“Do not murder. 14 Do not commit adultery. 15 Do not steal. 16 Do not be a false witness against your neighbour. 17 Do not want to have anything your neighbor owns. Do not want to have your neighbor’s house, wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey.” (Exodus 20:13-17).
As we read these verses, the word that keeps jumping out at us is the word, “not.”
When we read these verses, we should, also, read the words of Jesus about murder (Matthew 5:21-22) an adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).
Where does this leave us?
We think about ourselves – our actions, our words, our thoughts.
We bring our thoughts to the Lord. We speak to him about how we feel about ourselves – “0 Lord, suppose you kept a close watch on sins. Lord, who then wouldn’t be found guilty?” (Psalm 130:3).
We see what we’re really like – “Suppose we claim we are without sin. Then we are fooling ourselves. The truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
We wonder what we can do about our sin?
We read the words of Jeremiah 13:23 – “Can leopards change their spots? It’s the same with you. You have always done what is evil. So how can you do what is good?”
We wonder if there is any hope for us?
When we read on, in Exodus 20, to the verses that follow on from the Ten Commandments, we read about “thunder and lightning … smoke … thick darkness” (verses 18,21).
We read about how the people reacted to all of this – “They trembled with fear and stayed a long way off” (verse 18).
What about us?
We are convicted of our sin. We feel like there is no hope for us.
What can we say to all of this? – We can pray, “God, have mercy on me, I am a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Does God hear and answer the sinner’ prayer? First, we will look at what we can learn, from the Old Testament, about the forgiveness of God – and, then, we will look at what the New Testament tells us about God’s forgiving love.
We return to the words of Psalm 130. In verse 3, we read about our sin. In verse 4, we read about God’s forgiveness.
Psalm 103, also, speaks to us about the forgiving love of God – “The Lord has removed our sins from us. He has removed them as far as the east is from the west” (verse 12).
We read the great words from Micah 7:18-20 – “Lord, who is a God like you? You forgive sin. You forgive your people when they do what is wrong. You don’t stay angry forever. Instead, you take delight in showing your faithful love to them. 19 Once again you will show loving concern for us. You will completely wipe out the evil things we’ve done. You will throw all our sins into the bottom of the sea. 20 You will be faithful to Jacob’s people. You will show your love to Abraham’s children. You will do what you promised to do for our people. You made that promise long ago.”
Where is this leading us? We’re being taken beyond the “Thou shalt not … ” of Mount Sinai – on to the “This is what the Lord has done” of Mount Calvary.
At the place of crucifixion, where Jesus died for us, we hear our Saviour’s prayer – “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In the death of Christ, we have the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy – “He suffered the things we should have suffered. He took on himself the pain that should have been ours … The Lord has placed on his servant the sins of all of us … He took the sins of many people on himself, and he gave his life for those who had done what is wrong” (Isaiah 53:4,6,12).
Directing our attention beyond Mount Sinai – “This is what you must not do” – to Mount Calvary – “This is what the Lord has done for you”, the New Testament leads us beyond “the staying a long way off” of Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:18) to something very much more wonderful – “Brothers and sisters, we are not afraid to enter the Most Holy Room. We enter boldly because of the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19).
When we come, through the precious blood of Christ, into the presence of the holy God, there is a sense of amazement. We are no longer terrified. We no longer trying to hide from God. We are amazed at how much the Lord loves us. We are amazed at what he has done for us.
“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvellous! How wonderful!, and my song shall ever be: How marvellous” How wonderful! is my Saviour’s love for me.”
We have travelled from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary. As we look back from Mount Calvary to Mount Sinai, what are we to say about the law of God? It shows us how sinful we are – so that we might learn how great a Saviour Jesus is. As we look back to Mount Sinai, let us not forget to look behind the Ten Commandments, and catch a glimpse of the God who redeemed his people from their bondage in Egypt. Before the call for Israel’s obedience, there was the mighty work of God’s redemption. In the words that introduce the Ten Commandments – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2), we have a reminder of something very important – our obedience to God must always be grounded in this: gratitude to God for what he has done for us.
As the people were about to enter the promised land, they were reminded of God’s love for them: “It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:8). This is what the Lord has done for you; now, this is what you must do for him – this was the way for the people of Israel, and it’s still the way for us. It’s the way of love – long before we ever thought of loving God, he loved us; and, now, in response to his love for us, we are called to love him.