Saturday, October 24, 2015

Reading in Exodus This Week #2 (19-20)

[51ChsiH46qL._SX337_BO1%252C204%252C203%252C200_%255B2%255D.jpg]I am quickly continuing my discussion on Exodus, while reading through the commentary, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, by Philip Graham Ryken, because Ryken devotes about 200 pages of his commentary to Exodus 19-20. This is obviously the heart of the book of Exodus as God reveals himself to his people and calls them to living out this revelation as the image of God. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

I think there are a couple keys to understanding the 10 commandments. First, as Ryken says, the order is always “gospel first, then law.” The commands are given to an already redeemed, baptized (Red Sea) people. The purpose of the commands is to tell God’s people how to live, not how to come into relationship with God. Secondly, the torah is mainly about instruction as to who God is and thus how we are to live as his image, not a penal law code as Roman law. It contains a law code for the nation of Israel which was relevant for its time, but the eternal value of the 10 commandments is in its revelation of God’s character and thus, how we are to think and act. They also show us how far away we are from being like God and our need for a mediator- as Paul said “a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.”

What made God’s people so precious was not their own intrinsic value; it was only the value placed on them by God’s love. They were not precious because of who they were but because of who God was. Exodus 19.1-6, 97

In order to approach a holy and awesome God properly (and safely!), we need a mediator. Jesus is that mediator. He is the mediator who offered himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 7:27; 9:26; 10:10). By his crucifixion and resurrection he has delivered us from all the terrors of God’s law and has granted us entrance to the glories of Heaven. Exodus 19.16-25, 520

The 10 commandments reveal the eternal character of God and the eternal covenant calling he places on his people. They are bounded by the command to honor the exclusivity of God as the only God and the call to not desire what belongs to our neighbors. This points out the foundational nature of the 2 great commandments to “love God with all our being (exclusively) and love our neighbor as ourselves. Commands 1 and 10 sum up all the commands in that if we are keeping them we could not be breaking the other 8. In addition, each of these commands invite meditation on how they reveal the character of God and our imitation of Jesus, as Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Ten Commandments display the character of God. They reveal his sovereignty, jealousy, justice, holiness, honor, faithfulness, providence, truthfulness, and love...The law, with all its goodness, springs from the goodness of God’s character. The law is good because God is good, and his goodness penetrates every aspect of his law. Exodus 20.1-2, 527–528

Every commandment is both positive and negative. Where a sin is forbidden, the corresponding duty is required; and where a duty is required, the corresponding sin is forbidden. Exodus 20.3-17, 548

In their widest application, what the Ten Commandments require is not merely our own obedience but also our refusal to participate in the sins of others. More than this, we are called to do everything we can to help others respect and obey God’s law. Exodus 20.3-17, 552

The first command, “you shall have no other gods before my face,” testifies to the uniqueness of the Creator God, his transcendence and the need for exclusive commitment to him. God requires our exclusive covenant commitment to him because it is what we were created for and ultimately is the only thing that will satisfy.

“Love” is the right word to use because the first commandment solidifies the covenant relationship between God and his people. Notice that in this commandment God speaks to us in the singular. God says, “You (individually) shall have no other gods before me (personally).” We do not worship a god but the God, and he wants to have an exclusive love relationship with each one of his people. Obviously in order for this relationship to work, it is essential for us not to share our love with any other god. We must be faithful to the only true God. Exodus 20.3, 560

God is a relational, Trinitarian God and the only way he can be imaged in this world is through the relational people he created in his image. For us to try to represent God in any other way demeans his reputation. This places a huge responsibility on humans in relationship to demonstrate that image in the way we relate to one another.

An idol makes the infinite God finite, the invisible God visible, the omnipotent God impotent, the all-present God local, the living God dead, and the spiritual God material. In short, it makes him the exact opposite of what he actually is. Thus the whole idea of idolatry rests on the absurdity of human beings trying to make their own image of God. An idol is not the truth but a lie. It is a god who cannot see, know, act, love, or save. Exodus 20.4-6, 573–574

“The only legitimate image of God … is the image of God created in his own likeness—the living, thinking, working, speaking, breathing, relating human being (not even a statue will do, but only the human person).” We are not allowed to make God’s image but only to be God’s image. Exodus 20.4-6, 576

Commandment 3 deals with giving honor to the Name or reputation of God. This commandment is broken in two basic ways. First, is being flippant or disrespectful toward God and His name. Second, the command is broken when God’s name is used manipulatively for personal benefit such as false swearing, twisting of scripture or false prophecy (“God told me to tell you!”).

God preserved the honor of his name. By refusing to allow anyone to manipulate him, God demonstrated his supreme and sovereign authority. He showed that he was nothing like the pagan gods, who could be controlled. He alone would decide when to perform a miracle, and he would only do it through his chosen servants. Exodus 20.7, 583–584

Commandment 4 urges us to set aside one day a week to rest, worship and focus on God. This is a sign of trust in God’s providence and in his ability to provide for us. For the nation of Israel, Saturday was set aside as a sign to the nations of their trust in God. Paul and Jesus make it clear that the Christian is free to set aside any day of his or her choice to do this.

We are made in the image of a working, resting God. We still need to work, we still need our rest, and we can still receive the creation blessing of God’s holy day. The main thing that has changed is that we have received a new and greater deliverance. We no longer look back to the old exodus for our salvation; we look to Jesus Christ, who accomplished a greater exodus by dying for our sins and rising again. Jesus is the fulfillment of the fourth commandment, as he is of all the others. The Old Testament Sabbath pointed to the full and final rest that can only be found in him. Exodus 20.8-11, 596

In a clan culture, such as ancient Israel, honoring one’s parents is about honoring the basic authority structure in society. While it does not mean necessarily obeying authority that goes against what God says, it does mean that we should always give proper respect and honor to authority, even as we disagree with it and speak truth to it.

In all of these relationships, “we should look up to those whom God has placed over us, and should treat them with honor, obedience, and gratefulness.” We should do this even when those in authority don’t seem to deserve our respect...Respect for those who are in authority is respect for God because all authority comes from him. Our respect is not based on their personal qualities or professional qualifications, but on the position they have been given by God. Exodus 20.12, 607

The 6th command is about honoring and protecting life. Christians should be all about enhancing and protecting the lives of others. As Paul writes in Philippians we should look out for the interests of other above our own. This precludes hate and violence for personal gain because we should be too busy loving our enemies.

Sometimes all it takes to break the sixth commandment is to do nothing at all...This is the positive side to keeping the sixth commandment. At the same time God forbids us to take life unjustly, he commands us to guard it carefully. We are called to protect life, one life at a time. Exodus 20.13, 622–623

The 7th commandment is about enjoying real, committed love between and husband and wife. It is about depicting the commitment and oneness of the Trinity in our marriage relationships.

God has made us sexual beings to seal the love between a husband and wife. Their sexual union cements their total spiritual communion. Whenever sexual intercourse is divorced from this total life commitment, it loses its true purpose and its highest joy. Exodus 20.14, 630

Commandment #8 is about using things, gifts our good creator God has given us, to serve people. Paul in Ephesians says that the purpose of work is to make sure we have enough to share with others. This is not just about taking stuff that belongs to others, is also forbids the keeping of things that God has given us to share. This is why the Bible talks so often about the dangers of being rich. To whom much is given, much is required.

So at the same time that we are forbidden to take things that don’t belong to us, we are required to use what we have in ways that are pleasing to our God. To put it very simply, the eighth commandment isn’t just about stealing—it’s also about stewardship. Like Adam, we are called to be good stewards of God’s world. Exodus 20.15, 645–646

We are called to be people who “truth in love.” That is we must live lives of personal integrity and transparency. This command especially deals with the issue of truth in relationships. This is why gossip is seen in the New Testament as a sin as dastardly as witchcraft.

If there is one thing God hates, it is the lies that Christians tell to make themselves look more righteous than they really are. Our testimony is that we are unrighteous, that there is no way we could ever be saved apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The real truth about us is that we are so guilty that the very Son of God had to be crucified to pay for our sins. Exodus 20.16, 664

Finally the summary command of the 2nd table is the command to avoid coveting. This is a command to trust God’s gracious provision for life. If one is not wanting what one should not have there will be no reason to break any of the other commands. Sin always starts in the heart. This is why Jesus focuses on lust and hate rather that adultery and murder. This is why Paul despairs of ever being able to keep the law because he knows no one can completely avoid this sin. This is why gratefulness, generosity and contentment are the greatest signs that the Spirit is working in our lives – we can’t maintain that on our own.

Contentment is the positive side of the last commandment; it is the remedy for covetous desire. Contentment means wanting what God wants for us rather than what we want for us. The secret to enjoying this kind of contentment is to be so satisfied with God that we are able to accept whatever he has or has not provided. Exodus 20.17, 674

The good news is that we are not brought or kept in relationship with God by keeping the law. Jesus fulfilled the law for us, paid the price for sin and bring us into relationship with the Trinity through his righteousness. As we walk in the Spirit we grow into this lifestyle which is the image of God in Christ.

We have been justified by faith, not by works, and now we are free to rest in God’s grace. We have come to know God the Father through Jesus the Son, and now we are free to give honor where honor is due. By the love of God we have been delivered from murderous hate, and now we are free to forgive. We have found real pleasure in Christ, and now by the purity of his Spirit we are free to be chaste. All our lies have been exposed, and now we are free to tell the truth. And since we have the provision of Christ, there is no longer any need for us to steal or even to covet. Exodus 20.18-21, 686

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