Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 11

Exo 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Deu 5:21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

This command is interesting in that it is the only one for which there are no proscribed punishments in the law. This is because it deals not with outward acts, which are provable and thus able to be prosecuted, but instead with desires. It is easy enough to prove adultery or theft, but how do you prove that your neighbor is coveting?

This commandment thus shows something in an obscure way that is made open by Christ, that God deems evil attitudes and desires as sins, not just evil acts. Jesus forbade anger as being murder in the heart and lust as being adultery in the heart (Matt. 5:22-23; 27-29). Now the evil desire is the seed of sin, and is sinful in itself, but it is not as evil as the deed. Some might say, coveting is as bad as stealing. No, coveting is not as bad. People have coveted without stealing, but no one has stolen without coveting. The same can be said of lust. This does not excuse covetousness, which is a great evil, but it is to emphasize that while it is bad to want to do a sinful deed, it is worse to do it.

James gives us the progressive order of sin, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Lust or desire tempts us, we dwell on that desire and commit the act. The act carries with it a penalty – death! The key to victory over sin is in the desires. If we can put away evil desires and not dwell on them, then we won’t advance to the second stage and actually commit evil deeds. The Apostle Paul in Colossians gives lists of two different types of sins, some that need to be mortified and some that need to be put off. There are five that must be starved to death, fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and coveteousness. Passion differs from evil desire in that it denotes a will that is set on a course, like the feet that are swift in running to mischief (Prov. 6:18). Evil desire is like the heart that devises wicked imaginations. Covetousness is desiring something God has not given you, and is compared with idolatry (Eph. 5:5). Fornication and uncleanness cover the whole range of sexual immorality. These five desires must be taken captive, and starved until they are destroyed. These sins must be put to death as John Bunyan has my Lord Willbewill do unto Harmless-Mirth (Lasciviousness in disguise) in his book “The Holy War.”

There are other sins mentioned later in Colossians 3 that are to be put off, such as anger, filthy speaking, etc. When we are tempted to be angry we make a choice to not allow it, we put it off.

If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, God will change our desires from evil desires to desires of righteousness. This is part of the total redemption which Christ purchased for us on the cross, Praise God!

The Ten Commandments Part 10

Exo 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Deu 5:20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor.
This commandment demands our truthfulness, not only in courts of law, but as witnesses to the actions of ourselves and others in general. While this commandment forbids all lying, I would like to focus on one specific form which is gossip and slander. It is a sad state of affairs when the children of light throw around the darkness of slander and calumny. Christ calls Himself the faithful and true witness (Rev. 3:14). For us to be anything less is to fall short of His glory.
There are several ways in which Christians can break this commandment without perhaps even realizing it. Richard Baxter in a sermon entitled “Cases Of Conscience, and Directions Against Backbiting, Slandering, and Evil Speaking” available for reading at, mentions several thoughts concerning this commandment worth noting. I will summarize a few of them (I would recommend reading the whole sermon, he says things in a very memorable way far better than I could.):
1. Even if a man is the enemy of God and the truth we cannot go beyond the bounds of truth in attacking him. “God needeth not malice, nor calumnies nor injustice to His glory.”

Remember of Christ it is said, “In righteousness doth He judge and make
war” (Rev. 19:11).

2. Take heed that in your zeal to defend your beliefs and the beliefs of your sect, you do not cross over to calumny of others who disagree. “A siding factious zeal, which is hotter for any sect or party, than for the common Christianity and catholic church, is always a railing, a lying, and a slandering zeal, and is notably described, James 3, as ‘earthly, sensual, and devilish,’ causing ‘envy, strife, and confusion, and every evil work.’”

When we realize that it is only God that gives understanding of His Word, we should be merciful towards others who disagree with us, especially on minor matters. We cannot shy away from the truth, but we need not attack them personally. It is one thing to fight a doctrine, it is another to attack the person who holds it. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 shows us the manner we should have towards those who disagree with us. If we are right, then meekness is in order. If we are wrong, and we are the ones God has to lead to repentance it is even more needful. The more ferociously we fight the worse it will be if we are wrong.

3. Backbiting is a great evil because it destroys love. “…as it is not the natural way of winning love, to entreat and beg it, and say, I pray you love this person, or that thing; but to open the goodness of the thing or person, which will command love: so is it not the natural way to stir up hatred, by entreating men to hate this man or that; but to tell how bad they are, which will command hatred in them that do believe it. Therefore to speak evil of another, is more than to say to the hearers, I pray you hate this man…”

4. We can be guilty of lying if we repeat evil of people without sufficient proof. “They who often speak evil of others behind their backs, it is ten to one will speak falsehoods of them when they do not know it. Fame is too ordinarily a liar, and they shall be liars who will be its messengers… If you know it not to be true, or have not sufficient evidence to prove it, you are guilty of lying and slandering interpretatively, though it should prove true; because it might have been a lie for aught you knew.”

5. We should be careful not to speak before we have heard the whole of the matter (Prov. 18:17). “It is gross injustice to talk of a man’s faults, before you have heard him speak for himself. I know it is usual with such to say, O we have heard it from such as we are certain will not lie. But he is a foolish and unrighteous judge will be peremptory upon hearing one party only speak, and knoweth not how ordinary it is for a man when speaketh for himself; to blow away the most confident and plausible accusations, and make the case appear to be quite another thing. You know not what another man hath to say till you have heard him.”

It is interesting that one of things that God sets forth for those who would dwell with Him is that they should speak the truth in their hearts and neither backbite nor take up a reproach against their neighbors (Psalm 15:2-3).

Christ was tempted in all points as we are, yet He never sinned. This gives Him tremendous understanding of the frailty and failing of humanity. He never condones sin, but He sorrows for the sinner. There is no self-righteousness in Him, even though all righteousness is in Him! One of the most interesting pronouncements He made was in Matthew 23:36-38, “Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Note the tenderness He had even to those who had repeatedly rejected Him and were about to crucify them. He truly warned of the judgment that would come, but without any bitterness or railing. Truly, He is our example to follow!

The Ten Commandments Part 9

Exo 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.

Deu 5:19 Neither shalt thou steal.

This commandment shows that God upholds the right of private property ownership. It is a saying that, “Possession is 9/10s of the law” and certainly in human relationships this law and its various applications make up a large part. God’s law unlike most legal codes is biased neither towards the poor nor the rich.

This commandment goes against “wealth redistribution” and other similar schemes, which in effect punish the wealthy. There is no question that some wealthy people make their wealth through dishonest means, but wealth is neither right nor wrong in the sight of God, but rather how it is acquired and how it is used. God views deprivation of property by governments as theft if it is not done in the limits of justice. Jezebel’s seizing of Naboth’s vineyard was robbery and murder in God’s eyes and He judged it accordingly (1 Kings chapter 21). In many nations were property laws are changed to deprive certain groups of their land, God views this as robbery (the application of force by the police, or armed forces raise it from mere theft to robbery, which is theft by violence or threat of violence). Often the rational given for these seizures is that the property was obtained unjustly in the beginning, if that is true, then it should be proven, and if it was unjust according to the law as it was, then why do they have to change the law to affect the seizure?

On the side of the employer, God regards it as theft if they either unnecessarily delay payment of money owed to a worker (Lev. 19:13), short-changing him in payment or otherwise changing his wages. Laban developed that scheme to perfection on Jacob, and apparently he was a role model to many in the BIA in the late 1800s. Other ways in which businesses can be guilty of theft is through dishonest scales, and similar tricks (Proverbs 11:1). In South Africa, potato chip companies will vary the amount of chips in the bag throughout the year 125g-150g, without changing the bag size or the price. While it is marked at the bottom of the packaging, they know that most people won’t notice and will pay the same price for 25g less. If that does not contravene the letter of God’s law it certainly is against the spirit. Another similar instance is when the Watt rating on speakers was changed without much fanfare to peak power output from its older standard. This allows speakers to be rated higher than they would been under the older rating.

Other forms of theft which are forbidden, are failure to return borrowed property (money included), or returning it in a damaged condition with no restitution, there are however certain limitations (Ex. 22:7-15). Damage to another’s property through carelessness also makes one liable (Ex. 22:5-6).

This is not an exhaustive list of violations. Using company time and equipment to do our own thing would also be a violation if it is not permitted by the company. We are in effect taking money without rendering the service we are obligated to render. God requires a total repentance from all stealing, and a total change in action and attitude. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Eph. 4:28). Instead of taking Christians should be givers, even to the undeserving even as God is!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 8

Exo 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Deu 5:18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

This commandment is a forbidding of not only adultery proper, but all uncleanness and immorality in general.

God instituted marriage in the garden of Eden, it was one man and one woman for life. The fall caused not only a break and enstrangement in the relationship with God, but also with each other. Adam’s “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh”, became “that woman You gave me…” The change of the nature within was mirrored by the change of nature without. Thorns and briars were first introduced. In High School Biology I remember learning that thorns are branches that grow from mutated branch nodes. Unlike normal branches that branch out and bear leaves, thorns fold inward. In other words a thorn is a self-centered branch, and shows us something of the change in our own heart that happened as part of the fall. Plants began to produce thorns to keep themselves from being devoured, people began to put themselves first. “Looking out for number one” was introduced. This attitude was and is the bane of marriage.

Once this attitude is set in it was not long before it brought forth its first evil fruit, polygamy (Gen. 4:19). While the Mosaic law never forbade polygamy, it did seek to mitigate all its evils (Passing over the firstborn of the first wife, neglecting her, marrying sisters, etc…). If the life of Jacob shows us anything, it shows us the chaos that is created by polygamy in the home. When sins are prevalent in our culture and society we can be easily influenced, and not even see how far short we fall of God’s intentions. When Jacob was in danger of his life, he sent his wives and children, in reverse order of importance to him, out in front, with himself at the back so that he could escape. This is hardly the action of a good husband or father. It does not take a genius to see that this might have something to do with the violent hatred that some of the other children had for Joseph, who was his father’s favorite. The fact that God did not give up on Jacob in spite of his serious shortcomings in his homelife should encourage everyone that God can use even our own mistakes and the difficulties they create to perfect us if we turn to Him.

By the time of the return from Babylon, the Jews had as a whole realized that polygamy was not ideal and that God’s ideal was one man and one wife. However fallen man trying to look out for himself, changed that in effect to “one wife at a time.” Divorce like polygamy was not forbidden in the Mosaic law but it’s evils were lessened. Apparently it was not a common occurrence in the earlier Old Testament times, but became a great destroyer of family life by the time of Malachi. He explains how God views it (Mal. 2:10-16). In spite of what Malachi prophesied divorce continued to be very common up to the days of Christ some 400 years later. Asked His opinion He stated it clearly and expressly, that God joined man and woman in marriage therefore man could not dissolve the marriage (Matt. 19:3-10). God is the only one who can dissolve the marriage and He does that by death. It is my conviction that the exception clause refers to fornication proper during the engagement period in Jewish custom (Eg. Matt.1). In the second century, while the church apparently did allow divorce for immorality, they did not allow remarriage. A divorced person was to remain single or be reconciled (Hermas Book 2 Chap. 1). While I would not agree with that position, it does show what was believed by the church concerning remarriage at a very early date.

When we consider the situation that the early Church experienced as compared to the Church today, we realize that they are very similar. The people of God (then the Jews, now the Church) were better than the surrounding nations in that they did not kill unwanted babies (Exposure then, now abortion) or in all the flagrant immorality, yet there was a high rate of divorce even among God’s people. Jesus came to institute the New Covenant, which has the power not only to remit sin, but to break its power. In the immoral world we live in today it is good to remember the apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:9-11). First he tells us in no uncertain terms that immoral people will not get into heaven. Then he adds some of the most comforting words ever written, the beauty of the past tense, “Such WERE some of you…” Having told them that no fornicator, adulterer, homosexual, etc… shall inherit the kingdom of God, he then shows that there may be many former fornicators, former adulterers, and former homosexuals in heaven. It is not sin that keeps us from heaven, but unwillingness to turn from it. God is willing to meet us in our sin and rebellion and change us if we are willing to forsake our sin. God often will use trouble and calamity to make us willing to repent even as He did with King David. If we repent, God will begin to restore us. David knew God as “the lifter of His head” (Psa. 3:3). When he could only hangs his head in shame of the remembrance of what he had done and could not undo, God raised his head and reminded him, “You are not the same man who did that, I have changed you, and I will continue to change you…” 1 Kings 1:1-4 shows us a different David from 2 Samuel 11, it is a wiser David, a David that has learned his lesson and been changed. If we have been involved in a particular sin and come out of it, God may at times bring us into situations that would have been tempting before, He does this not for His sake, because He already knows we have been changed. Instead He does it for our sake and the sake of others around us so that we can see the work God has done and thank Him that we are different. Praise God!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 7

Exo 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.
Deu 5:17 Thou shalt not kill.

The Ten Commandments form an abridgement of the law, as is seen when the law is studied as a whole. Much of the law deals with various infractions against these Ten Commandments and the corresponding punishments. I write this because some would use this command to oppose capital punishment. This is an absurd perversion of the Law of God. God gives this command because human life is precious. It is given by Him as a trust in stewardship of the one to whom it is given with a reckoning held at the end as to how it was lived. When a man’s life is cut short, God requires a life for a life, and instituted this in the covenant He gave to Noah (Gen. 9:5-6). This covenant has never been abrogated and remains in effect for all of humanity for all times.
This law is far better than any other method which man has used to punish murder throughout history. It specifically forbids the reception of money in place of the death of the murderer (Num. 35:31-34). When man is viewed merely as a producer/consumer then it becomes possible to economically compensate the family for the loss. This was a widespread custom occurring among the Germanic tribes, and the Native Americans among others. However the Biblical view of man is that he was formed in the image of God, and thus any taking of his life, or even disfigurement of the dead is an offense against God who made man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27; Amos 2:1). In our own time the tendency is to view man merely as a member of society, thus we punish murder by locking the murderer away to prevent further murder. This humanistic method of valuing man ultimately leads to euthanasia and abortion, especially of those who are not perceived as having value to society. Man’s life is valuable not because of what he contributes to society, but because of the image they bear, marred by sin though it is.
The other common way to treat the offense was to kill one of the kindred of the one responsible, if the perpetrator could not be found. This is removed in the law, because only the one responsible was to be killed. Also His death was to be done after a trial, which would prevent blood feuds.
The law of God would thus require capital punishment for murder, with some allowance made for mercy to be shown as it was to David. The main objection to capital punishment is wrongful conviction. This would be somewhat removed if the law reflected the Mosaic law and made perjury in a capital case a capital offense (Deut. 19:16-19).
The value that God places on human life was shown in that this law was applied even to a burglar (during daylight hours) and only the confusion of night and terror associated with a night time prowler permitted the killing of a thief (Ex. 22:2-3). During the day it should have been possible to subdue the man, even if he were armed, at night the whole matter would have been much harder. The Old Testament does make it clear that men are within their rights to band together and fight against others who come against them to kill them (Est. 8:11). However, as Christians we have the privilege of laying down our rights, even the right to life, on behalf of others.
This command directly forbids abortion, euthanasia and suicide. These acts all view life as belonging to ourselves rather than as being a stewardship given by God.
Jesus took the command to not kill to its source and forbade us even to be angry with our neighbors which is the source of murder (Matt. 5:21-22). Beloved let us love one another!

The Ten Commandments Part 6

Exo 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deu 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

This command actually ends the first table of the commandments. The previous four have all had to do with our relationship to God. God begins with our relationship with Him, because that is first in importance. If we do not care about offending against God we will have few scruples about offending against people. This command is a transition commandment. It belongs to the first table, because it still deals with our relationship with God as reflected by our relationship with human authority. Thus this commandment belongs to both the first and second table and forms a bridge between them.

God often tests the reality of our relationship with Him based on our relationship to others. True love of God is proved by love of the brethren (1 John 4:20). In the same way our honoring our parents is a reflection of our honor for God. Since, if we are born again, God is also our Father, we will respond to Him as we do to our earthly parents. We had no say in who our parents were, God chose that as sovereign over all things to do with human reproduction. Whatever the faults and flaws they have, they were still chosen by God for our training, so we should honor them. This holds true with authorities in general, and if we learn a right attitude to our parents we will have a much easier time with other authorities who were also placed over us by God. God often asks us to obey Him in things that go against the way we would like to do things, if we never learn to respond well to our parents when they cross our will, how will we respond to Him?

It is not always possible to obey our parents, but it always is possible to honor them. Jesus is our pattern in this as well as in everything else. When He was young He was obedient to them in everything (Luk. 2:51). As He grew older and entered His ministry, there were some things that He was unable to follow their wishes in, because He had to do the will of His Father. However, He was always respectful to His mother, though in English it may not always translate so (John 2:1-11; Matt. 12:46-50). Among His last acts as He hung on the cross was ensuring that His mother would be looked after (John 19:26-27).

If our parents are requiring something of us that is contrary to what God says in His Word, we must obey God, but be respectful towards them. If they attempt to pressure us into a vocation or other long term commitment that we have no desire towards, we should pray to see if it is God’s will for us. God can change our desires, but if it isn’t His will and we are sure that God has something else for us, we should state firmly yet respectfully that we will not pursue that course of action. Far greater than our duty to our parents is our duty towards God. Sometimes these difficulties can continue for some time, so we should pray that God would bring about His will. If our parents are set on something for us, we can not budge them, but God can give them a change of heart. He usually will do this after our own attitude improves.

This commandment is the first one with a promise. We are promised a long and blessed life if we obey it. So may God grant that we obey it!

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 5

Exo 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Deu 5:12-15 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

This commandment is slightly different in wording though not in substance in the two portions of Scripture where it is found. What differs more is the reason given for it which follows. We are given two reasons to keep this commandment. First, is God’s creation of the world in six days and His then resting. Second, is a remembrance of His deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

It is interesting that the seven day week is a common occurrence throughout widely divergent cultures. However unlike the 28 day lunar cycle or 365 day solar cycle it has no astronomical base. It in itself testifies to the Creator. For this reason the French tried to eliminate it when they set up their cult of reason in the French revolution (Like the Antichrist who is to come they tried to change times and seasons). They were introducing all their metric measurements at that time and tried to introduce a ten day week. This proved unworkable as people and even the animals needed a day of rest on the seventh not tenth day.

The early church began to meet on the first day of the week (Sunday) rather than on the sixth day at a very early time (1 Cor. 16:1-2). This was done in honor of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1).
The Sabbath we are to keep is a holy day. It is not just a day of rest, which is essential, which God has given us, but also a day to remember Him and think of His goodness. The bare minimum of this commandment is regular church attendance. We are not to neglect the assembling together of believers (Heb. 10:25). It’s greater purpose is to lead us to an entering into rest and a cessation from our own works in every area of our life (Heb. 4:10). If we are insistent on doing our own thing on a Sunday, how will we ever learn to do His will in the day to day details?

I think if we truly consider this commandment we must admit that the church at large violates it. The worst example I have heard of occurred when a church chose to show the Superbowl on Superbowl Sunday. Blasphemous profanation! Is that why Christ died so that He can have a people who can’t set their minds on Him as long as they aren’t sure of the current score? Before the game does the pastor preach on 1 John 2:15?

On the other hand, I would certainly not advocate the way that in the old days, this commandment was taken to an extreme. In some houses they actually would cover all the paintings they had lest someone should actually derive some pleasure from seeing it on the Sabbath! What you choose to do is between you and God. I would suggest that you consider this command and ask God how He would like you to keep it. After all, He gave the law so He knows what He has in mind!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 4

Exo 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Deu 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

The third commandment forbids the use of God’s name in vain. To take God’s name in vain is to fail in the purpose for which man was created, to glorify and please the God. This commandment is violated perhaps more than any other in this age we live, both by believers and unbelievers.

We violate this commandment whenever we use God’s name as an exclamation or curse instead of an invocation of Him in Holiness. We also violate it whenever we call Him as a witness to our innocence when we are guilty.

The tenor of this whole commandment is the fear of the Lord. If we truly fear God then we will be jealous of His Name. Christ raised the bar for this commandment in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16). Not only should we not misuse the name of God but every word and deed should be to glorify that name. Paul wrote as a great indictment against the Jews of his day, that by their lives they caused God’s name to be blasphemed and dishonored rather than glorified (Rom. 2:17-29). The fact that the glory of God figured highly even in David’s cry for mercy in His fall shows our contemporary Christianity in an unfavorable light. His repentance and cry for restoration were more the outgrowth of a desire that God would be justified in His judgment of one who bore His name but walked contrary to Him than of a desire for personal salvation (See Psalm. 25:11; 40:2-3,10,16; 51:4, 13, 19).

The last way in which Christians often break the third commandment applies specifically to Pentecostal/Charismatic circles and is when we use the words “The Lord told me” as a cover for doing our own thing or in any other manner when God has not really spoken. To use His name as a stamp for our own agenda does not lend authority to it, because His authority only flows from His authorship. Everything which originates in Him will bear His authority and will be brought to pass. Anything that originates in us can never have His authority, no matter how good the idea may sound, or how much we pray for His blessing upon it, because it does not have His authorship. To Use His name for our own “prophecies” which we have devised, brings genuine prophecy into disrepute and makes the name of God a common and profane thing.

Let us bring glory and honor to His name!