Lesson for Feb. 16, 2020: The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)
Lesson for Feb. 16, 2020: The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 2 (weeks 5-8; February 2-23, 2020) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.

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Lesson Aim: Commit to showing love to God and to others through observing God’s commandments.

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By Mark Scott

“They (the Ten Commandments) won’t go away. They continue to sit in silent judgment on generation after erring generation. They remain the great moral touchstone for the nations. We don’t obey them but we can’t do without them” (LeRoy Lawson, The Ten Commandments, 8). “Law is fundamental to all societies” (D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, Cracking Old Testament Codes, 114). “The glory and pride of Israel was the Law—the Torah—that God gave to Moses in the Sinai wilderness. Songs praised it, festivals celebrated it, and lives were measured by it” (George L. Klein, Reclaiming the Prophetic Mantle, 51).

Clearly a high-water mark of the Bible was the giving of the Ten Commandments, recorded here and in Deuteronomy 5:6-20. God delivered the new nation out of Egyptian bondage. Now it was time for that new nation to learn the ways and will of God. These famous “words” of Moses are the summations of the greatest commands in the Bible; i.e., to love God and love neighbor (Deuteronomy 6; Leviticus 19; Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:31).

Loving God | Exodus 20:1-7

Following all the preparations for the giving of this most famous law (Exodus 19), God (Elohim) spoke all these words. But before any of the laws were given, God reminded his people of two things: who he was and what he had done. He was the Lord your God. Scattered throughout this Decalogue, some form of the name of God is mentioned nine times. Behind all the precepts are principles to live by, and behind all the principles to live by is the person of God. For instance, God does not want us to steal because thieves are takers (precept). The principle God wants us to live by is to be givers (principle). And what lies behind the principle is that God himself (person) is a giver (John 3:16).

We must remember that the giving of the law took place within a redemptive narrative framework. Before there was, “Live this way,” there was, “I redeemed you.” In the Bible redemption precedes duty. The first three commandments demonstrate our exclusive love for God. There are to be no other gods because at best there are just so-called gods (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). This exclusive love shows up in resisting idolatry and in not compromising God’s name.

To not make an image means to not make an idol from any part of creation (the heavens, earth, or sea). The reason given for not bowing down to them or worshipping (serving) them is because God is a jealous God. In fact Jealous is one of God’s names (Exodus 34:14). Sin is never private. It affects whole generations. God will punish (oversee or visit) the fruit of sin on people into generations. On the other hand he will love (show steadfast love) those who love and obey his commandments (Cf. John 14:15).

Loving God also demands having respect for his name (character). His name is not to be misused. This does not mean to swear or to mispronounce his name. It means to trash his character. Guilt and punishment await those who take the name of the Lord in vain.

Resting Well | Exodus 20:8-10

Interestingly enough, the Sabbath commandment is the longest one of the 10 commandments (even longer in the parallel of Deuteronomy 5:2-15). Israel was to remember (recall or make a memorial) the day and keep it holy (set apart and dedicated for God’s purposes). The way to really appreciate the Sabbath was to labor for the other six days—we should not forget about that. The command was widespread (for all family members, both genders, and even foreigners residing in your towns). The reason for this goes way back. It is rooted in creation. God made everything in six days but rested on the seventh. He was not tired. The word for rested here is not the Sabbath word but the word for “ceasing.” Resting well was (and is) blessed by God.

Loving Others | Exodus 20:12-17

The last half of the Decalogue was to be horizontally understood. Parents were to be honored (glorified). Long life (Genesis 5) and the best life (John 10:10) are the fruit of obeying this command. People were not to be murdered (slain; killed). Vows in marriage were to be kept and the sanctity of the home respected (Hebrews 13:4). Stealing goods from others was condemned along with lying and coveting (lusting) after anything that was the neighbors’—family members, servants, or animals.

Most every category of life is covered in these laws—religion, worship, reverence, time, authority, life, purity, property, tongue, and contentment (Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord and Roy Zuck).

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Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.

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