by David Shalley.
An Introduction to a Series of Articles on the Ten Commandments.
Just how much have we, as God’s people, compromised with our culture? In a recent TV programme the panel lamented the lack of integrity in politics and business; and that people feel that there is a lack of trust in their community. Lies are ok, as long as they makes a profit is considered good business. Violence and anger pervade our streets and our homes, families are crumbling, the list goes on! Sadly, some of these attitudes are infiltrating the church. This calls to mind the words of Jesus: “Because of the increase of wickedness (lawlessness), the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). A saying that begs the heart searching questions: “Has my love grown cold, and how would I know if it had?”
Tossed on a turbulent sea of relativism, what can a Christian use as a spiritual/ethical compass? Our culture’s supreme test of love is, “What can I get from it”. The Christian view is radically different. The love that really makes a positive impact stems from a relationship with God that produces a self-giving love for others. How then can we measure that? Where do we find a clear expression of our Maker’s pattern for an orderly, satisfying, loving life that avoids the emptiness of self-inflicted pain and destructive consequences?
The answer to that question is still to be found in the Ten Commandments. In a series of articles we shall explore the relevance of each Commandment to Twenty First Century living. The series will end with a look at, what this author terms: “The Eleventh Commandment”. An article that will deal with any fears of legalism and point to the Way and the Truth and the Life that Jesus spoke of (John 14:6).
In looking again at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), I have seen many things with fresh eyes, not the least of which is the positive guidance they provide for the Christian in both attitude and life. First among my discoveries was Exodus 20:1 – a statement so simple, so profound, yet so frequently missed: “And God spoke all these words.” This is the compass in that boiling sea of relativism.
It serves to remind us firstly of:
THE SOURCE of the Ten Commandments: “And God spoke…”
What then follows is not a man made code of ethics dreamed up by a school of philosophers. Rather it is a statement by the Eternal God of His loving purpose and pattern for humanity. It is non-negotiable. It is stamped with the authority of God’s own voice – as, indeed, are all the Scriptures -(2Timothy 3:16-17).
As Job concluded, God is beyond our ken (Job 11:7). From Babel to the present day, humanity has constructed religious systems designed to reach up to God…and failed miserably. The unique feature of Christianity is that God reached down and has made Himself known to man through His Word. J.I Packer says it so well: “The Bible is God preaching”. What God said, He is still saying. In the words of Jesus: “It stands written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10); a literal translation of the Greek text. “What stands written”? you may ask:
ALL OF IT!
Today, the question regarding the Scriptures seems to be, “Did God say it all?”. Our text reveals the answer in regard to the Ten Commandments:
THE EXTENT of real revelation: “And God spoke all…”
Not just some of it, but all of it! To accept anything else is to make Christianity subject to the prevailing opinions of people at any particular time of history. A foundation of sand no matter how highly qualified such people may be.
Finally then, so far as the Ten Commandments are concerned, what did God say?
THE CONTENT: “And God spoke all THESE WORDS.” As our Lord Jesus interpreted them, they fall into two main divisions: Those that affect our relationship with God and those directed at our relationships with others (Matthew 22:37-40).
Let it not be forgotten that the Ten Commandments stand or fall together. One cannot live by Commandments five to ten without the relationship inherent in Commandments one to four. Nor can we claim a relationship with God if the evidence of that cannot be seen in our relationships with others.
Read them again in Exodus 20: 1-17 and hear afresh what God has always been saying – and is still saying:
- God alone must be our priority in life.
- Our concept of God must be Biblical.
- Words and actions are to exalt His Name.
- Pay respect to the welfare of your whole being.
- Learn and teach respect for authority in the home.
- Respect life as a gift from God.
- Uphold marriage as the fundamental unit of a healthy society.
- Have respect for the property of others.
- Have regard for others people’s reputation.
- The quality of life is not defined by possessions.
This clearly is not a list created by a crusty old legalist intent on spoiling the wholesome pleasures of life. Rather it is a compass to the way of safe living and fulfilment as we journey through the world’s minefield of misery and destruction.
The Decalogue, as the Ten Commandments are often termed, has been given by a loving Father as a chart for life, to be used with the compass of love. Not only does He want His people to live like that, He has made it possible for us to do so (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Rev. Dr David Shalley (Dip & PostGrad. Power Engineering, Master of Engineering Science, DipTh, MA (Apologetics), Doctor of Biblical Studies) currently serves as the Deputy Chairman of the Bible College of Western Australia and does sessional lecturing, teaching, mentoring and facilitating.
At the end of 1977 David was appointed foundation Principal of the West Australian Bible College (Now -Bible College of Western Australia). By God’s gracious enabling over a period of 15 years the College grew from an idea to an organisation with an ever widening degree of acceptance in the Christian community with a reputation for nurturing people of spiritual maturity, able to both understand and apply the Word of God.