Text: Exodus 20:1-17
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” [Exodus 20:1-17]
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. The Ten Commandments preach Repentance; that is, by them God shows us our sin and how much we need a Savior.
You shall have no other gods.
That is, we are to fear, love, and trust God above all things. Your God is that which you love, trust and fear most in your life.
Do you expect your comfort, good and delight from your God? Do you look to God your heavenly Father, for all love, good and joy? Is everything measured for you by what pleases you? In all things are you self-centered and selfish? Do you see your worry and upset as sin against trusting God? Do you complain about the troubles, people, work and suffering God lays on you? Do you love the things God gives you more than you love Him? And do you cling to what God takes away, even though He gives you Himself?
You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use His name in every trouble to call on, pray, praise, and give thanks to God.
Do you curse? Have you cursed? Do you use God’s name cheaply for oaths that are frivolous or false? Do you stand up and swear by God’s Name when it is for the truth of the Gospel or for the benefit of your neighbor in need? Do you pray with urgency in times of trouble? Are you bored and indifferent in prayer? Is it the case that you cannot speak about God truly because you are bored with God’s Word, neglect the study of the Catechism, Christian teaching, and God’s Word? Is your heart and life in the praise of God in worship? Are you mouthing things while your heart is far away? Is your life, marked with the Name of God in Baptism, characterized by thanksgiving and praise?
You shall sanctify the holy day / Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but instead keep it holy, and gladly hear and learn it.
Do you strive to make the day of rest holy? Do you care about holy living? Do you use the Word of God and prayer to make your whole life holy day by day? Are you lazy and bored with the Word of God? Have you any fear of God over this neglect? Do you regard the Word of God highly by gladly studying it, learning it by heart, and living it? Do you despise the Word of God by neglect, paying no attention to it when it is read or preached? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ by being present with them in worship to sustain them? Are you quick to make excuses for neglecting worship because of what someone else has said or done, or to do other things you like more? Do you spend time complaining about the worship, the pastor or other people? Do you learn the Word gladly so that you may teach others?
You are to honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor them, serve, obey, love and respect them.
Has the fear and love of God shaped your respect and obedience toward parents and others in authority? Have you trusted God to bless you and make your life good when you submit to the authority of parents and those over you, or have you been angry with them, rebelling, fighting against them because you were afraid you were not getting what you had a right to get? Have you been rude, grumpy, and disrespectful to your parents, teachers, employers or other authorities God has placed over you? Have you been on good behavior when they are present and mock them when they are absent? Have you admired and respected the pastoral office? Have you helped those who carry responsibilities in governing? Do you pray for parents, leaders of the nations, schools and church? Do you grumble about work given you to do? Have you helped make it easier for those who carry the responsibilities of governing you?
You shall not kill.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not endanger or harm our neighbor in his body, but instead help and support him in all of life’s needs.
Have you treated your neighbor’s body and life as gifts of God to him? Have you injured your neighbor with violent actions, hitting and beating on your neighbor, spoken degrading and insulting words, using foul or dirty words to describe your neighbor, or murdered him with thoughts of anger, contempt, and hatred? Have you injured your neighbor by ridicule, by neglecting to feed or clothe him, withholding compassion and comfort from him? Have you avoided giving help to your neighbor, avoiding involvement with him in his difficulty? Do you abuse your own body with neglect of health, care, excessive use of food, drink, tobacco, or drugs?
You shall not commit adultery.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.
Have you used for your own pleasure your ears to hear stories or your eyes to stir up cravings for your body from one who is not your spouse, or your mouth to speak such words and stories? Have you indulged your eyes with longing for your sexual satisfaction from a man or woman who is not your spouse? Have you dishonored marriage by ridicule, divorce, or neglecting to encourage others to be faithful to their spouses in the fear of God? Have you had intercourse with a man or woman who is not your spouse? Have you dishonored your spouse by neglecting to care for the body, mind, feelings, and needs of the other, withdrawing faithfulness from the spouse? Have you failed to trust God to bless you in your marriage, even in times of trouble? Have you neglected to pray for your spouse, to worship together, and to live in the fear and love of God in times of sexual temptations? Have you practiced thoughts, words, or deeds, or given your support of homosexual activity?
You shall not steal.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or property, or get them by shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help him to improve and protect his property and income.
Have you been lazy at work, doing poor work in school or at the job, or worked hard only when the teacher or boss is around? Have you been stingy in paying your workers? Have you been greedy, demanding best pay for poor work? Have you worked for yourself rather than for Christ and for the benefit of your neighbor? Have you cared for the property in the neighborhood, school, or church, so that it was improved? Have you stolen from the office, school, or the church, or stood silently by while others took what was not theirs? Have you stolen information from another’s work? Have you wasted time and food and money or caused others to waste time, food and money by your neglect? Have you been stingy when it comes to giving the Lord a generous portion as thank-offering for what He has given you? Have you stolen from your neighbor by not helping him in time of need?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not tell lies, betray, slander, or destroy our neighbor’s reputation. Instead we are to defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.
Have you told the truth in court or in school before authorities or before your parents when you knew the truth? Have you been afraid to bear witness when you knew the truth and it was necessary to speak up against someone who had done wrong or to speak for a victim? Have you gossiped, delighted to tell others about the faults or mistakes of another, excusing yourself especially by saying that you spoke only the truth? Have you gone to others to make peace if you wronged them or they you, or to correct them if you knew of their wrong? Have you flattered others, or put on a front to make them think of you differently from what is true? Have you slanted stories to your benefit or deceived others by withholding some evidence of the story? Have you found ways gladly and willingly to explain, in the best possible way, those words or actions of others that hurt you? Have you defended your neighbor when things said about your neighbor have made others think badly about him or her? Have you learned to bear with the weaknesses and faults of others, covering their shame? Have you been faithful in keeping the secrets of another’s heart entrusted to you in confidence?
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not trick our neighbor’s out of their inheritance or property, or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it, and so on, but instead help and be of service to him in keeping it.
Have you longed for the respect, wealth, happy life, or what seemed the ease of the lives of others? Has your life been full of craving for these things? Have you been stingy and self-indulgent with your money, trying to keep up with what others had? Have you tried, by claims of various rights, to make the property of others your own, saying they do not really deserve it and you do? Do you have to keep wishing for and dreaming about things you do not have before you can work with a dedicated and glad heart? Have you lived in grudging discontent with whatever God has given you, restless about what you do not have and neglectful of thankful generosity with what you do have?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
That is, we are to fear and love God so that we do not lure, force, or steal away our neighbor’s wife, household workers, or cattle, but urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to their our neighbors.
Have you wanted your neighbor’s spouse, his workers, or his property to be yours. Have you tried to win the affections and loyalties of your neighbor’s spouse or children or friends away from your neighbor to you? Have you urged friends and spouses and workers to go back to their calling, holding their marriages, friendships, families, and work together? Have you fostered discontent with the congregation, its pastor or leaders, and failed to urge members to stay and do their duty in worship, praying, giving and serving?
What does God say about all these Commandments?
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy to thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
That is, God threatens to punish all that break these commandments. Therefore we are to fear His wrath and not disobey these commandments. But He promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandments. Therefore we also are to love and trust Him, and gladly act according to His commandments.
These are the words by which God demands your hearts and minds, not merely your outward actions. This is the process by which your wicked, self-serving motives are found out. The trial in Heaven by which you are found guilty. God is the Judge. The accuser is your adversary, the devil. The culprit is you, you are the man. The accusation is true. Your conscience accuses you as a witness against you, and so does God Spirit, who searches all things. Your guilt is great. The punishment is endless. The Law is from Sinai. The sentence is ready for you. Death is the verdict.
Then comes the Lamb of God, your High Priest and Advocate, with the Blood that speaks better things than the blood of Abel.
On behalf of you, the miserable, lost and condemned criminal, He urges His suffering and death be accepted in your place, His perfect merit and victory over all your enemies. What an advocacy! You, the poor sinner near to death embrace His feet, in fullest trust, full of repentance and sorrow. Then comes a voice from the Holy of Holies: “Tear down the indictment. You are acquitted for Jesus’ sake from all guilt and punishment; you are justified, and without price the righteousness of Christ is accounted yours.”
And what is done in heaven, on earth is proclaimed from pulpit and altar and in private absolution. This forgiveness pronounced to you on earth is as it is in heaven. Now you, poor sinner have all you need. Now, being justified by faith, you have peace with God [Romans 5:1], and joy [Luke 15:22, 24], and the joy of the Lord, not the commandments, is your strength. [Nehemiah 8:10] Christ. Amen.
This sermon is based on and in Rev. Dr. Kenneth Korby’s, Ten Commandments for Self-Examination and Reflection.