In the 19th chapter of Exodus we find the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. They had been slaves in Egypt for about 400 years. But God met Moses at the burning bush and sent him to Egypt to lead them out (Exodus 3:1-10). Now they are camped at Sinai – a people only accustomed to slavery. Though they were God’s people, they did not yet have a relationship with Him. They were out of the land of Egypt, but the spirit of Egypt was still in them. So, in a real sense, they were still in bondage to the slave-life they knew in Egypt.
Then in chapter 20:1-17 we find the Ten Commandments. And with one exception (honor thy father and mother) they are all negative: (1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me… (verse 3). (2) Thou shalt not make a graven image to bow before and to serve… (verses 4-5). (3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain… (verse 7). (4) Do no work on the sabbath… (verses 8-11). (5) Honor thy father and mother… (verse 12). (6) Thou shalt not kill (verse 13). (7) Thou shalt not commit adultery…(verse 14). (8) Thou shalt not steal (verse 14). (9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor… (verse 16). (10) Do not covet… (verse 17).
Israel, at this point in time, only knew the ways of Egypt. They did not know the Lord; they knew of Him, but they did not know Him. They only knew how to be slaves. They could follow the cloud or the pillar of fire when it began to move, and when Moses received instructions from the Lord and told them what to do they could do it, but they were not able to communicate with God themselves. In other words, they had no awareness of the Spirit realm of God. Everything had to be on the natural realm. And, obviously, they weren’t very aware of what was morally right or wrong, for they needed commandments such as “thou shalt not kill” or “thou shalt not steal.”
Psalm 103:7 says that the children of Israel saw the acts of God, but Moses knew His ways. Moses had a spiritual relationship with God; the children of Israel did not. The children of Israel were only aware of the natural realm. If they could see it with their eyes or hear it with their ears, they were aware of it. But they could not see God or hear Him, for God is Spirit. Consequently, they needed a code to live by that they could relate to; thus, the Ten Commandments.
All of them, Moses and the children of Israel, were God’s people. They were all redeemed; God delivered them all and brought them to Himself at the Mount (Exodus 19:1-4). In New Testament language, they were all Christians. They all belonged to God. But the congregation of Israel did not have the same relationship with God that Moses had. Israel was related to God through the law He gave them. Moses, on the other hand, had a spiritual relationship with God. He knew the Lord; he could communicate with Him. So there were two relationships: one on the natural realm and one spiritual. Basically, it is so in the Christian world today. Many Christians are aware mostly of the natural realm with very little awareness of the spiritual. Unable to be led by the Spirit, they need rules and regulations to direct them. They need someone else to hear from God and then tell them what to do. On the other hand, there is a remnant – a Moses-remnant, you might say – that has a different kind of relationship with the Lord. They are led and directed by the Spirit of God. They do not need a law-code to direct them. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:18. When you are led by the Spirit, you don’t need to be told, “Do not kill” or “Do not steal.” When you love the Lord with all your heart, you do not need to be told not to make a graven image and worship it. The law of “thou shalt nots” is for those who are doing the things they should not do. We have laws today, because we have a society made up of people that are constantly doing things they should not do.
Some Christians exalt the Ten Commandments, almost to the point of deifying them. The law of “thou shalt nots” is for those who are not being led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18), whether they are Christians or non-Christians. They both need the law if the Spirit is not leading them. And those who need the law put themselves in the category of the ungodly and sinners. The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men-stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. I Timothy 1:9-10.
Does it sound like I am putting down the Ten Commandments? I don’t mean to, but we need to view them in the same way the Scriptures do. They were given to a people that were dominated by their flesh-nature. The works of the flesh freely operated through them, and so it is among some Christians. Therefore, they need to abide by the Ten Commandments until they learn to be led by the Spirit. But keeping the Ten Commandments will not make you righteous or insure you a place in eternity with God. I’m sure you remember the young, rich ruler that came to Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). He wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. He had kept the commandments from his youth, but he was unfulfilled. You see, it is not what you don’t do that counts for righteousness, but what you become as a result of appropriating the divine Life of the Lord.
Mark 12:28-31 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning
together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the
first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
A scribe asked Jesus which commandment was the first, the most important of all. And Jesus responded, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. That commandment is not listed among the Ten Commandments. Jesus eliminated every one of them; He took out all the negatives. The most important thing is not trying to abide by the “thou shalt nots.” The most important thing is to learn to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is what creates the proper relationship with Him.
Copyright © 2001 by Henry DuBose