Exodus
Introduction 1-3 The First Commandment 4-6 The Second Commandment 7 The Third Commandment 8-11 The Fourth Commandment 12 The Fifth Commandment 13 The Sixth Commandment 14 The Seventh Commandment 15 The Eighth Commandment 16 The Ninth Commandment 17 The Tenth Commandment 18-21 Israel Is Afraid 22-26 Rules for the Sacrifice Service
Introduction

The first part of this chapter contains the ten commandments, also called “the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Exo 34:2828So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.). These commandments are addressed to a people freed from Egypt. In their redemption from Egypt the LORD has shown the smallness of all the gods of Egypt and His exaltedness above them. By the redemption of His people He has also committed them to Himself. They belong to Him and no one else. That must appear from their whole lives. With them the LORD makes this covenant at the Sinai – nowhere else and with no one else.

The number ten represents responsibility. The meaning of the law is : Do this and you will live. Scripture says, “He who practices them shall live by them” (Gal 3:12b12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”; Lev 18:55So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.). The letter to the Galatians makes it clear that no human being can acquire and has acquired life on that basis, that is to say on the basis of responsibility. On the contrary, on that basis there is no hope for man: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith”” (Gal 3:10-1110For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”11Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”).

For the believer who belongs to the church, it is not ‘do and live’, but ‘live and do’. The righteous live by faith. The whole letter to the Galatians makes it clear that law and faith exclude each other completely “the Law is not of faith” (Gal 3:12a12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”). He who believes is “not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:1414For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.).

This does not mean that, as a believer, he is now able to keep the law or is supposed to keep the law. The law is not meant for him: “We know … that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for” sinners, for people who live according to the flesh (1Tim 1:8-118But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,9realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers10and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,11according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.). The law is a mirror that shows to man where he fails, that he may confess his sins and take refuge in Christ.

The law reveals sins, but is not or does not provide a means to wash them away. He who transgresses the law dies without mercy. This is the requirement of the law: “Anyone who broke the Law of Moses died without mercy on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses” (Heb 10:2828Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses.). The law is also negative by definition, “you shall not”. It consists mainly of things that are prohibited. The law condemns the sinful actions of man.

The law does not fully show Who God is, but shows Him in His holy and righteous demands. Who God is, we see fully only in the Lord Jesus. The law indicates what man should be and reveals what he is. Man is inclined to transgress everything that is commanded and forbidden by the law of Moses.

The first four commandments deal with man’s relationship with God, the next six deal with a man’s relationship with his neighbor. The Lord Jesus also mentions this distinction when He, as a summary of the law, speaks of loving God above all else and loving his neighbor as himself (Mt 22:36-4036“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’38This is the great and foremost commandment.39The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’40On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”).

For a more detailed discussion of the function of the law for the Christian, see the booklet ‘The Christian and the law’ on www.oudesporen.nl (English)


The First Commandment

1Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me.

This commandment affirms that there is only one God and that God is absolutely sovereign: “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is [but] one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we [exist] for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we [exist] through Him” (1Cor 8:4-64Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,6yet for us there is [but] one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we [exist] for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we [exist] through Him.). God tolerates nothing beside Himself to whom honor must be given. Man is a sinner. He has turned away from God. However, he must have an object of worship. God knows that. He knows the heart of man. That’s why He forbids man to acknowledge other gods.


The Second Commandment

4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This commandment makes it clear that the worship of God must take place in a spiritual way. Every image of God that a man makes is a product of his human, sin- corrupted spirit. Such a product must be an insult to God. It is the downgrading of the only, sovereign God to the level of man or the creature. As if God is equal to what He has made.

The commands in the New Testament are: “Flee from idolatry” (1Cor 10:1414Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.) and “guard yourselves from idols” (1Jn 5:2121Little children, guard yourselves from idols.). Idolatry is anything that comes between the soul and God, or the Lord Jesus, and takes their place.

Making an image also means that you form an idea of God that suits you. It is a god that you have thought up yourself. It is not the God of the Bible in which He presents Himself as Light, “God is light” (1Jn 1:55This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.) and Love, “God is love” (1Jn 4:8,168The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.16We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.). Whoever emphasizes one of these two at the expense of the other, has a representation of God that is wrong. If man gives up the true knowledge of God, as revealed in the Bible, he will fall into idolatry, the worship of material things, behind which demons are concealed.

Nothing of creation may be introduced into the service of God. A service authorized by man in a certain form (liturgy) should not have a place.


The Third Commandment

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.

The Name is the essence of God. Respect for that Name is required of man. Vain use means using His Name to reinforce man’s own words (cf. Mt 5:33-3733“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’34But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.36Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.37But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ [or] ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.) or in situations where God’s Name is linked to man’s own will and sin.

We can also apply this to the coming together of believers. If we come together in the Name of the Lord Jesus (Mt 18:2020For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”), but we arrange the service ourselves, His Name is also used in vain. The leading of the Holy Spirit has been set aside.


The Fourth Commandment

8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but 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 or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11For in 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.

God forbids man to do any work on the seventh day. He connects it to His rest, after He created the heavens and the earth in the six preceding days. By keeping this day, man can show par excellence that he knows his place in creation and wants to take it in relation to God. God wants His people to share in His rest and to do so consciously. Therefore, this commandment begins with “remember”.

Sunday did not replace the sabbath. The New Testament gives us no indication of this. The sabbath belongs to the law and the old creation. The sabbath does not apply to the Christian, for a Christian is “not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:1414For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.). Nor does he belong to the old creation, for in Christ he is “a new creation” (2Cor 5:1717Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.; Gal 6:1515For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.).

However, the first day of the week is pre-eminently the day on which the New Testament believer remembers the redemption from the power of sin. The Lord Jesus instituted His Supper for this, which we may celebrate on the first day of the week. He said: “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1Cor 11:24-2524and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”25In the same way [He took] the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink [it], in remembrance of Me.”). In doing so, He asks us to think of Him and of the work He has accomplished for our salvation.


The Fifth Commandment

12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

The fifth to the ninth commandments are about our behavior towards our neighbors in society. Each of these commandments has a New Testament counterpart.

After respect for God, man should have respect for his neighbor and, in the first place, for his parents. The parents represent the authority of God in creation. God links a special promise to obedience to this commandment.

This commandment is quoted by the apostle Paul when he addresses children and tells them to obey their parents (Eph 6:1-31Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),3so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.). By quoting this fifth commandment of the law, the apostle underlines the importance of obedience. He does not cite this commandment because the believer would still be under law. It is precisely the letter to the Ephesians that has no connection whatsoever with the law, which lays down rules for the life of an earthly people. This letter places the believer precisely in heaven, from where his life is governed.

This fact does not, of course, lead the believer to act against the law. The point is that this fifth commandment does not involve a sanction, as is the case with other commandments, but rather a promise. That makes this commandment a special commandment.

The commandment as we read it here does not speak of obeying, but of honoring. ‘Honor’ is to give someone the place he deserves and also includes obedience. Honor goes beyond obeying. When children have reached a certain age and live by themselves or are married, obedience is no longer an issue. But honoring remains a command.


The Sixth Commandment

13“You shall not murder.

The sixth commandment demands respect for life as created by God. Life belongs to Him. Instead of the commandment not to kill, the believer is enabled by the new life – that is the Lord Jesus Who is his life – to give his life for the brother: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn 3:1616We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.).


The Seventh Commandment

14“You shall not commit adultery.

Marriage is an institution of God. What He has joined together, let no man separate (Mt 19:3-63[Some] Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful [for a man] to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”4And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created [them] from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,5and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”). God’s intention is that in the marriages of the believers the connection between Christ and the church is seen (Eph 5:22-3322Wives, [be subject] to your own husbands, as to the Lord.23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body.24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything.25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also [does] the church,30because we are members of His body.31For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must [see to it] that she respects her husband.).


The Eighth Commandment

15“You shall not steal.

This commandment demands respect for the possessions of others, which have been entrusted to them by God. Instead of stealing something, the believer is called upon to give it to others: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have [something] to share with one who has need” (Eph 4:2828He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have [something] to share with one who has need.).


The Ninth Commandment

16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This refers to the respect owed to the other as a person. False witness occurs when God does not have the pre-eminence. Instead of speaking falsehood, the believer is told to speak the truth and say things that edify the other person, and do not tear them down: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:2525Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment], so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:25,2925Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment], so that it will give grace to those who hear.).


The Tenth Commandment

17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

This commandment concerns relationships, and our attitude towards our neighbor and his property. This commandment shows the nature of sin. It teaches a person to recognize sin. It exposes sin in the depths of our hearts (Rom 7:77What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”). The believer is able through the Holy Spirit to have desires that glorify God. He may make these desires known to God “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Phil 4:66Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.).


Israel Is Afraid

18All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw [it], they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God [was].

The LORD has given His law. These are the rules by which the people can approach God. But what is the situation? Fear and distance. They don’t even want to approach God. God knows this. He gives them the law to show their reluctance to approach Him directly.

In their wish that God will no longer speak to them, they indicate their unwillingness. They ask Moses to speak to them as spokesman for God. This spirit of unbelief, which leads them to use a mediator, will still reveal itself often. It is that spirit that leads to idolatry. Therefore, in the concluding verses of this chapter (verses 22-2622Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.23You shall not make [other gods] besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.24You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.25If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.26And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’), God again points out the commandment not to make gods beside Him and also tells them how to approach Him with sacrifices on the altar.

This scene is quoted in the letter to the Hebrews to show the difference between the believer’s position under law and under grace (Heb 12:18-2118For you have not come to [a mountain] that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind,19and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which [sound was such that] those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.20For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.”21And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”).


Rules for the Sacrifice Service

22Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23You shall not make [other gods] besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. 24You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. 25If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. 26And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’

The people have heard the LORD speak from heaven. The content of His speech is: ‘No other gods apart from Me!’ This leads the LORD to tell how He wants to be approached. The contrast between verse 2323You shall not make [other gods] besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. and verse 2424You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. is great.

He speaks of an altar of earth and of burnt offerings and peace offerings. Both the altar on which the sacrifice is offered and the sacrifice represents the Lord Jesus. It is “the altar that sanctifies the gift” (Mt 23:1919You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?). The sacrifice He has made is therefore so pleasing because He has brought it.

The altar may also be of stone. That it may be an altar of earth or of stone, represents two sides of the Person of Christ. Man is formed from the dust of the earth. The Lord Jesus became Man. By the birth of Mary, He participated in being human and in all man’s weakness, but without a sinful nature. He is the Son of man. Stone refers to sustainability, immortality. The altar of stone may not have been carved by human hand. Here we see the Lord Jesus as the Son of God.

God wants man to approach Him as a worshipper in a way He Himself indicates. No one should decide for himself how and where God is worshipped. When we meet in the place where we gather to remember His Name and take His directions into account, He comes to us and blesses us.

Worship must not be elevated by human means. Any human contribution, any human device, is prohibited. Whoever uses it does not honor God, but dishonors himself. In many religious circles a ‘staircase’ is used to arrive at so-called higher forms of worship. The most nonsensical forms are invented: falling, laughing, dancing, roaring in the spirit. There are more of these ‘staircases’ to discover. They lead man to a behavior that is unworthy of man.

All who worship are on the same level. A staircase suggests the exalting of one worshipper above another. A spiritual class is taking shape. That too is to man’s shame and to God’s dishonor.


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