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Deuteronomy 5:6-21 - The Decalogue The Basis Of The Covenant, The Essence Of The Whole Law, And The Condition Of Life And

The Divine plan for the conduct of our life on earth.

Had we been left in ignorance what the Divine intention in human life was, it had been a calamity indeed. Waste and failure must have been the disastrous result. For every honest-minded man, ample direction from the Supreme Source of authority is supplied. The most cogent argument is not always the most convincing. God might here have prefaced his ten words with a proper assertion of his indisputable sovereignty. But he prefers to appeal to his recent interposition—his emancipation of the people from Egyptian bondage. As if he had said, "I, who released you from grinding misery—I, who created your liberty, and founded your nation, now command your loyalty. Let the lives which I have ransomed be spent as I now direct."


1. That God must be supreme in our regard and affection . "Thou shalt have none other gods before me." This claim is founded in absolute right. The Proprietor has complete dominion over the work of his hands. If his workmanship does not please him, he is at liberty to destroy it. His claim is further pressed on the ground of his transcendent excellence. Essential and unapproachable goodness is he ; hence his claims on worship rest upon his intrinsic worth. And his claim to reverent regard proceeds likewise on human benefit. God's glory and man's advantage are only different aspects of the same eternal truth. To give him all is to enrich ourselves.

2. That God must be supreme in our acts of worship . To picture him forth by material images is an impossibility. The plausible plea of human nature has always been that material forms serve as aids to worship the Unseen. But the facts of human experience have uniformly disproved this hypothesis. It may cost us severe exertion of mind to lift our souls up to the worship of the true God; yet this very exertion is an unspeakable advantage. God has no pleasure in imposing on us hard tasks for their own sake ; yet, for the high gain to his servants, be does impose them. Throughout the Scriptures, idolatry is represented as spiritual adultery; hence, condescending to human modes of speech, the displeasure of God is described as jealousy . Jealousy is quick-sighted, deep-seated, swift-footed. All revelation of God is an accommodation to human ignorance and feebleness. The visitation of punishment upon the children, and upon the children's children, is not to be construed as excessively severe, much less as unrighteous. The thrice-holy God can never be unjust. The idolatrous spirit would be entailed to children by natural law; hence punishment would culminate in final disaster. The menace was gracious, because, if parents will not abstain from sin for their own sakes, they sometimes will for the sake of their children. The mercy shall be far more ample than the wrath. The anger may be entailed on a few, and that in proportion always to the sin; the mercy shall flow, like a mighty river, to "thousands." True worship fosters love, and stimulates practical obedience.

3. God ' s authority is supreme over our speech . The faculty of speech is a noble endowment, and differentiates man from the inferior races. The tongue is a mighty instrument, either for evil or for good.

4. God ' s authority over the employment of our time . All time belongs to God. He hath created it. Every successive breath we inspire is by his sustaining power. Since we are completely his , his claim must be recognized through every passing minute. But just as he allows to men the productions of the soil, but requires the firstfruits to be presented to him—the earnest of the whole; so also the firstfruits of our time he claims for special acts of worship. One day in seven he requires to be thus consecrated; but whether the first or the seventh depends wholly on the mode of human calculation. The grounds on which the institution rests are many. Even God felt it to be good to "rest" from his acts of creation. In some sense, he ceased for a time to work. Review and contemplation formed his Sabbath. His claims to have his day observed are myriad-fold. If Sabbath observance was beneficial for Jews, is it not for Gentiles? If it was a blessing to man in the early ages, has it now become a curse? Even the inferior creation was to share in the boon. Strangers and foreigners would learn to admire the gracious arrangement, and learn the considerate kindness of the Hebrews' God.


1. In accordance with the degree of kinship . A parent has claims beyond all other men upon our love, obedience, and service. Parents are deserving our heartfelt honor. They claim this on the ground of position and relationship, irrespective of personal merit. Parents stand towards their children, through all the years of infancy, in the stead of God. For years the human babe is wholly dependent upon its parent; and this serves as schooling and discipline, whereby it learns its dependence upon a higher Parent yet. The disposition and conduct required in us towards our parents is the same in kind as that required towards God. Filial reverence is the first germ of true religion. Hence the promises of reward are akin. The family institution is the foundation of the political fabric. The health and well-being of home is the fount of national prosperity. If parents are honored, "it shall be well with thee." This, a law for individuals, a law for society, and a law for nations.

2. Our duty towards all men . We are to respect their persons . Their life and health are to be as dear to us as our own. We are to respect their virtue . The lower passions are to be held in restraint. Occasions for lust must be avoided. A bridle must be put upon the glances of the eye. We are to respect their property . This duty has extensive scope. It means that we should deal with others as if they were ourselves. All dishonest dealing, false representations in commerce, overreaching in bargains, fraudulent marks, are condemned. We are to have respect to their reputation . It ought to please us as much to see a conspicuous virtue, a generous quality, in another, as if it shone in ourselves. Idle tale-bearing is forbidden, as also detraction, slander, unfavorable interpretation of others' deeds, and suspicion of their motives. We are charged, as the servants of God, to "love our neighbors even as ourselves."

3. This Divine Law carries its sanctions into our interior life . "Thou shalt not covet." Improper and irregular desires are to be repressed. Like a wise Ruler, God proceeds to the very root of sin—to the very core of evil. 'Tis easiest to strangle the serpent at its birth. If only this fountain were pure, all its streams would be likewise pure. Let the salt of purification be applied here! There is scope for coveting—a direction in which it may lawfully run. It may run Godward. It may fix its eyes and its hands on heavenly treasures. For in securing these we defraud no one else. Therefore, we may with advantage all round "covet earnestly the best gifts." Desire after heavenly gifts and riches is never untimely or excessive, never irregular or inordinate. Hence, as an antidote to a covetous disposition, we may well nourish heavenly hope. "Delight in God" will bring a most satisfying fruition of desire. Sowing in this fertile field yields a prolific harvest. The Decalogue is complete. God "added no more." Authority centers here.—D.

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