The Commandments: First things first.

Welcome back!

Before we dig in, I have two questions for you.

  1. What is the most surprising Truth you learned last week?
  2. How can I pray for you today?

Here is this week’s key Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:5

VOW wk 2And without further ado, this week’s lesson!

Rather than flip back and forth between Exodus Chapter twenty and Deuteronomy Chapter five, we will use the Commandments as listed in Exodus Chapter twenty. This week we will explore verses 1-6. Begin by reading those verses.

1.  Let’s start with a simple examination. How well do you keep the commands you just read? Circle a number below, 1 being the worst and 5 the best. Why did you circle that number?

1                                 2                                 3                                 4                                 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we examined last week, in verse one the Hebrew word {dabar} used for words also means command or even promise. I reiterate this so that we understand these are not merely words from God but a gift.

2.  Write verse one and replace words with command and again with promise. How does this impact the power of what God has spoken?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We already knew these verses contained commands from God…the section is called the Ten Commandments after all. However, when we examine them as if we were reading His promise, rather than read them as if these commands came from a dictator shouting, “don’t do this” or “don’t do that,” We read them from a loving God, offering yet another beautiful promise for His children.

Granted, they are still rules, yet our perception of these rules grows dim or fades as our hearts draw nearer to the heart of God.

Verse two may seem inconsequential as we focus on the Commandments, but this tiny verse holds a powerful Truth. It’s time for an extremely brief history lesson to put this verse into perspective.

Take out your Bible for a moment and skim through the pages of Genesis and Exodus until you reach Chapter 20. Take your time and note as many stories as you possibly can…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Adam and Eve, we experience the increase growth of sin until the time of Noah and the Ark, followed by the scattering of the peoples. From there, we meet Abram and Sarai and the three-fold promise given to his family. Over and over, we see God fulfill promise after promise. Jacob gives rise to the twelve tribes and the incredible story of Joseph and his brothers and the return of the people to Egypt and their eventual 400 years of enslavement.

God, our hero, works through Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, demonstrating a fraction of His power through the ten plagues. As the people make their way to Mt. Sinai, He continually provides for their needs, despite their constant grumbling. God blesses them with manna and quail, fresh water, and protection from their enemies. His presence is among them in cloud and flame!

When we read verse two, the amount of love and grace compacted here is beyond measure encompassing a depth of love and grace which spanned nearly 1,000 years!

Having done all these things, God now claims the Israelites as His own children and gives them commands, not to simply keep them in line, but rather to give them freedom to live holy lives.

The first commands given are found in the remaining verses for this week. We will examine each one in turn. {You may want to pull out your notes from last week concerning the Letter and Spirit of the Law.}

Read verse three.

3.  What example of the Letter of the Law would you offer for this Commandment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter seems simple enough, right? Don’t worship other gods like Allah or Vishnu and do not follow false religions such as Bahá’í or Mormonism.

4.  What about an example for the Spirit of the Law?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Word is filled with these examples to help us understand clearly.

5.  Read the following passages, who or what is put in place of God? {this is the short list by the way}

  • Luke 16:19-31,
  • I Samuel 2:12-34,
  • Matthew 26:69-75, and
  • Matthew 10:37.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other words, anything we place as more important than God becomes a false god. Whether it be our spouse, our children, time with friends, ministry, work, social media, money, fame, the newest fashion trend, the hottest car, biggest house, etc…

6.  Let’s take a moment to do a little self examination with the desire of rooting up anything which may be encroaching on our relationship with God:

  • How do I spend most of my leisure time? How much of that time is in prayer or devotion?

 

  •  When was the last time I quieted my heart to worship God?

 

  • Do I consult God with how my money is spent?

 

  • Do I sacrifice time with God in order to spend time _______________? Ex. On Social Media, at work, with friends, sleeping, etc.

 

  • How much of my day is spent in prayer? If God was in my phone book, how often would I call or text Him?

 

7.  Write a prayer asking God to forgive you for the false gods in your life and help you release anything which is hindering your relationship with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A famous quote from St. Augustine states:

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

When I first heard this quote in middle school, it confused me; mostly because I have only heard the first portion. Yet, when read in its entirety, we realize how vital the first commandment is before all the rest.

8.  How might following this very first command affect our ability to follow the remaining commands?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s move on to the final verses for the week: verses 4-6. Make no mistake, there may only be three, but look at what we’ve done with the single one above!

 

Read verses 4-6.

9.  Write and example of the Letter and Spirit of the Law according to these verses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s understandable if these are very similar to the examples we came up with for the commandment above, but let’s explore how we can break them down further.

10.  Examine the passages below. How do they each give a clear example of the Letter of the Law for verses 4-6?

  • Exodus 32,
  • I Kings 18:18-29,
  • Judges 16:23-24,
  • Daniel 3, and
  • Psalm 115:4-8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These passages clearly depict the worship of a physical idol, a common practice among pagans, as well as the Israelites!

In the Christian faith, we have many symbols to remind us of God and His presence. The most notable is of course the cross.

11.  List symbols commonly associated with the Christian faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.  In light of verses 4-6, how are these symbols excluded from being considered idols? Is there ever a time when they become an idol ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christians use these symbols to focus our hearts and minds on Christ. Yet, it is vital to remember…

THEY THEMSELVES HOLD NO POWER.

 

  • If every cross we owned were melted down, the sacrifice of Christ would remain unchanged.

 

  • If our precious Bibles were to be cast into the fire, the Word of God would still endure.

 

  • Tear down every church, and the Body of Christ will continue to thrive.

 

This makes sense when we analyze the Letter of the Law, but how do we keep or break this command in the Spirit?

When our Christian symbols become more than a tool to focus our hearts on worshiping God, we fall into the trap of idolatry without realizing it. Historically, the Church has been guilty of lifting up idols in place of trusting God.

During the middle ages, Christians were taught to believe a pilgrimage to Holy Places would cause God to love them more and hate their sins a little less. To increase their chances of God’s love for them, the Church provided sacred relics. These were “authenticated” items related to Christ, His family, or any number of the saints. For example a, thorn from His crown, nail from the cross, John the Baptist’s skull, bread from the Last Supper, Paul’s tent, or Luke’s chamber pot. From an archeological stand point, these would hold immense value; however, putting our trust in them as avenues for obtaining God’s love, they are worthless.

In addition, men and women of the Church have been taught to place their trust in people other than Christ as a way to receive blessings and even forgiveness. Though we can draw strength from great stories of God’s faithful people, putting our trust in them once again draws our attention away from worshiping the One true God.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this commandment brings added depth. Henry writes:

But the spiritual import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God.

13.  How does Proverbs 3:5-6 reinforce this Truth? What are a few superstitions we put our trust in rather than God {i.e. lucky rabbit’s foot, horseshoe, black cat, etc…}?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14.  If you find yourself relying on religious articles; rather than God Himself, I invite you to prayerfully remove those articles from your life. Write a prayer recommitting your heart to trusting in God and God alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have spent a great deal of time dissecting these commands and exploring the ways in which we break them, but how then do we keep them? How do we know if we are between the curbs?

We must fear the Lord.

15.  What does it mean to fear the Lord?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The root word for fear in Hebrew is yare’ and though our first reaction may only scratch the surface, the use of fear of the Lord encompasses more than simply being afraid of His wrath.

16.  Imagine for a moment, you are standing before the throne of God. As you gaze upon the face of Christ, what emotions are pulsing through your heart? Why do you feel this way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fear of God has more to do with love than with terror. We do not cower in fear, but rather stand, knees buckling under the weight of sheer joy, awe, and reverence. It is this attitude of the heart which helps us to fulfill these commands.

17.  Consider the following passages, how do they help determine if we are between the curbs with these commands?

  • Psalm 73:25-26,
  • Psalm 84:2,
  • Psalm 118:8,
  • Philippians 3:8,
  • Genesis 22, and
  • Daniel 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y’all, do you see the depth of yearning for the Lord expressed in these verses? The level of trust in Him above all else? When our hearts hunger and thirst for the Lord above all else and our lives reflect absolute trust in Him, we can be sure we are between the curbs!

As we bring these verses to a close, we cannot forget verses 5b-6.

At first glance, we may have a bit of a challenge with these. No one wants to hear that their children will be punished for their mistakes! Let’s take a closer look.

It’s important to understand that Israelite households were typically extended to “three or four” generations; everyone under one roof. Knowing this, these verses make more sense. If the head of the home has no love for God, it is more likely the rest of the household will follow suit. Yes, it’s that simple.

18.  Revisit the number line above, now that you have a deeper understanding of these commands, how well do you keep them? Circle a number below, 1 being the worst and 5 the best. Did you circle something different this time? If so why?

1                                 2                                 3                                 4                                 5

Next week we will explore verse 7!


Resources:

  1. Concordia Self-Study Bible for cross-references.
  2. Blue Letter Bible for Greek and Hebrew.
  3. Luther’s Small Catechism.
  4. Quick Verse software for more Greek and Hebrew and some Commentaries.

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Commandments: First things first.

  1. Heather, thank you for digging deep into this topic so that we can go deeper with you. I have never really studied the Ten Commandments in depth before.

    Wendy

    Like

  2. I have been enjoying your study and I am a Catholic. While you haven’t directly pointed a finger at Catholicism per se, there have been intimations that I can’t help but infer are directed at Catholicism. I reference this quote from the study, “In addition, men and women of the Church have been taught to place their trust in people other than Christ as a way to receive blessings and even forgiveness.” Let’s be clear Catholics do not worship anyone but God. Additionally, nor do they rely on religious articles rather than God Himself. Do Catholics use tools as aids in meditation, such as Rosary Beads? Yes, but the beads are tools, nothing more. Moreover they are not employed as superstitions. I fear an anti-Catholic sentiment that is not supported in fact, but misunderstanding and misinterpretation. We are all Christians, loving and adoring ONE almighty God.
    Dear Sister in Christ, I am certain no harm was intended, and perhaps I am sensitive to the anti-Catholic movement permeating our culture, but I for one work daily to be an advocate that draws light to what binds us rather than what divides us.

    Like

    1. Oh sister, I am blessed by your words and we both have the same “desire to draw light to what binds us,” Christ, our one and only Savior.

      We as a Church have come a long way over the past 500yrs, the time frame from which I was referring to in the section you mentioned. I understand your sensitivity to my remarks as well as your well-worded response. I pray you will continue to boldly share your faith here and everywhere you go sister!

      Like

Join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s