(Exodus 20, Luke 23; Optional Psalm 47, Proverbs 13:14-18)
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EXODUS 20 – The Ten Commandments (NOT the ten suggestions). After God reminded Israel in Ex 19 that He had set them free from Egypt to bring them to Himself, the rest of the book is mostly commands about what their life with Him should look like. As we go, we’ll unpack how some of the details have been fulfilled in Jesus (for instance, HE was the Perfect Sacrifice on the cross so we don’t do sacrifice animals anymore), but the FUNDAMENTAL REALITY is the same. Those that trust in Jesus have been set free from slavery to sin, NOT to do our own thing, but to belong to HIM. And this belonging is the ultimate freedom – in Christ we get regular tastes/glimpses (further deepened when our souls go to heaven and fully consummated when Jesus returns and our bodies are glorified) of what we were MEANT to be as humans.
All the Ten Commandments are reaffirmed (and application deepened) for those who believe in Jesus, with some disagreement among believers about exactly what that means in regard to the sabbath. What do I mean by “application deepened”? In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), Jesus talks about murder and many would have felt pride that they hadn’t done this one. But then Jesus says that murder really begins with anger and everyone should have felt convicted and humbled. And He talked about adultery. Some would have been humbled that they had physically broken God’s law here, but then Jesus again deepened the application to the heart and pointed out that adultery starts in our thoughts with lust. And even though few believers today struggle with making a wooden or metal idol to bow down to, 1 John (written to believers) closes with the command: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Reminding us that there are still many ways those in Christ are tempted with false worship.
What’s the disagreement about the sabbath? It’s clear from Hebrews 4 that there’s a rest available now EVERY DAY for those who are in Christ. EVERY DAY He is our ultimate Sabbath Rest! Remember that the command to rest on Saturday came here in Exodus 20 to a nation newly freed by God and being established now on HIS law. So they could (and now, after Exodus 20, they MUST) follow commands to not work on Saturday. When Jesus came to earth, however, MANY of His followers were slaves and their owners wouldn’t have allowed ANY days off. So there are no New Testament commands to observe a full day each week. Since Jesus rose from the dead early Sunday morning, from earliest days the church would meet then and have a mini resurrection celebration, singing some songs together, applying the apostles’ teaching of how the Scriptures should shape their lives together. Then many had to go back to work, and they were NOT to live in shame (afraid they were breaking God’s sabbath law), because their Sabbath rest came every day in resting in the finished work of Jesus.
But other believers COULD still observe a full day of physical rest, and after prayerful consideration (see Rom 14) felt they still should. Some have felt convicted to take Sunday off (in honor of Jesus’ resurrection), while others still observe the Saturday sabbath like in Exodus 20. Prayerfully study Romans 14 (especially v 5-12) and Col 2:11-23 and then obey God without judging your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Ex 20:18-21 – A key passage in understanding proper fear of God, so I’ve written “*** F” next to v 20. Note the command NOT to fear (because they were on the verge of being crippled by their fear and kept away from God) AND the reminder that proper fear was to keep them from sin. The appropriate trembling in v 18-19 led (accurately) to an understanding that sinners need a MEDIATOR to come between us and a perfectly holy and all-powerful God! Moses was that mediator for Israel now, but God had Moses command Israel to look for Another who would come some day and be both the ultimate Mediator and Lawgiver (compare Deut 18:15-19, Acts 3:17-26, 1 Tim 2:5).
Ex 20:24-25 – God is not impressed by human “improvements”!
Ex 20:26 – The importance of MODESTY in our worship. Those leading in worshipping God today ought to still consider this.
LUKE 23 – Jesus, the only human who EVER has perfectly kept God’s Law, lays down His life as the perfect sacrifice for sinners who turn to Him in repentance and faith. In light of our study in Exodus, remember two ditches about sin (breaking God’s Law). 1) The Pharisees saw themselves as righteous already, and Jesus made clearly that He came for those that humbly recognize they are sinners that need salvation. 2) You can be crippled by shame and fear of God’s wrath (like Israel was on the verge of doing in Ex 20:18-20). But remember that Jesus paid in full for our sin debt on the cross! Meditate on Col 2:13-14 which pictures God nailing the record of our sins to the cross and declaring “FORGIVEN” over those who trust in Jesus as our perfect substitutionary sacrifice. And see the beautiful picture of this in Lk 23:39-43.
Lk 23:34a – “Father, forgive them…” – fulfilling Isa 53:12 that He would intercede for the transgressors. Those that crucified Him are NOT okay because they weren’t aware of the depth of what they were doing. But shouldn’t hold back from repenting and throwing themselves on God’s mercy out of fear that He will never forgive them because they helped crucify His Beloved Son (see Acts 3:17-26). Good news for ALL of us because OUR sin made Jesus’ death necessary. So in a very real sense ALL of us have helped to crucify Jesus. And ALL that turn to Him in repentance and faith are fully forgiven! I love how the Gettys’ song “The Power of the Cross” helps us think Biblically through all these truths.
Lk 23:34b – Fulfilling Ps 22:18
Lk 23:39-43 – Only Luke is inspired by God to record this precious story from the cross. Earlier in the day BOTH criminals (v 32) were mocking Jesus (see Matt 27:44). But God saves one of them on the cross, opening his eyes to see his own sin (v 40-41) and that Jesus is the perfectly righteous King entering His Kingdom (v 41-42). Isaiah 52:14 and 53:2-3 prophesied that Jesus would be so beaten/flogged that He wouldn’t even look human and that people would turn their faces away. But God opened the one criminal’s eyes to see that Jesus is actually God’s King entering His Kingdom, and that Jesus could save him! From the classic hymn “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” – “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day. And there may I, though vile as he, wash ALL my sins away.” Yes! Thank you, God for such a Savior!
I think this thief being saved on the cross is part of the joy that was set before Jesus (see Heb 12:2) even on the cross. God the Father is encouraging His Son with the firstfruits of His sacrifice even while He is sacrificing Himself! Reflecting on how one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus was saved, a preacher from long ago said something like this: “One was saved that none might despair. Only one that none might presume.”
Optional Psalm 47 – Command for ALL peoples (note the missionary emphasis) to both fear (v 2) AND joyfully praise (v 1, 6) God the King of all! Compare Ps 2:11 (“rejoice with trembling”) and the classic hymn “Rejoice the Lord Is King”.
Optional Proverbs 13:14-18 – Pr 13:18 is one of many Scriptural encouragements to heed correction/rebuke/reproof. Note both the warning in the first part of the verse and the promise in the second part. God uses a whole range of motivations with His people.