In these chapters, Moses begins to receive the Law from God. After the fatherly advice he’s received from Jethro about teaching the people the laws and ways of God, now is a pretty good time for those laws to be set in stone – and they are – well, 10 of them at least.
Actually, in the first 5 books of the Bible, there are a total of 613 commandments. But the 10 commandments grab our attention for a number of reasons:
- They were written by God on stone slabs.
- They summarize all the other commandments.
- They tell us how to live in regards to God.
- They tell us how to live in regards to others.
- They give us a foundation for ethics.
- They are far more easily memorized than the other 603 commandments.
Matthew Henry writes that the 10 commandments can be split into two basic parts:
- Table ONE includes the first four commandments and state our duty to God (and in here is an explicit directive from God against idolatry).
- Table TWO includes the following six commandments and state our duty to ourselves and one another.
Martin Luther has said that the 10 commandments could basically be summed up in two, and the rest of the commandments are really just implications and applications of properly adhering to the TWO commandments we ought to keep:
- There is only one God.
- Worship that God alone.
Martin Luther rightly ascertains that if we just followed those two commandments, we wouldn’t have any problems with the others. If we truly believed in only one God, we wouldn’t allow another “god” to come in to our lives and take his place (idolatry). If we truly worshiped that one God alone, then we would obey Him and we wouldn’t sin against Him – i.e. if I really worshiped God, I wouldn’t lie because I’d realize it was a sin against God. I wouldn’t steal, I wouldn’t covet, I wouldn’t murder, I wouldn’t lust because all those are sins against God and if I truly worshiped him, I wouldn’t worship something else.
Mark Driscoll puts it likes this: IDOLATRY IS WORSHIPING THE WRONG GOD
Here’s how it plays in the Ten Commandments. If you commit adultery, your problem is not sexual, your problem is that you’re worshiping the wrong god. You’re worshiping sex or pleasure or convenience. And as a result of worshiping the wrong god, you committed the worship act, idolatrous worship act, of adultery. If you’re someone who overeats and you’re a glutton, your problem is not food and gluttony, your problem is worship and idolatry. You worship food. When you’re sad, you go to food for comfort. When you’re happy, you go to food to rejoice. When you’ve done something good, you reward yourself with food. It’s all worship act. And so food is idolatry. Your god is your stomach, Paul says in the New Testament. So you don’t have a food problem, you don’t have a refrigerator problem, you have a worship problem, you have an idol problem. If you worship God, you won’t worship food. If you worship God, you won’t worship sex. If you lose your temper, you get violent, you’re angry, mean-spirited, perhaps it even escalates into murder, you don’t have an anger problem—you have a worship problem. The issue may be control. Your issue may be selfishness. Your issue may be that you worship your anger. You feed it and stew on it and through bitterness you empower it.
And after Moses has received the 10 Commandments, God gives him another stern warning against idolatry. This shows just how important the issue is to God. Of all the commandments He could have chosen to remind Moses of, He chose idolatry. But idols are a huge problem for Israel, and even for us today. Check out this earlier post about finding your own idols, and try to remember Martin Luther’s thought: If we just followed TWO commandments, we’d never break the others. If we just worshiped the True God and didn’t allow idols into our lives, we wouldn’t commit the other sins.
And here’s a nice sermon clip about the Key to the Ten Commandments.