Conclusion: What does God say about these commandments?
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, and showing mercy to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. Therefore we should fear his wrath and do nothing against these commandments. But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him and willingly do according to His commandments.
In the Ten Commandments we have the sum total of everything that God would have us say and do. All of the commandments are a reflection of the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods. When we serve the only true God, all of the other commandments will follow from the right spirit. Yet St. James wrote, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) The seriousness of transgressing God’s commands is severe. Because of our sins we are guilty. The primary purpose of the law is to accuse us of our failings and inability to do what God demands…and under no circumstances are we ever able to keep His law as we properly should.
Yet, as sinful human beings we are often tempted to invent other ways by which we can please God. We make up other rules that are not quite so difficult, not quite so plain. We desire elaborate works that truly show our devotion to God and we treat His Commandments as passé, out of date. We invent ways in which we can please God and unknowingly set aside the Holy Commands that He has given to us.
As sinful human beings we have a hard time stomaching the rigid requirements of God’s law and would like an alternative to serve Him. For example, if we look at our sinful understanding of the 3rd commandment, we say to ourselves “It is important that I worship regularly.” But instead of treating God’s Word as though it is the most important thing in our lives we treat it as though it is just another requirement to fulfill. Instead of whole heartedly loving and willingly submitting to all of His commands we look at them with fearful drudgery or indifference. Instead of feasting on the Gospel of forgiveness, we subject ourselves to the divine service and the Word for the day and treat that act of obedience as good enough.
In the Ten Commandments we see how easily we fail to fulfill them. When taken as a whole they form a complete unit. Like a giant circle that begins with devotion towards God and ends with devotion towards God. When we fail in just one area, our devotion towards God fails. God wants us to love and serve him alone because He shares allegiance with no one. This is an allegiance that belongs to Him and is only possible through the One who has completed the Commandments in our place. God’s love for you was so great that He willingly sacrificed His Son, so that He would not have to punish as our sins deserved. He extends His mercy on all those who rightly fear Him…a mercy that is alone found in Jesus Christ.
While we will never have the ability on this side of heaven to complete the Commandments, we by the grace of God are given the faith to trust in Jesus work in our place. This is a faith that compels us to love and serve Him, not out of fear or compulsion, but out of devotion towards someone who has graciously rescued us and set us free. In that freedom we use the Ten Commandments again and again to review the best ways in which we can fear, love and trust in God above all things, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
To us God gave these Ten Commands That you might learn, O child of man, Your sinfulness and also know To live for God, as you go. Have mercy, Lord!Lord Jesus Christ, now help us all, Our Mediator from the Fall, Our works are all so full of sin, But You for us heav’n did win. Have mercy, Lord! Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary 490)