Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Jubilee

Jesus Christ:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor (grace) has come.” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently. Then He began to speak to them. “The Scripture you have just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Luke 4:18-21 (NLT)
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But why is Christmas so wonderful? With the arrival of Jesus Christ to earth, humans saw a full vision of God grace in the light of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ began the Messianic age of grace. Using Isaiah 61:1–2 as His text, Jesus Christ announced that He was the One anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to preach the Good News (Gospel). The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit had come upon Jesus Christ to empower Him to accomplish God’s good work on earth (Acts 10:38).

God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world to usher in the “the time of the Lord’s favor.” Some translation says Jesus Christ came to proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19). With Jesus Christ’s coming, He preached the Good News (Gospel) of God’s grace to the poor, and He healed the brokenhearted, released the captives, gave sight to the blind, and ended oppression (Luke 4:18; see also Matthew 20:28). Jesus Christ came into the world to bring God’s grace, comfort, and blessings to those all people who were downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity. God graciously pours out His blessings and salvation to all who come to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 4:19; Acts 15:11). Jesus of Nazareth is God's Son and the Messiah (Christ) God sent into the world fulfill God’s promises.

In the Holy Scriptures, “grace,” “favor,” and “mercy” are often used interchangeably (e.g. see Genesis 6:8; Genesis 39:21; Exodus 3:21; Exodus 11:3; Exodus 12:36; Exodus 33:12-19; Judges 6:17; Psalm 25:16; Psalm 86:3, 16; Jeremiah 31:2; Zechariah 12:10). Most notably, grace, mercy and favor are combined to describe the one merciful, loving, gracious God (Exodus. 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
God announced His grace with the promise of a Savior at Genesis 3:15. The full vision of God’s grace is revealed in the light of Jesus Christ. For believers in Jesus Christ, the word “grace” is virtually synonymous with the Good News of God’s gift of unmerited salvation in Jesus Christ. God’s gracious gift of salvation and blessings are given freely to all through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; see also1 Corinthian 1:4; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:9). Grace brings salvation (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and eternal life (Romans 5:21; Titus 3:7). God’s grace is so bound up with Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul could speak of the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Timothy 2:1).

At Luke 4:18-19, Jesus Christ quoted from the Prophet Isaiah’s messianic Scripture found at Isaiah 61:1-2 and included a phrase from Isaiah 58:6. As Jesus Christ read to the people in the synagogue, He stopped in the middle of Isaiah 61:2 after the words, “to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor.” Jesus Christ read the portion of Isaiah’s messianic Scripture that dealt directly with the earthly ministry of the Messiah (such as preaching, healing, and salvation). However, Jesus Christ stopped just before the passage went on to describe His coming judgment in the end times.

As the God’s appointed Messiah (the Appointed One), Jesus read in the synagogue only that which applied to His ministry during His first coming (Luke 4:18-19). At Jesus Christ’s second coming, He will bring “the day of vengeance of our God” on all unbelievers and the unfaithful (Isaiah 61:2b). Unfortunately, many people then and now do not accept Jesus Christ’s gracious message. Instead of believing Jesus Christ and receiving the goodness of God’s grace, many people are outraged and turn from His free offer of God’s grace (favor) and blessings (2 Corinthians 1:20-22). All people who reject Jesus Christ and reject His grace (favor) will one day face “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2). This day will come true when Jesus Christ returns to earth again at His second coming (advent). Long-suffering and the Cross are associated with Jesus Christ’s first coming; however, judgment and a crown, with His second coming. We are now under God's favor (grace) (Luke 4:19). However, God’s wrath and judgment is yet to come.

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on Me because God anointed Me. He sent Me to preach Good News to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent Me to announce the year of His grace — a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid (low) spirit. Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" planted by God to display His glory. Isaiah 61:1-3 (MSG)

At Luke 4:18-19, Jesus Christ calls attention to “the acceptable year of the Lord” which compares the blessings of His ministry to the ancient Year of Jubilee. The Prophet Isaiah envisioned at Isaiah 61:1-2 the deliverance of Israel from Babylonian exile as a Year of Jubilee when all debts are cancelled, all slaves are freed, and all property is returned to original owners (Leviticus 25). Jesus Christ announced at Luke 4 that the “acceptable year of the Lord” had come (Luke 4:19), a reference to the Old Testament concept of the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:8-55). Every seventh year was a “Sabbatical year,” when the land was allowed to rest; and every fiftieth year (after seven Sabbaticals) was set apart as the “Year of Jubilee.” The main purpose of this special year was the balancing of the economic system. Once every 50 years, slaves were freed, all debts were canceled, and ancestral property was returned to the original family. The land lay uncultivated as humanity and animal rested and rejoiced in God.

But Israel’s release from Babylonian exile did not bring the fulfillment the Prophet Isaiah envisioned. At the time of Jesus Christ’s public ministry, the Israelites (also called Jews) were still a conquered and oppressed people. So, the Prophet Isaiah must have been referring to a future Messianic age. Jesus Christ boldly announced, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus Christ was proclaiming Himself as the One to bring liberation. Jesus Christ applied Isaiah 61:1-2 to His own public ministry, not in a political or economic sense, but in a physical and spiritual sense. The first arrival of Jesus Christ brought God’s salvation and God’s grace (favor) to all people. Through faith in Jesus Christ, He delivers all people from bondages, sin, blindness, selfishness, demons, disease and eternal death (see Matthew 4:23–25; Matthew 8:16-17; Matthew 11:4–6; Mark 1:32–39; Luke 4:40-44). Indeed, Jesus Christ’s first arrival was a spiritual “Year of Jubilee” not only for the nation of Israel but to all people. God’s grace and liberation (salvation) comes to all people who have faith in His Son, irrespective of class, sexuality or race (e.g., see Luke 4:24-27). Jesus Christ brings God’s Good News to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives (or prisoners), the blind, and the oppressed. Yet, the Kingdom of God is also in the future because Jesus Christ will return to reign over a perfect Kingdom where sin and evil no longer exist. Jesus Christ is truly our Redeemer, Liberator and Savior!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV)


Reference
Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Redeemer

And that is the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles (powers) of this world. But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the Law. God sent Him to buy freedom (redemption/atonement) for us who were slaves to the Law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir. Galatians 4:3-7 (NLT)

At the end of the Old Testament, God’s Word had been silent for approximately 400 years. The last prophet that spoke was the Prophet Malachi around 430 B.C. and he announced the coming of the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2). “But for you who fear (honor) My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2, NLT). Also, Malachi concluded his prophecy with a promise of the coming of “the prophet Elijah,” who will offer God's forgiveness to all people through their genuine repentance (apology for sinning) and faith in God (Malachi 4:5-6). After the Prophet Elijah, God’s people did not receive a Word from heaven until the arrival of John the Baptist (Elijah) and Jesus Christ (Son of God/Sun of Righteousness) (see Luke 1:17, 32-37).

At the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, the Jews (also called “Israelites” or “Hebrews”) was under Roman rule. Yet the world was providentially ready for the birth of the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Chris (Galatians 4:4). Historians tell us that the Roman world was in great expectation, waiting for a Savior and Deliverer. The old religions were dying and the basic spiritual teachings and philosophies of the world were empty and powerless to change people hearts. Religious bankruptcy and spiritual hunger were everywhere – Jew and Gentile world alike. From a historical perspective, the Roman world helped prepare the way for the birth of Jesus Christ. Roman roads connected city with city, and all cities ultimately lead to Rome. Even more, Roman laws protected the rights of citizens, and Roman soldiers provided for peace. Thanks to both the Greek and Roman expansion, Latin and Greek were known across the world. The world’s conditions favored Jesus Christ appearing. Thus, the Redeemer’s birth in Bethlehem was not an accident but God’s providential appointment (Galatians 4:4-5). God's timing was perfect. And, it is worth noting that God will send Jesus Christ again when the time is ready! Just as Jesus Christ’s first coming occurred at the precise time God wanted (Galatians 4:4), so also His second coming (advent) will be at God’s appointed time (1 Timothy 6:15). “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

In Galatians, the Apostle Paul emphasized to the twofold nature of Jesus Christ – both God and Man (Galatians 4:4). As God, Jesus Christ came forth from God the Father (see John 16:28); but as a human, He was born of a Jewish teenage girl named Mary (Galatians 4:4; see also Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38). Thus, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. The Old Testament promised said that the Redeemer would be of “the woman's Seed” (Genesis 3:15); and Jesus Christ fulfilled that Old Testament promise (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25). As God, Jesus Christ is Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16), Head of the church (Colossians 1:18), the highest authority (Matthew 28:18-20), Sustainer of all things (Hebrews 1:3), and Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelations 17:14; Revelation 19:16). As Man, Jesus Christ is the Son of a Jewish woman (Galatians 4:4), Mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5), Bondservant of God (Matthew 20:28; Philippians 2:7), and High Priest (Hebrews 7:11–22). Jesus Christ is both truly God and truly Man (see John 1:14; Acts 17:3; Hebrews 2:14). Even more, Jesus Christ is Prophet predicted by Moses in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; John 6:14; John 7:40), the Great High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14-16), and King (Psalm 2:6; Micah 5:2).

Why did God the Father send His Son Jesus Christ to earth?  God sent Jesus Christ to redeem (save) humanity from our slavery to sin and eternal death (Galatians 4:5; see also Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11), so we can be adopted into God’s everlasting Kingdom (sonship) (Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:34). There is no other way to save humanity except faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12). Thus, the purpose of Jesus Christ’s incarnation (arrival or advent) is redemption and adoption (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 8:31; 1 Timothy 2:4-6).

The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 (HCSB)

Jesus Christ is our living Redeemer (Galatians 4:5; see also Job 19:25; Romans 3:24). Many Jews were looking for a political leader to deliver them from Roman rule, while others were hoping for a Savior to deliver them from sickness and physical hardship. But God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ into the world to redeem not only the Jewish people but the whole world from sin and eternal death (John 1:14; John 3:16; John 4:42; Romans 1:1-6; 1 John 4:14). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have all we need. All the fullness of God are found in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). In Jesus Christ, God the Father has made available to all people through faith the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:3, 7-8; Ephesians 2:7-9), the riches of His glory (Philippians 4:19), the riches of His goodness (Romans 2:4), and the riches of His wisdom (Romans 11:33).

Among the blessings of believers in Jesus Christ is our adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:5; see also Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:5). Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are adopted as adult children into God’s family with an intimate relationship as God’s full heir (Galatians 4:5-6; see also John 1:12) and we also become spiritual children of Abraham (Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:7). In other words, through faith in Jesus Christ we have full membership into God’s family. To ensure our inheritance, God sends into His earthly children’s hearts the Spirit of His Son, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father (Galatians 4:6). This is often called regeneration, being “born again” or “born from above” (John 1:13; John 3:3, 5-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6;15; Titus 3:5). The believer is “born of the Spirit” of God (John 3:1-7) as promised by Jesus Christ through faith in Him (see Luke 24:49; John 14:16-18; John 20:22; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves but God’s children. And since we are God’s adult children, everything God has belongs to us with all the rights and privileges (Galatians 3:25-26; Galatians 4:7; see also see Romans 8:14-17). We can come boldly and respectfully to God knowing that God will welcome us and hear us in our time of need and hurting (Hebrews 4:16).

So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. . . . For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:9, 26-29 (NLT)

Salvation is the beginning of our faith in Jesus Christ, not the ending. Although we are automatically placed into God’s family as an adult child by faith, we are still “spiritual babe” who needs to grow (1 Peter 2:2-3). After we are born, we must grow up in our salvation in the knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18). But as far as our position is concerned, we are an adult child of God through faith in Jesus Christ and we can draw on God the Father's abundant privileges.

Once again, the entire Trinity – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Spirit – is involved in our spiritual experience (rebirth). God the Father sends His Son (Jesus Christ) to redeem and save us, and then God the Father sends the Spirit of His Son to live inside our hearts (Galatians 4:6). The Holy Spirit is the essential ingredient to living a godly and righteous life. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift. Every child of God is divinely given the Holy Spirit the moment he or she is adopted by God. The Holy Spirit “seals” believers to assure that we remain in God’s family and do not lose our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30). Jesus Christ’s Spirit living within our hearts gives us God’s character and nature. The Holy Spirit also works in believers’ hearts to increase our love and obedience towards God (John 14:15). Even more, believers of Jesus Christ bear “fruits of the Spirit,” which is the very nature of God (see Exodus 34:4-6; Galatians 5:22-23). Still more, the Holy Spirit tells us that we are adult children of God the Father (Romans 8:15-16) and He says, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6); and, in response, we the believer cry, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15). The word “Abba” is an intimate Aramaic word that is the equivalent of our English word “Papa” or “Daddy” and reveal our closeness to God as heir of God our Father (Galatians 4:7). “Abba, Father” was also used by Jesus Christ Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane in addressing God the Father (see Mark 14:36).

And God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:13-16 (NLT)

In Galatians, the Apostle Paul called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of His Son that comes into believers’ hearts (Galatians 4:6; see also Philippians 1:19; John 15:26). The Apostle Paul makes it unmistakably clear that the “Spirit of God” lives in every believer (Romans 8:9). Every child of God is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16; I Corinthians 6:19–20). The Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of God the Father (see Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 14) but also the Spirit of Jesus Christ (see Acts 16:7; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6). In essence, the Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father (see John 14:16-17, 26; Galatians 4:6) and by the Son (Jesus Christ) (see John 15:26; John 16:7). The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of believers’ inheritance – whether they are Jews or Gentiles (Ephesians 1:13–14). All guardians and stewards have been discharged; their supervision is no longer needed because believers are full-grown sons indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:1-3; 6). A believer in Jesus Christ realizes who and what His Father is, and so cries out Abba, Father (Romans 8:15).

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But — When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of His grace He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. Titus 3:1-8 (NLT)

References
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Covenant Confirmation

Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the Lord had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” . . .  Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.” Then Moses took the blood from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions.” Exodus 24:3, 7-8 (NLT)

Finally, God had given Moses and the Israelites His Ten Commandments and His Book of the Covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17; Exodus 20:22-23:19). The laws, regulations, and ordinances were the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and the Book of the Covenant that applied God’s Ten Commandments to specific situations (Exodus 20:22-23:19). In unison, the Israelites responded they would obey all the laws, regulations, and ordinances God had given (Exodus 24:3, 7; see also Exodus 19:8; Joshua 24:24). The Israelites agreed to accept their covenant relationship with God, promised to give absolute loyalty to God, and to live in moral ways that reflected God’s holy character. Moses wrote down the laws (the Ten Commandments and Book of the Covenant); and early the next morning he built an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai for worship of God (Exodus 24:4-5). Moses sealed and confirmed the laws and regulations at Mount Sinai with blood. He sprinkled half the blood on the people and the other half on the altar (Exodus 24:6, 8; see also Hebrews 9:19-20).

This confirmation passage in Exodus is a key passage in the Holy Scriptures (Exodus 24:8). The nation of Israel was entering into a formal covenant (pact, treaty, alliance, or agreement) relationship with the true and living God. This confirmation and unique sacrifice formally set Israel apart as the people of God and laid the foundation for all sacrifices to follow. The blood on the altar symbolized God’s forgiveness and His acceptance of the offering (Hebrews 9:22); the blood on the people pointed to an oath (promise) that bound Israel in obedience (Exodus 24:3, 7). The Israelites’ oath (promise) of full obedience to God’s laws, regulations, and ordinance (Exodus 24:7) was an essential element in the establishment of the covenant between God and Israel. The covenant at Mount Sinai was designed to teach the Israelites God’s nature and character. In the covenant at Mount Sinai, God called the people to reflect His holy character and nature.

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as My own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt.” Exodus 6:6-7 (NLT)

If we are to receive God’s covenant benefits, we too as believers of Jesus Christ must also live out “the obedience that comes from faith” (see Romans 1:5). God demands our absolute and wholehearted loyalty to Him and obedience to His demands. The heart of God’s covenant is to be eternally faithful to Him, whom we love, trust and worship (serve) (e.g. see Genesis 17:7-8; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 34:27-31; Hoses 2:23; Zechariah 8:8; Matthew 22:37). God pledged to be a Protector of His people and the One who provided for the people’s well-being and guaranteed their future blessings if they loved, trusted and worshipped Him as the only true and living God. God blessings cannot be obtained through magic and manipulation; instead they are free to those who love and obey Him. GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL!

The ceremony of sprinkling with blood by Moses closely parallels Jesus Christ’s words at the institution of the Lord’s Supper (see Exodus 24:8; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). Through faith in the sacrificial and atoning blood of Jesus Christ, believers are also confirmed and reconciled to God (see Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22; Revelations 7:14). Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood was the final sacrifice and sealed the new covenant with God. In fact, the New Testament applied Moses’ very phraseology at Exodus 24:8 to the new covenant made possible by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross. Moses said:  “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:8, NIV). Jesus Christ said:  “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28, NIV). The phrase “blood of the covenant” appears throughout the New Testament, in each case referring to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to rescue people by faith from bondage and sin (salvation) (see Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:20; Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:20). Jesus Christ’s death inaugurated the new covenant, and believers celebrate that reality each time they take the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:20).

At the reading and confirmation of the covenant, the Israelites promised to obey every one of the laws, regulations, and ordinances of God (Exodus 24:7; see also Exodus 19:8). Despite the people’s verbal commitment to obey God, Israel repeatedly failed to obey the covenant at Mount Sinai. God disciplined the Israelites many times for their failure to obey the covenant, but they still persisted in sin (e.g., see Exodus 32). In fact, God sent His prophets to repeatedly command the people to return to God and to the Sinai covenant. God appealed to the Israelites to repent, return and be reconciled to Him (e.g., see 1 Kings 18:16-46, particularly v. 18, 36-37; Jeremiah 3:11-4:2). Despite these many efforts in the Old Testaments, the people repeatedly rebelled against God and God’s commands. The Sinai covenant was a good thing, but this old covenant was weak in that it was incapable of making the Israelites obey God (see Romans 7:12; Romans 8:3-4).

“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know Me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT)

Because Israel failed to keep this covenant, God promised through the Prophet Jeremiah a new covenant. This new covenant was confirmed through the gracious work of Jesus Christ’s atonement – His life, death and resurrection (see Jeremiah 31:31–34; see also Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:6–13; Hebrews 9:15–18; Hebrews 12:24). To help the people obey His moral laws, regulations and ordinance, God graciously gave and continually gives His Holy Spirit on everyone through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement. The Holy Spirit now empowers believers to live up to the just and holy demands of God (Romans 8). Through faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ, God made it possible for believers in Jesus Christ to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and thus fulfill God’s covenant purpose and reflect His holy character (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Jeremiah 32:40; John 16:8; Romans 8:5-14; Romans 10:8-17; Galatians 5:1-26). The new covenant is not external but written on believers’ hearts through faith and by God’s Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:33). The great shortcoming of the old covenant was that the Sinai Covenant lacked the power to help people to obey God’s laws (Romans 8:3-4). The new covenant internalized God’s law through the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:24-27) and gives believers a new heart and new start (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Thus, through God’s Holy Spirit, believers everywhere (not just a select few) can fulfill God’s covenant plan for life as summed up in the two “Great Commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40): “You must love the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. There they saw the God of Israel. Under His feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli (sapphire), as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, He did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in His Presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up Mount Sinai and they saw the God of Israel (Exodus 24:9-10). Nadab and Abihu were the two oldest sons of Aaron, the High Priest of Israel (Exodus 6:23). Moses and the nobles saw a manifestation of God, like what Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John also witnessed (see Isaiah 6:1–7; Ezekiel 1:26–28; Revelation 4:1–11). The occasion also has parallels the transfiguration of Jesus Christ before Peter, James, and John in the New Testament (see Matthew 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36). Under God’s feet there seemed to be a pavement of brilliant sapphire stones, as clear as the sky itself (Exodus 24:10). However, no description or form in which God manifested Himself is given, except a word about what is seen under God’s feet (see also Ezekiel 1:26–28; Revelation 4:2–6). Even though these nobles of Israel gazed upon the true and living God, God did not lay His hand upon the nobles to destroy them (see also Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:20–23; Isaiah 6:5). Rather than being consumed, the nobles feasted in the glory of God’s beauty. These nobles ate a covenant meal together before God, eating and drinking in God’s very Presence (Exodus 24:11; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31). It was common for those entering into a covenant to eat a meal together (see e.g., Genesis 26:30; Genesis 31:54; Luke 22:15–20). Around the world, then and today, the act of eating a meal together is often a sign of peace and good relations. Even more, the covenant meal foreshadowed the Lord’s Supper, which celebrates the new covenant sealed by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death blood (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).

No one has ever seen God. But the One and only Son is Himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:18 (NLT)

Yet, the nobles probably did not see God in His essential Being and the fullness of His glory (see Exodus 33:20; John 1:18). God is Spirit (John 4:24). No one has ever seen God in His full essence – His Spirit-Being – and lived (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 1 Timothy 1:17). Most likely, the nobles saw some of God's glory and the throne of God on the sapphire pavement (see Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26). The invisible God was hidden from the nobles. In Old Testament times, God had previously assumed visible form, which people saw (e.g., see Genesis 32:30; Exodus 24:9-10; Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:1; Daniel 7:9). In the New Testament, humanity has seen God through Jesus Christ (John 14:8-9). Jesus Christ has revealed God and God’s glory to the world (John 1:18; Hebrews 1:3). Jesus Christ is God (Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6) and the absolutely authentic representation of God’s being (John 14:9; Colossians 1:15). Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, is the glory and image of the true and living God (2 Corinthians 4:4). When Jesus Christ appears again at His second advent, He will further manifest God’s glory in His restored Kingdom (Revelation 21:11, 23) and we who believe will “be like Him” (1 John 3:2). The Apostle Paul declares that the presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of believers provides assurance that we will share in that glory (Romans 5:2; Colossians 1:27). “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15 (NLT). Jesus Christ and God the Father are one (John 10:30, 38; John 12:45). In fact, Jesus Christ came from heaven, not from the dust of the earth (1 Corinthians 15:47), and He is Lord of all (Romans 9:5; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 17:14).

God is both transcendent (excellent and supreme) and immanent (close to us). In other words, we must never forget that God is almighty, all-powerful and supreme. God deserves our wholehearted love, worship and obedience. Yet, God personally comes close to everyone with mercy and acceptance who genuinely seek Him, love Him, and call upon Him for help (Romans 10:11-13). The true and living God is revealed in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ brings God close to us through faith (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Israel had to worship at a distance, but God calls all believers in Jesus Christ to enter into His glorious presence and rest through “the new and living way” – Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-25). “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We do not come fearfully to a stormy mountain but confidently to a glorious heavenly city where our names are written down as citizens of heaven (Hebrews 12:18-24).

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people.” So Moses and his assistant Joshua set out, and Moses climbed up the mountain of God. . . . Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the Lord settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from inside the cloud. To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:12-13, 15-18 (NLT)

Afterwards, God instructed Moses to come higher up Mount Sinai and remain with Him until He gave him the laws and commandments to teach the people from them (Exodus 24:12). In the Old Testament, Moses was God’s chosen mediator between Himself and Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant (see Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24) and He is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6). So Moses and Joshua, his assistant (servant), went up into Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:13). As Moses and Joshua climbed the mountain of God, Moses went even further up the mountain and disappeared into the cloud at the top (Exodus 24:15). And the glory of God settled (dwelt) upon Mount Sinai, and God’s glorious cloud covered the mountain for six days (Exodus 24:16). On the seventh day, God called to Moses from the cloud (Exodus 24:16). The nobles and the Israelites at the bottom of Mount Sinai witnessed the awesome glory of God on the mountaintop (Exodus 24:17). This was the Shekinah glory. God’s glory looked like a raging fire – a consuming fire (Exodus 24:17; see also Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:28-29). And Moses disappeared into cloud-covered Mount Sinai, and was there for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18; see also Matthew 4:1-2). During that time, God gave Moses the plans for the Tabernacle and the priesthood. The Israelites at the base of the mountain were afraid to hear God's voice and were satisfied to hear Moses speak to them (Exodus 20:18-19), but Moses not only heard God's voice but saw God's glorious Presence! Jesus Christ, the new Moses, also fasted for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Matthew 4:2). The number forty also recalls the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) as well as the forty years of Israel’s temptation (testing) in the desert (see Deuteronomy 8:2, 16). Jesus Christ was subjected to a similar test and shows Himself to be the true Israelite who lived on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:12). 

Sadly, during these forty days and forty nights, just after the ratification of the old covenant, the Israelites built the golden calf (see Exodus 32). Essentially, the Israelites refused to take their covenant commitment to God seriously. The disastrous results of living in disobedience to God’s Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant were demonstrated by the golden calf episode. Essentially, the worship of the golden calf was similar to the Great Fall of Eden (Exodus 32; see also Genesis 3; 1 Corinthians 10:6-8). God had graciously redeemed the Israelites from slavery and bondage (Exodus 1-18) and taken the Israelites to Himself as His people (Exodus 19-24). God had carried the Israelites on eagles’ wings and brought the people to Himself (Exodus 19:4). This is God’s salvation (Exodus 19:4). If the people would continually obey Him and keep His covenant, the Israelites would be God’s own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth (Exodus 19:5). The Israelites would be God’s kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, and a blessing to all nations (Exodus 19:6; see also 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6).

The remaining chapters of Exodus are concerned with preparing the Tabernacle so that God could continue to “dwell” among His people as He had dwelt at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 25:8-9; John 1:14). The last section of Exodus focused on the design, construction, and dedication of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-40). God needed a place where His glory could dwell on earth (see Exodus 40:34-38). The Tabernacle provided a temporary means by which the Israelites could enjoy God’s holy presence as originally designed in the Garden of Eden.

References
Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Great Angel

“See, I am sending an Angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to Him, and obey His instructions. Do not rebel against Him, for He is My Representative, and He will not forgive your rebellion. But if you are careful to obey Him, following all My instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you. For My Angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, so you may live there. And I will destroy them completely. You must not worship the gods of these nations or serve them in any way or imitate their evil practices. Instead, you must utterly destroy them and smash their sacred pillars. You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness. There will be no miscarriages or infertility in your land, and I will give you long, full lives. I will send My terror ahead of you and create panic among all the people whose lands you invade. I will make all your enemies turn and run. I will send terror ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites.” Exodus 23:20-28 (NLT)

Who was this Angel that went with the Israelites after leaving Egypt? Many biblical scholars have put forth various ideas and suggestions of the mysterious guardian “Angel of the LORD” or “Angel of God.” This Angel appears often in the early Old Testament story and is sometimes identified with the God (see Genesis 16:7-13; Genesis 18:1-33; Genesis 22:11-18; Genesis 24:7, 40; Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 32:24-30; Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 3:2-6; Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20-23; Exodus 32:34-33:5; Numbers 22:22-35; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 2:1-5; Judges 6:11-23; Judges 9:13-23). Some scholars have called the “Angel of the LORD” an anarchangel, such as Michael (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1) or Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; Luke 1:11, 19, 26). In other words, the Angel was a “chief or first angel” angel. Angels are essentially messengers from God.

Most biblical scholars agree that the Angel in Exodus was a manifestation of God (see also Exodus 14:9). In other words, God was in the Angel in the same way He was present in the pillars of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21-22). Many biblical scholars call this Angel a Theophany, a self-manifestation of God. The Angel here speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims to exercise the privileges of God (see also Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 21:17-21; Genesis 22:11-18; Genesis 31:11, 13; Exodus 3:2; Exodus 14:19; Exodus 33:14-15; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 2:1-4; Judges 5:23; Judges 6:11-24; Judges 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; Zechariah 3:1; Zechariah 12:8). The Angel of the Lord speaks for God in the first person as God’s Messenger-Servant. Because the Angel of the Lord ceases to appear after the incarnation (advent or arrival) of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, many biblical scholars often concluded that this Angel in the Old Testament is a pre-incarnate appearance or manifestation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity – the Lord Jesus Christ (the Son of the living God). In other words, this special Messenger-Servant was Jesus Christ Himself – the One who appeared in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Whether this “Angel” was the second Person of the Trinity remains therefore uncertain.

After clearly stating Israel’s requirements of the covenant (Exodus 19:1-23:19), God stated His part of the covenant promises. If the people kept the covenant requirements, God promised to protect the people (see Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 23:22-23). God told Moses and the Israelites that He was sending an Angel to go ahead of the Israelites to guard them along the way and to bring them safely to His Promised Land (Canaan) (Exodus 23:20, 23). The Angel was God’s Presence to provide protection, help, and guidance for the Israelites. God instructed the Israelites to respect the Angel, to pay attention to the Angel, and to obey all of His instructions (Exodus 23:21). The Israelites were not to rebel against the Angel of the Lord (Exodus 23:21). If the Israelites disobeyed, the Angel will not forgive their wrongdoing and rebellion (Exodus 23:21). The Angel was God’s Presence or Representative because the Angel bore God’s Name (Exodus 23:21). God’s “Name” is equivalent to God’s “Presence” (see Exodus 3:13-15, 2 Samuel 7:13; 1 King 5:5). Essentially, God’s very nature and God’s Presence was with the Angel. Without the Presence of God, the people could not receive God’s blessings and protection.

Even more, God promised Israel’s protection and success through obedience to the Angel. God promised Israel that if they listened carefully to the Angel and do all that He says, God would be an enemy to Israel’s enemies and will oppose those who opposed Israel (Exodus 23:22). This promised was a repeating of Genesis 12:3. God previously promised to “bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt” (Genesis 12:3, NLT). In other words, participation in God’s divine blessings of the Abrahamic covenant as well as the Sinai covenant was conditioned on Israel’s obedience and trust in the Angel of the Lord (see Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 18:18-19; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4-5; Exodus 19:3-6; Romans 1:5). God’s covenant promises (see e.g. Deuteronomy 28:1-14) were contingent upon absolute loyalty to the covenant of God. The Angel was the protector of the covenant (see Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1). God promised Israel to bring His covenant blessings to those that obey and follow His instructions (see also Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 26:3-13; Deuteronomy 7:12-15; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Deuteronomy 31:1-10; Joshua 1:7-8). In other words, obedience to God’s covenant was the key to Israel’s blessings (Exodus 19:1-23:19; see also John 14:13, 23; Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 6:7-10; James 1:22-25). Obedience to God’s covenant brings blessings and life (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20; see also Matthew 19:17; Hebrews 12:9). If you obey God, God promises to “will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be My people” (Leviticus 26:12, NLT).

God’s Angel would go ahead of the Israelites and bring them into the land He promised to give Abraham (see Genesis 15:17-21). God, not Israel, would take possession of the land (Exodus 23:29-31). The Promised Land would be a gift to Israel from the covenant God. Israel was granted possession of the land as long as they faithfully fulfilled God’s covenant. This land was currently held by the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites. God promised to remove these people from God’s Promised Land (Exodus 23:23). Once again, the true and living God (Yahweh) warned the Israelites against idolatry. God told the Israelites not to worship nor serve the gods of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites and do not imitate their evil practices in the land (Exodus 23:24). Idolatry is a great sin because idolatry means worshipping and following other gods and not worshipping and following the true and living God and not obeying His covenant.

Previously, God had given the Israelites specific laws and regulations with His Ten Commandments and Book of the Covenant so that Israel would be a holy (sanctified) nation and reflect God’s holy nature to the world (Exodus 19:1-23:19; see also Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5, 9). If the Israelites loved, obeyed, and worshipped God and obeyed God’s covenant, His blessing will be on their lives, food, and water (Exodus 23:25). Even more, God promised to take away sickness from among Israel and provide the Israelites a full life span (Exodus 23:26). Again, God’s blessings would only come if the people worshipped and obeyed God and God’s covenant and not follow the evil practices of other pagan religions (Exodus 23:26). If the Israelites obeyed God from their heart, God promised to meet all their needs and defeat their enemies (Exodus 23:25-26).

Since the Old Testament, God has always commanded wholehearted obedience to Him and His covenant (Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 30:6, 12-14; Jeremiah 9:26; see also Acts 7:51; Romans 2:28-29). Obedience to God’s covenant does not save people; only our wholehearted faith in God brings salvation (Romans 1:16-17, see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4). Salvation only comes through our faith, particularly faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17, see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Scriptures teaches that salvation is a GIFT of God received only through true faith in Him (see Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet, we are sanctified (made holy or set apart) through our obedience to God and God’s covenant (Exodus 19:5-6; see also 1 Peter 2:5, 9).

Still more, God promised to send His fear before the Israelites (see Exodus 15:16; Exodus 23:27-30; Joshua 2:9–11). He promised to send panic and confusion to every nation they had to face in military action. The true and living God wanted the people to be wholly devoted and committed to Him. Through Israel’s love and worship, God would go before them, terrorize their enemies, and empower the Israelites to conquer their enemies and their land. Indeed, the “terror of God” did go before the Israelites and weaken the people and their hearts in Canaan (Joshua 2:9–11).

Jesus Christ is the only One that can forgive sins and only in Him is the wonderful Name of the Lord (Luke 5:21). Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9; see also John 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:2-3), and He has God's power to heal and forgive (see Matthew 4:23-25). In Jesus Christ is the fullness of God (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). In other words, the God of Israel is in Jesus Christ. God had prepared a place for the Israelites (Exodus 23:20) just as Jesus Christ is preparing a place for those that wholeheartedly love and obey Him (John 14:1-6). Amazingly, Jesus Christ’s visited earth in the Old Testament to help His people, to meet special needs, and to accomplish God’s special tasks (see Exodus 3:7-10; Exodus 23:23). To Abraham, Jesus Christ came as a Traveler to share in a friendly meal (Genesis 18:1-8). To Jacob, Jesus Christ came as a Wrestler to bring Jacob (also named Israel) to the place of submission (Genesis 32:22-32). To the three Hebrew boys, Jesus Christ came as their Companion in the furnace of fire (Daniel 3:25, 28). Joshua met Jesus Christ, the Captain of the Lord's armies, just before his battle with Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15). Jesus Christ always comes to us when we need Him and in the way we need Him.

The fact that the Son of God took on a temporary body, left heaven, and came down to help His people throughout the Old Testament surely reveals His grace and love. In the wilderness, the Israelites saw the visible manifestations of God and He taught the Israelites some important truths about Him. The Israelites should have learned that He is the living God who sees us and hears our cries when we hurt (Exodus 2:23-25). The true and living God is a personal God, concerned about all people who will trust Him. The book of Exodus is important to all believers in Jesus Christ because God came down to rescue His people from bondage and save His people (Exodus 3:8). With the advent of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, God once again came down to rescue and save His people (see also Matthew 1:21).

Some of Israelites did not trust and obey God and God’s covenant. The Israelites’ failure to trust God and God’s Presence lead some Israelites to be condemned to journey in the wilderness until the generation twenty years old and upward had all died, except for Caleb and Joshua. For thirty-eight years, God would guide His people and then bring them back to the borders of Promised Land with God’s Presence. So, what is God’s Presence? God’s Presence is essentially the fruit of the Holy Spirit – compassion, mercy, patience, unfailing love, faithfulness, and forgiveness (see Exodus 33:15-18; Exodus 34:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23).

References
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book of the Covenant

Exodus 20:22-23:19 continues the Sinai covenant and provides additional laws. The stipulations or terms in this section are called the “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:7).  These requirements were given by God but were now spoken through Moses. At Exodus 20:18-21, the Israelites asked Moses to speak to God directly after the people heard God’s voice from heaven and witnessed manifestations of God's glory and power in the thunder, the loud blast of the ram’s horn, the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain. The people said to Moses “You speak to us, and we will listen. But do not let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” (Exodus 20:19, NLT). God is transcendent (supreme), as shown by His speaking to the Israelites in a spiritual (or disembodied) voice from heaven at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:22).

God stated His basic laws – the Ten Commandments – at Exodus 20:1-17. Then, God told Moses how to apply the Ten Commandments to specific situations at Exodus 20:22-23:19 so that everybody would receive equal justice, kindness, and fairness in everyday life. The Book of the Covenant is not a collection of picky laws but case studies or case law from such topics as theft, seduction, giving, personal injury, kidnapping, gossip (false rumors), blaspheme, murder (intentional and unintentional), dishonoring parents, personal loans and interest, sorcery and occult practices (e.g., spells, magic), courtroom behavior, rape, bestiality, and idolatry. These requirements were largely expansions an explanation of the Ten Commandment. God was taking various potential life situations and teaching the Israelites how His Ten Commandments would work in their daily lives. The case studies listed did not cover every possible situation but gave practical examples of how to treat people justly. God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:6) and God loves righteousness and justice (see Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 61:8). The Book of the Covenant revealed that God expected His people to express His love, kindness, and fairness equally to all people (e.g., rich, poor, men, woman, foreigners, widows and orphans), property and even animals to assure His justice.

The Book of the Covenant is specifically noted for its fairness and social responsibility toward the widow, the poor, and the foreigner. God insisted that the widow, orphan, poor and powerless be well treated (see also James 1:27; James 2:2-7). In fact, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the powerless, and defenseless people are objects of God’s special concern and providential care (e.g., see Exodus 21:26-27; Exodus 23:6-12; Psalm 10:14, 17-18; Psalm  146:9; Isaiah 1:23; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10).  Repeatedly throughout the Holy Scriptures, God denounced oppression of the widow, the fatherless, the alien, and the poor (e.g., see Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 5:28; 1 John 3:16-18). God expected His people to protect the oppressed and the needy members of society. The Book of the Covenant demanded the Israelites to be kind to strangers and aliens, widows and orphans, and the poor (Exodus 22:21-27; Exodus 23:9; see also Deuteronomy 24:17-21). The widow, the orphan, and the alien were in a helpless and economically disadvantaged position. The rich, wealthy, and strong must not exploit and abuse widows, orphans, aliens, or the poor but give them the help they need (Exodus 22:21-22 see also e.g., Leviticus 25:35-38; Proverbs 28:8). God hears the cries of the afflicted and suffering (Exodus 22:23, 27). When the Israelites were in trouble, God helped and rescued them. Therefore, the Israelites were not to take advantage of others in difficulty and weakness. Also, God wanted to protect the especially tender relationship between mother and offspring (see Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 22:28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7).

The Book of the Covenant also included the so-called law of retaliation (lex talionis) (Exodus 21:23-25; see also Leviticus 24:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:21). This requirement was meant to limit the punishment to fit the crime. An actual eye or tooth was never exacted. Jesus Christ objected to an extremist use of this judicial principle to excuse private, personal vengeance (see Matthew 5:43-48). By invoking the law of love, Jesus Christ corrected the popular misunderstanding of the law of retaliation and provided the Law’s originally meaning or intent (Leviticus 19:17-18, 34; see also 1 John 2:9). As Jesus Christ reminded, God’s people are not to retaliate or seek revenge of their enemies but love all people, including their enemies (Matthew 5:38-42, 44; see also Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Proverbs 25:21). Instead, God’s people must leave punishment and judgment to God and God’s appointed authorities (Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9, 28; Exodus 22:28; Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 10:30) and we must love one another, including our enemies (see Romans 13:8-14; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Avenging people is God’s prerogative, not ours (Deuteronomy 32:35-36). When we are wronged, Jesus Christ encouraged all people to love, forgive and do good to those who wrong us and not seek revenge (Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; John 13:34; Hebrews 13:15-16). Believers in Jesus Christ are never called to retaliate but are called to love one another and forgive everyone, including our enemies (see Matthew 18:21-35; Galatians 5:14). All believers in Jesus Christ are “to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16, NIV). The Book of the Covenant reveals God’s instructions to wholeheartedly love and honor Him, love one another, respect people’s property, and not do such evils as gossiping, murdering, exploiting, stealing, harming animals, coveting, and mistreating people. We should act fairly and justly with all people — friends and enemies alike (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9).

Apostle Paul:  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. . . . Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-10, 14-21 (NIV)

However, these various laws in the Ten Commandment and the Book of the Covenant did not change people’s hearts nor declare one righteous (see Romans 3:21-4:25). But, these commandments and laws did help to control Israel’s conduct and give order to the nation. The Holy Bible reveals that God loves order and not chaos and confusion. Even more, these various laws in the Book of the Covenant reflected God’s holy character and nature the unchanging moral principles expressed in the Ten Commandments. When obeyed, these various laws protected the people from violence, gossip (slander), extortion, oppression, sorcery, witchcraft, and mistreatment. Justice was to be fair for all people (Exodus 23:2-3). One of the most dangerous and disastrous periods in Israel’s history was the period of the Judges when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (see Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25). The enforcement of good laws does not guarantee a perfect society, but it does promote order and prevent anarchy and chaos.

Keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters). Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. . . . Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:1-3, 15-16 (NIV)

If we truly love God with all our hearts, we will have no desire to hurt and harm others but to reach out to all people in need, even our enemies (Matthew 22:34-40; see also Luke 10:30-37). The true and living God (Yahweh) wanted to be first in the people’s hearts and lives. God’s people were not to worship, seek after, or even speak of other gods (Exodus 20:23; Exodus 23:13, 24; see also Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12). But if God is not first place in our hearts and lives (Matthew 6:33), we will exploit and abuse people and destroy God’s earth by misuse of earth’s resources. Throughout Israel’s history, the early Christian history and today, God has repeatedly sent His messengers (prophets) to command the people to stop sinning, doing evil, and disobeying God. If the Israelites obeyed the Book of the Covenant, the Covenant Lord agreed to protect them from enemies (Exodus 23:22-23) and from illness (Exodus 23:25-26) and give them a land to possess (Exodus 23:27-31). These covenant promises were contingent upon absolute loyalty to the Covenant Lord.

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said . . . . “I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. . . . Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before Me in My Temple and chant, “We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears My Name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken! . . . . When I led your ancestors out of Egypt, it was not burnt offerings and sacrifices I wanted from them. This is what I told them: ‘Obey Me, and I will be your God, and you will be My people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!’ But My people would not listen to Me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward. From the day your ancestors left Egypt until now, I have continued to send My servants, the prophets—day in and day out. But My people have not listened to Me or even tried to hear. They have been stubborn and sinful—even worse than their ancestors.” Jeremiah 7:1, 5-6, 9-11, 22-26 (NLT)

References
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

God’s Handwriting

Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but Me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. . . . You must not misuse the Name of the Lord your God. . . . Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely against your neighbor. You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:1-4, 7-17 (NLT)

The next great section of Exodus is chapters 20 through 24. In this section, God personally spoke His Ten Commandments followed by further instructions given to His servant Moses to tell His people, the Israelites (Exodus 20:1; Deuteronomy 5:4). At Mount Sinai, God exclusively wrote and spoke the Ten Commandments (see also Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 10:4). “When the Lord finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18, NLT). “The Lord wrote the terms of the covenant—the Ten Commandments—on the stone tablets” (Exodus 34:28, NLT). The Lord God proclaimed “His covenant—the Ten Commandments—which He commanded you to keep, and which He wrote on two stone tablets (Deuteronomy 4:13, NLT). The Ten Commandments are also called the “Ten Words” of the covenant or law and called the “Decalogue” (see Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4). These Ten Commandments were again repeated by Moses at Deuteronomy 5:6–21 and were placed in the sacred Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 10:1-5).

Notice that BEFORE God announced any instructions or commandments for the Israelites, God reminded the Israelites of His grace in redeeming (liberating) the Israelites from Egyptian slavery by His mighty outstretched hand (Exodus 20:2; see also Exodus 6:6-7; Exodus 12:1-42, Exodus 14:1-31). “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2, (NLT). In other words, God’s grace and redemption preceded the giving of God’s law. God expected His people to humbly obey His commandments out of gratitude for His gracious acts of redemption and salvation from Egyptian slavery. Obedience to God’s commandments was for the people’s own good (Deuteronomy 10:13). God wanted the people to always fear Him (have respect for Him); walk in all His ways; wholeheartedly love and serve Him; and obey His good commandments (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; see also Luke 12:5). Obedience to God’s commandment brings blessings and life (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20; see also Matthew 19:17).

The Ten Commandments were the fundamental requirements of God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. They constituted the basis of the moral principles and summarized what the one true God expected of His people in terms of their daily faith, worship, and conduct. In fact, the Ten Commandments given at Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21 formed a central core of morality. As mentioned earlier, the Ten Commandments were written by God’s hand (Exodus 31:18). The first five books of the Holy Bible (the Pentateuch) are known as books of the Law because they are based upon on God’s Ten Commandments given at Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb).  Essentially, the Ten Commandments are a summary of the Old Testament Law (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

By Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, the Law meant not only the Old Testament Scriptures (the written Law), but also the oral law (unwritten law) of Israel as well. The religious leaders developed these oral laws and were sometimes referred to as “the tradition of the elders” (compare Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:5; Galatians 1:14). After the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish rabbis began to make meticulous rules and regulations governing the daily lives of the people. These rules and regulations were interpretations and application of the Law of Moses, handed down from generation to generation. The Pharisees and teachers of the law considered “the tradition of the elders” equally important as the written Law of Moses given at Mount Sinai. It was not until 200 A.D. that these oral rules and regulations were put into writing in the Mishnah. However, Jesus Christ did not follow the “traditions of the elders” and was often called a lawbreaker because of His violations of these oral laws. Amazingly, Jesus Christ completely fulfilled the Sinai covenant by living totally devoted, faithful, and obedient to God and God’s instructions.

Jesus Christ moved the understanding of the Law of Moses from its external meaning into its internal motives – the heart. Moving God’s instructions from outward observance to an inward heart motivation and meaning was Jesus Christ’s concern and the original concern of Moses (see Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28; see also Deuteronomy 10:12-16). Jesus Christ taught and lived the written Law of Moses and the written Law’s true intentions perfectly. In this sense, Jesus Christ affirmed the heart and the spirit of the Law. The entire written Law of Moses stood for two great principles: love for God and love for neighbor (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:6, 13-14; James 2:8). The commandments to love God and love our neighbor had been in the Law all along (see Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Leviticus 19:18). Jesus Christ simply lived genuine love in His public ministry (e.g. fairness, truth, justice, mercy, humbleness, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, and compassion) (1 Corinthians 13). According to Jesus Christ, doing to others what you would have them do to you expresses the spirit and intent of “the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12; see also Matthew 5:17; Mark 12:31; John 13:34). Even more, our love for one another obeys Jesus Christ’s royal commandment (John 15:12, 17). If we genuinely love our neighbors, we will not covet what they have, steal from them, lie about them, or do any of the other evil things God prohibits in His Holy Word. This is why love is the fulfillment of the Law (Romans 13:8-10).

Jesus Christ:  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master does not confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You did not choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My Name. This is My command: Love each other."  John 15:9-17 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul recognized that the Law had been given for a good purpose. The Law was holy, just and good (see Romans 7:7-12, 14; 1 Timothy 1:8). God’s commandments revealed to the people God’s ways of living holy lives (sanctification). Because of human sinfulness, the Law became a curse instead of a blessing (Galatians 3:10-13). Like Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul saw the Old Testament Law fulfilled in the command to love, because genuine love does no harm and hurt to one’s neighbor and always seeks God’s glory (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13; Colossians 3:14; see also James 2:8; 1 John 4:8, 16; 1 John 5:3). God calls His people, through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, to genuinely love one another as Jesus Christ loved the church and give His life as an offering.

God sends His Holy Spirit to now write the requirements of the Law onto human hearts. Only with the help of God’s Holy Spirit can we meet the requirement to love, which fulfills the entire Law (Galatians 5:16, 22-23; Romans 8). Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God now writes His commandments on our human hearts through the inward working of His Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 8:2-4; Hebrews 8:8-12). In the Old Testament, God’s commandments were written on tables of stone (Exodus 24:12). But under the New Testament, God writes His commandments on our hearts through our faith in the life and death of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:1–3). God’s Holy Spirit makes the commandments a part of your inner being and enables believers in Jesus Christ to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s commandments (Romans 8:1–4). This is often called sanctification. Sanctification leads to loving God and loving one another (see also Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 22:34-40).

Obedience to the Ten Commandments does not and could not provide salvation (meaning declaring one righteous and justified before God) for either Jews or Gentiles (see Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:11; Romans 3:20-24, 28). God never intended His instructions or commandments to earn the people’s salvation or redemption (also called justification) (Romans 3:21-4:25; see also Galatians 2:16-17). Obedience to God’s commandments does not save people; only our wholehearted faith in God brings salvation (Romans 1:16-17, see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4). Salvation only comes through our faith, particularly faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17, see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Scriptures teaches that salvation is a GIFT of God received only through true faith in Him (see Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). The Ten Commandments reveal God's righteousness and demands righteousness, but obedience to the Ten Commandment cannot give  righteousness (Galatians 2:21); only Jesus Christ brings our righteousness before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only faith and acceptance in the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7, 9; Hebrews 10:22). Even more, God provides us His Holy Spirit and our inheritance through our faith in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:2, 18; Galatians 4:1-7). God sends His Holy Spirit to all who believe on His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit empower believers to obey God's righteous will – the Ten Commandments (Romans 8:1-3).

In the Old Testament Law, God gave the Israelites more than six hundred specific commandments. All of these commandments were based on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17). The Ten Commandments are a summary of more than six hundred specific commandments. These ten instructions or laws were for the Israelites’ good and not hurt. The Jewish ceremonial system presented in Exodus and Leviticus was fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, but the moral content of God's law still remains. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament epistles for the church to honor and obey. Only the Sabbath commandment is not repeated in the New Testament. God lavishes His unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Him and obey His commands (Exodus 20:6). Even more, these instructions or commandments revealed God’s holy nature and character to the people would reflect God’s true nature to the world.

The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God (our vertical relationship), while the last six commandments deal with our relationship with people (our horizontal relationship). If we love God and obey Him, we will also love others. As to sanctification, God requires His people that call upon Him in faith to obey the His unchanging moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandment (see Matthew 19:17-21; Mark 10:18-21; Luke 18:20). The Ten Commandments reflects God’s righteous character and disobediences to God’s Ten Commandments make a person unclean (see Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:20-23).

In the first commandment, God instructed the Israelites not to worship any other gods (Exodus 20:3; see also Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27). No other god was to rival the one true God in Israel’s heart and life (see also Exodus 20:22-26). The Israelites had just left from Egypt, a land filled with many idols, many gods, and goddess. Yet, God revealed to the Israelites, the Egyptians and the world that He was the only true and living God of heaven and earth. There is no other god like El-Shaddai – the Lord God Almighty (Exodus 6:3; Exodus 7:5 Exodus 15:11-14). “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 10:17, (NLT). The true and living God of Israel created all things, sustains all things, and controls all things (see Acts 18:24-28). God will not share His worship with another, including the idol of money, fame, work, or pleasure (Deuteronomy 10:20-21). “You must fear the Lord your God and worship Him and cling to Him. . . . He alone is your God, the only One who is worthy of your praise” (Deuteronomy 10:20-21, NLT). God wanted the people’s exclusive and wholehearted love, devotion, allegiance, obedience and worship as their only true God. In His public ministry, Jesus Christ lived out this commandment by living fully obedient, devoted and submissive to God with His whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (John 17; see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6).

Second, the Israelites were to not form, shape or make idols of any kind, idols made of silver or gold, or any image (human or non-human) of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea (Exodus 20:4-6, 23; see also Luke 16:13). No human or thing was to be an object of worship (see also Deuteronomy 5:8-9). God is Spirit and cannot be represented by statues or any likeness (John 4:24). When the Israelites came near and stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites heard the sound of His words but did not see His form; there was only a voice (Deuteronomy 4:11-12). Because God has no visible form, any idol intended to resemble God would be a sinful misrepresentation of Him (see Deuteronomy 4:12, 15-18). Besides, God is jealous and He will not share His worship or affections with any other gods (Exodus 20:5). God desires and deserves our first love, affection, and worship (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 6:15). Those people that were unfaithful and worshipped other gods or idols would bring down God’s judgment and wrath on themselves and their household (Exodus 20:5). Yet, faithfulness and obedience to God and His commands brought God’s lavish unfailing love on themselves and their household for a thousand generations (Exodus 20:6).  

Thirdly, the Israelites were not to misuse or disrespect the Name of the Lord God (Exodus 20:7; see also Matthew 5:34). God’s Name must always be respected, esteemed, and honored by the people and never used falsely or frivolously (Leviticus 19:12). We must respect God’s Name and use God’s Name properly with love, praise and worship rather than in falsehood, cursing or joking. Those who disrespected or misused God’s Name will not go unpunished (Exodus 20:7).  

Fourth, the Israelites were to maintain the Sabbath day as a holy day and cease from their daily duties and regular work (Exodus 20:8-9; see also Genesis 2:2; Exodus 16:23; Exodus 35:3; Leviticus 25; Numbers 15:32-36; Deuteronomy 5:13-15; Mark 2:27-28).  The Sabbath day was a day of rest before God and the Israelites were to do no work of any kind and nor shall their sons, daughters, slaves, or cattle shall work (Exodus 20:10). For six days the Lord God created the heaven, earth, and sea, and everything in them, and He rested on the seventh day after the work of creation (Exodus 20:11). So the Sabbath day is blessed and set aside for rest and worship to God (Exodus 20:11). God wanted the people to realize a holy Sabbath day of rest as the Sabbath day is God’s gift of rest (Exodus 16:29-30). Worship, meditation, and physical rest from a busy work week would characterize the Sabbath day. “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, NLT).

The fourth commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated after the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The church made Sunday a day of rest and worship as they celebrated Jesus Christ’s resurrection each week (Acts 20:7). Sunday is the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is the first day of the week – so named because Jesus Christ rose from complete death on that day (Revelation 1:10). On the Lord’s Day, believers in Jesus Christ meet for worship, instruction in the faith, doing good works, and mutual encouragement of one another (see Mark 3:4; Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 10:24-25). Believers in Jesus Christ rested on the first day of the week (Sunday) and then they could go forth to serve the living God with the energy He supplies on that first day (1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 2:16–17). Besides, God’s people are restored physically and spiritually when we take one day to rest and to focus on God. To observe a weekly time of rest, mediation and worship in our fast-paced world gives us the benefit of refreshing our spirits and resting in God.

Fifth, the Israelites were to honor, respect, and highly prize their father and mother so they may have a long life filled with blessings (Exodus 20:12). Proper honor and respect in the family home became a basis for a solid social structure (see also Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Ephesians 6:1-4). Yet, God still expected the Israelites to love and worship Him before and above father, mother, brother and sister (see Matthew 10:37).

Sixth, the Israelites were not murder (Exodus 20:13). God differentiated between accidental killings from deliberate murder. Intentional or deliberate killing resulted in capital punishment (Exodus 21:12-14). Yet, Jesus Christ went further. Jesus Christ said “if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:22, NLT). Killing is a terrible sin, but anger is a great sin too because it also violates God's command to love one another (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:6, 13-14; James 2:8). Jesus Christ said “if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matthew 5:23-24, NLT). Jesus Christ encouraged the people to quickly resolve any disputes and settle their differences (Matthew 5:25; see also Proverbs 25:8-10). Anger and broken relationships hinder our relationship with God. Jesus Christ has commanded to both love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40). We are hypocrites if we claim to love God while hating others (1 John 4:20).

Seventh, the Israelites were not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). The commandment against adultery applied to both husbands and wives (Leviticus 20:10; Hebrews 13:4). The Old Testament law said that it is wrong for a person to have sex with someone other than his or her spouse (Exodus 20:14). Jesus Christ said “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NLT). “Those leering looks you think nobody notices — they also corrupt” (Matthew 5:28, MSG). According to Jesus Christ, the mental desires and fantasies to have sex with someone other than your spouse is mental adultery and destroys marital intimacy. Even more, Jesus Christ said “that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful (that is a sexually immoral life-style), causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32, NLT). Divorce is hurtful and destructive. God intended marriage to be a lifetime commitment (Genesis 2:24; see also Malachi 2:15-16). God wants everyone to make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore relationships (1 Corinthians 7). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV).

Eighth, the Israelites were not to steal (Exodus 20:15). Stealing deprives others of what God has entrusted to them (see Exodus 22:1-5). Ninth, the Israelites were not to lie (Exodus 20:16). This commandment applies inside and outside the court room. God warns us against deception, dishonesty, and deceitfulness and commands His people to walk in all truth and moral integrity (1 Kings 2:4; Proverbs 25:18; Colossians 3:9). We must be honest with God, to other people, and to ourselves. “For there are six things the Lord hates — no, seven: haughtiness (pride), lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord (conflict) among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19, TLB). God desires truth in the inward parts, which will be reflected in our outward speech (see Psalm 51:6; Jeremiah 5:2-3). This commandment also prohibits insulting, false rumors, and gossip (Exodus 23:1; Titus 3:1-2;; 1 Peter 2:1).

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord and enter where He lives? Who may stand before the Lord? Only those with pure hands and hearts, who do not practice dishonesty and lying. They will receive God’s own goodness as their blessing from Him, planted in their lives by God Himself, their Savior. These are the ones who are allowed to stand before the Lord and worship the God of Jacob. Psalms 24:3-6 (The Living Bible)

Tenth, the Israelites were not to be envious (covetous, jealous, or begrudging) of others’ houses, spouses, servants, animals, success or anything else his or her neighbor owns (Exodus 20:17). Coveting includes envy — grudging the fact that others have what you do not have. The other commandments concerned outward actions, but the tenth commandment dealt with a person’s inward actions (e.g. heart desires and thoughts). God wanted to assure the Israelites did not sin inwardly (see James 1:13-15) and to be content with God’s provisions (Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6). “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 10:14, NLT). Even more, Jesus Christ warned the people to “be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15, NIV). Greed is essentially desires for what we do not have or desiring to have the possessions of others. Life is not measured by how much you own or possession (Luke 12:15). The good life has nothing to do with our wealth or possession because one’s life is not in the abundance of one’s possessions. A truly good life is living in a relationship with God and doing His good work. Possession never makes anyone happy for long.

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But do not let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” “Do not be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of Him will keep you from sinning!” As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 (NLT)

After God personally spoke His Ten Commandments, the Israelites witnessed God’s mighty presence – the thundering, lightning, trumpet blasts, darkness, and the smoke rising from Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:18). The Israelites stood at the base of Mount Sinai shaking with fear and awe at the presence of God’s power and authority (Exodus 20:18). After witness God’s mighty presence and hearing God’s voice, the Israelites told Moses to personally speak with God and then instruct the people with God’s instructions (Exodus 20:19). Moses told the Israelites not to be afraid because God revealed His awesome power so they will be afraid to sin against Him as the true God and would therefore obey Him. (Exodus 20:20). Moses entered the deep darkness and spoke to God and Moses became God’s spokesman to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:21-22). Moses was to make known God’s will from heaven, that is God’s instruction (commandments or law), to the Israelites (Exodus 20:22). As to altars made to worship God, an acceptable altar had to be simple altars made of earth or with natural uncut stones or boulders, and without steps (to prevent indecent exposure – nakedness while climbing up to the altar) (Exodus 20:24-26). At the altars, God would come and bless the people (Exodus 20:24).

Apostle Paul:  So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. In your past, evil life you also did these things. But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. Colossians 3:5-9 (NCV)

Reference
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.