Exodus 20: 1-18
Arguably the most important words in the Bible regarding ethical and moral behavior come from this passage. When we think of the Ten Commandments we ought to think of it as a wonderful gift from God. What would this world be like had these commandments not been written on stone. Every society to some degree has respected these Ten Commandments – at least the last 6 of the 10. This is because God’s law has been not only inscribed on stone but on the heart of every man (Romans 2). Every man has a moral sense, a sense of right and wrong. Jesus distills the Ten Commandments into two commandments: love to God and love to your neighbor.
We often miss something when we read the Ten Commandments. This is not just straight law. It starts with grace. The words are to a redeemed people whom He brought out of Egypt. This isn’t legalistic moralism. The commands are in light of what God has done for His children. Nothing can motivate the redeemed child more than Gospel motives; the fact that God has saved us from sin and bondage. Repeating the commands regularly can leave the impression that they are negative when in reality they are positive. David Murray re-frames them as the Ten Pleasures.
He says of the first commandment, “We have the pleasure of knowing,worshiping and serving the Lord our God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This sounds like Jesus’ explanation. It is positive, right? In terms of the first commandment, it is an opportunity to find our greatest joy and delight in God Himself.
Negatively, the first commandment condemns every other religion. It condemns atheism, those who don’t believe in God at all. It condemns pantheism and every form of religious pluralism. What is really at the heart of this commandment? What sin does it go after? Idolatry. It addresses the deepest and most fundamental problem found in the human heart. We are born idolaters. Anything we worship more than God is an idol. We all worship something. When we become Christians our relationship to our idols changes. Remember how the apostle Paul described the Thessalonians. He said they had turned from their idols to serve the living God. That is true of all Christians.
Something else to note about the Ten Commandments. Every one of them tells us something about God. The first commandment tells us God is a jealous God. If a husband really loves his wife, he doesn’t want her involved with other men. God is holy; He is a jealous God. He wants no rivals or competitors when it comes to worship. It is good to remember when we come to pray. He wants true worship and all our worship. He wants first allegiance in our lives.