The LORD spoke these commandments in a loud voice to your whole assembly out of the fire, the cloud, and the deep darkness on the mountain; He added nothing more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.
I. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS A DISTINCT PART OF GOD'S REVELATION.
1. They were spoken by God's own voice from the midst of the fire (ver. 24).
2. They only were thus promulgated; "he added no more."
3. They were written on tables of stone.
4. They were deposited in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:16). These facts show that they held a distinct place in the Law-giving at Sinai, and that they are not to be confounded with the ceremonial and judicial statutes, subsequently given.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THIS DISTINCTION. The Decalogue was:
1. An epitome of universal moral truth.
2. Internally complete as such - the first table laying down our duties to God, as respects his being, his worship, his Name, his day, his human representatives; the second forbidding all injury to our fellow-men (injuries to life, property, chastity, character), while requiring by implication the fulfillment of all positive duties, and the regulation even of our secret thoughts.
3. The basis of the covenant with Israel. The foundation on which all subsequent legislation was reared. - J.O.
These words the Lord spake.
"God spake." Think of it, worshipper of lust and greed, worshipper of self, worshipper of the many-headed monster of thine own evil desires, worshipper of no God! Think of it, Sabbath breakers who seek only your own pleasure on the Lord's Day! Think of it, ye who dishonour and are ungrateful and disobedient to father and mother! Think of it, ye whose hearts are full of violence, cruelty, and malice! "God spake these words and said." Try to realise what God is, and with it that He speaks and that He is still speaking these words to thee. What words? Very few! Men multiplied indefinitely the necessaries which God had not made many. The summary of the first table is the fear of God; of the second, the love to our neighbour. Brief, then, as they are, the commandments, and with them the whole scope and range, the origin and sum total of man's duty, are summed up in two monosyllables, "Love," "Serve." The Jews split the Ten Commandments into 613 positive and negative precepts and prohibitions. We can reduce them to one. St. Paul reduced them to the one word "Believe." St. John reduced them men may, if they like, devote their whole souls to small observances, doctrinal technicalities: that which God requires as alone necessary for any one of us is righteousness, and righteousness depends on love. A young Gentile went to the great doctor, Shammai, and said to him, "I will become a Jew if you will" teach me the whole law while I stand on one leg, and the angry Rabbi drove him out of the house with blows. But when he went with the same words to the rival of Shammai, the sweet and noble Hillel, Hillel gently answered, "That is easy, my son; never do to anyone what you would not like him to do to you. That is the whole law; all the rest is commentary and fringe." The Gentile was converted, but the Rabbi was wrong. Christ when He was asked by the young ruler, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" did not thus dissever the Golden Rule from its force and sanction, He did not divorce the second table from the first; He said, "Keep the commandments; love God with all thy heart" — that is the first table; "and thy neighbour as thyself" — that is the second. He knew that man cannot love God his Father unless he loves man his brother; and that he cannot love man the brother aright or at all unless he loves his Father God. In conclusion then, so far as man's whole duty is concerned, all the rest of Scripture is but a commentary upon the Ten Commandments; it either exhorts us to obedience by arguments, or allures us to it by promises, or frightens us from transgressions by threatenings, or excites us to the one and restrains us from the other by examples recorded in its histories. And when all this has been in vain to keep us back from sin, still God does not leave us nor forsake us. The covenant of Jehovah-shammah
, "The Lord is there," becomes the covenant of Jehovah-Tsidkenu
, "The Lord our Righteousness." As the atoning blood is sprinkled before the broken tables of the Law it teaches us we have indeed all sinned, but that with God in Christ there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. Christ Himself is "the end of the law unto righteousness to everyone that believeth."
He added no more
These words may be very sad, or they may be very joyous. They would be sad if the Lord had turned away in anger, saying, "I will not speak again unto you"; but they may be very joyous, yea, musical after a heavenly sort, when God has said just enough to meet the necessity and the weakness of man, and when He forbears to add one word that would overtax his strength and throw his dying hope into melancholy and despair. You have, then, something like completeness of law in these Ten Commandments. Certainly you have what may be called temporary completeness; that is, a completeness adapted to the circumstances under which they were delivered. God could have added more; He need never have stopped: He might have been writing now — but does He delight to overburden us with technicality, or even with legislation of any kind? His delight is to give us as little as may be needful for proper discipline and to secure loyal, loving, and sufficient obedience. Does He give law to vex you? To prove you, not to bewilder and distract your memory. Has He written all the universe over with commandments? He has written the universe over with promises and blessings, and here and there His commanding word is written; for too many promises and benedictions, untempered by those severer words, might lead us into presumption, might turn away all our attention from the deeper and severer studies and pursuits of life, and might end in making us molluscous, and not strong and grand. Now, this is the kind of authority before which I bow with love and thankfulness.
The moral law is, from its very nature, unchangeable, and of perpetual obligation; nor can we read the history of its promulgation without seeing that the greatest care was taken to distinguish it from all other laws, and more especially from those judicial and ceremonial laws which were given for the special guidance of the Jewish people.
I. THE LAW IS OUR SCHOOLMASTER TO BRING US TO CHRIST. Leighton truly says, "It is a weak conceit, arising upon the mistake of the Scriptures, to make Christ and Moses as opposites. No, Moses was the servant in the house and Christ the Son; and being a faithful servant, he is not contrary to the Son, but subordinate to Him." By showing us what God requires, the law discloses to us our own manifold transgressions, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. It conveys to us much and important instruction concerning God and concerning ourselves. It teaches us His holiness and our unholiness, His righteousness and our unrighteousness, His infinite perfections and our fallen and imperfect condition. Thus the law, when listened to in the spirit of reverence and godly fear, must produce conviction of sin, and prepare the soul for the reception of Christ. It is our schoolmaster for this great end, that by holy discipline and faithful teaching it may lead us to Him in whom alone salvation is to be found, and of whom we read that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth."
II. THE LAW IS THE PERPETUAL RULE OF DUTY TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST. In our Divine Surety we see that the law has been perfectly fulfilled, its honour maintained, and its demands fully satisfied. And through His Almighty power, whose purpose is from everlasting, the righteousness which the Lord Jesus presented to the law is imputed to His people — it is unto all and upon all them that believe. It is the spotless robe in which they are accepted now at the throne of grace, and in which they shall be presented hereafter faultless before the throne of glory. How vainly do they talk who speak of the abrogation of the moral law! They forget that He has said, and will perform it, "I will put My laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people." Well, then, might the apostle triumphantly exclaim, "Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law." Trusting in the Saviour, the believer is secure; but if his faith is genuine and sincere, he will ever seek to have that mind in him which was also in Christ Jesus, and he will be constrained to say, as the Psalmist did, "Oh, how love I Thy law: it is my meditation all the day!"
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