Inside the Ten Commandments – Part I :: by Gene Lawley

The fact that they were burned into slabs of stone by the hand of God says a lot about the truth that they were not just the ten suggestions. The Ten Commandments are a complete package, enveloping the whole of man’s life. They are ten in total, but Jesus sums them up into just two.

When He was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it:

“’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Paul, then, lists the last five of the ten, and makes this statement: “…and ifthere is any other commandment, [they] are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

Then we find the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and theProphets.” Sometimes this is modified, by comment and by action, to say, “He who has the gold rules,” or, “Do unto others before they do unto you,” but these are self-serving concepts that defy the rights and consideration of others.

When Paul ends the passage above with “love [for a neighbor] is the

fulfillment of the law,” he left us to ponder how this can be done. We are notably ill-equipped to accomplish that feat. Perhaps that is why the first and great commandment is to love God with our whole being. And John writes that “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). That seems to wrap it up quite sufficiently.

The Ten Commandments

1. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

If God is not number one in a person’s life, He really doesn’t count at all. How could that be so? Apparently God put this one first because He cannot take a back seat, or even the passenger seat in anyone’s life vehicle. Someone has said, “If God is your co-pilot, then you are in the wrong seat!”

But the issue goes much deeper than even that. God is the source of life. He created man from the dust of the earth, in His own image, breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Then his soul died when Adam disobeyed, but he lived on for 930 years, physically. He passed on that life to his many offspring, even to you and me through our parents. And to get that spiritual life He breathed into Adam at the first, we have to go to Him, ourselves.

John 5:26 says, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself…,” and we must go to  1 John 5:11-12 to find it for ourselves:

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

In John 15:5 Jesus urges believers to abide in Him, “for without Me you can do nothing.” It has been reported that Oprah Winfrey read in the Old Testament that God declared, “I am a jealous God!” and could not equate that with the God of the universe. Her comprehension, apparently, was on a human level and not up to what the Lord meant.

These commandments are meant for Man’s best welfare and not for his misery. Jesus, as God in the flesh, was not uttering empty platitudes when He said, in John 10:10:

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have itmore abundantly.”

Much more could be discovered along this line of thinking, but perhaps this from Jeremiah 29:11 could summarize God’s real attitude toward the person who would put Him first

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or thatis in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4).

This commandment seems to be easily violated in so many subtle ways. How many times have you seen a statue of the virgin Mary, dangling from a rear-view mirror in a car? Or, are you carrying around a St. Christopher medal for protection? Is there a rosary that you rely on for your prayer time? Well, then, how about a rabbit’s foot in your pocket?span style=”mso-spacerun:yes”>

Jesus was addressing this issue when He talked to the woman at the well in John 4. In that case, even the location of worship, as the physical place to find God, was also a distraction. Here is a portion of their conversation from John 4:19-24: The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Italics added for emphasis.)

Based on that conversation, then, anything physical could become a “graven” image, in that it would distract from the reality of God’s presence. When Enoch “walked with God” those three hundred years (Genesis 5:22), was he carrying around a physical  image of what he thought God looked like? His spirit and God’s Spirit were bound together in awareness. When God’s Word fills our hearts and minds readily, then the sense of His presence is a matter of the reality of faith, as described in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

“In an improper or irreverent manner” is the dictionary’s rendering that most closely matches this commandment. Another definition listed with this one probably could be used  to define the person violating the commandment and what he thinks of the God of the commandment: “Without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless.”

Swearing in the Lord’s name at someone is a dangerous thing, for it is demanding that God would damn them with a curse of judgment. It is a filthy language that spews out of a defiled heart like trash washing up on the seashore. Both Jesus and James addressed the issue, as follows:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12).

When a Christian picks up the gutter language of the world around him or her, they dishonor the Lord who made them and the redeemer who has saved them out of that garbage pit of corruption. Paul put it this way to the Colossians:

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Letyour speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6).

It is no secret that Jeremiah was right when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). And we should not be surprised to find Jesus saying this about the carnal man:

“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).

When these things spring out of the heart of man, it is strong evidence that he does indeed need a Redeemer.

(Continued in Part Two.)