Time for one more post to finish out the year. We’re here at Exodus 20, where Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God. This post will feel a bit different than others, as it may not be obvious how the commandments point to Jesus Christ. However, let’s start off by seeing how Jesus referred back to these commandments while he was here on Earth, and we’ll see where it takes us.
1 And 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.
Exodus 20:1–3 (ESV)
Matthew includes a passage describing how Jesus Christ used an example to put the first commandment in terms we might better understand.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Matthew 6:19–24 (ESV)
While on the surface of the first commandment, we may simply shrug it off as, “Oh sure, I don’t worship any God but the God of the Bible. No problem.” Jesus shows there is more to this… we can even setup money as a god in our life, serving it rather than God. Is there anything else we serve in our lives over Him? I can recall many examples throughout my life. Getting squeamish yet? Let’s try the second commandment.
4 “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. 5 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, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4–6 (ESV)
Perhaps we can answer this one with, “Not a problem… I haven’t made any statues of gods, humans, creatures of any other sort, nor have I bowed down before any.” Jesus reminds us a bit why this would be wrong when speaking with the woman at the well.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
John 4:19–26 (ESV)
God is spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and truth, which is why no object can be worshipped. Note how the conversation finishes up right after that statement, though. She immediately turns to discuss how the Messiah is coming, to which Jesus responds He is the very Messiah she has been waiting for. What does this have to do with worshipping images? Paul tells us in Colossians.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:15–20 (ESV)
Jesus is the only valid image of God. Placing our faith in another idol, image, person, creature, etc. and we are on the wrong path. Time for the third commandment.
7 “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.
Exodus 20:7 (ESV)
I grew up thinking this simply meant to not use “God” or “Jesus Christ” as swear words. Sure, we shouldn’t do that. After all, Jesus tells us to treat God’s name with respect at the very beginning of the Lord’s prayer.
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
Just to go down a short rabbit hole, have you ever wondered why we often use those names as swear words? Why don’t we yell out “Buddha” or “Satan” or “Zeus” or the name of any other random false “god”? Does that tell you anything about human nature? Anyway, Jesus leads us down a road that shows there is more to this commandment.
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:7–9 (ESV)
Taking God’s name upon us, identifying ourselves as worshippers of the one true God, can be done completely in vain if we don’t worship Him correctly.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Matthew 5:33–37 (ESV)
Jesus tells us taking oaths is another way to take His name in vain. In fact, the New Testament is packed with demonstrating the things we do in vain as we claim the name “Christian.” Remember doing anything lately that dishonors His name? I sure do. Let’s move to number four.
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 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. 11 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.
Exodus 20:8–11 (ESV)
Jesus pointed out examples of how the Jews treated the Sabbath quite legalistically and hypocritically – they missed the point.
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Luke 13:10–17 (ESV)
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:23–28 (ESV)
Ever seen any parallels with how we Christians treat Sunday, which isn’t even the Sabbath from God’s commandments? I would suggest we still have many similar legalistic and hypocritical issues. On to number five.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Exodus 20:12 (ESV)
Jesus Christ uses this commandment to further point out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders.
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:1–9 (ESV)
How often do we claim to do something for God and yet are completely missing the point of one of His other commandments, not honoring God or our parents, but only looking out for our own interests? Half-way through… will we do any better with six?
13 “You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13 (ESV)
Oh, we got this one, don’t we? If I even have any readers of my blog left out there in cyberspace, surely there aren’t too many murderers around. Right? Let’s see what Jesus says about that.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5:21–26 (ESV)
If you aren’t losing hope of doing well against the commandments yet, then maybe you need to read that passage again. I know I’m certainly in trouble. How about the seventh commandment?
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
Exodus 20:14 (ESV)
Perhaps not too many of us have committed adultery while married, or committed adultery with a married person. Think Jesus with leave this one alone? Well, turns out there’s more to this one as well… in the very next verses from Matthew.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Matthew 5:27–30 (ESV)
Yup, He got me on that one, too. How have you done throughout your life? How about even the last few TV shows or movies you watched… or advertisements in between? Ready for the eighth?
15 “You shall not steal.
Exodus 20:15 (ESV)
While Jesus Christ didn’t point directly to downloading MP3’s illegally, or stealing time or money from God, or any other way we might steal in life beyond bank robbery, carjacking or shoplifting, can you sense the theme of how He approached the rest of the commandments at this point? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make the grade there, either. Jesus Christ does point out in the New Testament that there is a more sinister type of stealing, however…
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:10-18, 27–28 (ESV)
…stealing people away from Jesus Christ Himself. Two left.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (ESV)
Do you doubt by now that this applies beyond lies against that guy next door, or the crazy folks across the street? If you’re still treating the commandments legalistically at this point, you really haven’t been paying attention. I would suggest any lies are baked into this one. Jesus Christ points out where they all come from.
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:39–47 (ESV)
Satan is the father of lies. Just to take it a bit further, recall how Jesus Christ responded to a question from Pontius Pilate on His way to the cross.
37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37 (ESV)
He came to testify to the truth. Perhaps it’s important to steer clear of lies? Finally we come to number ten.
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 is your neighbor’s.”
Exodus 20:17 (ESV)
We’re a coveting culture, aren’t we? Materialism survives because it feeds so much on our desires for whatever we see someone else has, or maybe even see that we can one-up someone else by grabbing that shiny, new toy. Anyone surprised that Jesus called us out?
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:13–21 (ESV)
I’ve never done well on that one. How about you? So, after all this, how do these commandments point us to Jesus Christ? So far, we’ve mostly watched as He pointed backward to them to call us out. As it turns out, if it isn’t already obvious to you by now, we can’t keep them. I’ve broken them all. I can’t think of too many days in my life when I haven’t broken the spirit of them all over again. Paul covers this at length in Romans.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Romans 7:7–12 (ESV)
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:21–24 (ESV)
The purpose of the law was to point out to us how far we are from the righteousness demanded by God; how utterly sinful we are by nature. If we continue in the very next verses of Romans, we find the law was to point us toward a righteousness somewhere outside ourselves. In fact, not really “somewhere,” but to “someone.”
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 7:25–8:4 (ESV)
That “someone” is Jesus Christ, to whom the commandments all point us toward. Skipping to a single-verse summary in Romans, Paul tells us:
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4 (ESV)
Faith in Jesus Christ is the point. Only His righteousness can satisfy God. Need more? The Galatians needed to hear more as well.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:10–14 (ESV)
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Galatians 3:21–26 (ESV)
The righteous shall live by faith. Again, faith in Jesus Christ is the point. The Ten Commandments point us to Him as our Savior. One final note from a website I’ve come to trust over time, GotQuestions.org, that sums this up well.
The purpose of the Mosaic Law raises these questions: “Are you trusting in yourself to keep all the Ten Commandments all the time (which you can’t do)?” OR “Have you made the choice to accept Jesus as your Savior, realizing that He has fulfilled all the commandments all the time for you, even paying your penalty for breaking them?” The choice is yours.
Put your trust in Jesus Christ, who died for you… and me. I know myself well enough to know the correct answer. Who are you going to trust?
In summary, here is what we found today:
- Exodus 20:1-17 – the Ten Commandments point us to someone outside ourselves to satisfy God… our Savior, Jesus Christ
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! Even if you just skipped to the end… if anyone is still out there in the first place. :) If you are, I’ll see you here again next year.
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