Exodus 20:1-17 Ten Rules to Live By

God is going to give His Rules to Moses in writing even though these rules were already established verbally. God wanted to make it clear how He expected His people to act toward him and each other. These same rules were very distorted when Jesus came to the earth by the religous leaders who added to the rules and distorted and twisted them to fit their lifestyle.

Many people today do the same thing. They say they want to follow God but then they begin to twist and make excuses for rules they cannot seem to follow. Instead of admitting to God that they fail at the rule they have broken they change the meaning of it. When we twist what God has said we are saying things that God never said. We all have to be careful that we do not make excuses for our lives but that we simply go to God when we do not live in accordance to His will and ask for His loving mercy that He gives to those who humbly turn from their sin.

A Rule is a governing principle of conduct for people to follow.

Read Exodus 20:1-17

1)   Rules without a relationship lead to Rebellion

“I am the Lord your God… who brought you out of the house of slavery”

These are personal rules for people who have a relationship with God.

Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

If you know that someone loves you then you are more inclined to follow them because you know that they have your best interest in mind. As Christians we believe that we were set free from the bondage and slavery of sin just like the children of Israel were set free from Egypt. Because of our being set free we want to do the things of God out of love and not because we have to do it.

When you believe that you have to earn God’s favor and Love then you are never sure if He is truly happy with you. Many religions work off this principle that you do many things hoping that the god they are trying to please is happy with them when their life is over.

Christianity is the opposite of that because God has already made us acceptable to Himself through Jesus Christ and now, because we are in a love relationship with Him, we live the way He ask.

The Ten Rules that are going to be laid out by God are for His people to live by. We should not be surprised when those who do not know God rebel against such rules because they are lacking the relationship with God. People that do not have the relationship with God through Jesus Christ will never understand why God would ask people to follow the rules He laid out for us.

We should expect Non Christ followers to act like non Christ followers and we should expect Christ followers to act like Christ followers. All the rules about Church discipline (See Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5)  apply to those who say they have a personal relationship with Christ.

Are the rules still applicable today?

Some say that the Old Testament no longer applies to us today because we live in a day of Grace. That statement comes many times from people who believe the Old Testament is no longer valid since Christ died on the cross.

First the Rules God established for those in the Old Testament did not change because God never changes. These rules are an insight into who God is and how we should approach Him. Those attributes have not changed.

Secondly, Jesus and Paul both referenced the Ten Rules in their teachings.

Romans 13:9-10 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.”10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Matthew 22:36-40 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament Rules He reestablished their true meaning which was to Love God and Love others.

See also: Matthew 19 and Ephesians 6:2

So when you think about the Ten Rules you do not have to look at them as just a bunch of sterile rules to follow but they are made for us to have a better relationship with God and with others.

2)   My Relationship  with God

Rule # 1 Have no other Gods before Me

Many times when we think of gods in our world we think of little statues and temples that people go and bow before to offer up prayers and praise. This was a big deal to God and so He not only starts the list with this one but He also has more than fifty of the laws in the first five books to address this one issue of other gods.

“Before me” means in my presence. If you do not see God as a personal God then you will miss out on why He does not want you going to anything else besides Himself. Just like a wife does not want to be one of many in her husbands life, God does not want to be one of many in your life. This is why you cannot miss the intimacy of how God started this passage. This relationship is supposed to resemble that of a marriage where you are faithful to the one true love which is God. 

Football can be a god, goals can be a god, self-image can be a god, being fit can be a god, overeating can be a god, over spending can be a god, hunting can be a god, golfing can be a god, fishing can be a god, being wealthy can be a god, being super smart can be a god, having a lot of likes on face book can be a god, having a boyfriend can be a god, having a girlfriend can be a god, having a giant church can be a god,  perfectionism is a god, control is a god, respect can be your god, etc.

A god is what we sacrifice for and what we pursue and what we depend on instead of God. What you complain about the most reveals more about what is really your god than you realize. Do you live to give God the glory or do you want the glory?

“Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle your dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god.” (gods at war, Kyle Idleman, pg.22)

Rule #2 Do not make a carved image

We are not to make anything that resembles something we turn to and pray to. Again, we think this only applies to certain cultures but people will use objects as good luck charms hoping that things work out for them. Jewelry of crosses can become carved images if people think they hold certain powers instead of the personal prescence of God in their life.

The Jewish people would later put significance in the staff that Moses carried (2 Kings 18) , the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4:3) and then the Temple. They replaced the intimacy of God for things made in this world.

God is not only a personal God who wants you all to Himself but He is also a God who cannot be contained. (See Also Deuteronomy 4:15-20)

The amazing thing was while God was telling Moses this, the people were down below making an idol out of Gold. (Psalm 106:19-20) You can create your own god that becomes a substitute for God Himself. You can begin to trust in that lucky rabbits foot or golden cross more than God.

Because we cannot see God because He is spirit (John 4:24) we sometimes like to make things we can actually see and touch and by doing so we think we can control God. Control is what we want and sometimes we even want it over God.  We pray a certain way because if we do then God has to answer our prayer, we are told. Faith is not a magical tool for you to get from God whatever you want. Faith is trusting in a loving God who cares for you more deeply than you can ever imagine but also has plans that we could never understand.

“I am a jealous God “

We do not like the word Jealousy because it sounds possessive, but that is exactly what God means when He says that about Himself. He wants you all to Himself. This is the greatest form of love that wants to cherish you without all the other things in your life.

No other god in any other religion wants you to be his as much as God wants you to be solely His. God’s pursuit of us is shown fully in that He came down Himself in the form of a man to make sure we could have a right relationship with Him. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Rule #3 Do not take the Lords Name in Vain

This is any careless or irreverent use of His name. (Leviticus 24:10-16). It meant that you were not to use the name of God in an act of deception (Leviticus 19:12) If you were to tell someone you “Swear to God” to get them to believe you so you could decieve them then you would be breaking this command. Later Jesus would say in Matthew 5 to let your Yes be Yes without all the manipulative swearings and other things they were doing to trick people.

God’s name is not disconnected from who He is and how He acts.  To take Gods name in vain is to assault God Himself.

So any use of God’s name should be used reverently and not used in any other manner. So do not say OMG or “good God” irreverently.

Rule #4 Remember the Sabbath

When the children of Israel were collecting the Manna God had already established a pattern of working six days and resting on one. (Exodus 16) God established this pattern when He created the universe (Genesis 9:6)

What resting does is it relies on God to provide , protect, and to take care of whatever needs to be done. We are not supposed to be like the rest of the world that worries and frets about the things of this world.  You are to remember what God has done (Deuteronomy 5:15) and trust that He will take care of tomorrow.

When we gather on Sunday Mornings we celebrate what God has done just like the Children of Israel celebrated what God did for them. The difference is that now we celebrate what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and not just the deliverance from Egypt. After Jesus rose from the dead the early church began meeting on Sundays which is the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath  (Matthew 12:8) and Jesus healed on the Sabbath (John 5:1-17) but He still set aside time to worship on the Sabbath.

“Remember it”: means to plan ahead of time to not allow anything to get in the way of or to take priority for your time to rest in God.

Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind

The key is to set aside one day a week to worship the Lord and remember what He has done and trust that He will take care of your tomorrow.

3)   My Relationship to others

Now we shift from our relationship with God to our relationship with our community. This is why Jesus summed everything up by saying.

Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Rule #5 Honor your Father and your Mother

Ephesians 6:2 Honor your father and mother”, this is the first commandment with a promise

Honor means to treat them with proper respect. This was written mainly to Honor our parents as they get older and to treat them with the respect and care they deserve. (Mark 7:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:4) In a world that no longer honors those who have gone before them this is even more important that we as Christians honor those who God has put in our lives by taking care of them as they get older.

The promise is that Gods presence and favor will be with you as you follow this command.

Rule #6 Do not Murder

This means that you do not violently take someone’s life. This has nothing to do with the death penalty for those who have committed wrongs. (Exodus 21:15; John 19:10-11; Acts 25:11; Romans 13:4) This also has nothing to do with self defense because it was not something you initiated.

This also means that we are not to do any harmful acts to ourselves. As Christians our bodies are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19) so we do not have any right to do any harm to them.

See also Matthew 5:22

Rule #7 Do not commit Adultery

Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The religious leaders were making all sorts of excuses for divorce and Jesus wanted to show them that the standard is much higher than anyone could achieve. Jesus wanted them to know that the sin started in the mind and so we need to stop it there before it leads to actions.

Whether you are married or not your body is not your own and it is to be lived Holy unto the Lord. (1 Corinthians 6:15)

See Also Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12

Rule #8 Do not Steal

Ephesians 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.

Again, these are for the people of God to live out daily.  People may come that use to live in these lifestyles that God has called them out of but they are to stop the actions they are doing.

You can try and justify your actions by saying they did not need it or they have plenty of them but anything you take without asking, or by having the rights to, it is stealing. This includes when you purposefully lie on your taxes to keep some of the money you owe the government.

Rule #9 Do not say false things about your neighbor

In the Old Testament it took two people to bring a charge against someone and if those two people decided to lie, then they could have a person charged with a crime they did not commit.

This has to do with gossip or exaggerating the truth to make a person sound bad. When you put down someone else, especially for your own gain you are sinning. We have the obligation to care about someone else’s  reputation as much as our own.

See Also Leviticus 19:16

Rule # 10 Do not desire your neighbors things

Desire leads to stealing or gaining illegally. When you desire these things you also do not appreciate what God has given you. Our whole society is set up to want more without being content for what we already have.  There is not one of us who has not looked at what someone else has and desired to have it.

When your desire continues it will lead to action and for you to do things that you shouldn’t to attain things you are not supposed to have.

James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.


The ten commandments are given for us to be in a right relationship with God and with others. God started with our relationship with Him first because that spills over to our relationship with others. You can only be closer to others as you grow closer to God.

Do you see that God desires a pure relationship with you?

Do you believe He loves you and has done everything He can to put you into a right relationship with Him?

Do you believe that the things you have are given to you by Him and are enough ?

You will never trust the things God has told you to do until you realize that He loves you and only wants the best for you. Just like any parent who puts rules in place in their home, God does so for our own good.

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