Allow me to read my main text again:
Deut. 13:1-5 If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.
Today I want to address keeping His commandments.
Humor: A gray haired man, a long member of his community and church, shook hands with the minister after the service one morning. “That was a wonderful sermon, he told him, just wonderful. Everything you said applied to someone I know.”
Any time we hear about keeping God’s commandments either they refer to the Ten Commandments or the larger body of legislation in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
The Ten Commandments are also referred to as the “ten words” or (Decalogue in the Septuagint)
Many people think that the Ten Commandments are outdated and out of style.
A pastor by the name of Jerry Vines said, “We are not past the Ten Commandments, we haven’t caught up to them yet.”
Allow me to give you some background to the Ten Commandments or Ten Words:
Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words.
What moved God to speak all these words?
In the previous 19 chapters of Exodus we see God interacting and intervening on Israel’s behalf.
Israel was trapped in slavery in Egypt. They had nowhere to go until God showed up. Under the heavy hand of Pharaoh the people of Israel cried out to God.
To make a long story short, God sent them a mediator (a go between), Moses. God not only heard their prayers but He delivered them from slavery in Egypt through Moses.
He set them on a journey through life with Him. It’s in this context that God speaks very simple yet profound words. In ten statements, God gave His chosen people the guide to live life whole.
Exod. 20:2-17 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.
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.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
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.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
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.
And the Church just added an 11th COMMANDMENT—Thou shall not COVID thy fellow church member.
In brief, the Decalogue are God’s guidelines to living a whole life. He gave the Israelites a blueprint, a recipe for healthy, holy, happy lives.
This blueprint flew in the face of all the pagan cultures around them; they were doing the exact opposite. God wanted His people to be different and to be a light to the nations around them.
What is the basis of our wholeness? Exod. 1:2a I am the Lord your God.
In this I am statement we see God’s character, who He is, and what He stands for.
This is the basis of all theology. There is one Almighty Sovereign God. He is Personal, I am the Lord your God.
He is the God who draws near. That’s been the history of God...searching out a people for Himself.
However, the very nature of this searching demands a response as Dr. Bob Utley points out:
~by faith Adam must obey God and not eat of the tree in the midst of Eden (we know the outcome of Adam’s decision and we’ve been suffering for it ever since)
~by faith Noah must build a huge boat far from water and gather the animals
~by faith Abraham must leave his family, follow God, and believe in future descendants
~by faith Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai
and received specific guidelines with promises of blessings and cursings (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28).
And then under the new ratified covenant we are still given the opportunity to respond by faith.
Matt. 16:24-28 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. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Again, what is the basis for our wholeness? It’s not only found in God’s nature, but in what He has done and will do.
Exod. 1:2b Who brought you out of Egypt out of the house of slavery.
The great I Am heard the cries of His people and He acted on their behalf. (God is a God of action)
He pounded Egypt with plagues. He pummeled the armies of Pharaoh with the waters of the Red Sea.
The story of the Bible is about a God who acts on behalf of His people. This is the great difference between the Biblical narrative and all the other religions. All other religions try to get to their god by what they can do.
The Biblical account is about a God who seeks and rescues fallen mankind. Before God gave us the Decalogue or the Ten Words, He set the Israelites free from slavery.
God showed the Israelites and you and I that He can provide, protect, and prosper His people.
And it is by what Jesus did on the cross that we can live out the Ten Commandments.
Here are some surprising stats regarding the Ten Commandments:
Newsweek reported that 85% of Americans believe the Ten Commandments are still binding today; however, only 15% could name five of them. (I don’t think Canadians would fare any better)
And only 49% of all Protestants and 44% of all Roman Catholics could name 4 of the Ten Commandments.
Here’s one version of the Ten Commandments rewritten by a 4th grader:
~Put God first
~No bad words
~Work 6 Rest 1
~Obey your parents
~Hurt no one
~Don’t take what’s not yours
~Tell the truth
~Don’t be jealous of other people’s stuff.
God speaks to the young and old through His Ten Commandments. He is speaking to us in the singular.
The Decalogue is a call for response not only from Israel but all of mankind. God desires for us to be whole and He wants us to be in relationship.
Keeping the first four commandments are a proper response to God. Keeping the last six commandments is a proper response to our fellow man.
The sad part about human history is that we haven’t done very well on either front, which hasn’t taken God by surprise.
Deut. 5.29 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!
This verse reveals not only the heartache (longing) of God, but also His unfolding plan through Christ.
We are not only forgiven when we come to Christ but we are empowered to live out His moral absolutes.
As I trek through the OT, it has become very clear to me that wholeness/happiness comes from holiness.
Francis Bacon said, “It is not what men eat but what they digest that makes them strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; not what we preach but what we practice that makes us Christians.”
The Decalogue/Ten Words in Exodus 20 is a call to be in a loving, loyal relationship with God and to show a loving, loyal respect toward our fellow man.
The closer we move in His direction through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the more we will experience a holy/happy life.
The opposite can be said as well. The further we move away from His commandments, the more unhappy we become.