Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Field Sermon delivered on the Lord's Day, May 30, 2010


It is my distinct privilege to welcome you this morning to come and hear the Word of God and to bow our hearts together before Him. I convey warm greetings to you from fellow believers in the Lord Jesus who attend our home Church in Moscow. Come. Let us worship and bow down.

Opening Prayer

God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, come and meet us at this place where we are gathered in Your name. Receive us for the sake of your Son Jesus. Teach and admonish us according to Your will and Word. Purify us by the washing of Your Word and Spirit as we ask this of You in Jesus name. Amen.


Text: Deuteronomy 5:1-21

And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep and do them.  The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, (I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount,) saying,

I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.

Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Thou shalt not kill.

Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

Neither shalt thou steal.

Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

This passage records the second formal presentation of the Law of God to the Hebrew people. It parallels that which had been given by the hand of God in the wilderness some forty years earlier. The previous account is recorded in Exodus, Chapter 20. These are the Ten Commandments. They are the summary statements that communicate the holiness of God’s character, and the moral requirements he has placed upon mankind. They are a summary also of all of the case laws that He gave to the people. These commandments do not cover every ‘nuts and bolts’ detail of the case laws, but communicates their essence in summary form.

Isn’t it odd, that something given by the very voice of God should cause so much controversy? Yet these Commandments have been one of the central controversies of human history almost from the moment they were given. What is it about them that causes people to respond with such fervor or vehemence, either for or against them? Let’s take a cursory examination of them to see what they say.

The first statement declares the authorship of these words, “I am the Lord thy God…” This establishes the unique and divine authority concerning them. If this is so, and it is, then who can possibly presume to argue against what they proclaim. Yet many do.

It continues: He is the God that released them from the land of bondage and oppression in Egypt. How had the Hebrew people been freed? By nothing less that the supernatural and powerful intervention of God on their behalf. This had been a real life, real time experience for those who had lived through it.

Nothing else is to be accepted or conceived to be God other that what He has Himself declared to mankind. He is uniquely and particularly the one True God.

The manufacture of, and servitude to idols, false gods, is strictly forbidden. It matters not whether the idol replicates some creature, or facet of the creation, or some pretentious intellectual idea that proposes ‘another’ god. Men are not to be bound in any way to those that pretend to be divine. No worship, no service is to be rendered to them. Very profound consequences will occur downstream through future generations predicated on keeping or forsaking this Command. Blessing or cursing. Reaping what you sow.

The name of God is not to be used in a casual or profane manner. He is holy, and therefore should be honored accordingly. But the implications of this go farther that just avoiding profanities that include His name. Taking the name of God in vain also implicates the disapprobation of religious hypocrisy. To proclaim loyalty to the Lord and to betray that profession is also taking the Lord’s name in vain, contending perversely that such a profession is empty or worthless. God promises to settle the accounts concerning this.

He next commands that men should work six days, and rest on the seventh. It is a special, sanctified day he refers to as the Sabbath of the Lord. It is given to man so that he is not bound up in work perpetually. It is a day of remembrance. Men are to remember that He has liberated them from the bondage of slavery. First came liberation from Egypt, the land of slavery, and then (by implication) freedom from the bondage of sin and death which is the lot of every son of Adam, the original rebel. Isn’t it interesting that this Commandment occupies more space amidst the others? And why is it that the discussions concerning keeping this holy, sanctified day are so emotive? One would think that a day off to rest, to honor the One who released you from such slavery and bondage, to cease from laboring constantly would be appreciated rather than scorned. Perhaps men are wrapped a bit too tight about the one prohibition contained in it: that we are not to seek to profit materially on this day (conduct commerce) but to proclaim, by resting, that what God provides in six days is sufficient for us. God is not stingy. He provides sufficiently and abundantly.

Parents are to be honored. This is a multi faceted command. In no small part it implies that parents should be obeyed in every lawful manner. It means that they are to be esteemed for that which they do in providing for and raising children. It means that we owe them for who they are, and what they do (or have done) for us. This is an obligation for which there is a promise of compensation. Do you want things to go well for you? Listen to, honor and obey your parents. Are all parents perfect? No, not one. Are all parents more experienced? Most certainly.

The prohibition against killing has, more specifically, to do with the act of murder. While the acts of self defense and just warfare have divine warrant, the premeditation of taking another person’s life is grounds for lawful execution.

The forbidding of adultery is as simple and as straightforward as it can be. This treachery against those closest to us is an obvious display of a complete lack of loyalty, and a culpable inability to keep an oath to God and a spouse.

The prohibition of theft declares that, in God’s system of morality, there is in fact such a thing as private property. Your neighbor’s stuff belongs to him, not you. He has labored to obtain it, and no one else has a prior claim to it. And, in case anyone doesn’t understand this, institutions (such as governments gone astray) are as equally liable for their unlawful taking of property as are individuals.

The command against the bearing of false witness against another person has perjury as its primary concern. Of course, common lying is assumed rightly to be included, but the undermining of true justice is of paramount concern. The perjurer utilizes his lies to undermine the just contentions and position of the innocent, all with the intention of taking something of value from them, be it money, goods, property, or reputation. It is done with the intention of harming the one it is used against. It is malicious.

The last Command deals with matters of the heart which are much harder to verify objectively. A person can lust after, or covet, things and be consumed by it without actually carrying out the act of adultery or theft that would provide the gratification so desperately desired. Interestingly enough, this particular Command helps us to understand that while all crimes (murder, theft, adultery, etc.) are sins, not all sins are crimes. Judicial punishments are only meted out for those actions that are able to be objectively proved by evidence. Someone who drools over a Corvette should not be liable for judicial punishment, no matter how reprehensible their covetousness may be. Some things God retains for Himself to sort out in final judgment, and men should stay away from trying to enforce theoretical ‘laws’ against things like ‘hate’ speech.

So why do some seem so provoked by these Commands? Some people have made it their life’s work to try to destroy them, outlaw them, and remove them from public discourse entirely. I contend that this response is provoked because of the nature of the Authorship, the authority inherent to them, and that they are absolute. There is not sufficient ‘wiggle room’ to slip off of the rather sharp points of these commandments. And because of the Authority behind them, they challenge every other system of alternate authority and morality that exist in the world.

We have to remember that every belief system has a law system that is based on it’s own faith commitments. This is true of all alternate systems, whether Islam, Hinduism, or secularism. Many would have us to believe that secularism should not be considered as a religious system of belief, yet it has at its core a required faith-like commitment to the various assumptions that make up the secular system of belief. It has, for example, a religious faith commitment that religious and secular concerns must be kept separate, lest secularism be tainted by religious beliefs. It is maintained that secularism, being supposedly founded on reason, is superior to “superstition”. But we must ask. Is the secularist’s faculty of reason perfect? If so, where is the superior secular society, and law system actually in operation to prove it’s validity. And if the secularist’s rationalism is flawed or corrupt, it explains many of the problems we are experiencing in these times.

On the other hand, consider the birth of this nation. You don’t have to research very far to find out that the fundamental concepts of man, God, law, and societal organization that the earlier Americans held were founded on explicitly Biblical notions. This they did in a self conscious manner. If you look at a good number of governmental buildings both in Washington, D. C. as well as most of the states, you will find these same Ten Commandments inscribed on or in them. Do we now really believe that this was accidental? This could hardly be the case. The fact is that these inscriptions indicate the disposition and faith of our forefathers in the God of the Bible, and this is especially apparent when seen in concert with what they themselves wrote on these topics. No, our nation was not founded as a secularist paradise. That is what the Bolsheviks (among others) attempted to do, and this is the direction our nation has been drifting toward for at least two or three generations. This has not happened suddenly as a result of the last election, it has occurred over a considerable period of time as we have rejected the authority of the God of the Bible.

So perhaps we can appreciate, in a different manner, the crossroads that we stand at today. Those who are the champions of secularism are in power and are leading this nation to a place that is exactly consistent with those beliefs. The law system that they are implementing is likewise completely consistent with those beliefs. On the other hand, those things established by the Living God are immutable. His laws, His character, do not change. His justice is right. His mercies endure for ever. He beckons us to be made right with Him, and that can only be possible if we come to Him through His only begotten Son, Jesus. The only way we can enjoy the inheritance He has prepared for us, historically and eternally, is through the atoning cross of Christ. Do we want a prosperous, just, and peaceable society? Do we really believe in inalienable rights to life, liberty, and private property? Then we must return to the faith and premises of the people of the founding era. We must return to the very God of our fathers.

Closing prayer/Benediction

Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

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