The Ten Covenant Words

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God’s Day in His Covenant Words

Succession and deep Meaning of the Covenant Words

‘These are the Words of the Commandments the Lord spoke to your assembly, He said them in a loud voice from the fire on the mountain.’ - ‘And He wrote on the tablets the Words of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments.’ (i. Deut 5:22; Ex 34:28 Nkjv)

The peak of the mountain is wrapped in God’s golden glory. God himself hidden in this brightness came down to men, since He loves them and wants to save them. But many have turned away this much from Him that He has to use his power and splendor to be able to gain their attention and respect so that He can tell them what is on his heart. He himself announces to them from the mountain peak his Ten Covenant Words – Words by which He can change hearts and plant love. And not only this, He writes these Words with his own hand on two tables of stone, engraved for ever as unchangeable foundations of love and as an eternal covenant with the children of men.

God himself gave us these 10 Covenant Words – the 10 commandments – as foundations for love, which are still as relevant and valid today as they were back then, since they originate in God’s own love and in his eternal covenant with us. The Hebrew verbs in these Covenant Words can be regarded and translated as a call and order, or as a statement that something is indeed so. Therefore the 10 Covenant Words aren’t just instructions, but they express this: If you know and love God, then you no longer will do or want to do any of these offences. You will want to do what is good and you will do it. By this form of expression the Commandments take on a special meaning. Jesus himself said in his sermon on the mount, that these Commandments include much more than what we superficially consider.

Moreover, they are really ‘Covenant’ Words. They are a covenant which God enters into with us, since along with these Words He promises to help us to keep them, and He supports us in overcoming temptations when we face them. He gives us his yes, his word of consent. He sanctifies us and we are holy to Him. The words 'holy' and ‘sanctified’ in the Bible mean that we belong to God and are linked to Him, have therefore a purpose in life, our life is meaningful.

In order to show the deep meaning of the 10 Covenant Words a little bit better they are here expressed in the sense that if we know and love God we will want to keep them and indeed will keep them.

1st Covenant Word – I AM

“I am the Lord your God.
You will have no other gods before me.” (i. Ex 20:2-3)

God says here, ‘I am’. This is also his name which He revealed to Moses: ‘I am who I am – Yahweh. This is my name forever.” (i. Ex 3:14-15). He is, He exists, and has always been, from all eternity. He is life personified. With the term 'I am' He expresses what He wants to be for us and indeed is:

I am God Almighty.” (Gen 17:1 Nasb). “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides me.” (Is 44:6 Nasb). “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” (Gen 28:15 Nasb). “Do not fear, for I am your God.” (Is 41:10 Nasb). “I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I am He who blots out your transgressions, and I will not remember your sins.” (Is 43:11,25 Esv). “I am the Lord who heals you.” (Ex 15:26 Nkjv). “I am the Lord, and there is no other, I the Lord speak the truth.” (Is 45:18-19 Esv). “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who leads you the way you should go.” (i. Is 48:17). “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, my people.” (Ezek 37:13 Nasb). “I am the Lord, the God of all humankind. There is, indeed, nothing too difficult for me.” (Jer 32:27 Net).

This is what God already said in the Old Testament. When we read all this – what He wants to be for us – why should we ever want to have another god? In the New Testament Jesus takes it still further:

“Before Abraham was born, I am.” (Jn 8:58 Nasb). “I am the way, and the truth.” (Jn 14:6 Nasb). “I am willing, be cleansed. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:13,32 Nasb). “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12 Esv). “I am the bread of life”, (Jn 6:35 Nkjv), for “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live.” (Jn 11:25 Nasb). “I am the door. I came that they may have life abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:9-11 Esv). “I am among you as the one who serves”, (Lk 22:27 Esv), “for I am gentle and humble. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Then you will find rest for your heart.” (i. Mt 11:29). “And do know that I am always with you, even unto the end of the world.“ (i. Mt 28:20).

Knowing and understanding all this and understanding how He is like, then one can actually desire nothing else but to have only Him as one’s God. He is our life giver and by this He is our Father, too. He says, “I am the Father of my people and my people are for me like my firstborn whom I gave life.” (s. Jer 31:9). He is our Redeemer, our Prize, our eternal Life. There isn’t anything better than to be united with Him.

2nd Covenant Word – No false Images of God

“You will not make for yourself an image of gods as a likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water below, and you will not serve them. I, the Lord your God, am a God who would be jealous and I have to respond to the guilt of those fathers who hate me by finding the children of the third and fourth generation to bring them home. But I can reveal my gracious goodness and faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my Commandments.“ (i. Ex 20:4-6)

What does God say with this Covenant Word? It speaks of unfaithfulness and breaking with God, and it deals with the point of replacing God with one’s own false images of God. In the Old Testament idolatry was compared with adultery and with false conceptions about God’s character. Since God is the source of life, only in connection with Him can life exist. Therefore, false images of God and the separation from God finally result in men dieing ... something God wants to prevent. He doesn’t want us to die. Therefore we have in this Covenant Word his urgent warning. He could never just let us move away and perish in the end without doing something about it. He wants us to be with Him and He does not want to lose us to Satan and to eternal death. In this sense alone He is ‘jealous’, He does not want Satan to have us. He pursues us, even in the next generations, in order to bring us back.

‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Harlotry and wine take away the understanding. And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.’ (Hos 4,6.11-12 Nasb). ‘Thus they have committed adultery with their idols.’ (Ezek 23:37 Nasb). ‘The idols of the nations are the work of human hands. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!’ (Ps 135:15,18 Esv). ‘I will save them from all their unfaithfulness by which they sinned. I will purify them; they will become my people and I will become their God.’ (Ezek 37:23 Net).

‘You have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created it.’ (Col 3:8-10 Net).

‘If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, since He cannot deny himself.’ (2Tim 2:13 Net). He says to you. ‘I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in loving kindness and in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord’, how He is really like. (Hos 2:21-22 Nasb).

When we realize what He is really like, it stirs something in our minds and hearts. It is a fact that we are changed into the likeness of what we worship and admire. That is why it is so very important to have a correct notion of God. Therefore Jesus came to this earth in order to reveal God and his true character to us:

“For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth.“ (Jn 18:37 Net). Yes, ‘and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, keep yourselves from idols’ – from false images of God. (1Jn 5:20-21 Esv).

Jesus leads us into the truth about God's love, while false notions of God and idols lead away from God. God wants to save us, He doesn’t want to leave us to idols and death. That is why He is a ‘jealous’ God. He loves us way too much to let us disappear without comment. He courts us, He wants to win us over. He is faithful to us.

3rd Covenant Word – The Name of God

“You will not use the name of the Lord your God in a wrong manner. The Lord cannot turn away the punishment and the consequences from the one who used his name in a wrong manner.“ (i. Ex 20:7)

In the Bible the name stands for the person and the person’s character. Thus this Covenant Word has a much more important meaning than merely saying that we should not use the terms 'God' and 'Jesus' thoughtlessly. This Covenant Word means also that we should not use his name in order to bring forward incorrect arguments about God because by doing so we would project a false notion of God. To use the name of God properly means therefore to honor God by representing his character in the right way. The way our character will be changed depends on whether we stand for a wrong or correct image of God and his character. We are changed for the better if we value God and his nature of love. Satan lied about God, made Him look like a tyrant and thus planted the seeds of mistrust and destruction. Jesus, on the other hand, spoke only the truth about God and honored Him. He revealed the character of God in a perfect way, He embodied the name of God.God said, “I myself will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.“ (Ex 33:19 Nasb).

Satan log über Gott, machte Ihn zum Tyrannen und säte damit Misstrauen und Verderben. Jesus dagegen sagte nur die Wahrheit über Gott und ehrte Ihn. Er offenbarte den Charakter Gottes vollkommen, Er verkörperte den Namen Gottes.

But Satan on the contrary asserted through ‘the serpent, “Is it really true that God said, you shall not eat? You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Gen 3:1,4-5 Net/Nasb). But Satan ‘does not stand in the truth. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar.’ (Jn 8:44 Nasb). Already in the Old Testament Job asked men, “Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for Him? Will you plead the case for God?” And God stated of those who represented Him falsely, “You have not spoken of me what is right.“ (Job 13:7-8; 42:7 Esv).

Jesus said, “I honor my Father.“ (Jn 8:49 Esv).

Therefore, also you ‘whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.’ (1Cor 10:31 Esv).

And even today his Word tells us: ‘You shall call his name JESUS, for He will save people from their sins.’ (Mt 1:21 Nkjv). And yes, it is true, ‘Lord, our Redeemer is your name.’ (Is 63:16 Nkjv).

4th Covenant Word – Seventh-Day-Sabbath

At this point the Covenant Word for the Day of rest – the Sabbath – follows next. But first we will look at the other 6 Covenant Words.

The 3 discussed Covenant Words belong to the first part of the 10 Covenant Words which pertain to our relationship with God. The next 6 Covenant Words relate to our relationship with our fellow human beings.

5th Covenant Word – Parents

6th Covenant Word – Let live

“You will honor your father and your mother. Thus you may live a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

“You will not murder.“ (i. Ex 20:12-13)

These two Covenant Words have something in common. They are concerned with the parents through whom God has given us life here on earth, and they express that we are not to despise and destroy life, but honor and preserve it – be it our own life or that of others. Already the Covenant Word about our parents deals with life and the promise of longevity, while despising parents and life would result in one’s own death. God wants to prevent this, He wants to save us from death.

‘God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.” (Mt 15:4 Net). Also, ‘everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ (1Jn 3:15 Esv). ‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the fire.’ (Mt 5:21-22 Esv). So ‘do not curse.’ (Rom 12:14 Nkjv). ‘Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing.’ (1Pet 3:9 Net).

‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.’ (1Jn 5:11 Net). ‘The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son’ – will be my true child. (Rev 21:7 Esv).

God promises us eternal life, because as our Father He wants us to live eternally with Him. Therefore with these two Covenant Words about the parents and about life we find a connection to the 1st Covenant Word about the heavenly Father, the Giver of life, who said, 'I am. And because I am, you also shall be.’

7th Covenant Word – Faithfulness in Marriage

8th Covenant Word – Faithfulness in Things

“You will not commit adultery.”
“You will not steal.“ (i. Ex 20:14-15)

Again these two Covenant Words have something in common. They deal with faithfulness towards the partner and with faithfulness concerning things belonging to others. We can be unfaithful in monetary things, too. And stealing can also mean attracting – stealing – another person's spouse. Or it can mean depriving one’s own spouse of the love and attention that is his or her due by turning to another person, even if it happens only in mind or by covetously looking at others. Therefore, these two Covenant Words mean that one should not reach out covetously for another person or his property. Faithfulness is a precious quality. Faithfulness towards marriage and faithfulness in matters of earthly goods begins in our hearts.

‘Whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ (Mt 5:28 Net). But ‘husbands, treat your wives with consideration and show them honor.’ (1Pet 3:7 Net). ‘Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, but then come together again.’ (1Cor 7:5 Esv). ‘The immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.’ (1Cor 6:18-20 Net). ‘For a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one. But that is also a picture for Christ's relationship to the church.’ (i. Eph 5:31-32).

And ‘no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’ (Mt 6:24 Esv). ‘One who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.’ (Lk 16:10 Esv). Therefore God says, “'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.“ (Mt 25:21 Esv). ‘For God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2Cor 9:7 Nasb).

God rejoices in us and with us when we are faithful. And here again we can see a connection to another Covenant Word, the 2nd Covenant Word, which deals with faithfulness towards God.

9th Covenant Word – Testimony about fellow Men

10th Covenant Word – Own Character

“You will not give improper testimony against your neighbor.”
“You will not covet your neighbor’s wife, you will not covet his house or his land, nor his male servant, or his maid servant, nor his ox or his donkey nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.“ (i. Ex 20:16-17; Deut 5:20-21)

These two Covenant Words are about slandering the character of another person, and about covetousness and envy in one’s own character. The Bible connects lies and slander with lust and envy in many places. Already Satan was envious of God and Christ and their position and he sought to be God himself. Therefore he began to spread lies about God and to disparage God’s reputation and character. Satan is also our accuser, but God defends us against his accusations and attacks. And God helps us in addition to develop a good character:

So ‘do not bear a false report.’ (i. Ex 23:1). ‘You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev 19:16,18 Esv). ‘If anyone thinks he serves God, and does not bridle his tongue, this person’s service is worthless. The tongue is like a fire. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. That shouldn’t be! Where jealousy and selfishness rule, there the result will be destruction and every bad deed. Your envy others and come to nothing; you ask and do not receive, because you ask selfishly to waste it according to your passions. But also, do not speak evil against one another.’ (i. Jas 1:26; 3:6,9-10,16; 4:2-3,11). ‘Do not let an unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but speak only what is good, so that it may be a help when it is needed and become blessing to those who hear it.’ (i. Eph 4,29).

‘From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts and they defile a person.’ (Mk 7:21,23 Esv). ‘Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.’ (Jas 1:14-15 Nasb). ‘The world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.’ (1Jo 2:17 Net).

‘So get rid of all hypocrisy and envy and all slander.’ (1Pet 2:1 Net). ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Lk 6:37 Net). ‘For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in envy. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, according to his mercy He saved us, through regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.’ (Tit 3:3-5 Nkjv). ‘What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against God's chosen people? It is God who makes us righteous.’ (i. Rom 8:31,33).
These are wonderful promises!

And again these two Covenant Words are closely related by their content. It is possible to portray the character of another person in a negative way through slander and misrepresentation, or to develop one’s own character to the worse by covetousness and envy – thus both Covenant Words deal with character. This reveals the connection to the 3rd Covenant Word which talks of God’s name and character.

God has a wonderful character. He is the opposite of defamation and selfishness – He defends us, gives us abundantly and transforms us to become victorious people who overcome!

4th Covenant Word – Seventh-Day-Sabbath

“You remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days you labor and you do all your work, but the seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. On it you do no work, and you neither let your son and your daughter work for you, nor your servant and your servant maid, not even your cattle or a stranger who lives within the gates of your residence. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. And He rested on the seventh Day, therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath and set it aside as holy.“ (i. Ex 20:8-11)

God sanctified the Seventh-Day-Sabbath, and God sanctifies us. He has created us anew and freed us from guilt and dependencies. We are free, free to be with God. So the Sabbath is also dedicated to the communion with our Savior and God.

‘The seventh Day is a Day of worship, a holy assembly which is consecrated to God. It is a Sabbath to the Lord, in all your dwellings.’ (i. Lev 23:3). ‘Blessed is the man who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.’ (Is 56:2 Esv). ‘Then you will be healed quickly, and you will call and the Lord will answer. You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am!’ If you turn from doing as you please on my holy Day and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy Day of the Lord honorable, then you will take delight in the Lord.’ (i. Is 58:8-9,13-14). ‘And everyone who keeps the Sabbath and holds fast my covenant – I will make them joyful in my house of prayer; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.’ (Is 56:6-7 Esv).

‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.’ (i. Mk 2:27-28). And Jesus, the Son of Man, says, “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, - on the Sabbath to save life, and to heal on the Sabbath’, (Mt 12:12; Lk 6:9; 14.3 Nkjv), ‘for I have made the whole man well on the Sabbath.“ (i. Jn 7:23).

Thus the Covenant Word of the Sabbath is also an expression of compassion. Since those who keep the Sabbath in its true sense remember their fellow men. And with mercy they take good care of animals, too. They do not treat them as lifeless objects without emotions; neither do they support a merciless dealing with animals for profit or to satisfy one’s own covetousness. God's creation and God's creatures are precious to them. Thus the Sabbath also shows our character and to whom we belong.

‘Observe the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, in it you shall do no work: you, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle.’ (Deut 5:12,14 Nkjv). ‘The righteous man cares about the welfare of his cattle, but the heart of the wicked is cruel.’ (i. Prov 12:10). ‘When you see your neighbor's ox or sheep going astray, do not ignore it; you must return it without fail to your neighbor. When you see your neighbor's donkey or ox fallen along the road, do not ignore it; instead, you must be sure to help him get the animal on its feet again.’ (Deut 22:1,4 Net). ‘We know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God.’ (Rom 8:22,19 Net).

The whole creation and the animals ‘wait’ for us to identify ourselves as true children of God by merciful and compassionate behavior. Therefore, the Sabbath also signifies that we become a new creation ourselves with a new attitude, and that we become free and receive the peace God has meant for our hearts.

‘Observe the Sabbath Day. And remember that you were a slave and the Lord your God brought you out by a mighty hand; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath Day.’ (Deut 5:12,15 Nkjv). ‘If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. If the Son sets you free, you will be really free.’ (Jn 8:31-32,34,36 Net). ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’, (2Cor 5:17 Esv), ‘since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.’ (from Col 3:9-17 Net).

‘For we who have believed enter that rest. For He has spoken of the seventh Day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh Day from all his works.’ Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, again He appoints a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying so long afterward, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.’ (from Heb 4:3-9 Net).

Since the Sabbath includes our whole behavior, our faith, yes, even our whole being, the peace of God will settle in our hearts.

The Order in the Covenant Words

The first part of the Covenant Words deals with God and us, the second with us and our fellow men. Therefore, these Covenant Words can well be described with Jesus' words:

‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and understanding, and with all your strength.' This is the greatest commandment. The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments all the laws and prophets of the Holy Scriptures are based. No other commandment is greater than these.’ (i. Mt 22:37-40; Mk 12:31).

A person who keeps the Sabbath in its true sense is a person who lives out all the 10 Covenant Words in their true sense. The other Covenant Words cannot be separated from the Sabbath. With the first part of the Covenant Words we express our trust in God, with the other part we prove ourselves trustworthy. We will be trusting and trustworthy people.

And as in the creation days also in the 10 Covenant Words we can find a meaningful order, for the first 3 Covenant Words complement the other 3 pairs of Covenant Words. The first 3, again, provide the foundation, on which the last 3 pairs are built on, since through the first Covenant Words God can help us to learn to keep the others as well. And the Sabbath, the 7th Day, is here in the connecting center. It connects the Covenant Words about God with the Covenant Words about our fellow men.

Because God loves us, He has given us these Covenant Words. He does not leave us to a fate of sin and death, He fights for us. Through the Holy Spirit He renews our minds and attitudes and accompanies us every day. Therefore, the term ‘Covenant Words’ fits so well because it says exactly what God intends to do: He enters into a covenant with us, He is the supporting Covenant Partner, who wants to be united with us. He even values us so highly that He does not hesitate to regard us as his covenant partners. And the Sabbath seals this covenant and this bond between Him and us, this Day is the bridge and the symbol of the unity between Him and us.

God’s Day in the Light of His Covenant Words

Also here is shown the beautiful structure and order in the Covenant words, which complement each other and are connected. The Sabbath is again here the link between God and man, which seals the covenant between Him and us.

Jaimée M.