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The Close of the Commandments
Exodus 20:5-6


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—November 12, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This evening we continue our series of messages on the Ten Commandments with “The Close of the Commandments”

“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.’”

According to the Library of Congress, the most famous, widely known, and reproduced poster in the world is a recruiting poster from World War I, which was used again in World War II.  You’ve seen it many times: a bearded man in a red, white, and blue forcefully pointing out from the poster above the words, “I Want You.”

“The Close of the Commandments” is like a recruiting poster for the Lord’s army.  “I want YOU” he declares.  And he wants ALL of you, fully devoted to him. For, God doesn’t deal in fractions or in parts. “I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before me.” “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The true and living God demands to be the Lord over your life—every bit of it, in all of its dimensions: heart, soul, mind, and strength.

For that reason, the Lord describes himself as a “jealous” God. At first that seems odd, because we normally think of jealously as a sin.  But, of course, it is impossible for God to sin. 

There is such a thing “righteous anger,” strong feeling against what is wrong.  Jesus showed such “righteous anger” when he drove with a whip the moneychangers from the temple courts. 

In the same way, there is also “righteous jealousy.”  Paul describes it in 2nd Corinthians as a “godly jealousy.”  Not a selfish, self-centered, sinful desire, but a “godly jealousy,” a strong fervor, a passion, a zeal for something God-pleasing.  In this case, the zeal of God himself for you. You are his beloved, and he does not want to share you: with any false god; or anything you make into an idol, more important to you than him; or any sin that would separate you from him.

Perhaps a better translation would be, “I the Lord your God am a ZEALOUS God.”  God is so zealous for you, he even sacrificed his own Son to make you his. God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for all your sins. By his atoning death, Jesus has rescued you from God’s jealous wrath. You need no longer fear that wrath because Jesus took it upon himself when he was nailed to the cross. Jesus has felt the full heat of God’s anger over sin so that you never will.  

“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.”  The Ten Commandments are no joke, and they aren’t just “ten SUGGESTIONS.”  They are God’s unchangeable will, for your good.  And to violate them will bring consequences, not only upon yourself, but can also bring consequences, “to the third and fourth generation.” 

We see in our world evidence of the truth that those who live godly lives, are law-abiding, work diligently, and gain a good reputation, will pass many blessings on to their descendents.  But, God warns the opposite is also true. Those who are ungodly, unlawful, lazy, and have a bad reputation, will pass on problems to their descendants, a truth which we also see evidence of in our world.

However, it is so important to note, this is not inevitable or inescapable, for God specifies, “to the third and fourth generation OF THOSE WHO HATE ME.”  It is only those who CONTINUE in the godless ways of their ancestors who receive punishment from God “for the sin of the fathers.”  That is the word of WARNING.  But, it is followed by a wonderful word of PROMISE: “But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  The warning extends only three or four generations, but the blessing extends to a thousand generations.

I don’t know how far you can trace back your family, but a thousand generations is a very long time.  That huge number is really symbolic of eternity.  God promises that those who turn from the faithless ways of the world, perhaps of their own ancestors, and turn TO him will be shown his love for “a thousand generations,” will receive from him eternal life.

“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 break these commandments.  Therefore, we should fear his wrath and not do anything against them.  But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments.  Therefore, we should also love and trust in him and gladly do what he commands.”

God says, “I Want YOU!”

Amen.

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