Why We Need Another Tablet (Exodus 20:12-17)
Topic: Exodus Passage: Exodus 20:12–20:17
Why We Need Another Tablet
(One Body: Love One Another)
Pastor Bryce Morgan
I. Which Tablet?
“Why we need another tablet”. Doesn’t that sound like the title of a recent article from some computer magazine? I think the title would actually be something like, “Why we DON’T need another tablet!” Did you know there are almost fifty tablet PCs currently on the market? Ipad, Surface, Galaxy, Kindle, Nexus, and the list goes on.
But even though, right now, there is some tech-obsessed husband out there who is trying to convince his wife of “why we need another tablet”, that isn’t the kind of tablet I want us to think about this morning. The tablet we’re going to consider is not made from plastic, but from stone.
I’d like you turn this morning, in your Bibles, to Exodus 20. This morning we are concluding our month-long study of what the Hebrew Bible calls the Ten Words. These are the words that God gave to Moses, to give to the descendants of Israel, only weeks after they had been liberated from slavery in Egypt.
These Ten Words were part of an agreement that God was making with the Israelites. God side of the deal involved blessing, and provision, and protection, and fellowship, and purpose. The Isralites’ side of the deal involved living by these Ten Words. Of course, we know these covenant requirements as the Ten Commandments.
Now the Ten Commandments can conjure up all sorts of ideas in people’s minds. Some picture Charlton Heston. Others think about our moral or legal heritage. Still others think about these commandments as passé, as outdated antiques. But as we’ve talked about, God used these Ten Words to describe the redeemed life for those who had just been set free by His grace.
And so this morning, if you’ve been set free by God’s grace in Jesus, then God still wants to guide you with these Ten Words.
II. The Passage: “You Shall Not…” (20:12-17)
So let’s look this morning at the final six commandments in verses 12-17. After we read through these verses let's go back and talk about each of the commandments, and then we can think about how God is speaking to us this morning about these six words. Look with me at verse 12:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  “You shall not murder.  “You shall not commit adultery.  “You shall not steal.  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”
So let's talk very briefly about each of these words, these commandments.
A. Word Number Five (v. 12)
Word number five is distinct from the commandments that follow in that it is expressed positively; it's not a “you shall not” commandment. God was calling them to honor their parents. Now notice there is no time reference here. This applies to a child who is cared for by his or her parents. But it also applies to an adult child who should be, in turn, caring for his or her elderly parents. And everything in between.
And as Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 6:2, 3, this is the first commandment (actually the only commandment of the Ten that has an explicit promise or blessing: “that your days may be long in the land”. Now if we were to study the book of Deuteronomy (which is simply another giving of God's commands) we would see that 1) parents were called to teach God's words to their children, and their children's children. At the same time, we also see in Deuteronomy that 2) the people's possession of the Promised Land was tied directly to their obedience to God. If you obey, you stay.
Combine these two, and the importance of the fifth commandment is clear. If mom and dad are teaching God's word, and the children are honoring them and their words, then God is being honored by His people. That's what the redeemed life looks like in a family!
B. Word Number Six (v. 13)
Word number six (in verse 13) is fairly straightforward: you shall not murder. Hebrew actually has seven words for killing, but this one is used most consistently to refer to our categories of premeditated murder and manslaughter. It does not refer to killing in wartime or executions by governing authorities or self-defense. Of course, the horror of this violation is clear way back in Genesis 4 when Cain murders his brother Abel. And only 5 chapters later, God emphasizes this by saying this about the penalty for such behavior: And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning...  “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:5a, 6)
C. Word Number Seven (v. 14)
Word number seven speaks to the area of sexuality and faithfulness. This command, when viewed in the context of the entire OT, does speak to the sanctity of marriage. But at the samt times, it also was meant to protect property rights in terms of legitimate inheritance. The Old Testament will go on to not only describe examples of the people's failures in light of this command, but also how they violated this word spiritually through unfaithfulness to God. Of course, God himself sets the standard for faithfulness by His own faithfulness to His promises.
D. Word Number Eight (v. 15)
Like six and seven, Word number eight is pretty straightforward: you shall not steal. The more extensive law that God gave to Moses will go on to describe specific examples…
…of someone taking what does not belong to them. Related to this would be prohibitions against defrauding or cheating others, and even stinginess.
E. Word Number Nine (v. 16)
Word number nine is a little more specific in its phrasing. This certainly is a command against lying, but specifically, it is a command against swearing falsely in a court setting. As a redeemed people, God warned the Hebrews about deliberately misrepresenting the truth and maligning someone else because of personal gain or even fear. So this is not simply a violation dealing with personal injury or relational betrayal, but also the issue of justice. And that was a critical issue in a covenant community like this.
F. Word Number Ten (v. 17)
The final Word here, the tenth commandment, is unique in that it deals with issues of desire and attitude, and not specifically an outward action or behavior. The Hebrew word that God uses here can simply mean to desire or delight in. That's why the command is more specific in terms of what I should not jealously desire, namely, that which does not belong to me. And if I don't listen to Word number ten, what could happen? Word number six, word number seven, word number, and/or word number nine. David's sin with Bathsheba in II Samuel 11 is the best example of that exact 'snowball' effect.
So in light of these last six commandments, let's go back to our original discussion. And that connection comes when we remember that verses like Exodus 24:12 and Exodus 31:18 speak about how these Ten Words were actually written by God himself on two tablets of stone.
Now, in all likelihood, both tablets probably contained all Ten Words. These words did represent a covenant, so one tablet would have been a copy in keeping with the covenant or treaty customs of the day. But there is a long-standing tradition that one tablet contained the first four commandments, that were focused on one's duties to God (e.g. have no other gods before me, don't carve and worship images, do not use God's name in vain), and the other tablet contained these last six commandments, focusing on one's duties to other people.
This same division can be found in Jesus' words about the greatest commandment:
And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
So when we ask the question, “Why do we need another tablet? Why a second tablet?”, I think we can answer that in a variety of ways. One reason is extremely practical: God wanted His people to flourish in this new covenant community which He had created. And to do that, His people needed guidelines about living with one another.
But there is another, even more fundamental purpose for this (what we're calling) 'second' tablet. I believe the Bible clearly teaches us that this second tablet is one of the very best indicators or barometers of the human heart. Here's the principle:
The extent to which we truly embrace life according to the second tablet reveals the extent to which we truly embrace life according to the first tablet.
I John 4:20 clearly makes this point: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
III. Clarifying the Heart
This connection to the heart is something we see emphasized in at least three ways in the New Testament. Remember what we've talked about in previous weeks. If we belong to Jesus Christ through faith, if we have also been redeemed from slavery by God grace (i.e. slavery to sin and death), then we need to consider the Ten Words through the lens of the new covenant God has given us in Jesus the Redeemer.
One of the ways we can look through the lens is by looking at three passages in the NT where at least two or more of these last six commandments are listed. Turn first to Matthew 19.
1. The Second Tablet Alone Cannot Justify Us (Matthew 19:16-22)
This is what we read beginning in verse 16: And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)
Now notice what this teaches us about the second tablet of the Ten Words. Obviously this young man believes he has kept the second tablet, that he has obeyed these commandments. And yet, he is not justified; he is not declared righteous, or complete in a way that merits eternal life. But why not? Well, primarily because he has not kept the first tablet.
The fact that he walks away from Jesus sorrowful reveals that he has and is breaking the very first command: you shall have no other gods before me. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus clearly taught: “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.” (Matthew 6:24)
And I think that fact calls into question just how well he was doing in regard to the second tablet, since Jesus calls him to sell his possessions and do what? Yes, give to the poor. A mere outward conformity to the second tablet was never meant to be a complete description of the redeemed life. God was looking to change behavior, but before that, the heart!
2. The Second Tablet Can Condemn Our Hearts (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28)
Now flip back to the fifth chapter of Matthew…Matthew 5. Jesus says in verses 21 and 22:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...” [now skip down to verse 27] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
As we saw with the young man in chapter 19, Jesus is clear in these verses that living the redeemed life is not simply about NOT taking someone’s life and NOT having intercourse with someone other than your spouse. Those things are obviously prohibited, but they are not exhaustive.
Jesus is saying, “Don’t try to claim you’re a ‘good person’ simply because you are not a murderer. Murder comes from a hate-filled heart. Therefore if your heart is full of anger and hate, how can you say you’re a ‘good person’. The same is true for adultery and a lust-filled heart. And based on this, I think we could say the same about stealing and greed-filled heart, and lying and fear-filled heart, or a self-centered heart. The tenth commandment itself should have pointed them in the direction of God’s desire for heart change.
3. The Second Tablet Can and Should Stir Our Hearts to Love (Romans 13:8-10)
But this discussion really cannot be complete until we look at Romans 13. So turn forward five books to Paul letter to the Romans. This is what we read in verse 8 of chapter 13:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
If simple outward conformity to the Law is not enough, and if all of us stand guilty because our hearts are not conformed to God’s desires and design for us, then how can we live the redeemed life as God’s people? Paul answers that here: love. Love!
You see, through Jesus Christ, God wants to change our hearts, not so that we will simply refrain from taking someone else’s life, but in order that we would lay down our own lives for someone else; that we would honor our parents with gratefulness in our hearts, that we would not simply NOT lie, but that we would love the truth, and speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15); that we would not simply NOT steal from our brother or sister, but that we would help provide for their needs. Listen to how Paul makes this very point in Eph. 4:28:
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
What does the redeemed life look like? It is a life lived out of a redeemed heart that is filled with love for the redeemer and filled with His redeeming-love for everyone person. And when God does that work in us, we will be fulfilling the Ten Words. You see, no one can truly follow the Ten Commandments without the liberation that only Jesus Christ can give us. In love, He died in our place because the Ten Words condemn us, in order that we might live out the Ten Words in the fullness of love that He makes possible.
Why do we need another tablet? So that we can both see the true neediness of our hearts, and therefore our need for a redeemer, a savior, AND so that as those redeemed, we can live out and flourish in the redeemed life the Redeemer makes possible. I pray that you have embraced these very truths. Let’s ask God help us to do that very thing today and this week.