Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Eighth Command

God does not endorse the abolition of private property or ownership. If there were no private ownership, there could be no stealing, but “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15, ESV) stands as an endorsement of private ownership. God speaks of things belonging to Him. All that we have is, in one sense, on loan from Him for He owns it all. But by extension, it becomes “ours” and we are responsible for caring for it.

There are many ways to steal. Laban “stole” Jacob’s wages by not “paying” him what he said he would (Genesis 29:15-20). Jacob had already stolen Isaac’s blessing from Esau (Genesis 27:1-46). Potiphar’s wife “stole” Joseph’s reputation by lying about his actions (Genesis 39:7-20). Saul stole Samuel’s priestly prerogative by offering a sacrifice in Samuel’s absence (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard by arranging his death and then seizing his property (1 Kings 21). The Pharisees robbed their parents by declaring their possessions “Corban” (devoted to God) so they would not have to provide support for their parents (Mark 7:11-13).

We rob and steal in many of these same ways. We don’t declare taxable income on our tax forms, use company items for personal purposes, copy copyrighted material, spend money for personal pleasures when we owe creditors. 1 Corinthians 6:10 declares that thieves shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The thief has denied God’s way of acquiring necessities – honest work. Either he will not trust God to provide his needs or he is selfishly lazy and finds it easier to take what others have worked for. Such a person does not know the love, grace and ownership of God.

What is the positive aspect to this negative command, “You shall not steal”? Ephesians 4:28 gives it to us and gives us what our motive should be as we seek to counteract the temptations to theft:

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (ESV)

Generosity made possible by honest labor is the motive opposite to stealing. The thief does not stop being a thief when he stops stealing. He stops being a thief when he starts giving to others from the fruit of his honest work. As we find ourselves tempted to take what belongs to another we should seek to respond in just the opposite way. We should become overly scrupulous about what is not our own, seeking to avoid all appearance of evil. If we have stolen we must make restitution and become generous givers instead of takers.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Seventh Command

It is stark in its bold simplicity. It gives no room for special circumstances or exceptions. It doesn’t explain why, but then it doesn’t really need to. The seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), is self-explanatory. Or so it would seem. Though such disloyalty to one’s partner in marriage would seem to be held in contempt by any society, the fact that God included it in the list indicates that it is a problem of large proportion for the human race. And it indicates that God sees it as a behavior that brings great destruction to any individual and society. If our understanding of Malachi 2:10-16 is right, violation of one’s marriage covenant leads to failure to raise children in the right way.

Our culture is looking for ways to represent adultery as an acceptable alternative to a dead-end marriage or even a healthy thing for a so-so marriage. But God, in his wisdom and concern for the welfare of his children, has clearly spelled out the dangers of adultery. Most of Solomon’s advice to his son in Proverbs 5-9 centers around the dangers of sexual sin. He acknowledges that adultery is seductive and enticing (“the lips of an adulteress drip honey,” 5:3) but that the result is deadly (“her steps lead straight to the grave,” 5:5).

But in Solomon’s exposition of the seventh commandment he also gives the positive aspect of the command: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth!” (v.18) and “Be captivated by her love!” (v.19). You have not kept this commandment when you merely abstain from illicit sexual relations outside your marriage, but the husband or wife is further obligated to faithfully pursue a love relationship with his or her spouse. Too many marriages have failed for lack of this pursuit.

Jesus, of course, also emphasized the depth of this commandment. In Matthew 5:27,28 he rebukes the teachers of the day for assuming that obedience to this command was achieved without consideration of the heart’s attitude. He affirmed that God’s original intent for this law was to include a lustful heart as an aspect of adultery, as a secret adultery of the mind. Not only is there adultery, there is adultery in one’s heart. And though the latter is not as bad as actual adultery, it is what leads to adultery if unchecked. It is a failure to pursue a love relationship with one’s spouse.

Though adultery is forgivable, the seriousness of this sin cannot be played down. It is serious enough to be a legitimate ground for divorce (Matthew 19:9). It is one sin that God explicitly says He will avenge (1 Thessalonians 4:6). Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality!” because such a sin is a sin against one’s own body and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18,19).

Michael Grant, on marriage:  We continue to adjust to each other, an adjustment that started 19 years ago and will never stop because we each continue to grow and change.  We will always be different.  I think of anniversaries as a time for roses and dinner; she prefers Mexican food and a movie.  For Halloween she thinks apples are a good treat; I say, since when did Halloween have anything to do with nutrition?  Don’t mistake it for a solid marriage.  There is no such thing.  Marriage is more like an airplane than a rock.  You have to commit the thing to flight, and then it creaks and groans, and keeping it airborne depends entirely on attitude.  Working at it, though, we can fly forever.  Only she and I know how hard it has been, or how worthwhile.  (San Diego Union)

————————————————————-

My husband was just coming out of anesthesia after a series of tests in the hospital, and I was sitting at his bedside.  His eyes fluttered open and he murmured, “You’re beautiful.”  Flattered, I continued my vigil while he drifted back to sleep.  Later he woke up and said, “You’re cute.”  “What happened to beautiful?”  I asked him.  “The drugs are wearing off,” he replied.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Sixth Command

The sixth commandment is not properly translated, “You shall not kill.” Killing is not prohibited in every form by God, but only certain forms of killing are prohibited. For example, God commanded Israel in this same Law of Moses to kill the Canaanites in battle and take possession of their land (Deuteronomy 7:17-24).

Capital punishment is also commanded in the Mosaic Law for specific crimes. In Exodus 21 specific applications of the Ten Commandments are made and in verses 12-14 the death penalty is required for anyone who kills someone with premeditation. In verses 15-17 striking one’s parent and kidnapping are said to be capital offenses. These and other instances of invoking capital punishment are in accord with God’s decree to Noah in Genesis 9:5,6 and are obviously not considered “murder,” which is prohibited in this sixth command.

Murder refers primarily to premeditated and even unpremeditated slaying other than in war and civil justice (the Hebrew word is used of both premeditated and unpremeditated killing, Numbers 35:16-31 and Deuteronomy 4:42). The slaying of another, intentionally or unintentionally, other than for capital crimes or war, is prohibited by this commandment. Life is God’s gift and man is made in God’s image, a very precious gift indeed (Genesis 9:5,6). To steal that gift from another is a violation of God’s moral will. Every society on earth views it as such.

But this commandment should be viewed from a positive, more inclusive perspective. To state this command positively would be to say something like, “Preserve life.” It has application not only to personally refraining from violence but also to being one who doesn’t just stand by when life is in danger, but who gets involved to preserve the lives of others.

How might we be more that bystanders when an alcoholic neighbor gets in the car and drives away intoxicated? How do we help the pregnant girl who sees abortion as her only option? What application does this commandment have to preventing a depressed individual from committing suicide? How about when we know a parent is abusing children? Or when in war there are obvious atrocities, what do we do? All these situations and others are opportunities for us to live out the depth of this commandment and not remain bystanders.

There are difficult ethical questions bound up in this command. Is self-defense that results in the death of another considered murder? Is pulling the plug on a terminal patient wrong? Is careless driving that results in death worthy of severe punishment? Is there a justifiable war these days? Different parts of the body of Christ have given different answers to all these questions. Each must seek to honor this law of God.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Fifth Command

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

This is the commandment for little kids, right? Wrong! It is for grown-ups, as well. The heart of this commandment is the word “honor.” The Hebrew literally says, “make heavy.” The figurative meaning is to give great weight, praise, honor or respect to someone.

To honor or respect someone means to give great weight to their beliefs, opinions, way of doing things, in fact, everything about them. For children that implies obedience. That’s why Paul quotes this commandment after he instructed children to obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1). There he also points out that this is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is that if Israel obeys they will remain long in the land of Canaan.

This promise is repeated many times in the Law with regard to all the commands. But it is especially significant in regard to honoring parents. The family relationship, the respect for authority learned at home, the discipline developed through parental instruction, is the key to the success of any society. God warns us that to fail in this command is to fail in all of them in coming generations.

Grown-ups are no longer required to obey their parents, but they are still to honor them. This means respecting their advice, seeking their advice, continuing to value their wisdom, and sharing your life with them. This also means providing for them. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul, while giving instructions about the care of widows, remarks that if the widow has a family, that family should provide for her. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Respect and honor for parents, the fifth commandment, relates to how we treat one another. The first four deal with how we relate to God. But in a real sense, the way we relate to our parents in formative years determines to some extent the way we relate to God. It is also a test of how obedient we are to God.

If we have parents who are unworthy of such honor it becomes a task of figuring out how to honor them for their position without violating boundaries of safety and health. This becomes one of the most difficult tasks a child faces. A child, helplessly dependent on an abusive parent, must learn how to find healthy parenting from God and those God sends his or her way. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:10).

I watched a story recently about a young man whose mother, at age 70 or so, was fired from her lifelong job and he realized that all his years growing up he had given his mother a hard time about not having enough money for him and his siblings to do things other kids were doing.  But her being fired stoked a fire in him to show his mother how much he honored her for how she sacrificed for him.  He made a bucket list with her of things they both wanted to do in their lives and began checking off the list with her.

How can you honor your parents?

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Fourth Command

All the commandments are repeated in some form by the New Testament as applicable to believers today except for one – the Sabbath. Nowhere in the New Testament is a believer commanded to observe the seventh day or any single day as holy. Paul, in fact, suggests that the best attitude is to regard every day as holy to God (Romans 14:5). He also warned against letting anyone judge the Christian in regard to Sabbath days (Colossians 2:16,17).

But doesn’t the Law given through Moses apply to the Christian? Yes and No. The Law of Moses does not have any legal claim on the Christian because we are under a new law, the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21). Many of its laws are identical to those given to Israel, but some are different. Because Jesus rose on Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and because the church is a body somewhat distinct from Israel, the Saturday Sabbath is no longer required.  The exception to this would be the Jewish believer who still comes under the covenant God made through Moses and whose identity is shaped by that covenant, as well as, now, the New Covenant.

The Law of Moses still has and should have a place in the Christian’s thinking, however, because it still reflects the mind and heart of God. There are principles in the Sabbath law that we should reckon with and internalize in our lives.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

Several principles come out of this. First, work is a responsibility given us by God, as well as a privilege. By working we imitate God. Second, a day of rest is a responsibility given us by God, as well as a privilege. Because God “rested” we too should rest. God established this pattern at creation. If there were no day set aside each week to rest, life would become an unbearable monotony. There would be no stopping point for looking back over the days of work to evaluate whether they were good or bad. There would be no time to plan for making things better. But most of all there would be no test of our faith. Can we really afford to take a day off? If we trust in God’s provision the answer is ‘Yes.’

So should we observe a Sabbath day as Christians? Since the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week, Sunday, the church has met on Sunday. Is that our new Sabbath? Paul says the Sabbath was a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:16,17). In this age every day is holy to God. However, the principle of a day of rest is still valid. Each one is free to choose how he or she observes it. Jewish believers should still observe Saturday, the original Sabbath.

Do you observe the Sabbath? Do you trust the Lord to take care of you or do you feel the need to work all the time as if your life depended on it?

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Third Command

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Is the third commandment a prohibition against such an oath? The third commandment says,

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7).

In this case, misusing the name of God means taking it on as support for one’s truthfulness in an oath or promise. It says in effect, “The truthfulness of my promise rests on the truthfulness of God, and I expect His punishment if I violate it.” Breaking such an oath would thus be misusing God’s name (using it in vain, as the King James version says, using it in an empty or meaningless way).This is why Leviticus 19:12 says, “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God” and Numbers 30 gives the only exceptions to fulfilling of vows.

There are other ways of misusing God’s name that this commandment implies (cursing, using God’s name in a flippant or joking manner, living hypocritically, etc.). But the primary focus is on the seriousness of making a promise on the merit of God’s honesty and then breaking it. It is like saying God did not keep His word.  Deuteronomy 6:13 commanded Israel to swear only by the name of the true God, Yahweh. But Jesus prohibits any oaths in Matthew 5:33-37. Apparently it was common to hear someone swear by “heaven” or something else associated with God as a way of avoiding both keeping one’s word and incurring God’s judgment (Matthew 23:16-22). “After all,” they might say, “I didn’t use God’s name.” Jesus says, “Do not swear at all…simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ (Matthew 5:34,37). James repeats this in James 5:12. This does not mean that the one who says ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is not required to keep his or her word. But it avoids making God responsible for its truthfulness. That is a dangerous thing to do. God will not fail to punish those who misuse His name.

So is it wrong to swear in court? Jesus submitted to an oath in court (Matthew 26:62-64) and Paul used oaths with God’s name (2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20). Thus Jesus’ prohibition is likely meant to refer to the oaths of daily conversation which are more liable to being broken. Of course, the seriousness of oaths in certain circumstances still comes under the standard of the third commandment.  Are you good for your word? Does your life, as well as your words, reflect the righteous character of God? Do not let your life or your words end up sending a message that God is less than you represent Him to be. He will not hold us guiltless.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Second Command addendum

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (20:5, ESV).

God is a jealous husband. His wife, His people, cannot “hate” Him and not suffer consequences. God will see to it that the natural consequences of parents building false values into their children’s lives will continue to the fourth generation. This is not to say that He may not sovereignly save individuals from among those generations, but there is no promise that He will. When men reject the true image of God as sovereign in their lives, He exercises His sovereignty in judgment.

“…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (20:6, ESV).

This is the promise to those who obey the second commandment. God will bless their generations with the grace to come to the knowledge of the true God. No amount of godly training alone can bring a person to Christ. Only God can turn hearts toward Himself. No idol of man’s making, no God fashioned in man’s image has such sovereign control.

Even if we don’t worship a fashioned likeness of God, we may still be operating with a purposely distorted image of Him. The Pharisees fashioned a God of rigid standards (true to an extent) that they believed they could keep and therefore expected certain rewards from Him. What false images of God have you constructed?