathsome to them (Nu. 11:20). Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “meat,” “basar,” can also be translated as “flesh.” The place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (Nu. 11:34), which means the “graves of greediness” or “craving.” It was a place where the entire society became consumed with greed. Today, in Western economies, people are encouraged to buy and hoard things in excess of what they need. Are we any less deserving of God’s wrath?
Satan seeks to place you into bondage to sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place you into bondage and, like he did to Solomon, cause you to turn away from God (1 Kgs. 11:3-4). He seeks to make us slaves to the flesh: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!” (Is. 5:11). Ultimately, this can become a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5). If we give in to coveting, the devil will enslave us: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). If we give in to coveting, Satan places our flesh at war with God’s Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, we must pick that which we will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “[t]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). Which master are you serving?
To show our need for God, He will hand the unrepentant coveter over to his or her desires. If you turn from God and fail to ask for help from your bondage, God will turn you over to your bondage until you call out for Him: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they knew the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). “[God] gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:105). Are you trapped in any type of bondage or addiction? Are you crying out for God to free you? Or, do you like your chains too much?
Know the value of the mercy and grace you have been given. God is slow to anger and wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, God is a consuming fire of righteousness (Heb. 12:28-29). He will eventually cast out the unsaved who rebel against His laws (Ps. 5:10; Ez. 20:38). Like the other Nine Commandments, the penalty for coveting is also death (Jam. 1:14-15; Heb. 10:28). A person who covets and has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5; see also Rev. 2:14; 2:20). If you know the price for coveting, are you trying to warn your unsaved friends?
You cannot save yourself from the penalty for coveting. Your study of the Tenth Commandment should make clear you can never fulfill it on your own. Only through Christ is your salvation possible (Ro. 3:9-12; Gal. 2:16; 2:21; 3:23-24). Do you give thanks for what Christ saved you from? If you give into coveting, how thankful are you?
Any honest believer has coveting of some form to repent of. Through your study of the Tenth Commandment, your sins of coveting should be revealed to you through the Holy Spirit (Ro. 3:20). We all have at times been ruled by covetous desires: “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain . . .” (Jer. 6:13). “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:3). Paul, for example, stated that he only knew that he was a covetous man through his study of the Law: “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You Shall Not Covet.’” (Rom. 7:7). Thus, we have all sinned in God’s eyes (Ro. 3:10, 23). If you deny your sin, God will confront you with it: “Yet you said, ‘I am innocent; surely His anger is turned away from me.’ Behold, I will enter into judgment with you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.”’ (Jer. 2:35). If you deny that you have coveted, you will be shown by your actions on Earth to be a liar before God (1 Jo. 1:10). Our God is “jealous” of anything that draws us from Him (Ex. 34:14; Dt. 5:9). Thus, repent of your coveting in whatever forms it has taken in your life.
God is faithful to forgive all who repent. If you have given into coveting, God will forgive you if you repent: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13). If you repent, you will also have the Holy Spirit to guide you: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 2:38). Provided you restore those you have wronged, if you continue to feel guilt after your confession of sin, your guilt is from the Devil, because God will remember your sin no more (Ro. 8:1). Are you letting any of your prior sins hold you back from serving God?
(1) To fight covetousness, be a slave to righteousness, which includes love and charity. When you repent and accept Christ, you become a “new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17). You are also part of God’s “royal priesthood.” (1 Pet. 2:9). Through Christ, your old self and your old covetous desires will burn away: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that your body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin . . .” (Ro. 6:6). There will, however, be times when some aspects of the old coveting flesh returns to tempt us (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). A former addict may, for example, be tempted by covetousness to return to bondage because the flesh and the Spirit are at war with each other: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit . . .” (Gal. 5:17). Christ warns that “the flesh profits nothing?” (Jo. 6:63). To fight the flesh as a saved believer, you must become a slave to a lifestyle that is wholesome and fulfilling in Christ: “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Ro. 6:18). To do this you must renew your mind every day to dwell on what is good: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” (Rom. 12:2). As you renew your mind, covet the things of God: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1-2; Matt. 6:6; Matt 6:19-24; 13:44-46; 1 Cor. 12:31; Phil 3:7-14). The most important part of becoming a slave to righteousness is practicing selfless love and charity toward others (1 Pet. 3:8). Love is the antithesis of coveting and lust. “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb. 13:16). “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. . . . In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35). True religion is helping those in need (Jam. 1:27; 1 Pet. 4:10). Become addicted to things that bring love and charity to others. Volunteer so that you become addicted to loving and helping. Give so that you become addicted to the joy of helping. Restore others so that you become addicted to healing. Pray for others so that you become addicted to prayer. Spend time with your children and spouse until you become addicted to him or her. Keep reading the Bible until you become addicted to it and the Holy Spirit will guide your path. Through prayer, make your own list to selflessly love others and follow it.
(2) To fight covetousness, fear God by hating evil things. Contrary to what some may think, head knowledge of the Bible is not all you need to ward off coveting. Aaron’s example shows us that head knowledge can sometimes make the coveting and pride harder to see. He and Miriam spoke against Moses because they coveted his authority (Nu. 12:1-2). Aaron, however, had witnessed God destroy Pharaoh’s armies. He also witnessed 3,000 people die after Aaron succumbed to peer pressure and built a golden calf (Ex. 32:26-28). Aaron was the high priest who knew both the 10 Commandments and the rest of God’s rules. Yet, his head knowledge of the law was alone not enough to keep him from coveting his brother’s power. Even Solomon, the wisest man alive and the author of most of the proverbs, gave in to this sin as his covetousness led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:1-8). His wisdom and head knowledge also was not enough to keep him from coveting: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Ps. 111:10; Job 28:28; Ecc. 12:13). The fear of the Lord is not fear that God will arbitrarily strike you dead. It is instead hating the one thing in life that you are allowed to hate, evil: “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). “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). When you hear gossip, do you flock to hear about it? Or, does the gossip repulse you? Do you enjoy reading or watching stories about evil things in this world? If you constantly embrace evil things, should you be surprised if you become numb to evil?
(3) To fight covetousness, deny yourself physical pleasures including what you watch. If you give into all of your covetous desires, you cannot follow Christ. You must deny yourself of your unholy desires: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”’ (Matt. 16:24-26). “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened . . .” (1 Cor. 5:7). “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). Guided by the Spirit, you must exercise self-control: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:8). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16; 1 Pet. 4:7). “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14). Part of self-denial involves choosing not to watch or read certain things. Jesus warned that: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23). Job denied himself by making a covenant with his eyes: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). If you do not control your covetous desires, they will ultimately consume you: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:14-15). By denying yourself here on Earth, you will also “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20). Denying yourself does not mean a life of deprivation. If you seek after God’s righteousness, He will give you every material thing that you need: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you have a spouse, stay faithful to the spouse that God has given you. If you have a television subscription that includes inappropriate channels that cause you to stumble, canceling the subscription. If the internet causes you to stumble, install filters. If you have ever felt the desire to feed an addiction, have you ever fasted to deny your flesh?
(4) To fight covetousness, avoid a covetous brother or sister who can pull you off your walk. Jesus met with sinners to heal them. You should follow His example by helping those who have either strayed from God’s light or those who have never sought it out. Yet, you must be careful that your ministry to help others trapped in darkness (if you have one) does not become a snare in your own walk. A believer who hangs out on a social basis with another believer gripped with covetousness like greed or sexual sins can easily be pulled off his or her walk. “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:3). “For they seek after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 2:21). We can also cause others to stumble in our walk. You must: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9). Do you hang out with people who love the Lord and enjoy reading the Word? Or, do all your close friends love drugs, alcohol, and pornography? If the latter is true, should it be any surprise if the worldly things around you eventually become your favorite as well?
(5) To fight covetousness, be thankful by praising God for your underserved gifts. When you covet, you are effectively saying that you are unhappy with what God has given you. God tells us that “godliness with contentment” is “great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5). Thus, we are to do all things “without grumbling or disputing.” (Phil. 2:14). In “everything,” we are to “give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18). Have you repented about your complaints regarding what you don’t have? Do you give thanks for everything, even when times are bad?
(6) To fight covetousness, be humble. Like Satan, another reason for coveting is if you feel entitled to more than what you have. To keep yourself humble, praise God for all your gifts (1 Cor. 9:15; Col. 3:17; 3:23). Every good and perfect gift in your life comes from above, not from you (Jam. 1:17). Are you giving credit to God for your accomplishments?
(7) To fight covetousness, be in constant prayer for yourself and for others trapped in addiction. “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). You can take refuge in God when you submit to Him in obedience and in prayer: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” (Col. 4:2). Ask God to give you what is holy and what will satisfy you: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Lk. 11:13). Seek God’s wisdom with the same intensity that you work for money and He will bless you with wisdom: “For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:3-5). God’s wisdom is more rewarding than jewels: “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.” (Prov. 8:11). “My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.” (Prov. 8:19). Are you praying for God’s shield of protection and His wisdom?
Compliance with the Ten Commandments brings the blessings of God’s covenant. Your salvation in Christ is a “free gift” that cannot be earned (Rom. 6:23). Yet, separate and apart from your salvation through Christ, God promises conditional “blessings” for those who follow His law with the right motivation: “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Ex. 15:26; Lev. 26:3-13; Dt. 28:2-14). If you choose the covenant over covetousness, God promises to bless you in several ways:
(1) Your needs (not wants) will be met. If the Jews followed God’s Law, He promised rain for the produce to grow (Lev. 26:3-5; Dt. 11:10-17; 32:1-3; 1 Ki. 18:41-46). He also promises to provide for you today if you trust Him (Matt. 6:25-34).
(2) You will have God’s Shalom peace. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised to give them peace (Lev. 26:6). If you follow the Law, you also can enjoy the Shalom peace of God that surpasses human understanding (Phil 4:7). Your conscience will also be clean (1 Pet. 3:21). “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Ro. 8:6).
(3) Enemies will not harm you. If the Jews followed God’s law, He further promised victory over their enemies (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22, Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). A thief or enemy cannot steal your treasures if they are stored in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
(4) You will bear the fruit and joy of the Spirit. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised that the Jews would be fruitful and multiply (Lev. 26:9-10). Jesus also promised you an abundant life in the Spirit, not a life of misery (Jo. 10:10).
(5) Your prayers will not be hindered. If the Jews followed God’s law, He further promised to dwell with His people (Lev. 26:11). Today, the Holy Spirit dwells within you (1 Cor. 6:19). Your prayers will not be “hindered” when you obey (1 Pet. 3:7). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (John 9:31; Prov. 15:29; Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15).
(6) God will break your bondage to sin and addictions. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised to be their God, break them of their yoke of bondage and help them to walk erect (Lev. 26:12-13; Ex. 20:2). Through Jesus’ death, our bodies have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If we have been freed from being slaves to sin, we instead should become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Through faith in Christ, we have the strength to break any covetousness or addiction (Phil. 4:13).
(7) God will reward you in other ways. Obedience also brings other rewards and blessings: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jo. 13:17; Lev. 26:11). “But happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18). “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:11). “Surely there is a reward for the righteous . . .” (Ps. 58:11). “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (Dt. 29:9). “[B]e careful to do according to all the law . . . so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Josh 1:8). “[H]e who sows righteousness gets a true reward.” (Prov. 11:18). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; Lev. 18:5). If you do not boast of your works, Jesus will also reward you (Matt. 6:4; 10:41; 1 Cor. 3:9-15; Rev. 2:26).
Choosing Covetousness, can also bring curses. Even if you have eternal salvation through Christ, God promises “curses” or earthly discipline in the form of hardships for those who reject the covenant and choose to submit to the Devil’s covetousness (Lev. 26:14-37; Dt. 27:15-26; 28:15-68). This can include addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and sex (Ro. 1:24-33). God disciplines you when you are willingly wayward in your walk because He loves you and wants to guide you back with His rod (Heb. 12:6). Are you using your grace as a license to covet and rebel against His laws? (Rom. 6:15).
Our nation will either be cursed or blessed for its choices. Most westerners have grown accustomed to the notion that faith is something that has no place in public discourse. Yet, God warns that His blessings or curses await a nation depending upon whether it decides to accept His Law (Dt. 28). The curse or discipline can be lifted once a nation repents. This is exactly what happened after the people of Nineveh repented in response to Jonah’s warning (Jonah 3:1-10). Today, we see coveting promoted in every aspect of our society. This is also exactly what Paul predicted would happen: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 3:1-15). God will punish a nation that openly embraces covetousness (Micah 2:2-3). Will you answer the call to restore in love those caught in the bondage of sin? (Gal. 6:1).
Your prayers for the nation can make a difference. Your prayers can also help others trapped in addiction and rebellion. Moses’ prayers repeatedly saved the Jews after they rebelled against God (Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 11:2; 14:18-22; Nu. 16:21-24). Are you praying for your nation and for those trapped in addictions? Will you fast for those trapped in addictions?
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. 5:22-33). To Bible critics, this is evidence that the different authors wrote different parts of the Torah or Pentateuch. Yet, 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 promises to bless you.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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?
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?
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?
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?