The Ten Commandments Examined: Part Two

A Familiar Subject

Our look at the Ten Commandments continues:

Commandment #3

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…
(Exo. 20:7, NASU)

The name of God is meant to receive devout respect. So seriously did the Jewish people take this devotion that they would commonly replace the name of God with the generic word for “lord” (adoni). When it came necessary to write the actual name of God (when copying the Bible for instance), they would follow a careful cleansing procedure and use a separate pen for each individual letter. Such reverence was supposed to place God in very highest.

However, simply speaking the name is not the focus of this premonition. When one uses God’s name for a purpose other than address, devotion, or teaching, there is danger such a use is “vain”. The origin of many modern “curses” come from a wicked practice of wishing God’s judgment or harm upon another, or to blame God for an unfortunate circumstance. It is important to remember that the penalty for blaspheming the name of God under the Law of Moses was death (Lev. 24:10-16). God had great expectation that His people would treat His name with respect and the same remains true today.

Commandment #4

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(Exo. 20:8, NASU)

To understand this command requires understanding what the “Sabbath Day” is in the week. It is a common misconception that the Sabbath is Sunday (because of years of misunderstood tradition). The Sabbath actually refers to the last day of the week – the day which God rested after the creation. It was impressed upon the Jewish people that they would too rest on this day from their labors, because God blessed the day as “holy” (Exo. 20:11).

This prohibition was not meant to be timeless, however. The Sabbath command was always intended to be a sign between God and the Sons of Israel alone (cf. Eze. 20:9-12). The New Covenant established the first day of the week (Sunday) as the new day of worship. It is important to note that the prohibition against labor upon the Sabbath is never affirmed against the first day of the week.

Commandment #5

Honor your father and your mother…
(Exo. 20:12, NASU)

This command is in some form an affirmation of a greater principle God instituted with the original family. Fathers and mothers are charged by God in the raising of their child, not merely in an earthly or physical sense, but in their spiritual development in cultivating their relationship with God.

In Jewish culture, rebellious children were a sign of great evil. God had little patience with a child who mistreated or dishonored his or her parents. A child who cursed their parents was to be put to death (Exo. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:9). A rebellious son was to be stoned at the city gate (Deu. 21:18-21). The reason for such brutal punishment was clear: to ensure the next generation was taught about God from the previous. Any breakdown would result in a generation who did not follow after God. This made fathers and mothers some of the most important people on earth, and the same remains true today.

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