God’s Love In the Ten Commandments

God’s Love in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20; Deut 33:2-3)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 19, 2023

I have keys up here, why?

Why do I need keys?

Do you all lock your doors? Why?

The Ten Commandments have been important to us for most of human history.

Author and pastor John Killinger explains God’s purpose in giving the Ten Commandments with a wonderful illustration from literature:

In her novel about Maine, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sara Orne Jewett describes the ascent of a woman writer on the pathway leading to the home of a retired sea captain named Elijah Tilley. On the way, the woman notices a number of wooden stakes randomly scattered about the property, with no discernible order. Each is painted white and trimmed in yellow, like the captain’s house.

Curious, she asks Captain Tilley what they mean. When he first plowed the ground, he says, his plow snagged on many large rocks just beneath the surface. So he set out stakes where the rocks lay in order to avoid them in the future.

In a sense, this is what God has done with the Ten Commandments. He has said, “These are the trouble spots in life. Avoid these, and you won’t snag your plow.”19[1]

Let’s read:

Matthew 22:36–40 (ESV)

36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

37And 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.

38This is the great and first commandment.

39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Now, let’s read:

Exodus 20:3–17 (ESV)

3“You shall have no other gods before me.

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.

5You 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,

6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

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.

8“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,

10but 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.

11For 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.

12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13“You shall not murder.

14“You shall not commit adultery.

15“You shall not steal.

16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

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.”

My theme today is: God Showed His Love for Us in Giving Us the Ten Commandments

  1. These are NOT just rules:
    1. David Jeremiah writes: My wife, Donna, and I began our ministry together in a Baptist church in New Jersey. We had just come from four years of seminary training in Dallas, and we were both avid Dallas Cowboy football fans. To our dismay, when we arrived at our first assignment, we were told that watching TV on Sunday was forbidden, and reading the Sunday newspaper was frowned upon. I am not sure I should be confessing this, but I remember closing the blinds of our apartment so that no one would see us watching the Cowboys.
    2. A bit legalistic? Perhaps, but you should have known the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They actually crunched the numbers of legalism, and came up with 1,521 things you couldn’t do on the Sabbath day. That sounds like the title of a book no one would want to read.
    3. Among the 1,521: no rescuing of drowning people; no wearing of false teeth (reinserting them, should they slip, would be work); no looking in the mirror (plucking a white hair, also work). If your friend grew ill, you could do certain things to forestall the illness, but actually trying to cure him—too much like work. At the beginning of a famous revolt, many Jews stood and let themselves be killed rather than risking work by defending themselves (1 Maccabees 2:29–38).
    4. Men made a bureaucratic nightmare out of Sabbath-keeping, but it wasn’t what God wanted.[2]
    5. These commandments are about God’s love.
  2. The First four commandments relate to our relationship with God.
    1. In the passage we just read we see a person come to Jesus and ask what the greatest of the commandments is.
    2. The first commandment is like the hub of a wheel from which all the others are spokes. This isn’t simply another commandment—it’s the one that brings all of them together.[3]
    3. This person was a lawyer and seems to be testing him.
    4. That is when Jesus gives the answer.
    5. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
    6. That sentence spoken by our Lord sums up the first four commandments:

(1) “Do not worship any other gods besides me” (Ex. 20:3).

(2) “Do not make idols of any kind” (Ex. 20:4).

(3) “Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Ex. 20:7).

(4) “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8).[4]

  1. We love the Lord our God, so we do not have any other gods. Now, that is a sermon on itself which we will save for another day.
  2. If we love the Lord, God we are not going to set up idols. That is another sermon we will save for another day.
  3. We love God so we are not going to misuse His name. That is another sermon for another day; however, I will say that misusing the Lord’s name happens way more than we realize. We actually do not even know how to properly say the Lord’s name in Hebrew because the Hebrew people thought of His name as so sacred, they would not say it out loud.
  4. The fourth commandment is regarding the Sabbath Day. This is referenced in the New Testament but never as a commandment as such. It still fits in relation to God because we see at the end of creation the Lord rested. We are called to cease activity.
  5. It is never listed as such a command in the New Testament, but we can easily make the case that we need a day of rest. This does not mean laying on the couch. This means a cease from our normal work. I think working on the house can be okay if it is not your normal work. If your normal job is cleaning houses, you need a break from that. If your normal job is building houses, you need a break from that. If your normal job is teaching, you need a day off. We need rest.
  6. The story goes that when Africa was first being explored, native guides were taking their visitors through the region. After six days of pushing through the jungle, the natives refused to walk. They explained, “We need a day to let our souls catch up with our bodies.”12[5]
  • The last six commandments relate to our relationship with others.
    1. This is summed up in Jesus’ words: And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
    2. Jesus Himself said that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
    3. Jesus is saying that the Old Testament law and all of the prophetic writings fall under the commandments to Love God and to Love people.

(5) “Honor your father and mother” (Ex. 20:12).

This “family rule” is well illustrated in the story “The Old Man and His Grandson,” from the collection Household Tales by the Grimm brothers:

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at the table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spit the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. “What are you doing there?” asked the father. “I am making a little trough,” answered the child, “for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.”

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.13[6]

(6) “Do not murder” (Ex. 20:13).

(7) “Do not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14).

David Jeremiah shares:

Recreational, impulsive sex is considered the norm in our troubled culture. Defending the seventh commandment against the modern world singles one out as a pious puritan stuck in a lost century. However, when we strip sexuality of the restraints God gave it, we create chaos that tears at the very fabric of society. And we place an obstacle that blocks the fellowship God wants to have with us.

God gives us this commandment from love. He is saying, “My child, sexuality is My gift to you. I want you to know that when it’s rightly used, it can bring you joy and intimacy with the spouse I give you, and it can create a legacy of children to replenish the earth.[7]

(8) “Do not steal” (Ex. 20:15).

I recently read a story about a Soviet factory worker who attempted to steal items from his workplace. Every day he filled a wheelbarrow with cylinders, iron ore, and tools—and every day as he left, he got caught and the stuff was taken away from him.

Finally he was fired, and on his last day the commissar waited for him to come out with the contraband. When he arrived at the door the commissar pulled back the cover from the wheelbarrow, and there was the usual stuff. He confiscated everything and said to the thief, “You are a fool! We caught you every single day. You got away with nothing!”

“Sir, Mr. Commissar,” he answered, “you are the fool. I have been stealing wheelbarrows.”[8]

(9) “Do not testify falsely” (Ex. 20:16).

(10) “Do not covet” (Ex. 20:17).[9]

David Jeremiah shares:

Just as the fifth commandment is transitional between love of God and love of others, this tenth commandment is transitional between outer and inner obedience—in essence, between Moses and Jesus. For the other commandments in this group have been about behavior, while this commandment is about the heart. We’ve already seen how Jesus made this connection in the Sermon on the Mount. God looks inside us, so that even if we don’t steal, we can displease Him by our own displeasure with what He has given us.[10]

God showed His love for us in the ten commandments.

Mystery writer Dorothy Sayers was a follower of Christ. She observed that there are two kinds of laws: the law of the stop sign and the law of the fire.

The law of the stop sign is upheld by the community and enforced with fines. The fine can be increased if too many people continue not to stop. The stop sign could also be taken down. It’s simply up to the city council. You might run that stop sign with no worries, as long as no one is watching.

The law of the fire is a different matter. It says, “Touch me and you’ll be burned.” All the city councils, all the state legislatures and national congresses and the United Nations itself could respond to the dangers of fire by gathering to pass a new law that fire will no longer burn. Every person in the world could vote on this law.

And the first man or woman to put a hand in the fire afterward will still get burned.

God’s moral laws are like the law of fire. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for it or not. It doesn’t matter who’s watching. You won’t break God’s laws; you’ll break yourself upon them. Nor is the penalty negotiable, because it’s bound up in the law itself.18[11]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

19 John Killinger, To My People with Love (United Kingdom: Abingdon, 1998), 13–14.

[1] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

[2] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

[3] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

[4] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ex 20:1–8.

12 Leslie B. Flynn, Come Alive with Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 193–94.

[5] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

13 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Digireads.com, 2009), 185.

[6] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ex 20:8–17.

[10] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

18 Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1941), 4.

[11] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

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