Friday, July 08, 2022

2022.07.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:17

Read Exodus 20:17

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall we not do to our neighbor’s house? Nor what other four specific things of his? Nor what else?

What does God want us to do with/to our neighbor?  Exodus 20:17 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God wants us to give our neighbor not only our behavior but love from the heart. 

This commandment, especially, sets the Ten Commandments apart from all of the civil/criminal codes of the history of the world. This commandment shows that this is a spiritual set of laws. Not just in the sense that they are given by the Spirit, though that is true. But in the sense that they govern our spirits. Coveting cannot be criminalized or prosecuted because coveting cannot be seen by law enforcement or judiciaries. But it can be forbidden by God’s law and prosecuted by God’s judgment, because God sees the heart. Not only does He see the heart; He demands the heart.

The bookends of the Ten Commandments are really the two great commandments that summarize all of the law. The first table is to love the Lord our God with all the heart. And to love Him really is to have Him alone as God and no other, commandment one. The second table is to love our neighbor as ourself. And restrain our hearts from being covetous of our neighbor really is to love him as ourself. 

The Spirit grabs our attention, after several short commandments, by naming our “neighbor” in these last two. He could well have left at “You shall not bear false witness” and “You shall not covet.” Now, in the tenth commandment, he says “neighbor” three times.

The commandment itself doesn’t regulate action so much as attitude, not conduct but a condition of the heart. It names several specific things with which we might be dissatisfied in our own life, or covet from our neighbor’s. 

But what it is addressing is how we think and feel about those things. God wants our hearts. And He wants us to incline our hearts toward our neighbor as well. When giving the first commandment He said, “I am Yahweh your God, Who brought you… out of the house of slaves” (Exodus 20:2). Now He tells them that they are going to have houses and slaves. 

But most of all they are going to have Him Himself. This is why when the apostle says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” in Hebrews 13:5, he immediately follows it up with, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” You can be content with what you have, because You have Him, and He is enough. You don’t need to have what your neighbor has, because you have God, and He is enough.

Now, we begin to see how dreadful it is to covet something that is our neighbors. It is truly wicked to indulge a state of heart that would make us envious and hostile toward that neighbor. But isn’t it even more exceedingly wicked to indulge a state of mind that says that the Lord is not enough? I wonder how many believers, dissatisfied with their marriages, and wishing their spouse was more like another, have realized that they are in fact declaring to God that having Him is not really enough for them.

Truly, as the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 5, God’s law makes demands even of the condition and impulses of our heart. And perhaps, as with Paul in Romans 7:7–12, it is this particular commandment by which we will discover how very much we are breakers of God’s law. Praise God, then, that out of love for God and love for us, Christ was willing to humble Himself and add all neediness and lowliness. He has suffered as if He had been covetous, in order to put away our sin, and so that His perfect contentment with God would be counted for us and reproduced in us. Hallelujah!

In what part of life are you most tempted to covetousness? What must you realize that you are really saying to God in those moments?

Sample prayer:  Lord, truly You are enough for us. Whom have we in heaven but You, and on earth there is nothing that we desire beside You. But, our hearts often fail and fall into covetousness. Forgive us our sins, and conform us to Yourself, we ask in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee”

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