The Horizontal Words

January 7, 2015 at 10:25 am | Posted in Exodus | 12 Comments
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The first four “Words” of the Decalogue are the so-called “vertical” words or commandments. They deal with the relationship between God and man. Starting with number five, the commandments are “horizontal.” They deal with our relationships with each other. Remember the summation of the Decalogue: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and your neighbor as yourself.

The horizontal words begin with the relationship between children and parents.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12

The provision, “that thy days may be long upon the earth,” is not really a promise that if you obey your parents you will live longer. It’s really more of a reference to “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” meaning Canaan, the promised land. It expresses the idea that, if the elderly are not honored and respected, then in three or four generations the nation will lose the blessing that God gives it. It is also a reference to caring for the elderly.

Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13

The “killing” that is prohibited in this Word is unjustified killing, so that, depending upon circumstances, war, capital punishment within government-sanctioned laws, and self-defense are still permissible.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

Notice that adultery is listed right after murder. It is a sin that is a reflection of the loyalty to God that His people are supposed to have. It is the most extreme kind of unfaithfulness. It is worse than talking bad about your spouse, insulting your spouse in public, refusing to provide food and shelter for your spouse, even worse than physical abuse – everything but killing your spouse. Sex is only for married people, and it is only to be done within a one man-one woman marriage relationship.

Thou shalt not steal.

Exodus 20:15

The eighth Word highlights God’s endorsement of private property – which would have held special significance for former slaves such as the Israelites.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Exodus 20:16

The ninth Word prohibits perjury, but, by extension, all other forms or lying or deceit as well. In the Bible, a “neighbor” is more than the person who lives next door to you. It is anyone with whom you deal. The commandment also prohibits spreading lies about others to damage their reputation.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20:17

The examples in the commandment against coveting are intended as an illustrative, not an exclusive, list of things not to covet. Covetousness is a desire to have for myself what God has given to another. It includes the sins of greed, dissatisfaction, discontentment, ingratitude, scheming, and envy. It is the only “word” that is unenforceable by the government, but it is not listed last because it is a lesser sin. It is listed last to highlight the idea that it is the sin that can cause us to break all the others. The greatest remedy to covetousness is contentment, and the only way to true contentment is faith that God really does know what is best.

Why Is Marriage So Honorable?

July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

Marriage is honorable in all, but Hebrews 13:4 seems seems like a strange place for a principle about marriage. The surrounding passage is dealing with the difference between how Christians are supposed to live, and the way the ungodly, by default, live unloving lives. The word translated as “honorable” is usually translated as “precious,” and it reminds us that our marriages are very valuable things. They are to be cherished and cared for and never taken for granted – analogous to the effort that some people put into protecting a family heirloom or some great treasure that has come into their possession.

Sadly, most married Christians know more about the gadgets on their phones than about the intricacies of how our marriages are supposed to work and look. Marriage is supposed to be reflective of the love between Jesus and His Church. Therefore, adultery and whoremongering are things that are certainly antithetical to this relationship and image.

Marriage is supposed to be conducive to contentment, which is also reflective of Jesus and the Church. Therefore, covetousness would not accurately reflect that relationship.

Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties.

Marriage is where we learn headship and submission, authority and obedience. In the crucible of marriage we kill our selfishness and learn the joy of serving.

Finally, marriage is a good reminder that no one makes a good Jesus except for Jesus Himself.

Beware Whose Feet You Follow

May 22, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Walking, The Fives | 1 Comment
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The Lord Jesus recruited disciples with this command and invitation: “Follow Me.” His, however, is not the only voice in this world that will beckon you. Therefore, we must beware of temptations that will lead us, like dull-witted sheep, astray.

The Bible warns us specifically of the sinful seductress, who, with enticing and deceptive words, lures us in a deadly direction:

Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

Proverbs 5:5

It is risky to follow someone who promises something rewarding. It may lead to a great blessing or a terrible trap, and often we can’t know for certain until we take the chance. However, here the Bible gives us the gift of insight into the future. The feet of a “strange woman” lead ultimately to death, but her feet are already “taking hold” of the powers of darkness and pulling them toward the foolish follower lured by her false charms. Let us take careful heed to the wisdom and warnings found in Scripture. Following Jesus leads certainly to eternal life. Following the temptress in Proverbs 5 leads certainly toward damage, despair, destruction, and death.

The Consequences of Forgiven Sins

January 18, 2010 at 9:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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David’s sins had been great. Looking with lust upon Bathsheba, he soon found himself involved in adultery, murder, and lying. David repented, and the Lord was faithful to forgive, but David was learning the harsh realities of the consequences of forgiven sins.

Bathsheba had given birth to a child who had no name, but the child was due to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. David spent six days in fasting and prayer, asking God to suspend His principle of sowing and reaping. But on the seventh day the child died.

And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.

II Samuel 12:18-19

This was not to be the end of David’s chastening, but it was a key moment in David’s walk of faith. Rather than turning from the Lord, he continued to turn to the Lord. Bathsheba also received forgiveness from God, for we find her in the genealogical line of Christ. In II Samuel 12:15 she is called “Uriah’s wife.” Uriah was the man whose death David had arranged so he could have Bathsheba for himself. However, in Verse 25 Bathsheba is referred to as David’s wife.

When God chastens His children, the chastening can seem harsh and severe. But we know He chastens in love. Christians who have stumbled, and then have sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness, must not be discouraged if there are consequences to their sins which still must be dealt with. God does not always deliver tidy explanations, but He does give dependable promises.

Spiritual Cheating

July 22, 2009 at 9:01 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors, Ezekiel | 24 Comments
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The Bible shows that, throughout history, God’s people have been given the responsibility of being witnesses to their lost neighbors, while being warned of God not to join in with any sinful practices.

However, in the Old Testament we find, time and time again, God’s people succumbing to the worldly and fleshly activities of unbelievers they lived among. This is still a problem today, as Christians grieve the Holy Spirit by crossing the line, and going from being “in the world,” to living like we are “of the world.” To show the seriousness of this in the Lord’s eyes, He likens such unfaithfulness to fornication and adultery.

As God’s people began to dabble in idol-worship, pagan religious practices, and making treaties with heathen nations, rather than trusting in the Lord their God, He used the prophet Ezekiel to speak forth some of the strongest language in the whole Bible.

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

Ezekiel 16:26

Believers today must avoid the temptation of committing spiritual prostitution. We must not invest the great blessings we enjoy into worldly, or flesh-driven, pursuits, even those of our neighbors.


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