(Listen to audio above while reading transcript below (also available for download in Word at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
Before we commit our time to the Lord I want to share a verse from Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” Because we’re studying Mt. Sinai now and we’re studying the law I want to call attention to this wonderful verse, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” Usually we pray, “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things about your grace. And we need to pray that, but in this case there are some wonderful things about the law that God wants to open our eyes to and cause us to understand. With that in mind let’s commit our time to the Lord.
Father, once again we begin by thanking You for the indwelling Holy Spirit, the only One who can understand the word of God and has written the word of God and can point us to Christ. We thank You that it’s Your pleasure and desire to do that. We wait upon You in this little session. We ask Your blessing and pray that You’ll protect Your people from anything I might say that is not from You and root up what You don’t plant. We pray that You would open our eyes to behold wondrous things out of Your law. We ask it the matchless name of our Lord Jesus. Amen
Usually we give a bit of review going back to the message of the book and section that this particular passage is in, and recent principles we’ve studied, and so on, but now, since we’ve arrived at Mt. Sinai and there’s so much ground to cover, I’m only going to give a short review and then move onto our new material.
Let me give an illustration of what I mean about “so much material to cover at Mt. Sinai”. Take the first eleven chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1-11. What is covered in those eleven chapters? Of course, you have the record of the creation of the entire universe, all of the galaxies and the stars, sun and moon. Then you’ve got the earth, oceans, fish and the birds and animals and insects included in this creation, and the creation of angels. Then you have the fall of man, and how sin entered into the garden and man was expelled from the garden, and then a record of the growing wickedness and how God had to finally come and destroy the earth with a great flood and reduce humanity to eight people. Then we see the restoration of the creation, and how God again blessed man and multiplied and how again they turned wicked and God had to scatter them at the town of Babel.
Those first eleven chapters cover two thousand years of human history. We come to Mt. Sinai. How long are they going to be at Mt. Sinai? It’s not two thousand years. They will be there for about a year, and that’s it; one year. How many chapters does the Holy Spirit give to cover that one year at Mt. Sinai? The answer is fifty nine chapters to cover one year; eleven chapters to cover two thousand years and fifty nine chapters—Exodus 19 all the way through Exodus, including the book of Leviticus all the way to Numbers 10:10. It’s all at Mt. Sinai. I’m just trying to illustrate the importance of this year. It’s the Holy Spirit who is jealous of inspired space in the Bible, and if He wants to give that much space to one year, I suggest that’s a very important year, and we ought to give some real focus to that. That’s why I’ve taken the time to take several introduction lessons coming to Mt. Sinai, because of what is covered there.
I want to review one thing that’s very important, and we closed our last session with this truth. When you think about Mt. Sinai you automatically think about the Law. That’s where God handed down the Ten Commandments and other laws on two tablets of stone and gave them to His servant Moses. There’s no question that at this time God gave the Law, but He did not give the Law as the way to be saved. We talked about that last time. From the ages of eternity God had only one way of saving sinners. As a doctrine we call it grace, but the reality is that it’s through a Person, and not a doctrine, and the Person is our Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no other, not in any age, any dispensation, any generation. It’s always only through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some who are uninstructed have taken the Old Testament to be the Law, the New Testament to be grace, and what they have implied from that, or inferred, some people were saved differently under the Old Covenant. They were saved by an imperfect obedience to the Law. In other words, you obey what God says and do your best and God sees your sincerity and He mixed up your attempts with His mercy, and somehow you are going to make it through. Others says, “No, grace begins with the New Testament and it’s all by grace and it’s a gift to be received.”
What is missing, and this is what we stressed last time, is that there’s more than the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. There is the Everlasting Covenant. The Everlasting Covenant stretches over all of time. It begins in eternity past and it goes all the way into eternity future. It’s an Everlasting covenant, and He’s loved me and you with an everlasting love. They lived at the time of the Law, the time of the Old Covenant, but they never lived under it. They lived under the everlasting Covenant. If you have an Everlasting Covenant why do you need the New Covenant? The Everlasting Covenant is the covenant of grace. The New Covenant is the full explanation of the Everlasting Covenant, but it’s the same covenant. Grace did not begin at Bethlehem when our Lord took on the incarnation. That isn’t when it began. It started in eternity past in the mind and purpose and heart and will of God. Jesus was crucified, the Bible says, before the foundation of the earth, in the mind and heart of God. It was grace that shed animal blood and clothed Adam and Eve in the garden. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Salvation was never by Law or by trying to obey God.
Let me give a couple of illustrations, finish the review and move on. Abraham; let me quote a few verses from the New Testament. Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as to referring to many. Rather to one; to your seed. That is Christ.” Verse 17, “What I am saying is this. The Law which came four hundred thirty years later does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promises.” In other words, Abraham was saved four hundred and thirty years before there was a Law. You can’t say they were saved by the Law. There was no Law; four hundred and thirty years. Romans 4:3 teaches the same thing, “What does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Verse 16, “For this reason it’s by faith, in order it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promises will be guaranteed to all descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
Later in another connection I’m going to show you how Moses was saved by the New Covenant, but let me give one other illustration. King David lived at the time of the Law. In fact he’s right in the heart of it, in the middle of it. Was he saved by Law? Romans 4:6, “Just as David speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness as apart from works, blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
Everybody remembers David’s great departure; his sin with Bathsheba and his murder by proxy of Uriah. David was living at the time of the Law. Wouldn’t you expect, having sinned that great sin and been convicted of that sin, that he would have said to his wife, “I need to get a lamb and go to the priest right away and have that lamb offered. I’ve sinned against the Lord”? But he didn’t say that. In fact, we have the record of his repentance and his confession. He wrote it down in Psalm 51:16, “You do not delight in sacrifice. Otherwise I would give it. You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Are you kidding me, David? You are living at the time of the Law. If you sin you bring a sacrifice. He said, “No, if God wanted that I’d bring it. He doesn’t delight in that.” Where did he learn that? It’s the Everlasting Covenant. It’s the matter of the heart. God is not going to despise a broken spirit, a contrite heart. He had the Everlasting Covenant. When David wrote the great Shepherd’s Psalm he ended that Psalm with these words, “Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” David? House of the Lord? What house of the Lord? The temple wasn’t even built yet. Your son Solomon is going to build the temple. What are you talking about “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever?” He said, “Let me quote Moses.” Moses wrote a Psalm. Psalm 90:1, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” That’s the house of the Lord that David talked about. The Lord Himself, the Lord is our dwelling place. That’s where I live and that’s where you live. That was David’s house of the Lord and we dwell there forever. Only the New Covenant could teach him that.
If the Law was not given to save sinners, and it wasn’t, why was the Law given? That is the focus of today’s message, and Lord willing, we’ll clinch it next time, and then we’ll get back to the historical narrative. God gives two reasons why He gave the Law. One, in relation to God; why did God give the Law in relation to God? And then why did God give the Law in relation to me, in relation to sinners, relation to man? I want to begin and touch both of those, but I want to begin.
The purpose of the law as it relates to God, God gave the Law to reveal Himself. It was a transcript of how holy He was, His holy Law; His perfection. They had the Law engraved in stone. We have those very words on paper in the Bible. The New Testament says that He had written them on the fleshly tablets of our heart. We have that same Law. In all cases it is a transcript of God, a picture of the Lord Himself. Let me give you a few verses just to set up this holiness of God. 1 Timothy 6:15-16, “He Who is the blessed and only Sovereign, King of kings, Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen!”
So holy, the Bibles says that He dwells in unapproachable light, who no man has seen or can see. Like the Lord, the Law is perfect. Psalm 19:7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect,” like Him. To Moses God said, Exodus 33:20, “You cannot see my face. No man can see Me and live.” In the book of Job we have this description, “Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, the heavens are not pure in His sight.” Do you realize what is being taught there? Angels that never sinned are dirty in His sight because He’s so pure. The physical universe that can’t sin are unholy before Him. I think we’re all familiar with Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and our righteous deeds like filthy garments.” I think you might be aware of the Hebrew on that “filthy garments”. The Hebrew word is “menstrual rags”. And He’s not describing your sin. He didn’t say that your sins are like filthy garments. He’s describing your righteousness. All our righteousness in His eyes are like filthy garments.
As I pointed out, Israel had had many revelations of the Lord up until this time at Mt. Sinai. But at Sinai God was about to blow them away with a revelation of who He was and how absolutely holy He was. The holy God was revealed to them at Mt. Sinai by the Law. Usually when we speak about the Law we just think about the Ten Commandments. That’s the law of Moses, but it’s bigger than that. In Exodus, for example, that’s what we’re studying, the Ten Commandments are covered in seventeen verses, and that’s it. But he goes on to give other laws, but of course the commandments are the foundation of all the other laws. He takes 358 verses in Exodus to describe the other laws. The only reason I’m pointing that out is that when you think of the law of Moses, don’t just think Ten Commandments. It’s a lot bigger than that. I don’t want you to have a narrow view when you say “the law of Moses”. Theologians have broken it up for the sake of analysis. They say, “The Law is the Old Covenant,” and then they have three categories; the civil law, the ceremonial law and moral law. They outline it to help us along the way.
There were civil laws; laws concerning the theocracy, the government that God was setting up, the nation that He was building. As you go through Exodus there are laws on criminal justice, on civil rights, on personal injuries, what happens if somebody hurts somebody else. Moses deals with property rights. He’s talking about the theocracy, the government that He is setting up. Basically, the civil law was their constitution; what do I do with when your bull knocks over my fence? What do you do when my bull knocks over your fence? What if somebody gets hurt in the process? What if somebody gets hurt on your property? These laws talk about how to deal with the people who are in your house and in your family, those who work for you. It even mentions slaves. There are laws on how to live peacefully among one another; social laws, how to deal with those on the outside, foreign nations, laws, laws, laws, one after another.
I’m deliberately avoiding a verse by verse discussion of this section, chapter 20-33. That’s a lot of verses and they just talk about this Law. Then it’s resumed in chapter 25 through 31. Twenty one chapters in a book of forty chapters is more than half the book, about civil laws and ceremonial laws and so on. If you add the details of the tabernacle, which are also tedious to read and to study, you’ve got two thirds of the book of Exodus. Today we’re in lesson #35, and we haven’t looked at half the book, and the other half are going to be done pretty quick because there’s so much in there on these details. For one thing, I am light years away from being qualified to go through all of these laws and present and see the principles. The second thing, apart from the principles, many of those, especially the civil laws, had a special application to the theocracy, for Israel. The law was only a part of the laws of when Moses went up there for forty days. He did that twice. We’ll get into that later.
In addition to the verse after verse after verse of the civil laws, there were the ceremonial laws; laws about sacrifices, how to do it, how not to do it; laws about holy days, what days are holy and what days are not holy; details of the tabernacle, all the furniture, the golden altar, the brazen altar, the laver, the candlesticks, the table of showbread, the altar of incense, the Ark of the Covenant, all about the oils and the incense and the skilled laborers, laws about feasts, when to go and who is to go and who is not to go, the laws about priests, what are their duties, what are their clothes, what are they supposed to wear? What about the food? What are they to eat? There were laws, brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t miss the power of Sinai. There were laws that regulated your bedroom, laws that regulated your kitchen, what was clean and what was unclean, what could you eat, what could you not eat. It regulated your dress. You couldn’t put on two different material. You couldn’t put on wool and linen at the same time. There were laws that regulated your garden. You couldn’t plant two different things in the garden at the same time – laws, laws, laws, laws. There were laws about the farm, laws about the animals, laws about the flocks, laws about the herds, even laws on how to cut their hair and trim their beards. They had laws about everything; about cleanliness, about health, about sickness, laws about their pastures, laws about their orchards, laws about how to educate your children, laws about stewardship.
Now do you see why I’m not going verse by verse? You would all be sleeping and I would die trying it. It’s tedious just reading these long chapters of civil law, and then you’ve got to add the whole book of Leviticus because that took place at Sinai. There’s so much that is different and strange to the Occidental mind. You almost have to have a Jewish mind and understand the Jewish history to get into some of this. Some of it seems hard and it look arbitrary and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but every detail had to be obeyed. It’s difficult for me. I prayed much about how to present this. I know I’m not going to do it line by line because much of it has already been abrogated, it’s been passed away and repealed.
The third category is going to be our focus, and it’s the moral law. There’s the civil law, there’s the ceremonial law, and then there is the moral law. Every bit of every law, whether it’s civil or ceremonial or moral, it’s binding. Everything was binding. Deuteronomy 4: 13, “He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform; that is the Ten Commandments, and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” Verse 18, “written by the finger of God”. Actually, Deuteronomy doesn’t say “commandments”. The Hebrew is “ten words”. They were just called “ten words”. These ten words were the moral transcript of how holy God is, and these moral laws have never been abrogated. They stand today. We’re responsible. Some laws were based on His pleasure; it pleased Him to give certain laws, like “don’t eat pork and don’t eat shell fish”. That’s based on His pleasure. “Don’t round you beard. Don’t plant beans and wheat in the same garden at the same time.” That’s based on His pleasure.
Laws based on His pleasure are binding, because He said so. He’s the authority. He’s God, and if He says to don’t round your beard, then don’t round your beard. You’ve got to obey God because He says so. But if it’s based on His pleasure, by His pleasure, He can change His mind. It’s just based on His pleasure. For example, take some of the natural laws, the laws of nature. Fire burns. Well one time it was His pleasure, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, He said, “Not today; fire is not going to burn today.” It’s because it’s based on His pleasure. He can change. There’s another law that says that water is soluble. “Not today, Peter. It’s solid.” It’s based on His pleasure. He can change it if He wants to change it. Gravity pulls down, but if God wants Elijah’s chariot to go up, forget gravity. God, at His pleasure, can change His will. So, death, listen carefully, “Lazarus come forth.” The law is broken because God changed His pleasure. The weather. He can say to the wind and waves, “Be still,” and they have to obey because He changed His pleasure.
The moral law is not based on His pleasure. It’s based on His character and His Person. Because it’s based on His character, even God can’t change it. It’s based on His character. We obey laws based on His pleasure because He said so. We obey laws obeyed on His character because He is so. For example, God is truth. That’s His character. So, He is. Any deviation from truth is a violation of who God is. He’s the only living and true God. If I trust anything other than Him I violate His character. All the laws; the civil laws, ceremonial laws and moral laws are designed to show us how holy He is. He says, “You are going to do this and this and this and this because I said so. You are going to do this and this and this and this because that’s who I am.” The Law reveals God.
There are several descriptions of sin in the Bible, and some have even written books on the different descriptions of sin, but for our purposes, and you’ll see why, I’m going to use 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness.” Sin is lawlessness. You see why I’m using that definition, because we’re studying the Law. What is sin? It’s a contradiction to the law. Sin is lawlessness. Another verse that teaches the same thing is 1 John 5:17, “All unrighteousness is sin.” Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We’ve all sinned. The reason I’m even going into this is to explain the terror that God’s people experienced when they arrived at Mt. Sinai. They had gone there excited to meet the One that had been their benefactor, the One that had led them by a cloud, and delivered them from Egypt, the One who had given them satisfying water to drink and so on. Now, all of a sudden, the physical demonstration. Philippians 3:4 of His presences, the lava, the shaking, the fire, the thunder, the loud voice like a trumpet, the command, “Don’t cross the line and don’t even let an animal cross the line because it will die.” And then later God gave another command and told Moses to tell them not to even look in this direction. That’s how holy God is. When Moses started spilling out all these laws. “What did God say?” “He said to do this and this and this and this and this, and don’t deviate in any way.” They were overwhelmed. Who could live up to that standard? That’s what I’d like us to consider; the holiness of God illustrated by the Law.
I want to introduce this revelation of His absolute perfection by this question, “If I wanted to please the Lord, and obey the Lord and His laws and do His pleasure because He said so, and do His moral law because He is so, how many mistakes am I allowed to make in my short life on the earth?” James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Don’t read that “la, la, la”. That’s a tremendous thing. Galatians 5:3, “I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.” Everything and every detail. Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law to perform them.” God is holy and nothing but perfection can ever enter His presence. Boy, we need to hear that; no mistakes, every, not even one. May God help that sink in! I’ve got to do all He says because He said so, and I’ve got to do all He says, all He is, because He is so. I don’t get any credit for sincerity, or any credit for trying my best, and there is no mercy because I’m a sinful human being. I’ve got to be perfect.
Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments to two. Matthew 22:36, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Love the Lord with all your heart, all you soul and all your mind and Luke adds “all your strength”. Before going any further, just think about it. Here is the question. Since you have been born and walked on this earth, every moment of your life have you loved the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength? If you haven’t you’ve fallen short and you are not allowed into God’s holy presence. That’s what they had to face that day.
When the Apostle Paul, before he was a Christian, gave his testimony, he felt pretty good about himself Philippians 3:4, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more; circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Oh, Paul! He based that, of course, on the letter of the law. He said, “I’m doing pretty good. I never stole or committed adultery and never murdered anyone. I kept every Sabbath Day. I attended all the feasts. I brought all of my offerings.” He had no clue about the Law. At that time he had no clue about the holiness of the Lord and how perfect it was, and how deep it went.
Listen to Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Jesus went deeper. He drilled down into the external Law and showed that you also have to keep the spirit of the Law. You have to keep the internal Law; the thoughts, the motives, the intentions of the heart. Every command that says “don’t” has a duty that says “do”. If he says, “”Don’t hate your enemy,” you haven’t obeyed until you love your enemy. Every command is like that.
I think we’re all familiar with Jesus’ comment about adultery. Matthew 5:27, “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart.” In this Sermon on the Mount ten times Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said, but I say to you..” And every time He said , “I say to you,” He went down deeper and deeper and deeper, and showed what was included in the Law. The law never impressed Paul before he knew Jesus. When God awakened him, listen to what he said. Romans 7:9, “I was alive apart from the Law. When the commandment came sin became alive and I died.” It kills you. Sin is made when you are made aware of sin. Paul thought he was obeying God’s law, but God opened his eyes to what was included in it, and he said, “I’m dead. I’m undone. Wretched man that I am. Who can deliver me from the body of this death?”
In church history you’ve probably heard about a season which is called the Great Awakening. There have been many revivals in church history when masses of people turned to the Lord, but all revivals are not awakenings. There is one especially called “The Great Awakening” which was in the mid 1700’s, the so-called “Age of Enlightenment” when everybody was glorifying their mind, as if it were God and God was sort of thrown to the side.
There was a congregational pastor who had a revelation of how holy God is. On July 8, 1741 he preached a very famous sermon, and you’ve probably heard it. I’m talking about Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the hand of an angry God”. That whole thing is on line if you ever want to read it. Even as a young boy long before he got saved, he was quite an intellect and was a guest speaker all the time, a teacher at Harvard, and became the president of Princeton. He was one of the great Christian thinkers. He had a fascination with spiders even when he was a little boy. At eleven years old he wrote an essay called “The Ballooning Spider”, and underneath he subtitled it “A flying spider”. He was confused why he could walk in the wood and have a spider web hit him in the face. How did that spider web go horizontal, from this tree to that tree? So, he wrote an essay on how a spider spins a web and the wind comes and takes him and he flies and catches and so on. Anyway, it’s no wonder that he drew from that background.
In this sermon he gave vivid illustrations, sinners in the hand of an angry God, because he not only presented God as holy, but he presented the holy God as angry, and he described sinners, and pictured them as a loathsome spider, hanging by one leg over a bottomless pit. The flames were reaching up and he talks about the tongues of flames reaching for the spider, trying to get the spider, and he’s dangling on one leg on a spider web. He describes that spider web as the grace of God and he told the people that that’s you, and nothing is holding you from being destroyed. You are wicked and a loathsome spider, and only the grace of God is keeping you, and He’s angry, and at any moment He can allow you to drop into that bottomless pit.
He used other word pictures. He talked about a flash flood, and he talked about a storm, and so on, but the figure that stuck was that spider hanging by one leg over that fiery pit, and the patient grace of God keeping him from falling in. That was a turning point in that little gathering at Northampton, Mass., and they began to repent and they were beating themselves on the breast. It became a little wild because some were throwing themselves on the ground and rolling over and foaming at the mouth, and a couple committed suicide, because they would rather die than to be dropped into that fiery pit. It was a very emotional time. Later Jonathan Edwards wrote a couple of books to describe the Great Awakening and tried to balance what was emotion, what was from Satan, what was from God and all that kind of thing. A wonderful book called “The Affections”. If you haven’t read it, you ought to read it.
Anyway, that revival, that awakening soon spread through those thirteen colonies. Many people turned to the Lord, and historians call that the “Great Awakening” because people woke up to how holy God was, and how sinful they were. That was confined to the thirteen colonies until a man named George Whitfield came from England and picked up the ball and started running with it. He was an actor by trade, so when he got saved he brought that right into the preaching. He would be acting out his sermon, gathering thousands with open air preaching, and he would be grieving and weeping and falling and beating his breast. I think some people came just to see the show.
There have been seasons of revival, and praise God. Some historians call them awakenings. I think there was a great awakening. The others are revivals. I know at Mt. Sinai there was a Great Awakening. I don’t know if you came out of this or not, but we witnessed it in the fifties and sixties, called the Jesus Movement. What a great awakening that was, not necessarily based on a revelation of God’s holiness! I think there was a rebellion on the formal church and religion and the organized thing and so on. As the folks in Edward’s day rebelled against the enlightenment, in the Jesus Movement they were rebelling against the organized church. God poured out His love during that time, and poured out many gifts; how many spiritual gifts; a season of power, a season where people turned to the Lord, and they broke all of the traditional Christian norms. Church music has never been the same since the Jesus Movement. They changed all the formality that was in the rigidness that was there. Many went into communal living. It wasn’t all clean and good, but it was a precious revival. I’m no Jonathan Edwards or George Whitfield. As Whitfield picked up the ball and ran with the Great Awakening, I think the Lord used many men, like Dr. Billy Graham to pick up the ball and to run after that Jesus Movement.
I’m going to take several of the Ten Commandments and try to show what is included in them and how often we violate them. You might think some of the things I say are silly and God is not that serious. I hope that God communicates what’s on my heart to communicate. I assure you that whatever I say is a million times more serious than I can begin to say. When God gives a commandment, everything that would contribute to breaking that commandment, everything that would be an accomplice is also included.
Exodus 20:2&3, “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 might say, “I’ve never broken that command. I’ve never had other gods. I don’t worship the sun and the moon and the stars. In order to obey that commandment you have to know God. It implies the knowledge of God. Any ignorance of God is a violation of that commandment. Do you know God in every way you can know God? If not you’ve fallen short of that commandment. 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination. And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” Have you ever been stubborn in all of your life? You broke the first commandment. Insubordination is as idolatry. Habakkuk 1:16, “…they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net.” Did you ever glorify your job? You broke the commandment. Some say that the fishing net there is not the fisherman but that the nation was throwing the net out and winning awards, so they were glorying in their victories. Did you ever take credit for a victory that you thought was yours. You broke the first commandment.
Philippians 3:3, “..for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” We worship in the Spirit. Have you ever put confidence in the flesh? You broke the first commandment, even if it was for a moment, you broke the first commandment. Philippians 3:19, “…whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” Did you ever set your mind on earthly things. Did you ever have an appetite for something God said you shouldn’t have? Did you ever overeat? That’s breaking the first commandment. Any competition for the affections of your heart where you don’t love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind and all your strength is a violation. Procrastination is a violation of the first commandment. Did you ever procrastinate? You put your plans above the Lord’s. I wonder if He had that in mind when He said “idolater”. If you break that down it’s “I do later” – That’s idolater. There are more but I think you get the idea.
The second commandment, “ You shall not make yourself an idol or any likeness in heaven above or the earth beneath or the water under the earth. You shall not worship or serve them. I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” You might say, “Well, I’m free here. I never made an image of God out of stone or plastic or plaster or wood.” The word “image” is imagination. Did you ever have a conception of the Lord that’s not true? You’ve violated the commandment. You made God jealous. Exodus 20:2, “I’m their Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Verse 7, “You shall not take the name of your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” This is bigger than profanity.
I’m going to give you a quote and I want you to try to guess who said it. “The only time I mention God’s name was to wipe my feet on it. I used to blaspheme for fun, just to shock Christians.” Who do you think said that? That was John Newton, the one who wrote “Amazing Grace”, because he had awakened. “Saved such a wretch as him.” Later the one who wiped his feet on Jesus’ name wrote these words, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear; sooths our sorrows, heals our wounds, drives away our fear. Makes a wounded spirit whole, calms the troubled breast. It’s manna to the hungry soul; to the weary rest.” Only an awakening could change a man like that.
You might say, “Well, maybe I’ve broken some other commandment but I don’t take His name in vain.” We can take His name in vain while we worship. “All to Jesus I surrender,” we sing it. His name is in there. If you aren’t surrendered, you are lying. “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus it’s now.” Is that true? “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” We can take His name in vain. “Jesus, I’m resting, resting.” Are you? Is it real and true? Every time we turn around we take His name in vain. We sing, “Jesus is all the world to me,” and then we go and love the world. “There’s joy in serving Jesus,” and sometimes there’s not so much joy. We take His name in vain. Sometimes we can have vain repetition, even in our prayers. We had a brother in Rhode Island. I’m not condemning him, but the word “dear Jesus” – “Dear Jesus, I’m praying. Dear Jesus, you help me today, dear Jesus. Dear Jesus be with my wife, dear Jesus. And dear Jesus, with the missionaries.” I think that’s vain repetition. Maybe not in his case.
When my Lillian married me in 1964 she took my name, and she’s been faithful to that name. In 1958 I took His name. I became a Christian. I have not always been faithful to Him. I’ve taken His name in vain. It’s true of every commandment. We’re to honor our parents. Read Corinthians 13 about love and we’re to honor our parents. Have I ever been impatient with my parents? Have they ever provoked me and I took as an offense? Have I ever done anything that caused them to worry? Have I ever lived in a way that brought them shame? God includes all of that. Killing is not only suicide and homicide and infanticide and euthanasia. 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. You know no murderer has eternal life abiding in him?” Why is that true. It’s because hate contains the seeds to murder, the same way as lust and flirting contain the seeds of adultery, the same way that pride contains the seeds of death, the same way that faith contains the seeds of life. It leads to it. Every road that is an accomplice, that leads to murder; for example, any addiction that might shorten our life is a violation of that commandment. Reckless driving is a violation of that commandment. Some people worry themselves to death. Do you know what is serious about that? You are breaking the Law.
We are so guilty, every time we turn around. I want you to see how holy God is. I’m not trying to put you on a guilt trip. I’m trying to have God show you how holy He is. Stealing is more than robbing someone or burglarizing their home. God is the book of Malachi says that you have robbed me by withholding tithes and offerings. That’s stealing. God said that I’m not going to share My glory with another. Every time you take glory for something God has done, you’ve stolen His glory. Fake news. Anytime anybody has stolen someone’s reputation. Boy, there’s a lot of that going on. Plagiarizing. Every time I live as if I’m my own property… I don’t belong to me. I’ve been bought with a price. You don’t belong to you. You better be careful with someone else’s property. Every time I live as if I am my own, I’ve violated the commandment. The 9th commandment forbids lying. That’s not just a bold face lie. There’s no such thing as a little white lie. God is truth. Any violation of that. Flattery, did you ever flatter anybody? That’s an insincere compliment. That’s what the definition is. Exaggeration is a violation of that commandment. Social lying, “Oh, you look good.” Really? You go to visit somebody, “Oh, that was a fine meal,” and really you didn’t care for it that much. “Thank you. I’m so glad you called.” I’m glad you hung up.
My mother was very sick and ready to die and had a hard time. She said to me, “Tell me the truth. What did the doctor say.” Whew. I didn’t know what to say. How often we say, “I’ll be praying for you.” Do you? I’ll get back to you. I’ll let you know. I think you get the idea. The commandments are deep. Psalm 119:96, “I’ve seen a limit to all perfection. Your commandments are exceedingly broad.” We can dive down into each of these and show the violations. It forbids coveting. Has there ever been a time in your life when you wanted something that Jesus didn’t want you to have? We’re not infinite. We’re finite.
Let me ask this question. If we were never to sin once. I’ll use me. If in my life since 1942, if I never sinned, it’s not possible, but let’s just say that I loved the Lord with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength, would that qualify me for heaven, if I never sinned? Luke 17:10, “When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” I actually know somebody who actually claims that they’re perfect and I thought that very thing, “You must be pretty proud of that record.” God says that if you obey everything, you’ve lived up to duty. You can’t merit until you exceed duty, and you’ll never exceed duty. If I lived a perfect life since I was born, I would be the most perfect person in hell. I’ll tell you why. A perfect life doesn’t account for the fact that I was born in sin. I have to deal with that.
We need to be awakened to God’s holiness. God has cherubim, whatever they are, but according to the Bible they’re not crying out “eternal, eternal, eternal is the Lord God almighty”. They’re not crying out “faithful, faithful, faithful is the Lord God almighty” They’re not calling out “gracious, gracious, gracious is the Lord God almighty” Revelations 4:8, “the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within, and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” Holy; we don’t even begin to know.
The purpose of the Law is to reveal God, and I hope these ramblings have helped you to see that God is perfect. How does it relate to man? Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law.” Romans 3:20, “…because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight;” not circumcised flesh and not uncircumcised flesh, “for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” The Law was given to show me Him. The Law was given to show me me. He reveal Him and He reveal me. When I cry out with Paul, Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Galatians 3:24, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
We’re going to return to the running history of Israel at Mt. Sinai. Next week I want to show you as a final preparation what it means that Christ is the end of the Law to everyone that believes. How did God solve the problem without dumbing down His holiness and without raising up my guiltiness? How could God bring us together, so that I could be in the presence of God? Last week when we closed I reminded you that they cried out in their deep heart for a mediator. Listen to these words, Deuteronomy 5:23, “When you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, and all the heads of your tribes and your elders, and you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness. We’ve heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We’ve seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. Now then, why should we die. This great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer we will die. 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? Go near. Hear all that the Lord our God said, and then speak to us all that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will hear it and do it.” Verse 28, “The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I’ve heard the voice of the words of the people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they’ve spoken.”
What does that mean that they’ve done well? They saw the situation, He’s holy, I’m dirty, I need a mediator. God says, “You’ve spoken well.” That’s exactly right. I hope you haven’t misunderstood this lesson. I’m not trying to put you on a guilt trip. I want the Lord to awaken us to how holy the Lord is. Before I was saved I was a helpless sinner. Now I’m saved and I’m a helpless Christian. Before I was saved there was no possibility I could keep His word. Now that I’m saved there is no possibility I can keep His word. I needed a mediator, a substitute before I was saved to die in my place. Now that I’m saved I need a substitute to live in my place. May God prepare our hearts! We’ll get to Sinai but I want this background to prepare us.
Father, we thank You for Your word, not what we think we know or understand, but all that You’ve revealed. Make us see that. Thank You for this revelation about how perfect and holy You are and how one tiny sin can ban us from Your presence forever. Thank You for making a provision in Christ, that He’s become the end of the Law for everyone who believes. Lord, take us forward into that truth. Then as we go back and resume our study of Exodus, we pray that we might with understanding trace that redemptive history. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen