Chapter 20:1-11 (ESV) - And God spoke all these words, saying,
“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 a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of 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 hold him guiltless 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 to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and 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.
Question to consider: Why is it important that Israel view these commands in light of God delivering them from slavery in Egypt?
Out of the cloud and fire and trumpet blasts came the word of the LORD to the people of Israel. We often refer to them as the Ten Commandments, but a more accurate description would be the Ten Words of YHWH. I say this not out of a desire to diminish our need to follow them, but to emphasize that these are declarative statements of God that will come to pass. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The apostle Paul said something similar to the Philippian church, “ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Think for a moment about when Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5. He issued a word to the man that was both a command and a declarative statement, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Jesus expected the man to obey His word, but in it He was also declaring that the man had been healed after thirty-eight years. The LORD gave these words with the declaration that He was the God who delivered them from Egypt. In this, there was an implication that He would deliver them from sin as well. In Christ we are being transformed into a people who will one day perfectly love God and one another.
The commands I have included in today’s passage are considered the first table of the Law. These are words dealing with our love of God. Order is important in Hebrew which means that our worship of God alone is of primary importance to Him. If we were to order the words according to man, we would consider murder to be of primary importance. We take pride in being a “good” person because we haven’t murdered anyone even though we have elevated our own desires above those of God. Every time we sin against God, we have forsaken God’s very first word and worshiped ourselves. If we in fact view God’s ten words through His eyes, none of us deserve to be God’s treasured possession. It is therefore good news that Christ did not leave us in this state of guilt but delivered us from sin and death by His own obedience.
Taking the LORD’s name in vain is not so much the avoidance of invoking the name YHWH, but to keep from invoking it in a way that trivializes God or attributes something to Him that is false. Those who pretend to hear from God today and declare words that have not been given in scripture, or those who elevate their own ideas above the word of the LORD are taking His name in vain. As I mentioned in previous lessons, the Sabbath was given as a day to set aside labor and worship the LORD. It is a type and shadow that points to Christ who has given us rest from works of the Law. Now we desire to do the things that please God because we are being transformed through Christ, not because we are fulfilling the requirements of salvation. We gather together to worship the LORD, to receive His good gifts and to love and serve one another in Christ.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for Your words and the promise of Your deliverance from the things that keep us from following them. We see so much darkness in the world when the desires of man are elevated above Your words. Let it teach us to walk more closely with You in Christ and to be a light in the midst of this present darkness. Amen.