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2 I am Yahweh thy Elohim, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
In this official declaration of Himself to Israel, intended to loom up in history before the eyes of all generations, God connected Himself with an historical act, and not with universal creatorship...in what may be called the supreme assertion of His Godship, He draws attention to the limited and insignificant circumstances (as some imagine it) of His having delivered Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians.
What is the meaning of this? It bears in two directions, clearly and strongly. As affecting the living congregation of people to whom the Ten Commandments were actually delivered, it was much more effective to appeal to their experience (what they had seen and heard) than to an assertion to be taken on trust, whether by intellectual discernment or dogmatic revelation.
That God made heaven and earth they might believe: but that God had brought them out of Egypt, they knew. This was the strong point of Moses' appeal to them afterwards"... according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes .... The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deut. 4:34; 5:3). To connect Himself, then, with what they had experienced, was to go powerfully home to knowledge and conviction.
How else was God to reveal Himself than by openly and visibly taking part in human affairs? ... if man was to have a real knowledge of God, God must show Himself. This is what He has done, and the ten Commandments are a monument of the fact, and the whole history of the Exodus, the most precious illustration of truth that exists under the sun
... all human knowledge rests upon the evidence of our senses. God interfered in the question of Israel versus Egypt, expressly that the great fact might be brought within the range of human senses that God exists as a conscious, personal, omnipotent Being, holding all creation in His hand. This was the constantly avowed object of the miraculous interpositions on Israel's behalf. (See Deut. 4:32-40; Exodus 8: 10-22; 9: 14-16, 29; 10:2; Psa. 106:12). *
3 Thou shalt have no other gods [Elohim] before me.
God, in bringing them out of Egypt, had given them evidence that He was the only God... Other nations had other gods: but they were mere figments of the imagination. *
The Second Commandment
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
This was an important prohibition in an age when the custom of idolatry was so rife: perhaps it is more important even now than people imagine. They were not only not to bow down to graven images, but they were not to make such things, because of God's jealousy of the honour that belongs to Him only.
What is this modern habit (borrowed from the ancient Greek habit) of putting up statues in honour of so-called heroes but an elevating of man to a position which no man can legitimately occupy in the actual relation of things?
What is man but living dust--a flower--a life-blossom, who owes any gift he has to God who made him: why should he be exalted to the place of homage implied in the erection of a statue?
An impotent, sinful condemned creature--"in his best estate altogether vanity "--why should he be placed on a pedestal of crystallized and worshipful importance? The Scriptures truly testify,
"Great men are a lie, and poor men are vanity".
Its truth is apparent when seen with the calm eye of pure reason, with which so few people scan their surroundings. This age of statues and busts and portrait paintings must be as offensive to God as the sincere idolatries of the Moloch worshippers. The day of judgment will declare it. Its verdict has been written in advance.
"The lofty looks of man
(which the system of human monuments does so much to foster)
will be brought down, and the Lord alone exalted in that day."
It is a remarkable fact that while the likenesses of Greek and Roman, and even Egyptian, celebrities have been preserved in stone, there is not a trace of the personal resemblance of Yahweh's servant anywhere, not even of Moses or Christ, whose modern pictures are of course the merest figments of fancy. In this, we have a reflex effect of the commandment before us.
The learned have their way of accounting for this, of course. They talk grandiloquently of Jewish lack in art and sculpture, and of the fine genius of the Greeks for these things--a style of talk which is all on the surface.
The Jews have no lack of appreciation for the beautiful, and are certainly behind no nation in their relish for personal compliments, either in the giving or the taking. That these susceptibilities should not have developed a turn for the monumental art shown by other nations, is a natural wonder inexplicable apart from the restraint imposed by the covenant of Sinai. *.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I Yahweh thy Elohim am a jealous El, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Jealousy is displeasure at preference shown for another. In man this may be, and usually is, a petty and unenlightened and unreasonable feeling. It usually results from a desire to be preferred without reference to the well-being of those who may be affected. It has no basis beyond the instinct that enables us to find pleasure in being approved and respected--a most useful instinct in its place, but ignoble and hurtful as a ruling motive.
But, with God, the sentiment of jealousy stands upon a totally different footing. While it is the fact that preference for Himself affords Him satisfaction, He knows that in this preference alone lies man's highest good, and that preference in another direction is preference for an emptiness and a nullity, and therefore a preference that will work nothing but harm and ruin in the end. In addition to this, preference for Him is reasonable and just, because He is the Author and Owner of all things.
Preference for any other object of reverence is irrational and unjust. Consequently, that He should be "jealous" of His honour is a zeal wholly in the direction of that which is good and beautiful...*
7 Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh thy Elohim in vain; for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
It is the profane or flippant use of God's name that is condemned at any time, for any use in any connection... we read the illustrative case of "the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian ", who blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed, and who (being put in ward that the mind of the Lord might be shown), was condemned to death (Lev. 24: 11-15).
The first petition of "the Lord's Prayer" enforces it: "Hallowed be Thy name". *
24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
THE BURNT OFFERING.
This was completely consumed upon the altar -- except the skin which went to the priest. This point is interesting, because the skin is the covering, the cloak of righteousness. In symbolism of the slain lamb, God covered the sin and nakedness of Adam and Eve with coats of skins. Their own skin was not an acceptable covering: rather it exposed and emphasized their shameful nakedness.
The Burnt Offering is the basic sacrifice. The two lambs every day, and all the principle sacrifices every week, every month, on all the feast days, and on all special and solemn occasions -- were all whole Burnt Offerings. This offering symbolized the complete dedication and devotion of the life to God that is essential to gain His favour.
This is perhaps the biggest and most vital lesson of the entire sacrificial picture. Until and unless we realize that the essence of our covenant with God is that we give our whole lives to His service, we have no hope of life. For the dedication of this very brief life of probation, He has promised an eternity of purest, highest joy.
At the very best and most that we can do, the requirements and the reward are infinitely out of proportion -- we can give nothing remotely comparable to what we receive. But God does require (and what could be more reasonable) as an evidence of our love, all that we have: all our heart and strength and life and mind.
The Whole Burnt Offering, completely consumed on the altar and arising as a sweet-smelling savour to God, teaches us that to attain to the glories of eternity we must constantly labour to bring all our time and energies into the service of God. The sacrifices were typical. They were shadows. They were pictorial representations of what must happen in reality in us, if we are to be acceptable to God.
"Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Pet. 2:5).
Therefore, this Whole Burnt Offering must have its counterpart in us. It is just as if God said directly to us, "This is what I require of you." Indeed, He does through Paul say so:
"Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).
And it is a reasonable service. In view of the infinite magnitude and glory of what God promises, anything less would not be reasonable. Anything less than a living sacrifice, a Whole Burnt Offering, would be an insult to God. And we must not only give ourselves wholly to God. Even that is not enough. We must do it eagerly, with the oil of joy without which no sacrifice was acceptable (except in some cases where the specific omission of the oil had a particular significance).
We must truly see and realize the necessity and the beauty and fittingness and desirability of so doing. It must be a deep and true and satisfying pleasure. We must develop a spiritual state of mind wherein we are not able to be happy doing anything less.
Out of the travail of all our problems there must be born in each of us something very wonderful and very unworldly; something very personal and individual; something very beautiful and spiritual. If this occurs, all the travail is worthwhile. We must perceive in all that happens a divine, loving means working out a glorious end. Very little in this life will be as we desire it to be. But we have the all-sufficient assurance that all will be exactly as God desires it to be.
Let us never think of sacrifice in a common, debased sense of the term as men use it -- as a loss, a deprivation, a giving up of something. The word doesn't mean that. Men in their ignorance and self-commendation have added that. Sacrifice is a humble, joyful, eager yielding of the self to God in love and thanksgiving, without any assumption of self-glory for some supposed noble self-deprivation.
Literally, the word in English simply means "holy act, deed or work of holiness." The original Bible words for sacrifice just mean "gift, offering, drawing near, devotion, dedication."
We have nothing to "sacrifice." All is God's to begin with. We can never give God anything but our love and our intelligent worshipful realization of the goodness and beauty of all His ways. The joy and satisfaction of love is in giving. Giving is the essence of love. If giving is not its heart and joy, then it is not love, but lust. Love gives, lust wants. The world cannot see the difference.
God is love. He wants to give. It is His essence. He wants to pour out showers of blessing and goodness upon us, but He can do it only where there is an intelligent appreciation of the true facts of life that He has revealed, and a deep and unshakable commitment in the heart to live in harmony with them. Where there is ignorance of the true realities of life, as in the natural mind of the flesh, or where there is unwillingness to conform the life to the things of God, where lust and greed and pride and pleasure are allowed to pull in the other direction, then God cannot bless.
Bro Growcott - Living Sacrifice