CONCLUSION TO THE COMMANDMENTS
August 13-15, 2016
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Exodus 20:1-6
“AN EXCITING CONCLUSION”
1. God is serious about punishing sin.
2. God is (even more!) serious about saving us!
Exodus 20:1-6 (NIV 1984) “And God spoke all these words: 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Some of you may remember that a while ago I had to make the painful revelation that my wife, Chris, is a cheater. No, not in anything important or a bad way. She cheats at the endings. If we DVR a Packer game so we can skip the commercials and halftime and just watch the game she cheats. She finds out from another TV or her phone the ending of the game. She just can’t let it play out. Or if she is reading a book, she starts it and then just can’t wait to find out how it ends so she reads the last chapter. Maybe you can tell that bothers me a little bit. On the other hand I have to admit that I understand why she does it. The ending, the conclusion, is important. A game has to have a final score, a good book, an exciting conclusion. We’ve all felt cheated when the TV show ends “to be continued.” Today we get to the exciting conclusion to the Commandments we’ve been studying all summer. It is very important. So let’s say it together with its meaning on page 6 in the bulletin.
What does God say about all these commandments?
He says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations 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 anger and not disobey what he commands.
But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore we should love and trust in him and gladly obey what he commands.
Now the first thing that probably caught your attention is that God says He is a jealous God. What? Normally we think of being jealous as wrong and sinful. Green with envy is not good. But God is just and holy. What gives? Well it has to do with how we use that word today. Now it means feeling resentment at the blessings or good things that happen to another. Originally it simply means to want what belongs to you. And so a wife can be righteously jealous if her husband is taking the affection and attention and love that belongs to her as his wife and is giving it to another. He is wrong, not she. A farmer can jealously guard his sweet corn crop from joyriding teenagers who sneak into his field to grab a few ears. They are wrong, not he. God is righteously jealous in that He simply wants what belongs to Him.
That takes us to the second thing that may have caught your eye. Those of you who have had the privilege of studying the Bible for a long time noticed that what we use as the Conclusion to the Commandments is actually part of the extended version of the 1st Commandment. “And God spoke all these words: 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” The First Commandment tells us to only treat God as God. Give Him what belongs to Him. That part of it is used as the Conclusion is to remind us that perfect obedience to His commands is what God deserves and is owed. And He is serious about that.
So serious He must and will punish sin. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me.” There you have it. God is serious about His commandments. He means what He says. He will punish sin. Not fair! We might cry. Why do the children get punished for the sins of the fathers? God is simply reminding us of the truth that children see and do. Those who hate God tend to have children who hate God. And there will be punishment. In a sense that’s good news. The militant Muslim terrorists may escape international or American justice. They will not escape God. Those who murder and rape, gang members and drug pushers who don’t get caught have already been caught by God and will get punished. God is serious about punishing sin. And it does feel good to know God cannot be mocked and the evil will get their due.
But then there’s that part of us that remembers there are other people who sin. Our look at the 10 Commandments this summer reminded us that God doesn’t just count blatant sins. He counts them all, all the times we have not put Him first or have said “Oh my… and used God’s name, our habits of putting others things ahead of God’s word and worship, our disrespect to our authorities, the times we have thought badly of another, been selfish with money and things, reveled in the bit of juicy gossip and wanted what belonged to another. If God is serious about sin we are going to get punished too.
Well God is serious sin but we will not be punished. We will not because God is, can we say, even more serious about saving us sinners. “…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Did you notice the difference? 3rd and 4th generation of those that hate Him but a thousand generations of those that love Him? Now for the big question. Why? Why would someone love God so much that they would willingly keep His commandments? You know. Jesus! Have you ever been stopped for speeding and the police officer let you go with a warning? How did you feel? Did you ever break something really important or big, like a family heirloom, a car, the machine at work and the owner was kind and gracious to you? How did you feel? Have you ever really hurt another person, sinned against them and they forgave you and accepted you back? How did feel toward that person? We have sinned against God in more ways than we are aware of. We are commandment breakers. Even though we don’t want to, we still fall into sin. We ought to be punished to the 3rd and 4th generation. God is serious about punishing sin. So serious that He punished Jesus. There was no warning. No that’s OK. Jesus took for us the full punishment that we deserved. Yes, God is serious about sin but He is even more serious about saving sinners. So He gave us His Son to keep every commandment perfectly in our place and to pay the full price for all of our sins. That’s why we are people who love Him and want to obey His commandments. God graciously blesses that obedience and motivates us to more to show love for Jesus.
And that’s also why we have come together as a church. A thousand generations. Think of all the “greats” you have to add. What if God allowed us, gave us the privilege of making a difference for a thousand generations to come. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the good old USA. God doesn’t let us peek at the last chapter. But if the Lord keeps this world going what if the reason the Gospel message, the good News of the God who saves through Jesus was preserved in our country because of what you and I do today? He trusts us! He trusts us, brothers and sisters, and He has entrusted us with His word, the Gospel message of Jesus. Even though angels could, to our thinking, do a much better job, God trusts you. He trusts me. That’s why we have gathered together as St. Jacobi Lutheran Church to work together to proclaim the true Gospel.
And that’s why we called you, Heather, Wade and Alex. St. Jacobi owns the Gospel ministry that God has entrusted to. We have called you to serve as teachers in the public ministry of the Gospel. That means that you will serve on behalf of the congregation. You will carry out Gospel work on behalf of these people who will pray for you and support you. We don’t have a school because no one else in the Milwaukee area knows how to teach the three R’s and everything else that now is taught at the elementary level. We have it to teach children to love Jesus. It’s not good enough for your classrooms to be filled with law and order. They need to be filled with law and Gospel. It’s not enough for you to excel at teaching the subjects and grade levels assigned to you. You need to excel at teaching children to love Jesus. Wade, you helped us out last minute last year on an emergency basis and did a bang up job. I thank you for that. I know what you will continue to bring. Heather and Alex you have already blessed our campus with your kind and smiling faces and will bring your best for Jesus. When you get tired or have a hard day I want you to think of a thousand generations. You have the chance to affect a thousand generations for Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus. That’s what the Conclusion to the Commandments teaches us. God is serious about punishing sin and even more serious about saving sinners. I guess there we are all kind of like my wife Chris. We’ve peeked at the ending even though we are not done yet. It’s a good one. At the conclusion of this world Jesus wins. And because He wins, we win too! Amen.