Before beginning this study of Deuteronomy 5, I would like to share, as an illustration, a personal experience.
When my wife and I moved from Washington State to the Los Angeles, California, area, our two dogs accompanied us. We were fortunate to find a house with about an acre and a half of land, which was fenced on two sides. One of my first tasks, when we moved into the house, was to fence the other two sides of the property, so the dogs would have plenty of room to run without having to be chained or cooped up in any way.
Interestingly, even with all of this space, the dogs kept trying to find a way out of the yard. We would frequently notice them running the fence, looking for an opening. They were unsuccessful, until one Sabbath. Returning from church that day, we found a note on our front door from an Animal Control Officer stating that he had been called, because our dog had been struck by an automobile and, not finding anyone at home, he was taking it to the veterinary hospital. I rushed to the hospital, and actually arrived before the Animal Control Officer. When he appeared, I told him that I was the dog’s owner and would gladly take her home and closely monitor her condition.
Arriving at home, I felt the dog all over and found no broken bones, but her back feet were scraped so badly that she could hardly walk. She would eat and drink, but it was obvious that she was very sore. She could not sit or lie down; she could only stand, hang her head, and whine, because of the pain. We gave her some Tylenol for the pain and tried to comfort her as best we could. Each day she showed signs of improvement, until, after a short period of time, she was doing quite well.
As I reflected upon this experience, I thought of how true this is of the way God deals with us. He has put a fence, the Ten Commandments, around us, and if we stay within this fence, there is safety to be found. We, like the dog, sometimes think that it is better to be outside of God’s fence to explore what is beyond. We want to see if there is something out there of interest to us, but we then find ourselves in the devil’s traffic. Many times we run headlong into a moving vehicle of the devil’s design.
The Whole Duty
Moses, on two occasions, brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountaintop. Upon his return the first time, he found the children of Israel cavorting around a golden calf, committing idolatry and adultery. He threw down the stone, upon which the Ten Commandments were written, and broke it.
The second time Moses went up on the mountain, God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, became the established covenant between God and His people. They stood, during those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, as the very center of the sanctuary service, which God had instituted for His people.
All too often, we feel that we subscribe to the Ten Commandments, and we think that we know everything there is to know about God’s Law. After all, how much difficulty is there in reading the Ten Commandments? How much intelligence do we really have to have in order to understand ten precepts? Well, there is much more to God’s Ten Commandments than just reading them from Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. We need to be reminded of just how important God’s Law is, because we are tricked, by our own sinful natures, into thinking that we can go contrary to what those ten precepts say.
The Bible says, in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.”
The first table of God’s Law contains the four commandments, which reveal man’s whole duty or responsibility to his Maker. The second table, with its six precepts, sets forth man’s whole duty to his fellow man. Jesus said that on these two tables, defining our love to God and our love to man, hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:40.) So, if we are to fear God and keep His commandments, this being our whole duty, and upon these commandments hang all the Law and the prophets, what was Jesus saying? He was saying that the Ten Commandments are that for which we are to be responsible to God.
The rest of the law—the five books of Moses—dealing with the sacrificial system, the civil laws, and the health laws, is ultimately based on the Ten Commandment Law. The words and writings of the prophets are nothing more and nothing less than dealing with man and his sinful waywardness concerning the commandments. The issues involved are centered on idolatry, waywardness from God, oppression of the poor, and the failure of man, which directly relate to God and to his fellow man. We often have the tendency, which the prophets tried to clarify, to simply look at how the prophets dealt with problems, to the neglect of a deeper study of the law.
As soon as Adam was created, the first table of the law began to govern and to regulate his duty toward his Creator. As soon as he was made, this law came into being, as far as he was concerned. Eve’s creation constituted another relationship, which had to be defined by law; the second table of the law came into being and became operational. It is quite evident that, as long as the Creator and any of His creatures are in existence, both tables of the law must continue in force.
Consider this for a moment. As long as there is a God, and as long as there is more than one creature, there has to be a law which governs how that creature relates to his Creator and to one another. This is why the law is eternal. This is why the law originated in the heart and mind of God, and as He began to create, this law became greater and greater in its application.
Written on Our Hearts
The Lord, at creation, wrote the principles of His moral law in the mind and upon the fleshly tables of man’s heart, and before sin came into the world, they operated naturally and spontaneously, as the laws of nature do in the physical world. It was as natural for man to do the will of God as it was for the birds to fly, for the trees to grow, and for the flowers to bloom. It was just as natural for man to respond to God through the law. But when Adam and Eve fell to Satan’s temptation, man’s nature was changed from righteousness to sinfulness. It was as though man had slipped on a long, slick slide, which would carry him away from the God who had created him and from the keeping of the divine law, which was to regulate his life and to make it productive and happy. But although sin has changed man’s nature, the Law of God has not been entirely erased from his mind, from the fleshly tables of his heart.
We see the evidence of this when we read Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he says, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Romans 2:14, 15.
Here the fact is stated that the law was placed in the heart of man in the very beginning when God created him, and man responded. When sin came along, it did not totally erase the obligation in man’s mind concerning the need to keep the law. This is why we find, in the realms of the world today, religions of every size, shape, and description, for man has a sense of sin and, to the best of his ability, he is trying to find some relief for this sin.
This is the reason there will be people in heaven who may never have heard the name of Jesus Christ or may never have known about the God of heaven. If they respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who is bearing witness with their consciences, God will continue to sanctify their lives, even though they know nothing of the law, because they are responding to the little bit of an impress of the law which is written in their hearts. When they get to heaven, they will inquire about the scars in Jesus’ hands and the scars on His head, and Jesus will tell them the story of salvation for the first time.
Righteousness by Faith
Perfection, keeping the law, is defined as “righteousness by faith.” Often times the definition of “righteousness by faith” is “doing right by faith” or “right doing.” But this meaning gets the cart before the horse. You cannot do right until you are right! Righteousness is, first of all, right being, which is far more fundamental and important than right doing. Right doing is the fruit, if you please, of right being.
We must be right, before we can do right, and if we are right, we will do right. The devil has tried, down through the ages, to turn this thing around and have people do right and then have them believe that they are right. Of course, this is nothing more and nothing less than salvation by works.
If Christians and/or heathens believe that they are right because they do right, they have really missed the boat. They first must be right, before they can do right and be accepted by God. This is why those who are right, because of their acceptance of what Christ has done for them, can say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.” Psalm 40:8.
This should be the experience of every Christian. The law is not to be done away with. The law is to find its proper response in the hearts of men. Our God, the One who created us, is ever seeking to help us live in harmony with the great principles of the heavenly government. None of His laws are arbitrary, but they are eternal principles—perfect and eternal as the Creator and Lawgiver Himself.
Brief but Complete
The Ten Commandments are both brief and comprehensive. They were given in a written form 3,500 years ago, yet, interestingly, there has never been a need for those ten laws to be altered or changed in any degree. They have never needed to be amended in the least particular. The Ten Commandments are just as current and applicable to the needs of mankind today as when they came from the mouth and the hand of the Creator Who gave them. This, in itself, is enough to convince us of the perfection and holiness of the law and of its divine origin.
It is estimated that man has enacted some 35 million laws, in an effort to regulate his conduct, but he has never yet attained the perfection of the Ten Commandments. The laws of men must be continually corrected and updated, often requiring change. Not so with God’s Law. God’s law was written in stone 3,500 years ago, and it is just as up-to-date as if it were written yesterday.
Recently, one bill passed through Congress which repealed more than 1,000 old and out-of-date laws. They did not apply any longer. Not many people need to be fined today because they have tied their horse to a hitching post and neglected to put a grain bag on it! There have been attacks on the Law of God, but the Bible tells us, “The law of the Lord [is] perfect,” and “The works of his hands [are] verity and judgment; all his commandments [are] sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, [and are] done in truth and uprightness.” Psalms 19:7; 111:7, 8.
The Devil’s Purpose
There is a spirit in the world which never tires of attacking God’s Law or God Himself, but these efforts, which are put forth, are for the purpose of deceiving and causing potential candidates of the kingdom of heaven to be lost. This is the devil’s number one purpose.
If a law can be changed in a man’s mind, then that which the Lord uses to point out sin will no longer do its work, and mankind can never develop a character like God, because the Law of God is a revelation of the character of God. This is why it is important that we obey and keep the Law of God. By so doing, our characters are changed.
Law as a Tool
The law is a tool, or instrument, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, by which men are convicted of sin. Sin is divinely declared to be the “transgression of God’s Law.” 1 John 3:4. The law and the gospel work hand in hand in the redemption of sinful man. The law cannot take away sin. It is only a mirror to point out the sin, to let us see how dirty our faces are. All it can do is convince us that we are guilty sinners and that we are under the penalty of eternal death. Pardoning and cleansing have to come through Christ and the gospel.
Before a sick man can seek a remedy, he must first understand that he has a sickness. He must be convinced that he is sick. Before man can realize his need of a Saviour, he must first realize that he is a sinner and that he is in need of help, because the law convicts him.
Let us look at the circumstances when the Ten Commandments were originally given. Mount Sinai was located in an area where there was a large, sandy plateau, 4,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. The plain, about two miles long and one-half mile wide, was large enough to hold some two million people, who were there at the time the law was given.
Looking up, a granite mountain could be seen, rising up some 2,200 feet high out of this plateau. Isolated, precipitous, fissured, altar shaped, it was the mountain of Jehovah’s Law, the sublime throne from which the King of kings proclaimed the Ten Commandments of the covenant with His people.
In the midst of these craggy slopes, Moses had kept the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. Here he had twice fasted, 40 days and 40 nights. Here Elijah found refuge from the wrath of Jezebel. Here it was that Paul spent three years preparing for his gospel calling.
It was here, on Sinai’s mountain, that Moses mediated between Jehovah and Israel. The words came down: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and [how] I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth [is] mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:4–6, first part.
These were the words of God which came down to them, and as the people heard these words, they responded: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” Verse 8.
On the third morning, after the ceremonial purification, came lightnings, thunders, a thick cloud, and the voice of a trumpet growing louder and louder until the mountain began to quake and smoke began ascending, like the smoke of a furnace. All of this made the preparation for the delivery of the law on Mount Sinai a scene of unparalleled solemnity.
Somehow we have lost sight of the awe and the solemnity with which we should look at the Law of God. We take for granted that the Ten Commandments are rules and regulations by which we are ordered to live, and we do not grasp the meaning of the grandeur and the solemnity with which this law was given.
“And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, [even] us, who [are] all of us here alive this day. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, (I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount).” Deuteronomy 5:1–5.
God made the covenant, at Mount Sinai, with the children of Israel. After they had been camped around the mount for two years, they began to make their way toward the Promised Land. They sent their spies over into that land and decided, from their report, that they did not want to go in because of the giants. So, the Lord turned them back into the wilderness, and He told them that all of them would die there. (Numbers 14:22, 23; 26:65.) Indeed, in the next 38-year period of time, they all died in the wilderness, with the exception of two—Caleb and Joshua.
What is meant by: “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, [even] us, who [are] all of us here alive this day”? Is there something wrong here? No. It is all right, and it needs to be understood. “The law was not spoken at this time exclusively for the benefit of the Hebrews. God honored them by making them the guardians and keepers of His law, but it was to be held as a sacred trust for the whole world.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 305.
Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 with many employees. Ford Motor Company is still operating today, but the first generation of employees has all died. One charge, which was made to the first employees, in 1903, is still a charge to today’s employees: Create an automobile of excellence.
God instills the idea of corporate-ness within every generation, and it never changes. It is a tribal concept. We are all individuals within the tribe, but there is a sense of corporateness, and God expects us to corporately respond to it.
This is one of the reasons why unity is as much a command of God as is obedience to the Ten Commandments, because the concept of unity has to be there in order for us to be His covenant people. This is why Jesus prayed, “Father, I want them all to be one, like You and I are one. I want them to understand that I am in You and You are in Me and I am in them and they are in Me.” (John 17:22, 23.)
There is a sense of corporateness in which God intends His people to participate and to understand. This is one of the reasons why there is absolutely no room for racial discrimination, for class distinction, for differences—as far as salvation is concerned—between male and female or between Jew and Greek. God made all of this clear. He wants us, more than anything else, to come into such a state of unity that we will be able to be one body, one corporate unit. Until we reach this point, we are never going to be able to have a part in the covenant, which God has for us.
This was the preamble which Moses gave in Deuteronomy 5:3. He was stating that the generation with which the covenant was made was dead and gone. And even though the current generation was not yet in the position of accountability when the covenant was made, they had matured to the point where the covenant now applied to them. They were as much there, in a corporate setting, as were we when Adam first sinned. How is it, do you think, that we are born with a sinful nature? It is because of what our father did. There is the sense of corporateness with which we, as a people, must come to grips, before we can come into a unity where we can keep God’s commandments, as He wants us to do, and thereby be found in a state of sanctification and holiness so the end can come. As long as we are fracturing, as long as we are at odds with one another, as long as we think that we are so important we cannot reconcile these differences, as long as we cannot come to terms with these feelings that we have about one another, we are as lost as if we had never come to Jesus. If we are harboring those kinds of feelings one for another, because we are not part of the covenant, we are not part of the corporate group. Those with such feelings are in that group which will come before the Lord and say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? Have we not cast out devils in Thy name? Have we not done many wonderful things in Thy name?” And the Lord will turn to them and say, “I beg your pardon. What is your name? Do I know you? I am sorry; I do not know you at all. You are not part of the corporate group who are in unity, who are truly obedient to My Law; therefore, depart from Me, you that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22, 23.)
“I am the Lord”
Deuteronomy 5:6 says, “I [am] the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
When we look at the phrase, “I am the Lord,” the word Lord is translated from the Hebrew word Jehovah or Yahweh. Today, a number of people are making a tremendous issue out of what they term “holy names.” If we do not pronounce the name of God correctly, according to them, they do not want anything to do with us. They believe in keeping all of the Ten Commandments, but they do not want to have anything to do with anyone who, they think, incorrectly pronounces the name of God. We are not a part of their fellowship, and we are lost, as far as they are concerned.
I would submit to you, first of all, that we do not even know how to correctly pronounce God’s name. This was lost centuries ago. Hebrew was made up strictly of consonants, and many centuries after the Hebrew language was developed, vowel points were inserted so we could pronounce the words. By this time, the pronunciation of God’s name was lost. All that was left were consonants—Yhvh.
For instance, look at the consonants grnd. There are no vowels. This is like God’s name, which has four consonants and no vowel points. If we were to insert the a vowel, we could spell grand. We could, instead, insert the i vowel, and we would spell grind. But then we could remove the i and replace it with ou and spell the word ground.
The one thing we need to understand about those four consonants is that this was the name of God, and it identified something about His character. It means that He was the eternal, self-existing, ever-living, ever-acting One. If we can understand this aspect, we do not need to know whether it is an a, an i, an ou, or whatever. All we need to know is that there is a God who is in control of everything; He always has been, and He always will be.
While Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, along one of the creek beds near the foot of Mount Sinai, there suddenly appeared before him a burning bush. You are familiar with this story. Out of it came a voice saying, “I [am] the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . . . Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:6, 10.
Moses remembered that his countrymen had long been exposed to the debasing effects of servitude and that they were still living in a polytheistic (multi-god) Egypt. He ventured to respond to God, “Behold, [when] I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What [is] his name? what shall I say unto them?” Verse 13.
And God told him: “i am that i am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, i am hath sent me unto you.” Verse 14. This is what the word Jehovah or Yahweh or those four consonants mean: “I am.”
The Israelites, who were listening at this moment to Jehovah’s voice, numbered close to two million, yet God addresses them as an individual corporateness with a singular “you,” not a plural “you all.” God regarded His people as a single, colossal personality or a corporate unit. It was this divine conception of the Jewish people as a single, corporate personality that gave Israel such a unique position among all the nations of the earth.
This concept has not really changed today. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How He relates to us is the same. Where, before, He related to the children of Israel as a corporate nation, He now relates to them as a bride—not brides, but bride.
We, as a people, must understand this concept of unity, in the laying aside of our differences and in the coming together. If we do not, we are in no better shape than the sinner who is without Christ.
No Other Gods
“I [am] the Lord thy God, . . . Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:6, 7.
There is a reason why God gave this precept in this way. We are told, in Exodus 20:5, that He is a jealous God. Jealousy, to the human mind, is not a good thing, but there is nothing wrong, from a godly perspective, with being jealous. There is such a thing as good jealousy, such as being jealous for the things of God.
God says, “I am a jealous God.” Why is He jealous? Is it because He has some internal, selfish need to be pumped up, that He has the same feelings of jealousy that we have? No. It has nothing to do with this.
Those of us who are parents know what it means to be jealous of our child in the right way, in the watchful, careful guarding or keeping of that child. This occurs when we want the very best for that child, and we do not want any outside influences coming in to ruin that child’s life. We, as parents, have created that child; we do not want any interference of any kind destroying that child.
This is the kind of jealousy that God has. He sees His people, and He says, “I am a jealous God. I do not want to have second place to any other god.” Why? because there is only one God. Any other god has an evil intent, and God says, “I will not put up with it; I will not cooperate with it. I will not share you with anything. I am to be supreme, because I am the Creator; I am the One who called you into being as a corporate nation, and I want you as my bride in the kingdom of heaven.”
God said this, knowing that the children of Israel were coming out of the polytheistic country of Egypt and going to the polytheistic country of Canaan. In some places in Canaan, there were as many gods as there were villages. There were multitudes of gods—Baal, Ashteroth, Molech, and Dagon, to name a few. Israel, as far as their heritage was concerned, came out of a polytheistic society.
The Bible tells us, in Joshua 24:2, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, [even] Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.”
God says, “Look, we are going to correct this whole situation. We are going to bring you into a corporate unity where I am the only God that you are to worship.”
What About Today
How can we relate to this today? Who truly is this Jehovah God about which the Bible speaks? From the New Testament, we know this is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. (See John 1:3; Hebrews 1:1, 2.) It was Jesus who was on Mount Sinai, according to Nehemiah 9:6, 13. It was Jesus who spoke the Ten Commandments. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
When Jesus came as a babe to Bethlehem’s manger, the angel had told His parents that they would call His name Jesus, because He would save them from their sins. He is known as the Alpha and the Omega. The name Emmanuel means “God with us.” And the beauty of the gospel message is the fact that the God of heaven is ever working to restore us into fellowship with Himself. He loves us. He died for us. He was the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world, and His plans have never changed.
“I am the Lord, your God.”
Singularly. Personally. The fact that Jesus is a personal God, individually and corporately, is expressed in the concept that the church is called the bride of Christ. The church is also called the body of Christ. This same unity is still the high calling for the church today, as it was for Israel of old. The requirements of unity are still the same.
Law Passing Away
Is the law passing away? Heaven forbid! Can you imagine where we would be if we were worshipping other gods? What could they do for us? Oh, they can bring us the pleasure of sin for a season, but they cannot bring us salvation. They are totally impotent, unable to accomplish a thing for us.
The first commandment, which says, “Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me,” had its application to Israel as they were traveling from Egypt to Canaan, but it also has application to the church today. Nothing is to take God’s place in our lives.
We live in such a materialistic society today that there are things that are clamoring for our worship on every level. The Bible says that if we are angry with our brother, we have already committed murder. (1 John 3:15.) He is making a spiritual application. There is a spiritual application of the first commandment as well. Anything which commands our attention above and beyond God becomes something in the place of God.
There is an old saying, seen on bumper stickers, which reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” This is the mentality of people today, in this materialistic world. That person, in fact, is the loser, because when we take the spiritual application of this commandment, it calls us to turn our eyes upon just one God—the One who created us and redeemed us.
As we continue through the commandments, in Deuteronomy 5, we will review the original, physical application, and we will also learn the spiritual application.
To be continued . . .
Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.