The Ten Commandments – Deut 4-5

Posted: August 8, 2008 in Deuteronomy

For the 1st few chapters of Deut, Moses took the time to outline how they all got to where they were. They weren’t about to cross over into Canaan by accident – it was by God’s promise that they were there, and it was by their own rebellion that they were 40 years late. But now that they’re finally ready to enter, it becomes imperative that they review the commandments of God. After all, they aren’t inheriting the Promised Land because they’re such a worthy people; it’s being given to them based on the grace and goodness of God alone. Thus to know the grace of God, they must learn of the character of God – and that only happens through the word of God.

Deuteronomy 4 (NKJV)
1 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

A. Listen to the commandments: This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to take for granted. They may have listened the 1st time, but people kept ignoring the Law till the point where King Josiah “rediscovered” the book of the law when doing spring cleaning in the temple. The result? They neglected it so much that once it was read, King Josiah ripped his clothes & bewailed the wrath of God that they were due! (2 Kings 22).

a. There are a ton of Christians who don’t have a clue what the Bible says…yet we worship and serve the Word (Logos) of God! We need to echo the prayer of the psalmist – Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. []

B. Don’t alter the commandments: They weren’t to add to it; nor take away from it. God’s word is simply that: God’s word. It’s not ours to tamper with! Cults do this regularly…[JW’s take away; Mormons add]

C. Keep the commandments: Knowing what to do didn’t mean much to Israel if they didn’t actually do it. God’s word is supposed to be vastly more than head knowledge; we’re to be doers of the word! (James 1:22)

a. Is this possible? Not fully, no… [] Except for Jesus Christ!

3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor; for the Lord your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. 4 But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you.

A. Reference to the plague God sent among the Hebrews for falling into idolatry after Balaam counseled Balak to send Midianite women among them to sexually tempt them into following false gods (Num 25). 24000 died in the plague – but the rest remained alive after Phinehas showed his zeal for the Lord.

5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

A. Note whose commandments these are – not Moses; God’s. These aren’t merely the words of men []; these are the very words of God!

B. Why were they to strive to observe them? In the Law is wisdom. We tend to place a lot of value on knowledge these days (re: technology), but if we want to do more than merely survive on better toys, we need wisdom! How much is wisdom worth? Proverbs 3:13-15 (13) Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; (14) For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. (15) She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. []

7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?

A. Israel’s relationship with God was truly unique! No other nation could claim anything close to it…Israel was blessed to receive the Law – to them were committed the oracles of God! (Rom 3:2)

B. THAT’s the relationship we’ve been grafted into in Christ! We’re now a special people of God (1 Pet 2:9). What other people on earth can claim the relationship with our Creator as Christians can? No other religion compares… …

9 Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, 10 especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’

A. Moses reiterates the need to actually do/keep the law. But in addition to keeping it, they were also to perpetuate it – teach it to their children.

a. We still have this same responsibility… Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. [] Every father’s 1st ministry is to his children!

B. Setting up the giving of the 10 Commandments.

11 “Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. 13 So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.

A. Review the scene (Exo 19)… Fire = holiness… Dark clouds = glory…

B. Voice proclaims the Word…not an image, because the Son was not yet incarnate. But He is still the WORD – just as the voice declared the word to the people, so the Word declared God to us as well. (John 1:18)

a. People often try to separate Christ from the Law/word of God…but it simply cannot be done. Jesus Himself actually fulfills the law (Matt 5:17) & completely takes on the penalty of the commandments – to separate Jesus from the law is to proclaim a meaningless gospel. The cross simply doesn’t make any sense without understanding it was meant for us 1st

15 “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. 19 And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.

A. Why didn’t they see any form of God? Because God is spirit & those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit & truth…

B. Why not give God a form? Because God was going to take on a form of His own in Christ Jesus… (Col 1:15)

a. Everything else falls short! Humans are made in the image of God; not the other way around. Animals and birds fall short of anything approaching His person. The sun & stars are part of Creation; they can’t represent the Creator.

b. This is the problem with idolatry – it ALWAYS takes us away from what God is really like. It’s always settling for less than the truth of God…

20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.

A. Why not serve idols? Because God took Israel from a land of idolatry to be His own people…to serve idols is to go backwards. Even worse, it was breaking the covenant God had made with them & acting like an adulterous wife. God had already proven His love for them by redeeming them; they weren’t to go back to it.

21 Furthermore the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 22 But I must die in this land, I must not cross over the Jordan; but you shall cross over and possess that good land.

A. Review of Moses’ discipline…

B. Moses has to die: Keep in mind that Moses represents the Law, whereas Joshua prefigures Christ’s deliverance. Carry the picture further: the Law brings death, so death must be meted out prior to deliverance into rest. As Moses died, Jesus had to die because of the Law; but He rose again in the grace and power of God which promises deliverance to all who trust in Him!

23 Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

A. What does it mean that God is jealous? Is Moses saying that God is petty & struggles with the “green-eyed-monster?” No… God is supremely holy – He is jealous for His glory… He is jealous for His people… He desires people to be saved & to live in covenant with Him.

25 “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.

A. Note the “when” in vs. 25. Moses knows this IS going to happen at some point…

a. We are bound to sin & mess up. It’s simply the ongoing war between our spirit & our flesh (Rom 7).

B. What will happen when the people fall into idolatry? God will bring discipline… … Historically speaking, that’s exactly what happened. [Judges – Assyria – Babylon – Rome]

C. In those places they will still worship; but they won’t worship the One True God. [] Every single human being worships something (even if it’s just themselves) – it’s simply how God created us to be. But just because someone worships, doesn’t mean that they’re worshipping in Truth. We’ve got to worship God!

29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice 31 (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.

A. God always provides an avenue of repentance! Until the day we die, it’s never too late. (So keep praying for your loved ones!)

B. Question: how can anyone seek God with all their heart & soul if the Scripture tells us the no one seeks God, “no not one”? The unrepentant heart cares nothing about God; but the ones brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8) can – and thus we’re exhorted to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isa 55:6).

a. What’s the difference? Faith! Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. []

32 “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? 34 Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. 36 Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power, 38 driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day.

A. Want proof this is all going to take place? Just look at Israel’s history! They’ve had non-stop interaction with the God of the Universe! Through all this, God wanted them:

i. To know God is God. (And that’s just the way it is…)

ii. To be instructed in His ways…

iii. To be blessed – though deliverance & through inheritance…

39 Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

A. Summary of the prologue to the Law… (The Law is good!)

41 Then Moses set apart three cities on this side of the Jordan, toward the rising of the sun, 42 that the manslayer might flee there, who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without having hated him in time past, and that by fleeing to one of these cities he might live: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

A. Reference to the cities of refuge (Num 35)

44 Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. 45 These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt, 46 on this side of the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel defeated after they came out of Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, who were on this side of the Jordan, toward the rising of the sun, 48 from Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, even to Mount Sion (that is, Hermon), 49 and all the plain on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, below the slopes of Pisgah.

A. The scene’s been set. The people are ready. Now Moses is going to review the 10 Commandments.

Deuteronomy 5 (NKJV)
1 And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.

A. The Law is a covenant…a relational promise cut between God & His people.

a. We have a new covenant – and like Abraham’s, it’s unconditional…

B. To the people Moses was speaking to, the Law was also freshly relevant. Remember that although a generation of Hebrews died out in the wilderness, everyone 19 years old & younger were left alive – many had been there at the foot of Mt. Sinai watching all this unfold…

4 The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said:

A. They were rightly afraid! God is HOLY!

6 ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 7 ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

A. Commandment #1: no other gods…1st injunction against idolatry. Obviously, God is the only God in existence; there are no others in reality. But there are multitudes in our imaginations and superstitions. Every time we start creating a version of a god in our mind that’s not representative of the God of the Bible, we’re engaging in idolatry.

8 ‘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 that is in the water under the earth; 9 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, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

A. Commandment #2: no carved (graven) images…2nd injunction against idolatry. In this case, it’s a misrepresentation of God. As in Ch 4, nothing else comes close to envisioning God other than the very Son of God, who is His image.

B. What does this say about the character & nature of God Almighty? Is He mean & vindictive? Of course not. He IS realistic…the consequences of the sin of the fathers naturally trickle down to future generations. But God is supremely merciful! He shows forgiveness to thousands upon thousands more as they call out in repentance and love.

11 ‘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.

A. Commandment #3: no blasphemy…using the name of the God who gave us life as a curse word or casual throw-away.

B. This is serious! Far more serious than we give it credit. Keep in mind that God’s name reflects His character (I AM – Jesus – El Shaddai, etc.)…to blaspheme God’s name is show disgust for God Himself.

12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

A. Commandment #4: keep the Sabbath… For everyone in the land, including servants. This was the sign of the Mosaic covenant…

B. What do Christians do with this today? We are not judged by days & feasts (Col 2:16). Neither Christ nor the apostles commanded Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath (Acts 15), and He has already provided our rest (Heb 4). Ultimately, we do with it as our conscience dictates (Rom 14:5-6). Keep in mind that Christ is the substance of the Sabbath (Col 2) – if we remember that, everything else falls into place…we now have the freedom to worship God every day of the week!

16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

A. Commandment #5: honor your parents… Why? Because they are a child’s earthly representation of God. Thus we honor them simply because they deserve honor.

B. Commandment with a promise! (Eph 6:1-3). Does this mean we need to obey them all our lives? No – but we should honor them because of our love of God.

17 ‘You shall not murder.

A. Commandment #6: don’t murder. Not “kill” – specifically “murder.” []

B. Jesus’ interpretation… (Matt 5:21-22)

18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

A. Commandment #7: no adultery…

B. Jesus’ interpretation…(Matt 5:27-28)

19 ‘You shall not steal.

A. Commandment #8: don’t steal…

B. Christians should have nothing to do with this! Instead of stealing, we should be providing & giving… (Eph 4:28)

20 ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

A. Commandment #9: don’t lie… And more than simply “lying” – bearing false witness includes things like slander & tale-bearing…even omitting the truth. If it’s a falsehood of any sort, we’re not to partake.

B. Why is this so wrong? Because Jesus is the Truth! (John 14:6)

21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

A. Commandment #10: don’t covet… Coveting leads to the lust of the eyes…

B. What’s the positive to this negative? Don’t covet; be content! Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6:6)

22 “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 “So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24 And you said: ‘Surely the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives.

A. What showed the glory & greatness of God? The physical manifestations or the Law? Both. God’s visible manifestations got their attention, but hearing the Law grabbed their conscience…they got a glimpse of His holiness & were left in awe…

25 Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 You go near and hear all that the Lord our God may say, and tell us all that the Lord our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.

A. Review…asking Moses to intercede…

B. God’s holiness does consume us! That’s exactly why we need to be covered by the blood of the Lamb of God…

28 “Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

A. Note God’s reaction to their request: They are absolutely right! And God wants them to fear Him… Why? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10).

B. Following after the Lord is a good thing! If they kept the commandments, it would be well with them & their children. ‘But I thought it was impossible to fully keep the law?!’ It is – the law is our schoolmaster that brings us to Christ. But that doesn’t negate the fact that it truly is good. God didn’t give the Hebrews a bunch of bad commandments; He gave them His truly good law – it’s simply that our truly fallen selves cannot abide by it.

a. Praise God for Christ Jesus!

30 Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31 But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’

A. God granted them their request regarding Moses…

32 “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.

A. Summary…

Conclusion:

Praise God for the Law! ‘What?!’ Sure… If it weren’t for the law, we wouldn’t realize the extent of our sin against God. If we didn’t realize how much we had sinned, we’d wouldn’t realize our need for a Savior. If we never knew we needed a Savior, we’d never call out to Jesus – and we’d be lost for all eternity. Yet God through His grace gave us the law – not to save us (or Israel), but to show us our need for salvation. Thus the law always points us to one thing: the gospel. And we can ALWAYS praise the Lord for that. J

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