Let’s read Exodus 20:1-8: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no others gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (NKJV).

In this profound chapter we have the giving of the Law, the “Ten Commandments.” It has been said that they can be broken down into TWO GROUPS; the first group of four had to do with man’s responsibility towards God and the second group of six had to do with man’s responsibility towards others. The Lord Jesus indicated this in Mark 12:29-31: “Jesus answered him, The FIRST of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the FIRST COMMANDMENT. And the SECOND, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Of course the Lord Jesus knew that there were “Ten Commandments,” but the two groups of four and six are summarized perfectly by these words. In our meditation today we will be looking at the first four.

The Lord introduced the Law by reminding Israel that He had delivered them from Egypt. If they would keep this great deliverance before them it would serve to motivate them to OBEY the commandments they would receive. It is always God’s love and mercy that compels believers to serve and obey Him. the Apostle Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians 5:14-15 demonstrates this truth: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

He then gives them four commandments that show their responsibility towards Him. The first commandment was “You shall have no other gods before Me.” All the other nations worshipped “many gods,” but they were to worship “the One true God.” If they failed in this, they would surely fail in the commandments that follow.

In the next commandment (You shall not make a “carved image”) God was forbidding them from worshipping a mere idol of wood, stone, or metal. We know that the children of Israel failed in this rather quickly, for while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law in two tables of stone, they had Aaron make a “golden calf” and they worshipped it. Jesus told the woman at the well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” God is JEALOUS of the worship and love of His people and thus worship must be “spiritual” in nature, not “material.” Those in Israel who refused to honor God in this way were visited in judgment, but those who manifested their love for God by obeying His commandments were shown mercy.

The third commandment had to do with God’s holy name. To “take the name of the LORD your God in vain” meant to use God’s name falsely. It would especially refer to “speaking His name when taking an oath with no intention of keeping it” (see Leviticus 19:12). But it could also include using His name in profanity or in any way where we forget that God is holy.

The fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” would involve a day of rest where the children of Israel would use that day exclusively for worshipping God instead of working to advance their own interests here on earth (see verses 9-11). Today Christians are not under the Law, so we are not told to “keep the Sabbath.” Yet we do have the privilege of coming together on the first day of the week to remember the Lord Jesus in His death for us (Acts 20:7; 1st Corinthians 11:23-26). (259.9) (DO)