An Introduction to Studying the Ten Commandments

Periodically, people stop by my office to chat about their lives and to delve a bit deeper into God's Holy Word. One afternoon a teenager came by and asked me to help him understand the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are the prelude to the law Moses brought to the people of Israel. "For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.' Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess." (Deuteronomy 4:7-14). This law was given to the Israelites and was only intended for this nation. The law itself prophesied that one day it would be replaced. "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD." (Jeremiah 31:31-32). And such a change did take place with Jesus' death upon the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:13).

Even though we do not live under the old covenant that Moses brought to the Israelites, it does not mean that the old law is totally useless. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). Even though we are not under the Ten Commandments, nine of the ten commandments are found in the law of Christ. By understanding what these commandments meant to God and the Israelites under the old law, we can gain a greater appreciation for the importance of these commands for the Christian.

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