David Jeremiah - God Carved His Love in Stone
Several years ago, I was witnessing to a young man trying to help him understand the gospel. He was typical of many of the generation that he represented. He kind of went off on me. He said, "I don't know why you think I should be a Christian. I mean, why would I want to be a Christian? It's just, well, you got all those rules". He said, "Christianity is, you know, the God up in heaven waiting for you to have fun, and he squashes it". And he went on, and I asked him about the rules. He said, "You know, the Ten Commandments". Well, first of all, ten's not a lot, but he represented what so many people think about the Christian faith, that because there are principles and guidelines that are given to us in the Word of God, that somehow that's a reflection of an unloving God who is trying to steal the joy out of life.
So, in this message, I'm gonna do something I've never done before. I'm gonna try to do it in the time allotted to me, but I want to walk with you through the Ten Commandments. And I want you to discover with me again how each commandment only makes sense when we see it in the light of God's love. We'll come to realize that God has, indeed, carved his love in stone, and we will look for God's love in every commandment, and I promise you, you won't have to look very hard. We began in Exodus chapter 20 with the first three verses and the first commandment, I've called this the fundamental rule. "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 bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me". Some translations read, "You shall have no other gods beside me".
So, when God made this statement that they should have no other god beside him, he was saying to them, in essence, "If you will have no other gods beside me, you can have me. But if you want me, you can't have any other gods". And he was protecting them from the pantheon of lifeless idols that we're going to grab hold of them as they walked into this new land. He was reminding them that they needed to keep their focus on who he was, and they needed to worship him and not get caught up in the idolatry they were gonna face in Canaan. The next rule is the focus rule, and it's interesting because the first rule tells us we have to worship the right God. And the second rule tells us we have to worship the right God in the right way.
Notice, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments".
God is saying to us, don't get caught up in the idolatry of your day. We say, "We don't have idols, Pastor. I mean, where have you been? Well, are you...". Listen to me, we have American idols. We have all kinds of idols, don't we? An idol's anything that gets in the way of your worship of God, and I could go through the list and you know it as well. We have our own pantheon of idols, materialism is one of the biggest ones. Whatever it is that gets in your way of worshiping God as the only God is an idol in your life. And the Bible says that when we follow these false gods, we convey to our children the wrong values. And the Bible says that what happens is these things that we do are generationally followed, and they have a legacy to them. Worship the right God, yes, but worship him in the right way. Don't let any idol get between you and God.
Here's the third one, "the frivolous rule," in quotes. "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain," verse 7, "for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain". It's as if God is saying to us, "I love you so much, I do not want you to trivialize who I am because when you trivialize who I am, you are trivializing who you are because, you see, you are created in the image of God". If you demean Almighty God with the frivolous use of his name, you are at the very same time demeaning who you are as a child who is an image of God. The frivolous rule, don't take the Lord's name in vain because God loves you too much to let you trivialize who he is.
Then there's the frailty rule. This is really an interesting one. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all the work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and he hallowed it". The frailty rule.
When Donna and I began our first ministry out of seminary, it was in a church in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. I was called there to be the youth pastor and the Christian ed director, and we had just come from four years of seminary training in Dallas. And both Donna and I were avid Dallas Cowboy football fans. To our dismay, when we arrived at our first assignment, we were told that watching TV on Sunday was forbidden, and that reading the Sunday newspaper was also frowned upon. I am sure I should not be telling you this, but I remember pulling the blinds down in the windows of our apartment so that no one would be able to see us watching the Dallas Cowboys. And we also snuck the newspaper in in a shopping bag on a routine basis. I did not understand it all back then, but they had transferred the legalism of the Old Testament to the observance of Sunday, and they actually called Sunday the Sabbath.
How many of you know Sunday is not the Sabbath? Well, if you think legalism regarding Sunday, as they called it the Sabbath in that church, was out of control in that environment, you should read about the Pharisees. Do you know that the Pharisees of the New Testament constructed 1.521 things you could not do on the Sabbath, included among them were rescuing a drowning man. Don't go swimming on the Sabbath. You're in trouble if you're in trouble. You couldn't wear false teeth on the Sabbath because they might fall out and if you put them in, that would be work. You think I'm kidding, don't you? You couldn't look in the mirror on the Sabbath, you might see a white hair and be tempted pluck it out and that would be work. What happened was, the people took that which God meant as a blessing and created a burden out of it. They created so many rules that it was almost like, "Oh, my goodness, here comes the Sabbath".
God gave the Sabbath as a time of rest and reflection, a time of worship, a setting aside of the material for the spiritual. But like we always do, we take the good gifts of God and we mess them all up with our manmade ideas that give us the impression that we're doing something when God wants to just give to us his gift of love, the frailty rule. Here's the fifth one, the family rule, verse 12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land, which the Lord your God is giving you". Now, the fifth rule begins the second half of the Ten Commandments. Let me explain to you, the first four commandments are Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. It's all about our relationship with God. The fundamental rule, the focus rule, the frailty rule, all those rules have to do with worshiping God. But from the fifth commandment all the way to the tenth commandment, wherein the other part of it says, "Love your neighbor as yourself". The first four have to do with our relationship with God, the last six have to do with our relationship with each other, beginning with number five which says, "Honor your father and your mother".
Now, we all know that this is usually interpreted in this way: families, you got children, these children need to obey you, they need to honor you. As they're growing up, as young children and teenagers, they're to honor their father and mother, and that we get that because in the New Testament when Paul wrote about this to the Ephesians, he started it this way, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right". And so, there you have this command that children are to obey your parents. How many parents think that's a good thing, children obey your parents in the Lord, amen? But we don't understand that there's a transition after that and the rest of it isn't for little children, the rest of it's for us who are adults. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise, "that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth".
When we are told to honor our parents, we are being instructed to care for them, especially when they are aged and beyond the ability to provide for themselves. We are to honor our parents, lest our children dishonor us. It's interesting that it says, "Those who honor their parents so as to provide a long life for them are usually themselves rewarded with longevity". The family was God's idea, and once again, the fifth rule is an expression of God's love for us. God loves us, and he wants us to love those who need us. And the Bible says that when we love our parents, we're teaching our children how they should love us when we're in the place where our parents are. The sixth rule, the felony rule, "You shall not murder," Exodus 20:13 quick, short, to the point.
The Hebrew word for murder is used 13 times in the Bible, and here, it clearly refers to the fact that we are forbidden to kill, unauthorized, or with malice. Here's the reason, human life is the most precious and sacred thing in all of the world, and to end it or direct its ending is God's prerogative alone. We honor God's image in each other by consistently preserving life and by looking out for each other's welfare in all possible ways. And God is saying to us, "I created every human life, every human being from the baby in the womb who has not taken its first breath to the gray-headed, bearded patriarch who struggles to breathe every day. I love them all, and because I love them all, you may not touch them, nor may you even think ill of them in your heart. I love the one you hate so much, that I will not allow you to take his life, and I love you so much that I will not allow you to take it".
You say, "Well, Pastor, I just took a little snooze here on this murder thing 'cause I'm no murderer". Well, before you go there, I don't have time to do it, but go to the New Testament and see what Jesus said about this. Jesus said that if we have hatred in our heart for another brother, for another person, if we say to another person, "Raca," which means, "You worthless thing," if we say that, the Bible says we've committed murder in our heart. So, this is a reminder to us that we better keep our focus where it needs to be. God loves us too much to let us get caught up in the revenge, hate thing that consumes so many people in our world today. The felony rule, now here's the fidelity rule. This is an interesting one, very short again, "You shall not commit adultery". Now, adultery is simply the consensual sexual intercourse of a married woman with a man who is not her husband, or a married man with a woman who is not his wife. Adultery is a crime against marriage.
How does this command reflect God's love? Here it is, here's the Heavenly Father saying to us, "My child, I want to spare you from the awful fallout of lust, adultery, and divorce. I don't want your children to have to go through the confusion and pain of your marital breakup. I don't want your parents and your children's grandparents to have to find their way through the anguish of a fractured family. I don't want you to lose the respect of your friends and your co-workers. I don't want you to lay awake at night and grieve over the loss of the oneness you once enjoyed with the wife of your youth. I don't want you to have to spend the rest of your days with the feelings of guilt that result from broken promises and shattered trust. I love you. I cannot allow you to ruin your life with a fleeting moment of pleasure and because your fallen human nature cares more about yourself than others, I have established this boundary to protect you. You may have sex mentally or physically only with your spouse".
Now, you say, "Pastor, that's really strong". But I tell you what, if you were in the place where the pastors are, if you heard the stories we hear and you experienced, sympathetically, the pain that people go through because they don't listen to the things God tells them, you would not think this was too strong. And in our churches today, we've almost gotten away from ever saying anything like this so boldly. So, where do the young people who are growing up in our church ever find out that there is pain associated with the violation of God's principles? God doesn't tell us that we are not to commit adultery because he's trying to hurt us. He tells us that because he loves us and he wants us not to experience the awful pain that comes with unfaithfulness to those we claim to love, the fidelity rule.
Then there's the fraud rule. The fraud rule says, "You shall not steal". To the person who is tempted to steal, God is saying something like this, "I don't want you to steal because I am your provider. You don't have to lower yourself to that kind of conduct if you know me". Someone said, "If you gave your six-year-old a shiny new bike for her birthday because you love her, and a neighborhood bully pushed your daughter down and stole her bike, how would you respond? You would be offended and angry that someone took away part of the voice that had said to your daughter, "I love you". God's provision are a daily voice to you that says, "I love you," and for that reason, he prohibits anyone from silencing his voice by stealing.
Commandment number one is the fundamental rule. Number two is the focus rule. Number three's the frivolous rule. Number four is the frailty rule. Number five's the family rule, and then the felony rule, and the fidelity rule, and the fraud rule. And number nine's the false witness rule. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What is false witness? That means to lie. Don't lie to one another. "Why should I tell the truth, Pastor"? Well, you're to tell the truth rather than bear false witness to your neighbor because speech is a social act and speech is a relationship. Did you know that many people want to deceive, but I've never met anybody in my life who wants to be deceived. If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I will want truth for my neighbor, therefore, I will be honest with him.
And here's what I know, truth is the currency of God's kingdom. If you're gonna do business in the kingdom of God, then truth has got to be the coinage that you use. Anyone who lies becomes, in that moment, an agent of darkness because the Bible says that the devil is the father of all lies. When you tell a lie, you walk into his territory, you make yourself vulnerable to his involvement in your life. I've said this for so many years and I realize this is so important to all of us who are involved in organizations, whether they're churches, or businesses, or whatever.
How many would agree with me, if you would just be able to know the truth about any situation, you would pretty much always know what to do? But the problem is knowing the truth. If you're in the hiring business, good luck. Nobody will give you a reference. You don't know anything you can find out about that, so you have to try to assess the truth. You get into any kind of a disagreement or a problem. If you could know the truth, you'd know what to do, but you see, truth is what you need to have If you're gonna go anywhere. You can't go anywhere unless you start with truth, and for Christians, truth ought to be just an absolute normal expectation of one another.
God says, "I love you so much that I don't want you to lie because I'm in the business of making you holy, and you cannot be made holy if your life is built on lies". That's what he says because of his love. And then, for the want of a better title, number ten's the final rule. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's". Don't covet them. Don't want what somebody else has because when you want what somebody else has, what you're saying to God is, "Almighty God, you haven't been fair to me. You've given somebody else, I want what you gave them".
Coveting is a closeted spiritual crime that we commit in our hearts, and if we don't check it, it will burst out into some malicious attitude or action. You say, "How do I deal with covetousness"? Here it is, in the book of Hebrews and the 13th chapter and the 5th verse, "Let your conduct be without covetousness," how? "Be content with such things as you have, for he himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" How many of you know, listen to me, if you have God, you shouldn't be covetous of anything else? If you have God, he's enough. You say, "Oh, but I need some money for my...". If you have God, he's enough.
How many of you know that the world is primarily a world without God, and you have God? How dare you covet somebody else's material stuff when God has been so good to bring you into his eternal family? The writer of Hebrews takes us all the way back to the first commandment, and says if we have God, we have what we need. And if we trust God, we know that he will provide for us, he will meet the needs in our lives.
So, looking back over this formidable list of rules, God says, "I want you to know how life works so that you can be successful at it". It's like he's given us the answers to the test before we even take the test so that we can pass the test with flying colors. That's the love of God revealed in the law of God. And once again, in the Ten Commandments we hear God say to us, "I love you, I always have, I always will. I loved you before you were born. I loved you when I gave the commandments. I always have loved you and you can trust me because I love you. I always have, I always will".