Did you know there are more than 30,000 federal laws have been created in the history of the United States? The “An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths” was the first law passed by the United States Congress after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It was signed by President George Washington (1732-1799) on June 1, 1789. Parts of that law are still used today. Did you know the United States has more laws than any other country in the world? It has been said, the United States is held together by a series of laws.
We find ourselves today in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Much has already happened. We covered some of this last time and you remember the movie. Moses was born a Hebrew, but he was raised in the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh. However, his Hebrew blood would not permit him to ignore the harsh lives of his own people. One day, in a fit of rage, he kills an Egyptian soldier in defense of his own people and flees the authorities. For the next forty years, Moses builds a new life. He marries a woman named Zipporah and worked for his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses had no plans of returning to Egypt, but God had a different plan for Moses. God heard the cries of the enslaved Hebrews and sent Moses to liberate them.
That would not be an easy task because the Hebrews were the backbone of the Egyptian economy. Moses’s request to liberate the Hebrews fell on the death ears of the Pharaoh. To break the will of the arrogant leader, God sent the plagues. Count them with me:
- Water Into Blood
- Diseased Livestock
- Hail and Fire
- Death of Firstborn
That is the one that did it. The Pharaoh agrees to free the Hebrews, but a brief time later, he regrets that decision. He sends his troops after them, but they never return. His army drowned in the Red Sea. The entire country of Egypt must have mourned. However, for God’s Chosen People, it was a different story.
The Hebrews rejoiced because their future looked bright. God summons Moses to the top of Mount Sinai. It is there that God does something new. The Almighty gave to Moses what we call the Ten Commandments. Few question the significance of the Ten Commandments. Their ethical teachings are fundamental in both Christianity and Judaism. How many can you recite?
- You shall have no other Gods before me.
- You shall not worship false Gods.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- You shall keep the sabbath day Holy.
- You shall honor your father and mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness.
- You shall not covet.
Scholars consider the Ten Commandments a treaty between God and humankind. There is no give and take in this treaty. It is a matter of complete surrender. God expects complete submission, allegiance, and obedience from humankind in response to his mercies and powers. Ten Commandments may seem like a burden, but Jewish tradition tells is there were 613 laws in the Torah. You can call the commandments Moses received God’s Top Ten.
Periodically, we look at the story of the rich, young ruler. It is in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. On the surface, he has it all. He was rich so he can buy anything his heart desires. What would you buy if money was not an obstacle? He was young so his health is good. If you have your health, then you have it all. He was a ruler, so he is influential. He had everything, except one thing. His soul is restless, and he questioned his own salvation. For this reason, he searches out Jesus to find spiritual peace. When the two meet, he asked the Master the key question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him if he had kept laws five, six, seven and eight? He answered, “Yes!” He had honored his father and mother. He had not taken a life. He had been faithful to his wife, and he had not stolen a single thing. The young man’s heart must have jumped for joy, but his bliss did not last long. Jesus tells him, he only lacked one thing. He must sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, The young ruler leaves broken hearted because he just cannot do it. The story tells us keeping the Ten Commandments is a good thing, but they cannot save your soul. However, that does not mean the Ten Commandments are not important.
The people at Crossway say there are four reasons why the Ten Commandments are important. First, the Ten Commandments identify us as God’s people. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “We are a chosen people, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into the wonderful light.” The Ten Commandments identify us as God’s people. Second, the Ten Commandments reveals the very heart of God. They do not just tell us what God wants. They tell us who God is. The Ten Commandments tells us about God’s honor, worth, and majesty. They tell us what matters to God. The Ten Commandments reveals the very heart of God. Third, the Ten Commandments tells us God wants a personal relationship with us. God does not stand in the distance to observe us. God entered this world to become one of us. To experience all that we experience. The Ten Commandments tells us God wants a personal relationship with us. Fourth, the Ten Commandments liberate us to do what is right. 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not a burden.” In other words, the Ten Commandments liberate us to do what is right. The ten Commandments are important, but they will not save your soul.
Recently, Ken Burns (born 1953) released his newest documentary. The subject is Muhammad Ali (1942-2016). I am not sure I am going to watch it because my father, Ronald Adams (1920-1996) is still influencing me. He did not like Ali, who then was named Cassius Clay. If I close my eyes and listen, I can still hear my father complaining about him. He considered, Ali an arrogant loudmouth. He considered him a coward and a draft dodger. My father called him something I will not repeat because the word he used then is considered politically incorrect now. Because of my father’s influence, I am uncomfortable with the rebranding of Muhammad Ali. Once hated, Ali is now being called a hero. Today, we are told Ali was more than a great boxer. He was also an activist, entertainer, poet, and philanthropist. The media is promoting the documentary by promoting Ali’s life. They have quoted Muhammad Ali many times. The quote I have heard several times is, “Service we pay to others is the rent we pay for our room in Heaven.” I have nothing against community service, but I have to say this. Ali may have considered himself the greatest, but he was a horrible Christian theologian. We are not saved by our good works. That is called works righteousness. We are not saved by the Ten Commandments. We are saved by grace, and by grace alone. You know the story.
Jesus was born in the ordinary way, but he lived an extraordinary life. He never committed a single sin, and he should have lived a long complete life. That did not happen. He was found guilty of loving everyone and had to die. On a Friday, he was executed Roman style on a cross between two criminals. When his body was taken down, they placed it in a tomb. It was sealed with a large stone, so the smell of his decaying body would not escape. Let me say it clearly. Jesus, the incarnation of God, was dead. Except for tears, nothing happened on Saturday because Jesus was dead. It was unlawful to touch a dead body on the Sabbath. His loved ones mourned, and they asked the question, “Why?” Nothing happened on Saturday, but things did happen on Sunday. A handful of women showed up at the tomb to treat his body and made the discovery that changed our world. Somehow Jesus had returned from the dead. I have never been able to explain the resurrection because I cannot explain a miracle. However, that miracle changed everything.
Your belief in the resurrection is not optional in the Christian faith. It is indispensable. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” That quote does not come from Muhammad Ali. That quote came from the Apostle Paul (5 AD – 67 AD). It may have been the first creed in the history of the church. The question is not if you follow the Ten Commandments. They are only guidelines for holy living. The question, is do you believe in the resurrection?