• Law,  Old Testament

    When Did God Establish the Sabbath Command?

    There are many questions a New Testament believer is faced with when thinking through the Sabbath. For example, why was Israel commanded to keep the Sabbath? This is perhaps the most important question, and as I have written elsewhere, I believe the purpose of the Sabbath command was to give visible demonstration of the fact that Yahweh is Creator and Redeemer. When Israel kept the Sabbath, they were demonstrating that, as Creator, God had the right to dictate how one is to function in the created world. But another important question arises concerning the timing of the Sabbath. When did God institute the Sabbath? Did the Sabbath predate Moses? Evidence for a Pre-Decalogue Sabbath Some theologians argue that the Sabbath has always been an obligation for mankind since creation. To arrive at this conclusion, some have appealed to passages like Genesis 26:5 which says Abraham obeyed the voice of Yahweh,…

  • Ethics,  Law,  Old Testament

    You Shall Not Bear False Witness

    The ninth commandment prohibits bearing false witness (Exod 20:16). In many Christian circles this prohibition ends up simply being summarized as, “Don’t lie.” But there is a depth behind the ninth commandment that goes beyond just how we speak. The ninth commandment is intended to promote an entire lifestyle. Most people understand the prohibition against bearing false witness as a simple prohibition against speaking falsehood, yet this commandment is centered in a very specific context. The language which is used in this commandment centers around the legal setting in a court case. In Israel, as with the rest of the ancient Near East, a witness was essential to ensuring justice was carried out. In fact, the penalties for many ancient Near Eastern civilizations were harsh for any witness that construed the facts wrongly. Death was even a possible consequence for a false witness. On the other hand, some civilizations prized…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    You Shall Not Steal—Respecting Ownership

    In the series of Ten Commandments, the 8th commandment often seems very simplistic. However, like the other commandments, the commandment, “You shall not steal” has an entire theology behind it. As we have seen in other commandments, one way we can helpfully discern the principle behind a commandment is to reverse it. If we reverse the negative command to a positive command we could summarize the prohibition “You shall not steal” as follows: You must respect the right of lordship in the created order. Lordship carries the ideas of authority and ownership. A man is the lord of his household, and a boss is the lord of his company. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve did not respect God’s lordship in His right to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They took, they sinned. In addition to the concept of lordship in the…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    God’s Design for Sexual Purity in the Law

    The seventh commandment is a well known part of the Ten Commandments, partially due to its brevity, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod 20:14). Sexual purity is often viewed by the culture as an outdated ethic, but the concept of purity has an even greater significance today as the culture fails model any semblance of purity, duty, or devotion. If there was ever an appropriate discussion for the current generation of Americans it has to do with the seventh commandment. The theological reality behind the seventh commandment is purity. Purity has the idea of being unmixed. In the case of adultery, a husband or wife is not completely devoted to his or her spouse. Adultery is the absence of complete devotion. In adultery there is a mixing of different desires and lusts. The absence of purity (i.e., unmixed devotion) is why Israel is commonly condemned in the prophets. Israel is…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Law and the Sanctity of Life

    When thinking about the issue of the sanctity of life, the Law is a welcome teacher. When one explores the Ten Commandments, one quickly realizes that there is a depth and profundity to them that extends beyond mere prohibitions. After all the laws themselves embody principles which reflect God’s character and His design for creation. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the command “You shall not murder” is a guideline for acting in light of the sanctity of human life. The Sanctity of Human Life in Matthew 5 An illustration of the depth of the sixth commandment, and its relationship to the sanctity of human life is found in Matthew 5:21-26. Some people think that Jesus is changing the Law in this passage and raising the standard. However, Jesus is simply redirecting people from a narrow view of the Law to the true purpose of the Law. This…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    Connecting God’s Authority and Human Authority

    Within the Ten Commandments, commandments 1-4 deal with God’s relationship with man, a vertical component; and commandments 5-10 deal with man’s relationship with man, a horizontal component. The fifth commandment specifically is a bridge which connects the authority of God with human authority. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12 God’s Delegated Authority The essence of the fifth commandment is that God has created the world and has designed authority structures inherent within it. Thus, Israel is to respect those authority structures. The most foundational and important of which is the parent-child relationship. A good way to illustrate that this commandment is broadening its scope beyond just parent-child relationships is to examine Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy’s structure is in the form of a suzerain-vassal treaty, which contains general stipulations (Deut 5-11) and specific stipulations (Deut…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Purpose of the Sabbath Commandment

    The Sabbath commandment is the subject of many controversial debates. Those who hold to the Ten Commandments as the standard of God’s moral law have difficulty explaining how this commandment fits into that system because the command to keep the Sabbath does not have a moral nature intrinsic to it. We need to remember that the Ten Commandments are not a moral standard. Rather, they are specific applications of creation principles that are built into the fabric of creation. Further evidence that this command is not inherently moral is a comparison of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Note that both texts discuss the Sabbath command differently. Exodus 20:8-11 Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    What Does it Mean to Take the Name of the Lord in Vain?

    The first commandment states that God is to be supreme above all of creation, nothing created is to be elevated to His position. The second commandment states that God is not to be brought down to the common level of creation. Together both commandments reflect the rightful position which God is to occupy. They function as two sides of the same coin. Unsurprisingly, the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), can only rightfully be applied when we understand the significance of the first two commandments. Because of who God is as Creator, we have a mandate to act in a certain way. The Traditional Understanding of Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain Growing up, I was always taught the primary reference of the third commandment was to our speech (i.e., we should not say “God” or “Jesus”…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    No Idol or Likeness—The Uncommon God (Exod 20:4-6)

    The first commandment stated that God is supreme above all things. The second commandment is, like the first commandment, also an application of the supremacy of the Creator. The first commandment applied the supremacy of God through mandating that nothing is to be treated as God. The theological reality which undergirds the second commandment is that God must never be brought down to creation status. So, together the first two commandments teach that nothing must ever be elevated to God’s rightful status as supreme object of our affection and worship; second, God must never be treated as common or as a part of creation. The second commandment, like the first, is rooted in Genesis 1. We see this clearly by the repetition of Genesis 1 language, “heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” This commandment focuses specifically upon making any representation of God…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Supremacy of God in the Commandments

    The Ten Commandments are one of the most beloved sections of Scripture. Even nonbelievers usually know at least a few of the Ten Commandments. However, often the commandments are misunderstood or misapplied. Thus, we will take this opportunity to go through the Ten Commandments and make some important observations. Of great importance is understanding that the first commandment is foundational for the rest of the Ten Commandments. When God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3), He is demanding exclusive worship. This exclusive worship is unsurprising, because the theological foundation of the Ten Commandments assumes the uniqueness of God and His divine role as Creator. Notice that the word, “LORD,” is not present in this command. The Lord is mentioned by name (“LORD”, יהוה) throughout Exodus 20 (vv. 5, 7, 10, 11, 12), yet here the focus is on God in relation to His status as…