Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
WSC 43-44 of 107
“1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:1-2).
WSC 43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.1
1Ex 20:2; Dt 5:6.
WSC 44. What doth the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us, That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments.1 1Lk 1:74–75; 1 Pet 1:15–19.
Books are fast becoming museum items. Maybe in another hundred years, all we will know will be Kindles, iPads, smartphones, or whatever succeeds them. But if you turn to a typical book today, you will see three articles with mysterious-sounding names. They are called foreword, preface and introduction.
Do you know what the differences between these items are? Well, the foreword is the word that goes before. It is usually written by someone other than the author or editor of the book. He is usually someone regarded as respectable to give credibility to the book. The introduction, on the other hand, is usually the book’s first chapter. It introduces the subject matter, but is also part of the book’s content.
What about the preface? Well, the preface is usually written by the author himself. But unlike the introduction, it is generally not part of the book’s proper content. Instead, it deals with the book’s purpose, limitations and scope.
Many of us skip the preface when reading a book. However, the preface is often significant because it gives us the author’s perspective on why he wrote the book and why it is worth reading.
Now, the Ten Commandments have a preface too. It is not part of the commandments, but the LORD speaks it in the hearing of the people together with the rest of the commandments. And it is, no doubt, also inscribed on stone by the finger of God, twice with the rest of the commandments. It is kept with the rest of the commandments in the holy ark of the covenant, in the Holy of Holies, in the Holy Tabernacle of God.
It is, therefore, of great importance.
What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
Our Catechism, Question 43, answers:
“The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
The words quoted in the answer are directly from Exodus 20:1-2:
1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
What may we learn from the words? Well, they are spoken by God Himself as His preface to the Ten Commandments. So, no doubt, they are intended to commend the commandments to us, and to assert their authority.
God is telling His people: You, of all people, must especially keep these commandments. You may not ignore them. You may not disobey them. If you love me and are grateful to me, you must obey them.
What reasons does God highlight to enjoin us to keep the commandments?
Looking at the text, we can see three: First, “I am the LORD”; secondly, “I am… thy God”; and thirdly, “I… have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
Here are three reasons why we must give priority to the Ten Commandments, and why we must keep them. First, He is the LORD. Secondly, He is our God. Thirdly, He is our Redeemer.
1. He Is the LORD
The Israelites are standing behind the boundary at the foot of the mountain. Then a loud voice echoes through the mount: “I am the LORD…” The person behind the voice, the giver of the Ten Commandments, is introducing himself: “I am the LORD.”
Remember that the word ‘LORD’, capital L-O-R-D, translates the Hebrew name of God, Jehovah or Yahweh, which means “I am.” When Moses asked God what His name was, He answered, “I AM THAT I AM . . . thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Ex 3:14). The name Jehovah teaches us that God is the alone self-existent, eternal and unchanging Creator.
This alone, self-existent, eternal Creator of the universe is speaking. The voice heard is not that of man. It is not the voice of an angel. It is not the imaginary voice of a false god of man’s imagination. It is the voice of the living and true God, Jehovah.
And Jehovah is also the Covenant name of God by which He endears Himself to His people. Thus, He told Moses to introduce Him to the children of Israel as “The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:15).
As believers, we are the children of Abraham, God’s covenant people (Gal 3:29). Thus, the Church must especially heed the voice and obey it—more than the world.
What a shame it will be if, as God’s people, we ignore what He says. Indeed, the LORD explicitly reminds us that He is our God. Therefore, let us hear and obey the voice, for He is our God.
2. He Is Our God
The voice says, “I am the LORD thy God…”
There are many so-called gods in the world, but only one living and true God exists. Therefore, when the LORD speaks the Ten Commandments, He makes it a point to tell us that He is our God so that we may listen to His voice and not to any other voices.
Why? Because the voices of other so-called gods are the voices of the devil and his cohorts. The apostle Paul warns us that all false gods have demonic origins. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God,” says Paul (1 Cor 10:20).
The devil has, since the creation of man, sought to steer him away from the Creator by pretending to provide an alternative source of wisdom.
When God first created our first parents, Adam and Eve, God’s voice was the only voice they knew. It was a kind and loving voice of a father and friend. It taught them how to live a life of joy and blessings.
But then they heard another voice. This voice told them that their Creator was not telling them the whole truth and was withholding the best things in life from them. The voice told them to break free from the rules. “Thou shalt not surely die. You shall be as gods if you eat the fruit. Break free!” Sadly, they listened to the voice and believed the lie. Since then, the voice has been heard in every generation, at every situation in life, from different sources singing different tunes, but saying the same thing. Break free. Break free. Ignore the voice of your God.
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The voice of Satan says, “Who says Jehovah is the only God? It is religious discrimination to say that Christ is the only way to salvation. Indeed, why do we need God? We have technology.”
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” The voice of Satan says, “What’s wrong with portraying God and using it to help us to focus on God? What’s wrong with worshipping God in the way we find pleasurable?”
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” The voice of Satan urges the world to use the name of Christ as a swear word: “It’s cool, everybody does it, why shouldn’t you?”
The voice of God says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The voice of Satan says, “Why make life difficult for yourself? Why are you so legalistic and refuse to work on Sunday? Why no business sense and refuse to open your shop on Sunday when everyone is free to shop?”
The voice of our God says, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” The voice of Satan says, “You are all equal; why should you honour them? Is it not their responsibility to provide for you since they brought you into this world?”
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” The voice of Satan says, “You may kill so long as you do not call them humans. Call them foetuses or call them invalids and terminally ill.”
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The voice of Satan says, “What is more pleasurable and exciting than that? If it feels good, it must be right. If you love her, it is alright for you to do it; after all, it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
The voice of our God says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The voice of Satan says, “Don’t be fussy; what’s the difference between the originals and the pirated.”
The voice of God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” The voice of Satan says, “Most lies are harmless. Say what you want, but cover your tracks so your lies are not discovered.”
The voice of God says, “Thou shalt not covet.” The voice of Satan says, “The national lottery gives a lot to charity, you know? Besides, you stand a chance to become a millionaire so that you can help others!”
Beloved brethren and children, do you listen to the voice of God or the voice of Satan? One day, you shall have to answer for the voice that you have listened to. Solomon says:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl 12:13-14).
If you constantly heed the voice of Satan, the day will discover you, and you will be found to be not a child of God, but a child of Satan. Let us, therefore, hear and obey the Ten Commandments, for He who issued them is our God.
But now, thirdly, let us listen to and obey the voice of God, for He is our redeemer.
3. He Is Our Redeemer
Not only does the voice introduce Himself as the LORD our God. He further introduced Himself to His people as He who brought them out of the land of Egypt: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” He says (Ex 20:2).
Now, the New Testament teaches us that God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt is pictorial, typical, or, if you like, prophetic of God’s redemption of Christians out of sin and bondage of Satan (see Lk 1:68-75). God once brought His people of old out of earthly Egypt and the bondage of men. So, now He brings His people out of spiritual Egypt and bondage to the devil, sin and the world.
Thus, the Apostle Paul reminds us: “Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20).
In the same way, the Apostle Peter urges us to be holy as God is holy since we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:16, 18-19). Holiness involves obedience to God’s voice.
Modern Christianity puts a lot of emphasis on happiness, experience, and adventure. It is about self-discovery—the discovery of one’s potential and goodness. Not so, the Christianity of the Scriptures. Instead, it is of holiness, righteousness, and grateful obedience to the voice of God. Joy comes through the knowledge that the God who redeemed us is pleased with us. We enjoy God by glorifying Him through grateful and loving obedience to His Word.
Therefore, let us hear His voice as our Redeemer, and seek to please Him out of gratitude and love. Remember: Our Redeemer has redeemed us for this end, that, being free from the slavery of sin and Satan, we might be encouraged and enabled to yield obedience unto Him (Lk 1:74-75).
Who is our Redeemer? I am sure you know, beloved brethren, that our Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, God is our Redeemer, but Christ is particularly our Redeemer, for He is appointed the Redeemer.
Indeed, do you realize that it was Christ who spoke on Mount Sinai? Christ Jesus is the Word of God. God speaks to us generally through Christ except when He affirms the Son’s sonship. The apostle to the Hebrews confirms this fact.
Look at Hebrews 12. He tells us in verse 22 that as Christians, we have “come unto Mount Sion, unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn,… and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb 12:22-24).
Then he says in verse 25:
“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth.”
Who is this “him”? Well, the nearest antecedent noun is “Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant!” So we know grammatically that the apostle is referring to Christ as he who spoke on the mount, whose voice shook the earth. He is now ascended and speaks from heaven. And He promises to shake both heaven and earth. This is remarkable, isn’t it? We must obey that voice that spoke on Mount Sinai because it is the voice of our Saviour, our Redeemer. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” He says (Jn 14:15). Oh, how can we not love Him when He laid His life down for us to redeem us? Oh, how can we not obey the voice out of love when He who spoke loves us enough to die for us?
“And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:1-2).
The LORD our God is not just a holy and transcendent God. He is immanent. He is Christ, our compassionate elder brother who took on our flesh to live, suffer, and die for us.
Therefore, beloved brethren, we are bound not only by duty but also by gratitude to keep the commandments. Our shorter Catechism, question 44 asks, “What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?”
“The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us, That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments” (WSC 44).
This is what we have been talking about in this hour. We must keep God’s commandments out of love and gratitude because He is the LORD, our God and Redeemer.
Oh, may the Lord grant us that we may take careful heed to what our Lord wants us to hear and do. Amen.