"I am the vine, you are the branches"
The Ten Commandments, Part 1
The First Four
Today it is more important to be politically correct than to be morally correct. In Acts 4, Peter and John were preaching and proclaiming in Yeshua's (Jesus) name the resurrection from the dead. Many people received their message, about five thousand as a matter of fact. The religious rulers of that day became concerned when Peter and John healed a lame man in this Yeshua's name, so they came together to discuss what they might do to stop this from going on. So they arrested Peter and John and told them that they could no longer preach or do anything in this Yeshua's name, but Peter and John answered them and said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard." It took great courage for Peter and John to stand for their convictions. What has happened to the church of the living God, the body of Messiah? Have we lost our courage or have we lost our convictions? Maybe we have lost our faith!
Today believers all over this world are being persecuted and martyred for their beliefs. They have been imprisoned and beaten and they suffer great sorrows, but they do not complain or give in. They are a true witness for God. Paul writes in Philippians 3:10-11, "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, and being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." The church, here in America especially, has been taught that we will not have to suffer for the name of Yeshua. This is a lie! Yeshua himself told us that we would suffer persecution, because if the world hated Him, they would hate us also. He said that we would be blessed if we suffer persecution for His name's sake.
Today Christians are being persecuted right here in America. We have lost our religious freedoms; like a glass of water they are being poured out a little at a time. I say we have lost our moral compass and that compass is the Ten Commandments. Believers today do not even believe that the commandments have any significance for us in the 21st Century. My Bible tells me that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change and we ought to be glad that He is not like shifting sand, that He is a Rock that we can build our house on. For the storms will blow in this country also, and we will not escape what other believers are experiencing today. Yeshua said, "If you love Me, then keep My commandments." Yeshua is the Word of God made flesh. He was before the foundation of this world. In fact, Scripture tells us that God spoke His Word and the world came into existence; that Word is the Word that was made flesh and that Word is His Torah. The Ten Commandments are part of the Torah and His word is for all who shall believe in Him (John 3:16).
Today society tells us that we need to be tolerant of everyone and everything, yet these same people who tell us this are not tolerant of us. So we want to look at the Ten Commandments and see exactly what they mean and why we should be keeping them today. People say that God has too many rules: it's all about "thou shalt nots," do's and don'ts; but this is not true. When God gave His people His Law it was for the sole purpose of making them holy, set apart from the world. A person who keeps God's commands is like what light is to darkness; it stands apart, it is clearly noticeable and completely opposite from someone who does not know God. Also when He gave His law, it was a covenant and agreement like a marriage vow, even like an ancient treaty between a king and his people (I will protect you and provide for you if you keep my commands). God's Laws were given out of love, like between a husband and wife, not for the purpose of servitude. Every great nation has laws that need to be kept so that utter chaos will not prevail, so shouldn't God have laws for His kingdom? If we are to be part of His kingdom then we to need to keep His commands. We will look at the first four of the Ten Commandments which pertain to our relationship with God.
The Ten Commandments
(1) Exodus 20:1-3: "Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘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.'"
We like to say that God gave these commandments to Israel and not to us, but every one of us has been delivered from the house of slavery. Let's look at what the Apostolic Scriptures tell us about this first commandment. John 8:34-36 tells us, "Truly I (Yeshua) say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." Romans 8:15: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!'" Galatians 5:1: "It was for freedom that Messiah set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Colossians 1:13 says, "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son."
I could go on but I think you see that we, too, have been delivered from the house of slavery. The Passover story can be our own personal story as well. Yeshua (Jesus) tells His disciples in Matthew 6:19-24 not to lay up treasure for themselves upon this earth but to lay up treasure in heaven where thieves cannot steal it, for where our treasure is there our hearts will be. And He goes on to say that the eye is the lamp of the body and if the eye is clear then the whole body has light, but if the eye is bad then the whole body is in darkness. Then He said, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches."
(2) Exodus 20:4-5: "You shall not make for yourselves an idol, or likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor 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 fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
Today we have many idols that keep us from serving God. Christians today pray less, read their Bibles less, and go to church less than at any other time in history. So because of this, we are vulnerable to all the schemes of the adversary. The apostle John writes in 1 John 5:21, "Little children guard yourselves from idols." Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." Paul mentions idolatry as one of the deeds of the flesh versus walking in the Spirit of God in Galatians 5:20 and Peter says it also in 1 Peter 4:3. Revelation 21:8 speaks about the new heaven and earth and those who will not enter it: "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." This covers many of the commandments.
(3) Exodus 20:7: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain."
Today everyone uses language that only a few years back people thought to be offensive, but because people have filled their minds and hearts with everything but the Word of God, people have turned to the futility of their minds. But what does God's Word say about what we say? Yeshua (Jesus) tells us in Matthew 12:36-37, "And I say to you that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgement. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." Instead of using God's name in vain, Paul tells us in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." We are to use God's name to bless and not curse, to uplift and not tear down. Yeshua even tells us in Matthew 5:34-37, "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King, nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be ‘Yes, yes' or ‘No, no'; and anything beyond these is of evil."
God's name is holy and we are to be holy. Our lives are to be for the glory of God and so, "our speech always should be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person" (Colossians 4:6).
(4) Exodus 20:8-11: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male servant nor your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For six days the Lord made the heavens and the 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."
People believe, because they have been taught, that this commandment is only a commandment for the Jewish people, but when looking at this commandment more closely, we see that this commandment has to do with the creation of the world when God created the Sabbath day and called it holy (set apart). This day is for everyone! In fact, Yeshua tells us that He is the Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8. Yeshua also tells us in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath." When we do not keep the seventh day Sabbath, we bear witness with the world that God is not the creator and Yeshua is not the Lord of the Sabbath which testifies to the Jewish people that he is not the Messiah. From the days of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt to the days of Yeshua to even today, there have always been Gentiles who have believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) and God tells these people who sojourn with Israel that they, too, must keep the Sabbath day as holy. This day is to be so holy that even our cattle are to take a day of rest from their labor, for this day is a day set apart for man and His Creator to come together. It is God's appointed time for man to come into His presence.
The Scriptures tell us in Isaiah 55:6, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." The Seventh day Sabbath is that day. The Christian church changed the seventh day Sabbath to the first day of the week because they did not want to be associated with the tree which they had been grafted into (Romans 11:17-18). God gave us ten commandments which are so important that He wrote them with His own finger upon two tablets of stone. He did not give us nine, but ten and we ought to keep all ten, for these ten will be His guide on judgement day.
We will continue to look at the rest of the Ten Commandments next time, but for now let us put to practice these first four, for these first four relate to our relationship with God. The Scriptures tell us in Luke 10:27, "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." And if we can not do that, then we can not do the second half of the commandment which is summed up this way: "Love your neighbor as yourself." We have One God, not two. He is the Creator of all of us. He does not love one more than the other. His Word is neither Old nor New, but His Word is One as He is One, and we need to follow His Word and only His Word, for His Word is truth and life.