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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 11, 2017

Exodus  20:15-21

  1. As we shared last week, the Lord is teaching the people how to love and worship HIM and how to love and treat each other correctly. God is establishing some principles that are required for a community to survive and flourish. Their focus had to be on God, parents needed to be respected, anger needed to be controlled, relationships needed to be honored, and feelings and hearts needed to be considered. A people coming out of many generations of slavery needed a new paradigm of community. Previously their community was simply surviving under pharaoh, but now was the time to thrive. Under pharaoh, structure was difficult to maintain. God needs to give them training wheels to thrive. These training wheels/commands were designed to keep the people in rigid system that would help them rebuild their community into God’s image and not pharaoh’s image. When you are a slave, you are conditioned not to value other slaves. Oppressive systems treat slaves less than human, and this robbing of humanity causes other slaves to internalize this inhumane perspective. Basically, a slave thinks they are nothing and that feeling extends to their fellow slaves. God has to begin to remove the reproach of Egypt through commands that will help the people value one another.

  2. Verse 15. “Don’t Steal.” Community can’t happen without trust. Stealing goes to the very heart of distrust. If I have to worry about another taking my stuff, I will never put my guard down. True community requires a certain level of trust and vulnerability. When one steals, they demonstrate that they don’t care about the other person. They are putting themselves ahead of another without any consideration to how the theft might harm the other. Stealing in this community where God provides all the food and shelter was a sign of greed as well. Stealing is also a sign of a lack of faith and trust in God to provide you with what you need. Stealing was an affront to God and your neighbor. Community calls for sharing not stealing. When I can trust you, I don’t mind sharing what I have for you to enjoy. “If I know you wouldn’t crash my car or use it in an inappropriate way, I would have no problem letting you drive it when I don’t need it.”

  3. Verse 16. “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor.” Don’t lie about your neighbor. Don’t lie about anyone especially in a situation that might cause your neighbor to be hurt, or lose their credibility. We should never speak anything about anyone that is untruthful. This command cautions us to not say anything about our neighbor that isn’t a proven fact. In ancient Israel, there were no policemen. Courts were much less formal. If a man was robbed, it was frequently by a neighbor, someone the victim knew and associated with day after day. One did not call the police if one was victimized; it was that person’s obligation to press charges. These charges were most often presented to the group of the elders or leaders of the town or city in which the victim (or the villain) lived. The accused and the alleged victim both produced their witnesses and the leaders passed judgment. The sentence was frequently imposed immediately, initiated by the one who had pressed charges (cf. Deut. 17:6-7). The ninth commandment concerns our neighbor's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, or speaking unjustly against our neighbor or to hurt their reputation or cause them harm. Slandering, backbiting, or making it worse than it is, is strictly forbidden. Community needs truthful conversation and communication. True community cannot flourish under lies and untruths. We need to know that what our neighbor is saying is true. How often have lies or half- truths destroyed relationships and groups?

  4. Verse 17. “Don’t covet.” This command speaks to the heart, to a person’s motivations, to our passions. Coveting is an inordinate desire to possess something that another possesses. It is not to have a wife like my neighbor, but to have my neighbor’s wife. It is not have a house like your house, but to have your house. The covetous heart has an evil lust to possess something that cannot be shared. This is the heart of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:27-28. Some things cannot be shared, and a lust for those things is forbidden. If you covet, you will steal, you will lie, you will commit adultery or murder. (l Samuel 11). Coveting is about a lack of faith as well. Coveting says that God can’t provide you with what you need. Coveting is not only about an inordinate desire and idolatry, but a fleshy and demonic spirit of discontent. This spirit of covetousness is something that we have to nip at the heart level, or it will birth a greater sin. This command challenges us to work on our hearts and renew our minds daily. Understanding coveting gives us a very practical insight into the pathology of sin, and thus a means of avoiding the evils which stem from coveting. Many Christians have puzzled at how a mature brother or sister in Christ can throw off the teachings of the word of God and pursue some blatant sin. Surely one who knows Bible doctrine so well could not fall prey to such obvious sin. The explanation is frequently found in an understanding of coveting and its relationship to one’s ultimate goals. Once our heart is turned toward that which is forbidden as our highest (or at least most desirable) goal, we are willing to sacrifice whatever we value less to attain it. Covetousness grows in secret, but gives birth in public.

  5. It is seldom lack of knowledge of what is right (or wrong) which is the reason for man’s sin, it is his decision to desire the wrong things, and to whatever is necessary to have them. When a man decides to forsake his wife and family it isn’t that he doesn’t know it’s wrong, it is that he has no commitment to do what is right. The reason why we do the wrong thing, knowing it is wrong, is because we want (covet) it more than we covet what is right. Coveting what is wrong causes us to be willing to sacrifice what is right to attain what we want, even if it is sin.

    The bottom line is simply this: sin is more often a problem with our heart (coveting) than it is a problem with our mind (knowledge). Solomon knew more than any man who ever lived, and yet his heart was turned to foreign wives, until finally his heart was turned from God by his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:1-8). Such is most often the case. We sin, not because we don’t know better, but because we desire to have what is wrong more than we desire to know God and to serve Him. It is indeed tragic that Solomon did not take his own advice: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).

  6. Verses 18-21. As God spoke, his speech was accompanied with great thunder, lighting, earth quaking, and smoke. The people were afraid of God and they begged Moses to speak instead of God. The people only wanted to deal with a person like them, and not a great God. Listening to Moses was more palatable than listening to God. When God spoke it was with supernatural authority, and this frightened the people. Moses tells the people this is to test you and teach you to learn how to fear God and keep you from sinning. The people remained back as Moses approached by himself.

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