The year was 1956, and “big productions” were the “in” thing in Hollywood. Everyone knew Cecil B. DeMille’s thirst for the BIG PICTURE. He fired the imaginations of American church and synagogue goers with the Movie of the decade….There he stood, perched on a rock, high above the parting seas. Moses (read: Charlton Heston) stretched out his hands and the glass walls created for the movie were pummeled by the fire hoses behind them with water to create the Red Sea water walls the Israelites passed through. It was a great moment on the big screen. It recalled what had to be a high water mark (pun intended) in the career of the ex-prince ex-con that was now about to become Israel’s shepherd law-giver.
Certainly it is true that Moses had some high times with God… He also had some profound LOW TIMES, but that is for another study. Think about the timing of the text we want to study… Moses had taken the people fifty days away from Egypt into the Sin wilderness to the mountain where God met him earlier. Moses came back “home” to the place of his call. By the time of their arrival, Israel saw God drop ten plagues on Egypt, and then summarily cancel each. They saw God part the waters of the Sea of Reeds and then swallow Egypt’s leading corps of soldiers with the same water. They saw God’s navigation GPS in the pillar of fire and cloud. They ate bread brought by wind, and quail roasters that dropped from the sky! They cried out periodically, but God always delivered what they needed. By the time Moses walked up the thundering mountain to meet God, all Israel was aware of His holy presence. They saw the pyrotechnics, and new this wasn’t a Moses orchestrated event. God’s manifest presence entered the scene, and it was obvious.
Climb the hill with me, and sit behind a bush. Listen in, as God’s voice thundered from Heaven, and Moses sat transfixed by God’s glory, waiting on the written copy etched out by God’s hand into the stone of the mountain…First we hear God tell us about His place in our lives and schedules: Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “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. 5 “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, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7 “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. 8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 “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.
Keep listening, and you will hear a change in the direction of God’s commands. Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “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.” 18 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. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; 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.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. 22 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. 23 ‘You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. 24 ‘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. 25 ‘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. 26 ‘And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’
Key Principle: Once I understand God’s place, then I must be responsible for my behaviors, and even my desires. Failure to take both seriously will bring pain on me and those around me. That isn’t JUDGMENTAL, it is ORGANIZED and PURPOSEFUL.
Years ago I was riding in the car of an Israeli friend. For those who haven’t experienced it yet, you should know that Israelis are good at many things – but driving isn’t normally on the list. They have the most “company start ups” of any modern nation, but they can’t seem to master LINES on the roadway. My friend was weaving between three lanes – back and forth. I said, “Ruby, why don’t you stay in one lane?” He replied: “It’s only paint!” The point is simple: lines were made to avoid collisions – and so were God’s relational and contentment laws.
The mountain of the Law — what a scene! It deserves our careful attention, and so we continue with a careful look at each of the words God gave to Moses. Think back with me about where we have been, so we can move on. Last time in our study of the first four of these commands, we saw:
- There are three codes of Law – not one – including Civil Code, Constitutional Code and Criminal Code.
- Within the Civil Code and Constitutional Code there are ten core commands (called the “Ten Commandments”) that help set the tone and parameters of these codes.
- These commands are not more important than many other commands, but they are a basic primer on what God wanted the people to be concerned about.
- Within the Ten Commandments, there were three types of core commands shape in us three core value statements to determine how we make sense out of life and make our personal choices in life.
- The first three are vertical commands (laws that govern how we are to relate to God above us), followed by several horizontal commands (laws to govern how we are to relate to other people beside us) and finally contentment laws (laws to govern how we look at life from within us).
- We learned that When God is understood, sin is defined. When God is NEAR, sin is PLAIN. When God is REVERED, sin is REVILED.
What were the vertical commands? Briefly, they were the first four of the ten commandments:
I. Exclusivity: I have the absolute right to your undivided loyalty.
Exodus 20:1 “Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. “
II. Identity: Do not try to shape Me in to your understanding or box Me in to your molds (Ex. 20:4).
Exodus 20:4 “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. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…
III. Reverence: Regard My name as high and important! Do not use it without importance, nor swear by it falsely (7). I am listening!
Exodus 20: 7 “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.
IV. Boundaries: My boundaries are the ones that matter – since everything was created by Me for My purpose.
Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work
Now it is clear that knowing who and where God is in my life is absolutely essential, but it is not the end – it is the beginning of a life lived well. We are not in a monastery – and life is busy and connected. Because of that, we need to use the foundation of our knowledge of God to LIVE LIFE… and that involves the other two types of command – the Horizontal Commands and the Contentment Laws. These two overlap each other and represent a practical foundation of my daily behaviors.
First, let’s look at the Horizontal Commands
Our behaviors and choices – even our understanding of engaging OTHER PEOPLE –are horizontal commands. The value statements found in these laws presuppose that because God placed us in the position of life and under the authorities of life we were born into, we should follow His commands about how best to respond.
V: Position: Prize and care for your parents to receive the great blessings of life! (12). Why? Because to reject our parentage is to reject His rule.
Exodus 20: 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
God gave you the place you have in life. He selected your family for you. Does that mean that all their misbehavior was HIS FAULT? Of course not! They chose to walk with Him- or not. They chose to rightly discipline or wrongly punish. They chose their actions, but that doesn’t negate the reality that God knit you together in your mother’s womb. God sparked the genes to build a unique and wonderful YOU! Accepting our family is part of accepting God’s ruler-ship in our lives. Don’t forget! Both longevity and possession of God’s intended blessing was linked to the care they were to have for parents.
Is it any wonder that as American families distance themselves from caring directly for their parents that God withdraws some of His hand of prosperity? I don’t believe so.
The Bible warns: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction…” in Proverbs 13:1. It is worth reviewing anew that there is a difference between children OBEYING their parents, and adults children HONORING them. You are not required to live their standard throughout your life – because an adult bust take responsibility to stand before God on their own two feet. At the same time, many young people surmise that this means when they hit eighteen years of age, they can somehow righteously mutter: “Sweet! I don’t have to obey any longer. I hate these rules, and I’m OUTTA here, baby!
One Pastor rightly asked: “Let me ask you this: If you move out at 18, and start living a life that is totally against your parents wishes (like a “sex, drugs and rock and roll” life), or shacking up with someone, or blowing all your money, and living off the government instead of making a living, and making them feel humiliated at the kind of life you’re living. . . can you honestly stand before God when you die, and say, “Sure, I honored my parents?”
Consider this famous writer’s insight: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned.” ~ Mark Twain
Let me be clear. Honor your parents – because God put them in your life. Your call as a believer is to honor the POSITION, not based on whether the PERSON has “earned” your respect. Long life and prosperity are linked to it. Obedience is found in it. Blessing grows out from it… and it is rooted in accepting God’s right to rule over your life. YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE.
- It doesn’t matter if your parents “planned” to have you.
- It isn’t changed by whether or not they stayed together.
- It isn’t negated if your mother was raped. God put you in there – and what men meant for evil, God used for good. The baby was the only good thing that came from that lousy and evil situation.
VI: Sacredness: To reject the sanctity of human life is to reject the sacredness of His breath in man. Do not plan and deliberately kill another human being (13). Life is sacred, and that sacredness is diminished in our eyes when we tolerate murder.
Exodus 20: 13 “You shall not murder.
I couldn’t help but smile at this little story: “A Sunday School teacher was discussing the 10 commandments with her 5 & 6 year olds. After explaining the commandment to “honor your father and mother,”she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” Quickly, one of the kids answered, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Here is the truth – every life matters. It isn’t whether they are smart and influential or academically challenged and poor that counts. It is the BREATH OF GOD within that makes you worth something. It is His hand that sculpted your frame that makes you valuable. A simple ball in the hands of a celebrated athlete becomes invaluable. Your simple genetic chemical makeup became incredibly valuable when the Master Creator touched and formed YOU. Every life matters. It is why we mourn a nation that has killed its unborn and exported its philosophy of “termination of life for inconvenience sake”.
VII: Covenant: To violate the intimacy of another’s marriage is to diminish the promises and vows people make and use the sexual gift outside its especially purposed parameters. Remain loyal to your marriage covenant (14). Promises and vows are important and must not be easily passed off.
Exodus 20: 14 “You shall not commit adultery.
For the sake of clarity, the word adultery specifically refers to a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse. Again, let me be clear. That includes DIGITAL ADULTERY. Your sexual relationship and desires were given to anhance your expression of love to your spouse, not as some perverse personal entertainment system. I don’t mean to be crass, but the world has little embarrassment for things sexual today, and the church cannot quietly remain on the sidelines – or we become as helpless and ineffective as Father Francis Mulcahy was on the set of MASH in the 1970’s. He was a nice guy, but his platitudes offered little direction, and his love offered little truth.
We must understand what has happened to sex in our generation: “Go through the checkout line. . . what do you see? Magazines: Cosmo, etc. etc. What’s the big article feature that’s talked about on the cover? ‘‘Men Tell what they Really Love” ‘‘Touch Him Here” ‘‘7 Hot Tricks to Make Him Scream for Mercy”. . . Go to the bookstore: Shelves and shelves of ‘‘How to Be a Great Lover” etc. etc. Do you know why? Because when we remove sex from relationship and commitment of marriage, there’s nothing left but technique. (sermon central illustrations).
In a very clear way, we can observe how these relational values press us to watch how we relate to others surrounding us, but also press us to govern desires within… in what we call “contentment laws”.
Finally, let’s look at the “Contentment Laws”.
The final core value statements relate to how we govern our inner beings and control inner desires – (i.e. commandments VIII-X). Each of these peek through our lives and demonstrate the underlying perspective – particularly on how we view things that aren’t ours. These reveal how we govern ourselves as we walk through this life.
VIII: Stewardship: Property rights must be strictly observed (15). What God hasn’t given you isn’t yours, and you can’t just take it. What God has given you ISN’T YOURS EITHER – it is on loan from Your Father for your temporary use.
Exodus 20: 15 “You shall not steal.
Contentment Laws begin with theft (Don’t use your HANDS to gain advantages I didn’t give you). When we say, “This is my stuff; I own it and it belongs to me.” We show that we don’t grasp the stewardship position God has placed us into.
A burglar broke into a house and began to steal all of the valuables. At that moment he heard a voice that said “Jesus is watching you.” He was so scared he froze for a second. He regained his composure and started stealing again, when the voice came louder, “Jesus is watching you.” He just about lost it right there. After regaining his composure he began to steal again this time watching very intent around him when he heard the voice again this time he recognized a shape in the corner as he approached he realized it was a bird cage. He removed the cover to find a parrot. He almost laughed. “What is your name?” The parrot replied “Moses“. The thief then said what kind of person would name a parrot Moses? The parrot replied the same kind of person that named a Rottweiler “Jesus”.
The truth is that everybody needs things. At the same time, let’s be clear: this commandment says, “Don’t get things any way but God’s way.”
IX: Truth: Do not use your mouth to slander, dishonor or harm your neighbor in order to gain unfair advantage (16). We must guard truth! The issue wasn’t simply telling a LIE – it was LYING to gain an advantage over a neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
This happens in car show rooms, insurance offices, hospital billing centers, mortgage brokers, stock brokers, government conference rooms and court rooms. It happens where ever someone thinks that they will gain the things God has given to another. It happens when we think that being CLEVER is more important than being CONTENT with God’s work in our lives. America has become a very hypocritical place. We are outraged when the very Congressman that we sent to “bring home the bacon to our state” is caught doing just that. When the CEO of the corporate board room that we have lauded for his “success” is caught cashing his inflated paycheck. We simply can’t decide on what is right, the further we get away from absolute truth. The truth is found in submitting to God’s Word and linking value to things that really exist. Setting prices based on real costs with reasonable markups. Setting salaries based on real world needs. We cannot reward greedy men with the term “successful” on the one hand, and then castigate them when they do what we have rewarded them for. We must decide to take a stand in truth.
X: Contentment: Don’t use your EYES to focus on things that belong to someone else (17). God will give you the right things for you if you trust Him! If you focus on another’s things, you are showing rebellion against the what God has for you!
Exodus 20: 17 “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.”
Did you hear the one about the guy who found a bottle on the beach, and when he pulled out the cork, out popped a genie? The genie gave him 3 wishes, but said, “Be careful what you wish for– because your worst enemy will receive twice as much as you do.” The guy wished for $1,000,000. *POOF* It appeared at his feet. At the same moment, miles away, $2,000,000 appeared at the feet of his enemy. Next he wished for the largest diamond in the world. It appeared at his feet. But his enemy got 2 of them. As the man realized how well his enemy was doing, he got more and more frustrated trying to think of what to wish for next. Finally, he turned to the Genie and said, “OK – I’m ready. Scare me half to death.”
Why did God have a law against coveting? He did so because it put their focus in the wrong place. Later God said: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15 (NIV)… All of the things that we covet have at least one thing in common. They are temporary. They are a part of the world that I will leave behind when I die. Once I understand God’s place, then I must be responsible for my behaviors, and even govern my desires. Failure to take both seriously will bring pain on me and those around me. That isn’t JUDGMENTAL, it is ORGANIZED and PURPOSEFUL.