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OPINION

A Quick Bible Study, Vol. 150: The 10 Commandments Are Not the 10 Suggestions

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Seth Wenig

Author's Note: All previous volumes of this series are here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible." "Part Two," featuring volumes 57-113, was published in December. 

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Event Alert: My friend, Rabbi Aaron Allsbrook, is hosting a Messianic Jewish Passover Seder on April 6 at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Brown – well known to Townhall readers. Buy tickets early!

Thanks for joining today's study Vol. 150. This milestone number demands an important topic, so I chose the Ten Commandments. Recorded in the Hebrew Bible book of Exodus: 20, the Ten Commandments are the foundation of Judeo-Christian law and morality. How the Commandments have impacted humankind's civil and societal development is immeasurable. 

I love the first simple verse that begins the Commandments:  

"And God spoke all these words.." (Exodus 20:1). “Simple,” because the ancient Israelites learned the hard way that when God "spoke," they better listen, act upon His words or suffer the consequences. And over the millenniums, that has not changed.

Yet, in our modern age, with Bible literacy on the decline and Jesus-centered denominations shedding members, the Ten Commandments' authority has not diminished. Nevertheless, due to the declining state of our culture, a more apt name is the "Ten Suggestions" – given that moral rules are loose and truth is relative. 

However, because "God spoke all these words," there are negative consequences for disobedience – legally and morally. Moreover, personal relationships suffer when one violates, ignores, or rationalizes one or more of the Ten Commandments that God handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai.   

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Now, let's review what "God spoke":

ONE: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20: 2-3).

Our Almighty God first established who He is and what He did for His people Israel. Then, He demanded to be their only God, and the people quickly disobeyed the first commandment and the second, as quick as you can say, "Golden Calf." (See Vol. 132.)

TWO: "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20: 4-6).

When God said, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God," and commanded that no images were to be worshipped, His instructions were clear. But humans are flawed, and disobedience abounds. Furthermore, God does not want us to "worship" anything except Him – be it an addictive substance, gambling, materialism, or a cult-like affinity for someone that distracts us from or replaces Him. 

THREE: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Exodus 20:7).

Whenever I hear the Lord's name used in a curse phrase, I cringe because I know the speaker violated a commandment. But, unfortunately, using the Lord's name in vain has become so commonplace and acceptable that we forget it violates the Third Commandment. This commentary is your reminder.

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FOUR: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8).

Of all the Ten Commandments, number four is the most disobeyed. The Sabbath (weekend) is a time for fun, sports, play, travel, chores, shopping, family outings, catching up on work and bills, or reporting to a job. Some of us might sleep a little later, but it's whatever you have planned after that. Myra says, "I always violate the Fourth Commandment and confess my sin right here and now.” (But I also attend church.)

FIVE: "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).

My mother was in a nursing home for seven years. It took much of my time to visit and take her out four times a week. Then, after several years, whenever I complained, my husband would say, "Honor Your Mother." That commandment guilt trip stopped my complaining – until the next time.

SIX: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).  

So what part of that commandment don't you understand? 

SEVEN: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14).

Straightforward, often ignored, and rationalized – invariably ending in heartbreak, broken trust, shattered relationships, and sometimes divorce. God loves us and always knows best. He gave us this commandment for good reasons. 

EIGHT: "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15).

Easy to follow – don't do it – you will get caught. There are consequences and long-term ripple effects – whether or not authorities are involved. 

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NINE: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).

A more formal way of saying, “do not lie.” This commandment is tied with the Sabbath for most violated, especially on social media dating sites. 

TEN: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17).

We are commanded not to be jealous of what others possess. Sometimes we can't help saying or thinking, "Oh, I wish I had their house, car, talent, looks, or money." But God commands us to be thankful for the gifts He has given to us. 

After God issued the Ten Commandments to Moses, you can read what happened in Exodus 20:18-26. Here are a few verses and a paraphrase:

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear" (Exodus 20:18).

"Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning' " (Exodus 20:20).

What Moses said to his people, the same applies today to all people of God. The Lord  issued these Ten Commandments "to keep you from sinning." God defines sin as what happens when and after we disobey His Ten Commandments.

On the cross, Jesus Christ took on our sin debt to forgive us our sins. Thus, belief in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin as God freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. The Ten Commandments connect God's definition of sin and Jesus forgiving our sins. But Jesus also said, “go, and sin no more.”  Amen to that!

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Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible," reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. "Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113. Order it here.  

Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are donor-supported ministries dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com and Twitter @MyraKAdams.

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