Obedience in Every Direction (Exodus 20:1-17)

#7 in 66in52 series (Through the Bible in a Year)

Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL

James Jackson, Lead Pastor

February 12, 2023

Sermon Begins at 25:42

The Big Idea: The Ten Commandments are harder to keep than we think. Jesus made it harder. Then, Jesus made it possible.  

Good morning! Please open your Bibles to Exodus 20.

In our reading plan, we finish the book of Exodus today. Tomorrow, we start Leviticus. And I know from experience that Leviticus is often the graveyard for read through the Bible in a year plans. We all start off the year with great intentions, and for the first seven weeks, we’re rocking through all the stories you grew up with in Genesis and Exodus, and then we get to Leviticus, and it’s like going from the original Star Wars trilogy to The Phantom Menace. So let me encourage you to stick it out. The beautiful thing about doing this as a church is having a group of people who are all running up the same hill together. So use our Facebook group to encourage each other. To ask questions. And hang in there!

And actually, today’s Scripture passage is a great way to get focused for everything we will see in Leviticus. There are 613 laws in the first five books of the Bible. Ten of them are in Exodus 20, and it’s gonna feel like the other 603 of them are in Leviticus. it’s really easy to get bogged down in them, because you wonder how all this stuff about Levites and priests and offerings and feasts apply to us as Christians.

So getting a grasp of The Ten Commandments and how they are organized will help us make sense of the rest of God’s Word. Most importantly, they are going to help us understand why we needed a Savior and why Jesus came as the fulfillment of the Law.

Let’s do a quick survey: How many of you are confident that you could name at least one of the ten commandments?

How many of you think you could name all ten if you thought about it long enough?

It’s interesting to me that in most surveys, the majority of Americans claim to live by the Ten Commandments, yet they can’t name them. About fifteen years ago, a thousand adults were asked about The Ten Commandments, The nine characters of the Brady Bunch, and the Eight ingredients of a Big Mac. Here’s what they found out:

  • 80% knew that a Big Mac had “two all beef patties.” But only 60% knew that “Thou shalt not kill” was one of the ten commandments.
  • 62% knew that Big Macs came with pickles. 45% knew they were commanded to honor thy father and mother.
  • 43% remembered Bobby and Peter Brady. Which is sad. But not as sad as the fact that only 34% remembered that “remember the Sabbath,” was a commandment, and only 29% remembered the “You shall have no graven images.”

That’s the Second Commandment. And it’s worth pointing out that while 29% of Americans know the Second Commandment, 82% know the Second Amendment. Just sayin…’

So my guess is that this morning, we may have some work to do on the Ten Commandments. So let’s read them together. Exodus 20, beginning with verse 1. If you are physically able, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:

[Read Exodus 20:1-17]

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Let’s pray


Now first things first. I want to help you know the Ten Commandments, put them in the right order, and know the two kinds of commandments there are. You can fill this out on your listening guide if you like.

The ten commandments fall into two groups. The first five talk about the relationship between you and God. These are the vertical commandments.

1. No other Gods Before Me

2. No Idols or Graven Images

3. Do not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy

5. Honor your parents.

So the first four deal with relationship to God. Then you have the Fifth commandment, Honor Father and Mother, which is the hinge between our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal  relationships with one another.

6. Don’t murder

7. Don’t commit adultery

8. Don’t steal

9, Don’t bear false witness (that means don’t tell lies).

10. Don’t covet. That means don’t desire something someone else has so badly that you wish they didn’t have it.

You’ll notice on both the slide and the listening guide that some of those letters are emphasized. if you live in Prattville, you’ve probably been down Gin Shop Hill Road.

So you can remember Gods, Idols, Name, Sabbath, Honor Parents.

Let’s look at the horizontal ones: M-Murder, AD-Adultery That spells MAD:

  • S-T-E-A are the first four letters in the word STEAL: So think of STEAK.
  • Bear-BE, False- Witness–F: BEEF
  • Covet—CO.  C-O-W.

Vertical: GINSHOP. Horizontal: MAD Steak, Beef, Cow

You can also think of a cross, like the one on your listening guide.  A cross has a vertical beam and a horizontal post. So you could write the first four on the post and the last five on the beam.

And then in the heart in the middle, Honor your parents. That’s the one where the vertical and the horizontal commands come together. Loving and honoring our parents is the way we learn to love and honor God.

These ten commandments are the foundation of all the commands that will come after them. When we get into Leviticus-Deuteronomy, we will see a lot of laws about sacrifices and offerings. That’s our relationship to God. Then we will see a lot of laws about caring for orphans and widows and the poor and the alien. Those are all horizontal. 

And we need to understand that these laws were so foundational that God gave them in the hearing of all the people. We usually miss this because we are so used to the way it is in the movies. Moses climbs up the mountain, and he alone hears God speak as the commandments are burned into the rock by the finger of God. But that doesn’t come until several chapters later, in Exodus 32.

But turn back one page and track through chapter 19. With me.

  • Verse 2-3: Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. God told him to tell the people that if they keep his covenant, they will be God’s treasured possession.
  • Verse 7: Moses came back and told the people what God said. They respond in verse 8: All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.
  • At some point, maybe verse 10, Moses goes back up the mountain to get more instructions. God tells him to spend two days preparing the people to hear from God.
  • Verse 14 says he came down the mountain to consecrate the people.

Then verse 16:

16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.

  • Verse 20: God calls Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. What does God say to him?
  • Verse 21: Go down and warn the people. So verse 25. Moses went down.  back down the mountain to tell the people to keep their distance, and not to come up on the mountain, or they will die. Chapter 19 ends with “So Moses went down to the people and told them.”

Then, the first words of 20 are “And God spoke all these words, saying…”

So we learn two things from this. First, everyone heard the commands at the same time. They all knew what they were supposed to do.

See, in the movie, you don’t get this. In the Charlton Heston version, Moses is up there getting the commandments about not worshiping idols and putting other gods before the one true God. But the people didn’t hear it. So in one sense, you couldn’t blame them for the whole golden calf thing.

So don’t get your theology from Hollywood. They heard the law. They knew the law, but they couldn’t keep the law.  And you’ll see that later. Six weeks after they heard the commandment that they should have no other gods and they should not make graven images, the Israelites made a graven image and worshiped it as God.

And this is our problem. It isn’t that we don’t know the right things to do. It’s that we aren’t capable of obeying them. No matter how hard we work, we are going to fail when we try to do it under our own strength.

Can I suggest to you that maybe the purpose of all the going up and going down and going up and going down is to paint a picture of how exhausting religion is?

Moses had to be worn slap out. He is an 80 year old man, and so far he has gone up and down Mt Sinai THREE TIMES!

Religion is all the things human beings do to try to get to where God is. It’s about the effort and energy we burn climbing that mountain.

And even when we climb and we fall and we make our mistakes, religion hasn’t brought us any closer to where God is.

Which is why God came down to where we are. The rest of the book of Exodus after the Ten Commandments is about the instructions for building the tabernacle. And if you read the end of Exodus this morning, then you got to Exodus 40: 33-34, where Moses finished the work, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Look at this with me:

33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 

After this, you don’t see Moses having to climb up and down a mountain to hear from God. The Tabernacle always was set up in the middle of the Israelite camp, and Moses could go in and speak to God right there.

Hundreds of years later, God would come down from heaven again. This time, though, He didn’t just give the word: He was the word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…

God’s word went from being a thing Moses received when he went up on the mountain to get it, to a person we receive because he came down to us.

It gets better. Remember the Tabernacle in Exodus 40, the teabernacle was set up, and God’s glory filled it.

So now look at verse 14:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

When the Greek says, “dwelt among us,” the best translation is actually, “became flesh and tabernacled with us.” The tabernacle went from being a noun—a place we would go—to a verb—a thing Jesus did. And God’s glory went from the manifest presence of God to the physical presence of God With Us—Jesus.

One day, some experts in the law—some guys who had all 613 of God’s laws memorized, came to Jesus and said, “Which is the greatest of the commandments.?” 

Jesus didn’t hesitate.  He answered,

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

(Your listening guide says Mark 10:17-22, so change that to 12:29-31).

Jesus took the 10 Commandments and condensed them down to one confession—The Lord our God, the Lord is one, and two rules:

  • Love God (vertical)
  • and love others (horizontal)

Just as the ten commandments emphasized relationship with God and relationship with others, all the rest of the law does, too. But before you can even begin to try to obey the commandments, you have to acknowledge the God who commanded them.

But just because it is simple, that doesn’t make it easy.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

And from there, Jesus took the standard of the Ten Commandments, which Israel had demonstrated time and time again, and made it harder:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mt. 5:27-28)

Then He tops it all off with verse 48:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.

Be perfect? How am I supposed to do that? The Israelites heard the commands directly from God, and they could barely keep them for a month! Moses went up and down that mountain a half dozen times—wearing himself out to get to God, and at the end of his life, he wasn’t even allowed to go into the Promised Land because of his sin.

I’ve always heard that the gospel is good news. How is this good news?

The good news comes when we realize what it means to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Perfect doesn’t mean never do anything wrong. It doesn’t mean always be on your best behavior and keep every commandment.

The Greek word for perfect is telios.

It means mature, or complete. It also means finished.

I want to close by asking you to go back to what we saw at the end of Exodus:

So Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:33-34

When the work was finished, God came into the tabernacle and dwelt with his people.

How do we finish the work so that God can dwell with us? How can we be made complete and finished?

We can’t. We never could. But Jesus could, and Jesus did:

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.


Because Jesus completed the work on the cross, God can dwell with us.



, ,


Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Exit mobile version