The Lord communicates in many ways to the children of men, such as through our conscience or by His Providences. But He never spoke at any other time like He did when He proclaimed the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai. He had given this law to Mankind before, for it was written in his heart; but sin defaced it so badly that it was necessary to revive the knowledge of it. The law is spiritual, and takes knowledge of the secret thoughts, desires, and dispositions of the heart. It requires perfect, unfailing, constant obedience. If a person keeps the whole law and offends in only one point, they become guilty of all (James 2:10). Whether it is in the heart or in the conduct; in thought, word, or deed; by omission or commission – it is sin, and its wages are death. But the grand demand of the law is love – without which, outward obedience is mere hypocrisy.
The first four of the Ten Commandments are commonly called the First Table, and they tell us our duty to God Himself. It was fitting that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love before he was given a neighbor to love. The first commandment concerns the object of our worship – Jehovah alone. The worship of created things is here forbidden; but anything that comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship also breaks this commandment. The second commandment refers to the worship that we are to render to our Lord. It forbids the making of any image or picture of the Deity for any purpose; the worshiping of any creature, image, or picture; and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship; it is to be done with all possible reverence and seriousness. All lightness in appealing to God and all profane cursings are a horrid breach of this commandment. The form of the fourth commandment – “Remember” – shows that it was not being given for the first time, but it was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy, while the other six days are allotted for worldly business; however, Christ did allow for works of necessity, charity, and piety (Mark 2:27). The Lord’s Day should be a day of rest from worldly labor, and of rest in the service of God. The advantages derived from the proper keeping of this holy day – even if it were only for the health and happiness of mankind, not to mention the time it provides for taking care of our souls – show the excellency of this commandment.
The laws of the Second Table – that is, the last six of the Ten Commandments – state our duty to ourselves and to one another; they explain the great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). The fifth commandment speaks of the duties that we owe to our parents. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” This includes esteem of them by our conduct, cheerful and loving obedience to their lawful commands, and even supporting them in old age (Matt. 15:4-6). Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporal things upon obedient children, and the reverse upon disobedient ones. The sixth commandment requires us to regard the life and the safety of others, just as we do our own. Self-defense is lawful; but the Lord regards the sin of murder as including much more than bloodshed, for He even considers unrighteous anger as falling into the category of murder. This commandment forbids all envy, malice, hatred, anger, and provoking or insulting language; and it requires a spirit of kindness, patience, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment requires chastity and purity in heart, speech, and lifestyle. Anything that defiles the body and the mind – such as impure books or conversation – is condemned by this law. The eighth commandment is the law of love that respects the property of others. In the matters of worldly property, we ought to do to others as we wish them to do to us. The portion of worldly things that is allotted to us, as long as it is obtained in an honest way, is the bread which God has given us. We ought to be thankful for it and content with it. The ninth commandment speaks about our own and our neighbor’s good name. This forbids false speech on any matter, as well as any intentions of deceiving others. It also forbids speaking unjustly against a person and hurting his reputation. As for the tenth commandment, it strikes at the very root: “Thou shalt not covet!”
The law of God is so extensive that we cannot measure it, so spiritual that we cannot evade it, and so reasonable that we cannot find fault with it. It will be the standard that will be used in the future judgment of God, just as it is the standard for the present conduct of Mankind. If we are tried by this standard, we shall find that our lives have certainly been filled with transgressions. And with this holy law and an awful judgment before us, who can afford to despise and neglect the Gospel of Jesus? The knowledge of the law shows us our need of repentance and redemption. And in every believer’s heart where sin is dethroned, the law of God is written and the image of God is renewed. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to hate sin and to flee from it, and to love and obey this law in sincerity and truth.
O blessed Holy Spirit! Guide our souls to Jesus! May we never go about to establish our own righteousness; but rather, cause us to thankfully bless Your name for the covenant-righteousness of our Savior. May we bless and praise Your Divine mercy; for when our sins had destroyed us, and the terrors of a broken law stood forth against us, Jesus became our righteousness and redemption. Praises be to His name! Amen.
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