In Mark 12: 28-31 we read about a time when a scribe asked the Lord which was the greatest commandment, at that time the Lord divided the Ten Commandments into two separate divisions: The first is a quote from Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5 and the second is a quote from Leviticus 19: 18. The Lord indicated that there were two major divisions in the Ten Commandments. There is a vertical section and a horizontal section.
The vertical section concerns our relationship with the Lord and how we should be wholeheartedly devoted to Him, in complete submission. The horizontal section concerns how our relationship with God will affect the way we deal with people who live around us.
If we imagined that the Ten Commandments were like an inverted T, then the first four would be the upright part and the last six would be the horizontal part. However, the fifth commandment would be at the base of the T. It belongs to both the upright and vertical parts and the commandment that joins them together. There is a part of this commandment that relates to God and a part that relates to man.
- When the apostle Paul talks about this commandment in Eph 6: 2, he says that this is the first commandment with a promise. The fact that it has a promise and that Paul mentions that it has a promise is significant as well: if they kept this commandment they would live a long time in the Land that they Lord had given them.
- The first time that the combination father and mother occurs is in Gen 2: 24. This is after the Lord gave Adam his wife as a helper. This is also where the Lord defines marriage. A man makes a public commitment by leaving his father and mother and then joins with his wife. The commitment comes before the joining together and the Lord Himself sanctified this when He was approached by some Pharisees and asked about marriage (Matt 19: 1-6). This shows us that the Lord had planned an ordered universe and the people in this universe are to submit to God’s order. Things are not just to happen but there must be proper consideration for other people and also for the nurturing of children. The Lord made and ordered world before sin entered the world so order came before sin. It is interesting to note that scientists talk about chaotic systems today. Chaotic systems are systems that are unpredictable. Sin robs us of predictable security. The Lord told His people that they need to understand His order and accept His order and then they will have predictable security. The Lord calls upon sinners to live by faith rather than by sight (see 2 Cor 5: 7). In a world marred by sin the only true security can be found by going back to our Maker and acknowledging that He knows how and why He made us.
- If we look at Leviticus 26 and Deut 28 we find that the Covenant of the Land, under which Israel entered the Land was conditional. God made an unconditional contract with Abraham but He gave Israel a conditional contract for their continued tenure of the Land. He said to them, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall…” (Lev 26: 3, 4). The Lord’s love is pure and free; He calls us because He is good, not because we have anything to offer Him.
- Israel had to keep all the commandments to stay in the Land but this commandment promises them longevity in the Land. We are to assume that they will enjoy the Land so they will want to live there for as many years as they can. However, they will not stay in the Land if they don’t obey any of the commandments.
- If we look in Romans 1 we can see that there are certain consequences to refusing to honour God as God and give Him thanks. People who do this say that they are wise but they are actually fools; they exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship the creature rather than the Creator. The end point of worshipping the creature is when we finally worship ourselves without telling ourselves lies. In fact, any worship of any god other than the True God is actually self worship for the people who worship other gods are actually using the other gods to manipulate them for their own ends. They make deals with their gods and try to force them to do what they want rather than to obey their gods. However, people who worship the True God listen to what He commands and then they obey Him.
- In Romans 1, the Lord tells us that the people who don’t honour God as God are given over to the lust of their hearts and impurity. There is a long list of activities that follow from being given over to our own lusts but in Rom 1: 30 we see that one of the consequences is being disobedient to parents. If we looked at this list of consequences from Rom 1 with our modern outlook we would be surprised to notice that “disobedient to parents” is in the same category as murder, greed, envy etc…
- None of the commandments are independent or to be kept in their own right. They all combine together with synergy. Keeping one commandment leads to keeping other commandments and the first four naturally lead to keeping the last six. If we don’t get the first four right then we have no real reason to keep the last six.
- The Fifth commandment comes after we understand that there is one God and that we must accept that He is supreme and absolute. We must not reduce God in our minds or in the way we act. If we have God in the proper place then we will be humble before Him and “Self” will be relegated to its proper place. There is no room for self-love in the Ten Commandments. We must love God and love our neighbours as we love ourselves. The assumption is that we are sinners and we will love ourselves, there is no command to do that. However, we know that we love ourselves because we do things that show that we love ourselves.
The Israelis had a priesthood to stand between them and the Lord but Christians can come directly to God (Heb 4: 16). This does not stop us from treating God in the proper way and giving Him the honour that He deserves by right of creation and redemption.
Even though we are all priest to our God (see Rev 1: 6), we are not independent of our God and we must accept His order in our lives. In John 3: 16 the Lord told us that we could have eternal life that is the unconditional covenant. In John 10: 10 we are told about abundant life; that is conditional, we must have eternal life first and then we must submit to the Makers instructions before we can enjoy the richest of the blessings He has fo