The number ten appears to be very significant in our society as well as in the Bible. Here are several secular examples. In baseball there are at least ten players on the field all the time including the batter. In basketball there are always ten players on the court, five on each side. In the world of blackjack the ten, queen, king and jack are all worth ten points. In bowling a strike means you knock down all ten pins. In the Olympics, ten is the highest score that you can get. In math, ten is the base of the decimal and metric system of measurement. Ten is the atomic number of neon. The glow of a neon light and the atomic blast are similar but just smaller and less potential. Interstate 10 in the United States is the longest interstate from California to Florida. The smallest coin in the United States is a dime and it is worth ten cents.
Let’s now look at Bible examples. The flood covered the earth until the first day of the tenth month after which the mountains became visible. Abram had given a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek as gratitude for all of God’s blessings to his life; thus the tithing system which is also one-tenth. After being in Canaan, Sarai became impatient with God and gave Hagar to Abraham in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise, and it happened when they were in Canaan in the tenth year. From Abraham back to Noah, are ten generations. From Noah back to Adam are ten generations. God would have saved Sodom if only there had been found ten righteous there. Ten plagues fell upon Egypt. Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times when he labored for Rachel. Joseph sent back ten male and ten female donkeys to his father in Canaan with provisions from Egypt during the time of the famine. Joseph died when he was 110 years old. The Jews observe an annual ten days of repentance beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. In Judaism, ten adults are required for a prayer service. Naaman took ten pounds of silver and ten changes of clothing when he went to be healed of his leprosy. God took ten tribes from Solomon and gave them to Jeroboam.
The number ten is very significant. Hezekiah prayed for a sign and the Lord made the shadow go back ten degrees as evidence that He would prolong Hezekiah’s life. The number ten appears only once in the entire book of Job. Jesus taught about the ten virgins, ten talents, ten coins and ten lepers. There were ten curtains in the tabernacle held up by boards that were ten cubits in height supported by ten bases. In the sanctuary there were two cherubim that were ten cubits tall and the distance from one wing to the other was ten cubits. Under the cherubim was the ethical Decalogue of the Ten Commandments of God. To remember the law, God gave everybody ten toes and ten fingers.
Ten is a very significant number, which brings me to my first point. If God did not think that we needed Ten Commandments, He would not have given us ten. If you do not believe that we need ten, cut off one of your fingers or one of your toes. When somebody tells you that we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments, just take your scissors and give me a finger or a toe. I believe that God intended for all ten to stay intact.
Ten Commandments are very significant. That is why Moses, the faithful servant of God, said in Deuteronomy 4:13, “And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” The following are three very important facts that come to the forefront about the Ten Commandments:
- God declared the Ten Commandments, which simply means that they did not come from the lips of man; therefore they cannot be modified by the lips of man. We may not like what God said, but we do not have the authority to change what He says.
- God commanded; He did not suggest the Ten Commandments. They did not come from man’s mind; therefore they cannot be modified to fit man’s thinking. We may think that the word command is too strong, but God’s law is not ten suggestions, ten opinions, ten options or ten menu items. It is the Ten Commandments.
- God wrote the Ten Commandments. They were not e-mailed, faxed, borrowed, photocopied or plagiarized. In other words, God wrote them with His finger. He did not inspire them; He wrote them.
My mother gave me a book many years ago that I still read to this very day. It is not so much the content of the book that is important to me but that my mother’s signature is there. She passed away in 1991, and every time I lend that book out to somebody, I tell them not to keep it, because I cannot buy another one like it. It is not the content, but the inscription of the giver that makes that book special. So it is not just the commandments, not just ten laws, but the fact that God took the time to write them with His own finger. I would suggest to you that they are a lot more valuable than baseball cards or signed pictures. People always ask me for my autograph on my CDs, and I always tell them to forget my signature and read the Bible verse under it, because if you forget me, you have lost nothing, but if you forget God, you have lost everything.
The inscription of God is there to let us know that when God takes the time to autograph something, it has to be important. It is suggested by eBay that to determine the value of a document four things need to be done:
- You must determine how long the person who signed it has been around. How does that tend to make the Ten Commandments valuable? David says that, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God [Psalm 90:21].” God has been around for as long as long can be. On that basis alone, eBay could not even price the Ten Commandments to sell. There is not enough money on earth to buy the commandments of God, because based on the longevity of the One who wrote them and signed them, they are valuable beyond our ability to buy.
- You must determine the value of an item. Is it historical? The commandments are as old as time. Is it personal? Paul said they are the law of God (Romans 7). The commandments of God are very personal.
- You must assess the integrity of the document—What was it signed with, pen or ink that can fade? If the inscription is faded, the document begins to lose its value. God took care of that when He wrote His law on stone and signed it with His own finger. To this day it is signed with His own blood. As a matter of fact, there is one original on the table of stone, and everybody has a copy of it. He wrote it in your mind and put it in your heart. You cannot sell it. You can be irreligious, and the commandments of God will remind you in your darkest moments that what you are about to do is not right. What commandment are we talking about? “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17 (NKJV).
- You must establish the present condition of the document. To arrive at its dollar value, eBay suggests that you must determine how much it has changed since it was written. God says, in Psalm 89:34, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” God does not change, and His commandments do not change.
You can shift them around and make them appear to change, but as far as God’s copy is concerned, they are the same. Regarding the copy in your heart, no matter in what order you put them they are still the same.
God made sure that no matter where you are, whether you want to turn your ears or close your eyes, the commandments of God are with you.
At the very outset of the tenth commandment the law reveals its age. The word covet lets you know that it is not a contemporary commandment. How many times have you talked to somebody, and they have said, “Well, I covet that tie” or “I covet that job”? We don’t use the word covet very much. That is why in the newer Bible translations, the word covet is substituted with the word greed. Don’t be greedy; be satisfied.
The truth of the matter is that the tenth commandment is not exclusive, because if you just take the beginning and the end, it reads as follows: “Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s.” If there is something that somebody else has and you cannot afford it, just get it out of your mind. Coveting what is not yours is how the commandment begins.
Sometimes the tenth commandment seems to supplement the eighth commandment, which says, “Thou shalt not steal [Exodus 20:15].” The fact of the matter is that the tenth commandment is the door that leads to the violation of the other nine. I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31 (NKJV). Paul says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Galatians 5:14 (NKJV). If you love your neighbor as yourself and you don’t want him/her to steal from you and you won’t steal from him/her. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you won’t covet his wife or her husband and you won’t want him to covet your wife or you. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you don’t want him/her taking your house, and you won’t take his/her house.
Paul brings out another overlooked truth about the tenth commandment. He refers to those seven words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as one word. In other words, the Ten Commandments are also known as the Ten Words. The tenth commandment is not only the tenth precept of the Ten Commandments; it is the last Word of the Ten Words.
To summarize commandments one through nine, I believe that the reason God put the tenth one there is so the tenth commandment could be the last Word of the nine Words that went before. It is as though God is saying, “If you have any doubt about anything I have said, I place this one here as the last Word.”
The tenth commandment is a sin detector. If you are labeled by society as a criminal or a transgressor of any law, the transgression or the crime has to be obvious. Somebody has to see it. How can you declare me guilty of something you cannot detect or see? Like an inconspicuous carbon dioxide smoke detector, the tenth commandment monitors the silent activities of the mind, going way down to the subculture of human thought. It does not say you have to do the deed and that is the only way you are guilty; it goes down to the point where the motive begins to be born. It is like a divine MRI; it detects the hidden sins of the human heart before they become obvious to everybody else.
It is the stealthy operation of this commandment that I believe gives birth to these verses in Scripture. The wise man said, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV). It says, “as he thinks”—not as he does. Before it becomes an act of stealing somebody’s car, wife, money or house, it is born in your thoughts. Jesus said, in Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” It is detecting what is below the surface, not just what is being seen by everybody else. In other words, you can go to church and pray to God all you want, but the Lord He sees what is happening on the inside. This commandment goes way beyond what people see.
Paul says, in Romans 7:25, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Let’s put that in proper context. There may be some people who cannot break free from a habit or a sin, but they are saying that in their minds they are in harmony with God’s law but need to be delivered from the very act. Then, in reverse, there are people who appear to be delivered from the very act, but in their minds they are serving the law of sin. You cannot judge anyone solely on what you see. When you meet people, they always put their best foot forward, but I am always concerned what they are going to do with that other foot. The tenth commandment is not only a sin detector, it is a character detector as well.
Remember when Saul fell as king and God called the sons of Jesse to be consecrated? The ones who looked qualified were not qualified. The one who did not look qualified, was the one who was qualified, and Samuel said that we look at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. See 1 Samuel 16:7. This means that people who look righteous are not always righteous. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart.” Jeremiah 17:9, 10, first part. Sometimes you can put on your Christian costume when you go to church, but God knows what you are thinking and why you are there.
The tenth commandment suggests that ungodly thoughts will eventually become ungodly actions. When we lived in New York City, my wife and I were involved with people who liked to go roller-skating. At that time there were random shootings in the city. We noticed a very unassuming guy who looked the part—you have to be careful with people who just look the part, because one of the deceptions in the last days is that Satan is going to show up, and he is going to look the part. Ministers preaching from pulpits all over the world look the part, but they are not living the part. One of our sisters in the faith said that anybody can preach a good sermon, but it takes somebody else to live a good one.
At a seminar I gave on family life, one person who attended said to me, “Do you know why I enjoyed this seminar? It was not what you said; it was what I saw between you and your wife. It was not what you said about valuing older people, but you brought your 81-year-old mother-in-law with you on your vacation. So when you said to me, ‘Don’t wait until they get older to tell them that you love them,’ you are doing it by example. How often does she travel with you?” I told him that whenever she is not sick, we take her with us, because the day is going to come when she can’t go, and I do not want to be standing there at the funeral saying, “Oh, if I had only, had only, had only.” I believe people cry hard at funerals because they did not work hard before the funeral. We would rather send flowers than carry them ourselves. So when people look godly, it really does not mean a whole lot to me.
Some of the meanest e-mails I have received are from people who are religious. It was religious people who screamed for Jesus to be crucified. It was the secular power that tried to get Him out of it. When church and state unite, there is no greater persecution than when religious people get involved. So to appear to be religious is of no value whatsoever in the sight of God, but to live a righteous life is. This does not begin on the outside; it begins on the inside.
This commandment goes way, way down. That is why the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of body and soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible says it “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of man’s heart.” Hebrews 4:12. I believe that is why people sometimes do not read their Bible, because when they read their Bible, it tells them about themselves. Even now people are challenging ministers whether or not they can preach it straight. I preach straight sermons, and people ask me why. I tell them that my job is not to get them comfortable but to get them into the kingdom.
People nowadays want those sermons about portfolios and how many stock options they have. But their stocks cannot get them into heaven, not even being religious on the outside with all of their possessions. I knew somebody who was very wealthy and I called this person on something on the way he was living. He took me to task saying to me, “How dare you talk to me that way.” I told him the way he was living was sin, whether he was rich or poor.
The Lord says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45.
The tenth commandment reminds us that we may not always be under the jurisdiction of man, but we are always under the jurisdiction of God.
The tenth commandment is a dissatisfaction detector. This commandment detects discontent. Paul tells us, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV). Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV). If you have God, you have all that you need.
You must be content. The definition of godliness has been misrepresented by the church. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6. Notice what it does not say. It does not say, “Great gain with contentment is godliness,” and it does not say, “Great gain with godliness is contentment.” It says, “Godliness with contentment.” Be content to be godly for from that comes great gain. Our lives do not consist in all the abundance we possess, and when Jesus comes, we cannot take it with us.
Nobody has ever been put in jail for what he has thought, but many will be kept out of heaven because of what they think. The problem with the antediluvian world was that every intent of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually (Geneses 6:5). It was their thoughts that led them to sin. It was what they thought and then what they did.
Wrong thoughts entertained promote a wrong desire, which in time gives birth to a wrong action. We may refrain from sin because the social and civil penalties are heavy, but in heaven’s sight we may be as guilty as if we actually committed it ourselves, because the tenth commandment goes way down deep. What is the prescription? David tells us in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
The tenth commandment is about discontent. It is having an inordinate desire for something that does not belong to you. That is why the Bible says that God will not just work on the outside, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NKJV). This basic commandment, the tenth, reveals the profound truth that we are not the helpless slaves of our natural desires and passions. It sums up the Decalogue by affirming that man is essentially a free moral agent. So the next time you see something you want, think about the real cost. The next time you see someone you want, think about the real cause. The next time it begins to boil up in your heart that you are just not happy, think about the fact that Jesus did not die for your stuff, He died for you.
“Thou shalt not covet.” I want to go home to heaven. We need to get to the place where we are tired of sin. We need to get to the place where we know that with all of this covetousness we have wasted many precious years. We must get our eyes fixed on going home to be with Jesus. We must get to the place where we realize that we need His cleansing blood. The only answer to the violation of any of the Ten Commandments is the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.
Now is the time we need to unload the world and put on Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives and covet nothing that will keep us out of the kingdom of God. Let each of us pray for a heart of contentment—content to be godly, content to be loving, content to be kind and content to support one another in this final, trying hour of this earth’s history.
Pastor John Lomacang’s sermon was taken from the Ten Commandment Weekend, 2008 series aired on 3ABN. For more information contact www.3ABN.org.