The Ten Commandments – Sermon 1 – Intro 1

Title: The Ten Commandments - Sermon 1 - Intro 1

Bible Book: Exodus 20 : 18-22

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Ten Commandments


In this day of disturbing moral and spiritual decline in our beloved nation, there is a desperate need for all of us to have a fresh awareness of the Ten Commandments and what God is saying to us through them. Thus, during the next several services I plan to preach on the Ten Commandments. I want to begin with this message on “Introducing the Ten Commandments.” I’ll deal with the first part of that Introduction in this sermon, and with the second part in another sermon. First, let’s consider

I. The Producing Of The 10 Commandments

Through the leadership of Moses, God freed the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt in about 1450 B.C. About three months into their journey toward Canaan, the promised land, God instructed them to camp near Mt. Sinai - also called “Horeb.”

While the people were encamped nearby, Moses made several trips up and down Mt. Sinai, and on one of those trips God gave Moses a special revelation. Exodus 20:1 says, “And God spake all these words, saying“ - and the Ten Commandments are set forth in the verses that follow. Then we read in Exodus 20:18-22: “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.”

In the remainder of that chapter and for several chapters to follow, God went on to give to Moses a long list of laws which were to be observed by the Israelites - but God made it clear that the heart of all he had given them was contained in those moral and spiritual absolutes called the Ten Commandments.

Not only did God speak the Ten Commandments, he also wrote them on tables of stone. In fact, he wrote them twice. Regarding the first time, Exodus 31:18 says, “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.“ Later, in Deuteronomy 9:9 Moses reflects on that experience in these words: “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water.”

Ordinarily no one could have survived going without food and water for that length of time, but God miraculously sustained Moses - apparently for the purpose of pointing up the special nature of the 10 commandments. When Moses came down from the mountain, he found that during his forty-day absence the people had turned back to idolatry and were indulging in revelry and immorality. We read in Exodus 32:19-20:

“And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.”

God severely punished the Israelites, and many of them were slain. But in spite of his anger, Moses pled for God to spare the rest of them and to give them another chance, and God did. Then we read in Exodus 34:1, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.“ Later, reflecting on that event, Moses said, in Deuteronomy 10:4, “And he [God] wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lord gave them unto me.”

So, the Ten Commandments did not come together, piece-meal, over a period of time. Nor were they “borrowed” from the Hammurabi Code, or from any other ancient document, the Ten Commandments came straight from the heart of God, and were written with his own hand.

II. The Permanency Of The 10 Commandments

Many of the laws which God gave to the people of Israel were not intended for all time, but the Ten Commandments were.

An example of laws that were not intended for all generations are the ceremonial laws which were designed to foreshadow the redemptive work of Christ. When Jesus actually entered the stream of human history those laws were no longer necessary. The extensive rituals involving animal sacrifices are a case in point. Those sacrifices were to point symbolically toward the time when Jesus would shed his blood for man’s sins. So, when Jesus came into the world and died on the cross, God abolished animal sacrifices and the ceremonies related to them. In regard to the Old Testament tabernacle and its rituals, Hebrews 9:7-10 says: “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”

Other such examples could be given. But while such laws as those were intended only for a limited time, God’s fundamental moral principles set forth in the Old Testament never change - and those are summarized in the Ten Commandments. At various points in the New Testament, all ten of them are reiterated and reaffirmed as still valid and in effect.

When you buy a grocery item, it will usually have on it an expiration date. When you have a prescription filled at the pharmacy, on the container will be an expiration date. But there is no expiration date for the Ten Commandments. They express absolute moral standards, and they are timeless. They will never become obsolete, and they are not open to review and/or revision by any advisory panel or any individual. They are just as binding today as they were when God originally gave them. As John Bisagno has said, “They don’t appear in the Book of the Month, but in the Book of Ages.

III. The Purpose Of The 10 Commandments

In this message I want to speak primarily of their purpose from a societal standpoint. God gave the 10 commandments to Israel as guidelines for maintaining a sane and safe society - not that Israel would or could completely live up to those lofty ideals, but at least the Ten Commandments would give them standards to strive for, and to the extent that the people would honor those standards and sincerely endeavor to abide by them, to that same extent God would bless and prosper them as a nation.

Just prior to giving the law, God said to Moses, in Exodus 19:5-6: 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. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” In Deuteronomy 4:8 Moses recalled what he had said to the people: “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?“ Then, in verse 13, Moses said, “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.“ Then in Deuteronomy 5:33 Moses said: “Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.”

The Bible teaches that God is no respecter of persons, and if the Ten Commandments were his timeless, eternal moral absolutes for Israel, as they most assuredly were and still are, then he also intends them to be the moral guidelines for all other nations and societies, as well. Civilized people down through the centuries have recognized that fact. An article in World Book Encyclopedia correctly says: “These commandments, in one form or another, can be found stated in law everywhere during all ages of history.”

Most Americans realize that the Ten Commandments are an indispensable part of our nation’s heritage. President William McKinley, in his 1897 inaugural address, said, “Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers...who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.” Another time McKinley said, “The more profoundly we study this wonderful Book, and the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a nation. In 1950 President Harry S. Truman declared, “The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount.”

The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. was completed in 1935. I am told that as you walk up the steps, you can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s law givers, and each one is turned toward the one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view. It is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments - they are not written out, but represented by the ten numerals, so there is no mistaking the sculptor’s intent. Those ten numerals are also carved on the huge oak doors leading to the Supreme Court. Engraved in stone above the place where the Chief Justice sits are those same ten numerals, clearly representing the Ten Commandments, with the great American eagle protecting them.

James Madison, the man most responsible for the writing of our country’s Constitution, declared: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

The Ten Commandments have played a crucial role in the shaping of our great nation. What a tragedy, therefore, that for several decades liberal forces have been at work today trying to remove every vestige of God from our public life - and one of their primary targets has been the Ten Commandments. They have pulled out all the stops in an effort to get displays of the Ten Commandments removed from all public buildings and grounds, and most of the success they’ve had is based on their convincing people to “buy into” their perverted interpretation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

That First Amendment, which is a part of the Bill of Rights, and was ratified on December 15, 1791, reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

History makes it clear that our founding fathers had two purposes in mind when they wrote that first part of that Amendment: one, to prohibit the government from establishing a state church, as had been the case in England; and, two, to insure that the government would not interfere with people expressing their religious beliefs. All of that was clear and simple.

But as time went on and we entered the modern era, various liberal judges, including some on the U. S. Supreme Court, picked up on an obscure phrase in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, and did two things with that phrase: (1) they began treating that phrase as if it were a part of the Constitution; (2) they read their own meaning into it, instead of interpreting it as Jefferson obviously intended.

In his letter to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Virginia, Jefferson referred to the First Amendment as creating a “wall of separation between church and state.” That was simply Jefferson’s way of saying that the government and the church should stay out of each other’s business. Well and good - but the problem is that liberal judges have gone far beyond what Jefferson intended, and have aided and abetted those who are set on eradicating any mention of God or the Bible from the public square.

In 1980 the U. S. Supreme Court delivered a major assault on those who would preserve our religious heritage. Here’s how that assault came about: The Kentucky state legislature passed a law requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every classroom in the public schools of that state. They passed that law to help school children understand the prominent role that the Ten Commandments have had in shaping our nation. These displays were paid for with private funds, not with tax money. So that their purpose would not be misconstrued, they required that under each display the following explanation be posted: “The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western civilization and the Common Law of the United States.”

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court responded to the pressure from the ACLU and ruled that the Kentucky law was unconstitutional, and that the state legislature could not require schools to display the Ten Commandments.

In the late 1990s a circuit judge in Alabama, Roy Moore, got into legal hot water for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, but he stuck to his guns and won his case. The people of Alabama appreciated the fact that Judge Moore had the courage of his convictions and in the year 2000 they elected him Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. But then Judge Moore got into trouble again. In 2001 he had a large granite monument containing the Ten Commandments placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court Building. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to have the monument removed, claiming that it constituted a government endorsement of religion - and U. S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled in their favor.

However, Judge Moore refused to remove the monument. He said that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the U. S. legal system and that forbidding acknowledgment of the Judeo-Christian God violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression of religion. But in 2003 the state’s judicial ethics panel removed Judge Moore from office for refusing to obey that federal judge’s order. Judge Moore made an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court, but they refused to hear his case.

Another similar miscarriage of justice occurred in 2005, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in two county courthouses in Kentucky was unconstitutional.

Why are these liberal groups so rabidly opposed to the Ten Commandments? Because they refuse to acknowledge that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that God is author of that truth, and that the Bible is the Word of God. In other words, the Ten Commandments cramp their ungodly, “anything goes” style, because the Ten Commandments call for sexual purity, honesty, respect for other people and their property, and reverence for God and his truth.

We need to rise up, as American citizens, and reaffirm that, as our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag expresses it, we are “one nation under God,” and that our founding fathers formed this union with the intention of our honoring God and his commandments in our national life. We need to let our elected officials know how we feel.

Let me remind us that a nation is but the sum total of the individuals who make it up. Thus, the greatest thing you and I can do for our country - as well as for ourselves and for those we love - is to get right with God personally, and that can only happen by surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. If you‘re not saved, I challenge you to repent of your sins and by faith to invite Jesus Christ into your heart, to be your personal Lord and Savior. If you’re already saved, I challenge you - even as I challenge myself - to reaffirm your commitment to his Lordship in your life, and to do it now.


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