Journey Week 7 The Ten Commandments

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – May 11, 2008

Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22:37-39)

  1. Although the topic for the 7th week of the Journey is the “Ten” Commandments, there really are just two commandments.
    1. Love the Lord, and love your neighbour as yourself.
      1. … the two essentials of the New Church … are that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine; and that men ought to live according to the precepts of the Decalogue. (AR 485)
    2. These two make up the essential core of all religion, the life of heaven, the life of charity on earth, and the doctrine of the New Church.
      1. One might even say that this is the Lord’s own “mission statement” for people on earth. The church should draw its mission statement from it, providing assistance to those people who wish to be a part of the Lord’s programs. The organized church’s first goal should be to help people know who the Lord is because you cannot love someone you do not know. This is done by providing places and forms of worship, and by instruction from the Lord’s own Word.
      2. But, like most things, once you have established the principles, the most general teachings, you need to go on to flesh it out a bit and clarify what you mean.
        1. That’s why there are additional commandments.
        2. That’s why the Word is full of stories showing what happens to people when they break the commandments; and what happens when people put themselves into the Lord’s order.
    3. One other issue related to the number of Commandments.
      1. They have always been called the “Ten Commandments” but sometimes people were a little confused as to why there were 2 commandments about coveting. So, they have frequently been combined, and the first commandment divided into two.
        1. One God,
        2. No idols
        3. Name in Vain
        4. Keep the Sabbath
        5. Honour Father and mother,
        6. No Murder
        7. No Adultery
        8. No Theft
        9. No False Witness
        10. No Coveting of spouse or property.
      2. In the New Church we have the luxury of knowing through Divine Revelation how the Lord numbered them, and why. There are 2 tables, one is for God, one is for His people. As there is a Trinity in God, there are three commandments that relate to Him.
        1. One God – and therefore no idols.
        2. Keep His Name
        3. Keep the Sabbath.
      3. On the other table are 6 commandments that tell people how they are to live in communities with one another.
        1. No murder
        2. No adultery
        3. No theft
        4. No false witness
        5. No Coveting of the house
        6. No Coveting of the things within the house
      4. And the 4th Commandment, “Honour your father and mother” tie the two tables together.
        1. The Lord is your father, and the church is your mother – so it belongs on the Lord’s table; and nothing is so important to community peace and well being than the proper respect towards one’s parents, so it runs over onto the second table.
        2. That also means that the 9th and 10th Commandments are both about coveting, but different kinds.
          1. If you happen to hear that someone broke the “sixth” commandment, you need to find out which numbering system is being used or you might get the wrong idea.
    4. Reflecting on the image of the Ten Commandments being given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, no reasonable person suggests that this was the first time that people heard the idea that society should be based on laws, and that those laws would include prohibitions on murder, stealing, lying, and adultery.
      1. But, but giving them from Mt. Sinai in the midst of thunderings and lightnings He put the stamp of Divine Authority on them.
        1. TCR 282 as read in the Children’s talk: But listen: they were promulgated in so miraculous a way to make known that these laws are not only civil and moral laws, but also Divine laws; and that acting contrary to them is not only doing evil to the neighbour, that is, to a fellow citizen and society, but is also sinning against God. Wherefore these laws, by their promulgation by Jehovah from Mount Sinai, were made also laws of religion.
        2. Evidently whatever Jehovah commands, He commands in order that it may be a matter of religion, and thus some thing to be done for the sake of salvation.
          1. We need to be careful when thinking about ways of presenting the New Church to others. The process of marketing a product of some sort seeks to find out what you want, and then provide it to you for a price. If Jehovah thought this was a good way to run the church He would have soon seen that the children of Israel did not want rituals, nor did they want to give up their best livestock for sacrifice! They wanted to drink and sing and dance in the “high places”. If Jesus wanted to grow the church among the people of His day, He would have done lots more miracles of healing, driven out the Romans, and given them an explosive economy.
      2. But He didn’t give any of them what they wanted. He gave them – and us – the burden of the cross instead.
        1. The whole point of church/revelation/religion is that there are things that we need for the sake of our spiritual lives that are not immediately obvious to us.
          1. Which would your child prefer for dinner, Ice cream or broccoli? Or if our child ask for bread, will we give them a stone?
  • The ice cream is far more delightful, but wise parents make sure that their children eat healthful meals first, then enjoy a portion of ice cream.
    1. Our heavenly Father is trying to instruct our childlike states. It’s not supposed to be about what we want – it’s supposed to be about what He knows that we need for the sake of our spiritual lives.
    1. In the olden days, there was a lot of fear based respect of superiors.
      1. Angry Jehovah that punishes the wicked.
      2. The strong father figure who disciplines the children.
      3. Churches were designed to reflect this relationship by putting the altar distant from the people.
    2. In the past 50 years, our culture has changed quite a bit.
      1. The angry Jehovah has been replaced with gentle Jesus.
      2. The mother is now presented in advertising as the wise leader of the family.
      3. Churches are designed to bring people closer to the altar, moveable chairs replacing fixed pews.
      4. Underlying it all is the sense (not all bad) that everyone’s equal, everyone’s voice has the same authority, everyone’s opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. When we are talking about communities of adults, this is a huge improvement – a tangible sign that the last judgement has taken place and is having its effect in the world.
      5. However, we can get so used to having open discussions that we begin to think that everything is up for debate, everything is just an opinion.
    3. Divine revelation is NOT a conversation among equals. God’s a lot smarter than we are, and He knows what’s good for our spiritual life because He designed us and He made us.
      1. The Ten Commandments are NOT suggestions, nor are they “talking points.”
        1. We don’t get to negotiate about whether stealing or adultery are wrong, they cannot be revoked by a referendum.
  • You shall not follow a crowd to do evil (EXO 22:2)
  • The way to heaven is narrow, and there are few who find it (MAT 7:14)
    1. Health movement proves that people are willing to do the right thing for the sake of their natural health.
      1. The New Church is a program for a healthy (spiritual) life through (spiritual) diet, and (spiritual) exercise.
    1. Conclusion
      1. Today is Mother’s Day, so we need to finish this up with the two obvious ways that the Ten Commandments are tied to motherhood.
        1. What was His 4th Commandment? Honour your father and your mother. Why? Because they gave you life, and nourished you, and set on the path that leads to eternal life in heaven.
        2. I’m sure we’ve all heard our mothers say, “I’m your mother and I make the rules. Do it because I said so!”
          1. Moms keep order in the house, keep everyone fed and on schedule, and on the path to heaven. They need rules to do that, and the rules they make are from love and for the sake of the order of the home.
          2. The Lord made the world, and He’s trying to keep everyone spiritually fed, on schedule, and on the path to heaven. He gave us some rules to guide our way and make it easier.
          3. When the rich young ruler asked what he should do to prepare himself for heaven, the Lord first told him to obey the Ten Commandments. The young man said that he was already doing that, what else was required. The Lord told him to shun the loves of self and the world, and to learn to follow the commandments – not to look good or keep out of trouble – but because the Lord asks it. (See MAR 10:17-21)
          4. We need to follow the Ten Commandments because He makes the rules and He said so. This is the “burden of the cross,” to do these things not for “enlightened self interest” but simply because it’s what your Heavenly Father asks of you. Amen.

    First Lesson: Mat 7:9-29

    “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? {10} “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? {11} “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! {12} “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {13} “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. {14} “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. {15} “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. {16} “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? {17} “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. {19} “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {20} “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. {21} “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. {22} “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ {23} “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ {24} “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: {25} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. {26} “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: {27} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” {28} And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, {29} for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

    Second Lesson: TCR 283.

    The Ten Commandments, being the starting-point of the Word and so of the church which was to be established among the Israelite nation, and being … a summary of the whole of religion, making a link between God and man and man and God, were so holy that nothing holier could exist. Their outstanding holiness is evident from the following points.

    • The Lord Jehovah Himself came down on Mount Sinai in fire and accompanied by angels, and from there proclaimed them out loud, and the mountain was hedged about to prevent anyone approaching and being killed. Neither the priests nor the elders came near, but only Moses.
    • The Commandments were written on two stone tablets by the finger of God.
    • When Moses brought the tablets down the second time, his face shone.
    • The tablets were afterwards laid up in the Ark, and this was at the centre of the Tabernacle. It was surmounted by the mercy-seat, above which were placed cherubim made of gold. This central area of the Tabernacle, where the Ark was, was called the Holy of Holies.
    • Outside the veil, inside which the Ark was, were placed many objects to represent the holy things of heaven and the church; these were a table overlaid with gold on which the bread of the Presence was put, a golden altar on which to put incense, and a golden lamp-stand with seven lamps; also curtains all round made of fine linen, purple and scarlet. The holiness of the whole of this Tabernacle was entirely due to the law contained in the Ark.
    • It was on account of the holiness of the Tabernacle as containing the Ark, that the whole people of Israel were commanded to camp around it in the order of their tribes; and that they set out in order after it; and that there was a cloud over it by day and fire by night.
    • It was because of the holiness of the law, and Jehovah’s presence in it, that Jehovah spoke with Moses upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim; and that the Ark was called ‘Jehovah-is-there’; and that Aaron was not allowed to go inside the veil except with sacrifices and incense, on pain of death.
    • It was because of Jehovah’s presence in and around the law, that miracles were done by means of the Ark containing the law.
    • For instance, the waters of Jordan were parted, and the people crossed over on dry land so long as the Ark rested in its midst.
    • Its being carried round the walls of Jericho caused them to fall down.
    • Dagon, the god of the Philistines, first of all fell on his face in the presence of the Ark, and later was found lying with his head cut off together with the palms of his two hands upon the threshold of the shrine.
    • On account of the Ark the men of Bethshemesh were smitten to the number of many thousands.
    • Uzzah was killed by touching the Ark. The Ark was brought into Zion by David with sacrifice and jubilation. Later it was put by Solomon into the Temple at Jerusalem, and he made its inner shrine there.

    From these and many other details it is plain that the Ten Commandments were the height of holiness for the Israelite church.

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