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“And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven … and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.” Daniel 5:23,24 (Read Daniel 5:1-31)

What would you think if you were at a party or celebration and enjoying all your successes in life, and then, suddenly, a man’s fingers appeared and wrote words on the wall — words you did not recognize or understand?

It happened during the reign of the last king of Babylon, King Belshazzar. He threw a great feast for a thousand of his lords and, while he tasted the wine, he called for the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and used them as drinking vessels in which to serve wine to his guests. “They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone,” verse 4 says.

Daniel 5:5-6 tells us: “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.”

No one could be found to interpret the writing until Daniel the prophet was called. Listen to what he tells the king before he interprets the writing and reveals to the king that his kingdom would fall that very night: “You have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven … and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Who is it who holds our breath in His hand and owns all our ways? The Lord God who created the heavens and the earth!

I think of the words of Psalm 100:3: “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

We like to imagine that our lives are our own and that we are in control, and then there is the writing on the wall to remind us of the truth: it is the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who created us in the beginning and breathed life into our bodies and made us living souls (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7,18ff.; Psalm 139:13-16). He holds our life, our very breath, in His hand.

What Daniel said to Belshazzar is very similar to what St. Paul said to the Athenians at the Areopagus who had altars to many gods and even an altar to the unknown god, just to be safe. Paul said, “The One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:23-28).

The current coronavirus pandemic which has caused fear and panic around the world is another form of writing on the wall. It reminds us that God holds our very breath in His hand and, with something so small that we cannot even see it without an electron microscope, He can take it away.

And the writing on the wall in Babylon? “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.”

What does it mean? We read in Daniel 5:26-28: “This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

And these words could very well be applied to people today who fail to give glory to the God of heaven by humbling themselves before Him and hearing and heeding His Word. MENE, God has numbered your time and your life in this world and finished it. TEKEL, You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. PERES, Your earthly kingdom and wealth will be divided and given to others.

What’s my point?

God is in control and holds our lives and our every breath in His hand. He gives us life that we might acknowledge Him and bow before Him by repenting of our self-centered and sinful ways and looking to Him for mercy and forgiveness through faith in the Savior He provided for us — Christ Jesus, who died for the sins of all and then rose again in triumph on the third day.

If we continue to imagine that we are in control and go on in our self-centered ways, refusing to repent and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, the handwriting is already on the wall. The current virus scare is just one more reminder to all of us of who really holds our breath in His hand.

Have mercy upon us, O God, for failing to acknowledge and glorify Your name by true sorrow over our sinful and rebellious ways and Spirit-wrought faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

As Isaiah prophesied, some 700 years before the birth of Messiah Jesus, He bore and carried in His sinless body the curse of our sins against the LORD God. He bore our griefs and sicknesses. He carried our pains and sorrows.

Yet the people of His day, and especially the religious leaders of Israel, viewed the sufferings and death He endured as the just punishment of God upon Him for His claims to be the promised “Son of man” (Daniel 7:13-14), the Christ, the very Son of God and Savior of the world (cf. Matthew 26:63ff.). And there are, yet today, many who still view His execution as just because of His messianic claims.

But the real reason for His wounding (literally, his piercing) was our transgression of God’s holy commandments. We have not kept God’s holy and perfect will. We have transgressed in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds. He was bruised and crushed — even forsaken by God the Father — upon the cross because He was bearing in His sinless body the just punishment for your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world (cf. Matthew 27:46).

It is as the old hymn states: “The sinless Son of God must die in sadness; the sinful child of man may live in gladness; man forfeited his life and is acquitted — God is committed” (Herzliebster Jesu, Johann Heermann, Tr. Catherine Winkworth, TLH Hymn #143).

The chastisement — the punishment — that we deserved on account of our sins was laid upon Him that we might be pardoned of God and forgiven. Through faith in Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead, we have forgiveness for all our sins and peace with God our Father. The stripes we deserved were laid upon His back; and because He suffered the punishment we deserved on account of our sins, we who trust in Him are healed and made whole, forgiven and cleansed!

As the Apostle John writes: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin … Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:7; 2:1, 2).

While the world passed by the cross of Jesus, seeing only the judgment of God or that of a cruel Roman empire upon a Jewish rabbi who dared to challenge the existing religious system of the day, Jesus, the very Son of God and promised Messiah and Savior, was suffering and dying to make atonement for the sins of the world. He was paying the price for your sins and mine that we might look to Him in faith and have pardon and peace and live forever with God our Maker!

Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world, thank You for bearing in Your sinless body the sufferings and death that I truly deserve on account of my sins and transgressions. Grant to me pardon and forgiveness and a place in Your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’” Luke 13:1-5

Many ask why God would allow diseases, disasters and tragedies — even such a disease as the coronavirus which has infected thousands and thousands — which cause many to die.

As a sinful human being with a very limited understanding of the ways of God, I will not presume to speak on His behalf and try, as some have done, to explain God’s reasonings for permitting such things to occur. I will, however, let God speak for Himself if any care to listen.

Death itself is a part of the curse brought upon this world and all of us because of our sin and disobedience to God’s commandments. After our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).

Moses, in Psalm 90:7-10, says, “For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In Luke 13, Jesus was told of certain Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus asked, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Applying Jesus’ words to those who have suffered or even died from disease or tragedy, were these people worse sinners than others, including us, who have, at least not yet, suffered such tragedy? Jesus said, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

In 2 Peter 3, the Bible speaks of God’s final judgment upon this earth, and we learn why it has not yet occurred. Verse 9 explains: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The reason God allows this sin-filled world to go on a little longer despite the evil in it, and the reason God allows us to live on a little longer in this world in spite of our sinfulness, is because He does not desire our eternal condemnation but that we repent and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus.

And, think about it! Tragedy and disease could also strike right here at home. We cannot claim we are any less guilty of sin. We certainly deserve God’s wrath and punishment for the millions of unborn we have killed and continue to kill, for disregarding the teaching of God’s Word regarding marriage and God’s creation of male and female, for failing to teach our children to know the Lord God of the Bible and to trust in Him, and for all our own individual disobedience and sin against His commandments.

The only reason God has not already judged and condemned us is that He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Psalm 90 goes on to say, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).

So, perhaps — no, most definitely — we ought to use the remaining time God has given us in this world to consider what He has told us in the Bible, to repent of the sin and evil in our lives and to seek the forgiveness God offers and promises to us through faith in the holy life and the innocent suffering and death of His Son!

O merciful God, forgive my disobedience and sin for the sake of Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all and teach me to walk in Your ways and live for You in accord with Your holy Word. Amen.

Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Prepared by Pastor Randy Moll

God’s Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 and are repeated in many other places in the Scriptures. They reveal God’s good and holy will for us and warn us against sin and the consequences of disobedience and sin. None of us have kept God’s commandments perfectly in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds as God requires. Thus, God’s commandments, which are good, reveal to us our sinfulness and failures.

Though we have all come short, Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son in human flesh, has fulfilled these commandments perfectly in thoughts, desires, words and deeds in our place — in the place of all mankind — and He also suffered our just punishment when He died on the cross. He did this for us that through faith in Him we might obtain forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting.

And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:1-2

What right did God have to give these commandments to the people of Israel? Why should they listen to God’s commandments and obey Him? God tells us the answer.

He says, “I am the LORD your God.” He is JEHOVAH God, the Creator of all things. He is the Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the only true God! He also redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt. In fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God brought the people out of Egypt and was leading them to the land of Canaan, where He would fulfill His promise to send the Seed of Abraham — the promised Messiah and Savior — through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (cf. Genesis 22:18). This is why God had the right to give these commandments to His people. He is the LORD God, their Maker and Redeemer! And this is also why the people should have listened to these commandments and gladly and willingly obeyed them.

God has every right to demand that we, too, obey His commandments; for He is the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer — we belong to Him! He created and formed each of us in our mother’s womb (Cf. Psalm 139:13-16). He made us for Himself — to live for Him and serve Him.

But instead of loving Him and serving Him, we love and serve ourselves. As fallen sinners, we do not and cannot keep God’s commandments as He requires.

Because of His gracious love and mercy, the LORD God also redeemed us and won salvation for us by sending His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and to die upon the cross for our sins and then rise again on the third day!

We are the LORD’s — and doubly so! He made us, and even though we have come far short of keeping His commandments, He paid the just penalty for our sins, redeemed us and made us His own again by bringing us to know and trust in Christ Jesus for pardon and eternal salvation! He delivered us from our bondage under sin and is leading us to the promised land of heaven, which is ours entirely as His gracious gift!

Therefore, the LORD God has every right to give us His holy commandments and to expect obedience! And, as His redeemed children — having through faith His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins and failures for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have every reason to gladly and willingly obey Him!

O LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer, we give You thanks that You have both made us and, by Christ’s shed blood, redeemed us. Help us to gladly and willingly submit to Your holy commandments. Amen.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3

Since the LORD God is our Maker and Redeemer, we should have no other gods before His face. Since He is present everywhere and sees all, this means we are to have no other gods but Him!

He is the only true God; and we should “fear, love and trust in Him above all things” (Martin Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM).

We should remember that God is the Almighty Creator, and honor Him as such! We should obey His commandments and avoid all that displeases Him. Because the LORD God is our Maker and also our Redeemer, we should love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and gladly live our lives for Him (cf. Matt. 22:37; 2 Cor. 5:15). Since God has so wonderfully made us and provided for all our needs, and since He has through Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection, redeemed us from our sins and the eternal punishment we so deserve, we should also trust in Him with all our heart and commit our entire lives to His care and keeping.

Have we done this? We must all admit our utter failure; for we so often neglect Him and push Him out of our lives as though He did not exist. Every time we sin against any commandment of the LORD, we are also failing to fear, love and trust in God above all things. We place ourselves and other persons and things before the loving God who gave us life in our mother’s womb and procured for us everlasting life in Christ Jesus, our Savior; and we neglect to give to Him the glory and honor due unto His name!

LORD God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be merciful to us and forgive us for our many failures to honor You as the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer. Enable and teach us to fear, love and trust in You above all else. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. Amen.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

We are not to make ourselves an image or likeness of anything and worship or honor it as if it were a god or could in some way help us.

While this clearly prohibits the making of idols of wood, silver and gold and worshiping or serving any created being as though it were a god, it also forbids making a god after our own image. We are not to make our god like us, putting our values, our thoughts and our own understanding of what we think God should be like into that image. Nor are we to join together in the worship or services of those who revere any other god but the Triune God of the Bible or who believe they can serve the true God apart from faith in Jesus Christ (syncretistic worship services with other religions or holding membership in lodges which don’t profess the Triune God or teach that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to be acceptable to God).

Yet, people do this all the time. They imagine that God is like them — that He thinks like them and shares their opinions and values. They find it unthinkable that God would judge and condemn sin and sinners — and especially so if it happens to be something of which they are guilty. And people think nothing of joining together in the worship and religious practices of those who do not believe in the Triune God of the Bible or who think they can be accepted by God apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

Rather than making our own images of god, we are to accept and honor the LORD God of the Bible, believing what He tells us of Himself in His Word.

He is a jealous God who punishes sin and the sinner. And, as our Maker and Redeemer, the LORD God has every right to be a jealous God. Since He has made us, He also has every right to punish us when we turn away from Him and disobey His commandments. He created us to live for Him and to do His holy will. How it angers and disappoints the LORD when we are rebellious and sinful creatures — when we disregard His holy commandments!

And the true God does not take sin lightly or grade on a curve, so to speak, as some suppose; nor can one escape His judgment. He visits and punishes the sins of the fathers upon the children even unto the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him.

This means that, in addition to the eternal punishments of hell which all unbelievers will suffer, God will, during their earthly lives, punish the unbelieving children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren for the sins of their ancestors who hated Him and turned aside from His holy commandments.

This is certainly a warning to us against giving in to the temptations of the devil, the world and our flesh! If we turn aside from the LORD and live in sin, He will punish us also! Our claims to love the LORD God mean little if we are unwilling to live for Him and submit to His Word.

But, not only is God a just God who punishes sin and the sinner, He is a merciful God who forgives sin for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.

He sent His only-begotten Son to keep His commandments in our stead and then suffer and die for the sins of the world and rise again that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in His name. For the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death in our stead, God is gracious and merciful to us. When we repent of our sinful ways and look to Christ and His cross in faith, God will forgive our sins and give us life eternal instead of His judgment and the eternal death and damnation we deserve!

Let us, then, acknowledge our sins to the LORD God and turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness for Jesus’ sake.

The Bible tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Our God — the God of the Bible — is “faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” when we turn to Him in faith because Christ Jesus shed His holy and innocent blood for us upon the cross and bore our punishment.

And, not only will He graciously forgive our sins and give us life, but He will also give us the needed strength to amend our lives and live for Him.

Dear LORD God, do not deal with us in Your wrath. For the sake of Christ’s bitter sufferings and death in our stead, deal with us in mercy, forgive our sins and give us life. Grant us also Your Holy Spirit and renew our hearts that we might live for You in obedience to Your holy commandments. Amen.

“For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6

A key to knowing the LORD God and how He deals with man is contained in these verses of Scripture. The LORD God is a jealous God who punishes the sins of those who hate Him and rebel against Him and His commandments, even down to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him. But He is also a merciful God who forgives the iniquities, transgressions and sins of those who, by His grace, repent and turn back to Him for mercy.

In Exodus 34, God describes Himself in these words: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (v. 6-7).

In the history recorded for us in the Bible, we can see the truthfulness of these words. When the people of Israel rebelled against the LORD, went their own way, and disobeyed His commandments, even worshiping other gods, God’s judgments fell upon them; and children and grandchildren who continued on in these sinful ways suffered the consequences not only of their own sins but also of the sins of their fathers when the Assyrians and the Babylonians came and destroyed their land and carried them away into captivity. On the other hand, God showed great mercy to such men as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jeremiah, Daniel and others. For the sake of the promised Messiah and Savior who was yet to come, God pardoned and forgave the sins and iniquities of those who turned to Him in faith for mercy and forgiveness.

The question for you and for me today is this: “Do we want God to deal with us in His mercy? Or in His wrath?”
If we continue on in rebelliousness and sin against God and His commandments, we will suffer His wrath, both here and forever in eternity!

But if by the gracious calling and mercy of God we repent of our sinful and rebellious ways, turning to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for mercy and forgiveness, He will, for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of Jesus in our stead, have mercy upon us, forgive our sins, and give us a place in His everlasting kingdom.

O LORD God, have mercy upon us and turn us from our evil thoughts, desires and ways to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son and our Savior, for forgiveness and life eternal. Amen.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

Many consider it a light thing to misuse God’s name in their language and speech. They curse, swear, lie and deceive by it. Some use God’s name or His Word, the Bible, to support their own false beliefs and teachings. Some use it superstitiously, as though their use of God’s name or things connected with it will bring them good luck and fortune. And, all too seldom, is God’s name used rightly to pray to Him, to praise and glorify Him, and to give Him thanks!

God says that He “will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” It is not a trivial offense with God to abuse His holy name, but a serious offense which will bring His wrath and judgment!

This commandment condemns us all for our misuse of God’s name and for our neglect to use it rightly in ways that bring to the LORD God honor and glory and praise. God’s Word applies to each of us, when it says, “The LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, for He kept this commandment perfectly for us and used God’s name rightly. Jesus called upon His Father in prayer and in praise. He taught God’s Word rightly. And His whole life brought honor and glory to God’s holy name — whether that be through His manner of living, His teaching or His miracles.

And, in His death and resurrection, too, Jesus brought honor and glory to God’s holy name. He willingly carried out His Father’s will and went to the cross and bore the guilt and shame and punishment for the sins of all mankind that God might show us mercy and give to us forgiveness in His Son, Christ Jesus. And Jesus rose again and is ascended to the right hand of His Father and continues His work of bringing life and salvation to lost sinners by sending men to preach the Gospel of forgiveness to lost sinners and sending His Spirit to bring people to faith in Him through the preaching of the Gospel.

Jesus, rightly prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent…” (John 17:1ff.).

Jesus Christ, on the tree of the cross, brought glory to His Father’s name and bore the full punishment for all our sins. He desires that we, too, bring God glory by repenting of our misuse of God’s name and of our failures to live and speak in ways that bring God’s name glory. He desires that we turn to Him for mercy. And, in His Word, He promises that forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting, as well as the help to use God’s name rightly, are ours through faith in Jesus’ name.

And placing our faith in Jesus — trusting in Him alone for forgiveness and life — brings glory to God’s name!

O LORD God, forgive us for taking Your holy name in vain, and for neglecting to use it rightly. Graciously help us to hallow Your name among us. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross to redeem us. Amen.

“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy….” Exodus 20:8

The Lord God required His people (under the Old Covenant) to set aside the seventh day as a day of rest from their labors and as a day to consider Him and His ways. Since God Himself created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh, so also His people were to refrain from their labors on the Sabbath that they might hear His Word and honor Him (cf. Exodus 20:8-11; Isaiah 58:13-14).

We are no longer required to rest from all our labors on the seventh day, or on any other day of the week (cf. Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14:5-6). But, as God required the children of Israel to rest on the Sabbath Day that they might have time to hear His Word and worship Him, so He requires that we set aside time from our earthly labors that we also might hear and consider His Word and glorify His holy name (cf. Isaiah 58:13-14; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Luke 11:28; Acts 2:42; Psalm 95:1; Psalm 111:1; etc.). For this reason, we have set aside Sunday as a time for worship and meditation upon God’s Word and ought to take time each day for Bible reading and prayer.

To neglect the services of God’s house, and not to take the time for Bible reading and prayer in our homes, is a sin against God’s commandment. When we neglect to hear and carefully consider the teaching of God’s Word, we endanger our own souls; for it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit reveals to us our Savior and eternal life in His name.

Hearing God’s will and commandment regarding the Sabbath should move us to repent of our erring ways and turn back to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Messiah Jesus, God’s Son. It ought, then, also guide us as we seek to amend our ways and live for Him so that we regularly set aside a portion of the time God has given us to meditate upon His Word and worship Him.

Dear LORD God, forgive us for neglecting to set aside time to hear Your saving Word and to worship You. Give us true love for You and Your Word, that we may continue to learn of the salvation You have provided for us in Christ Jesus, our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

This commandment of the LORD requires us to honor our parents (and others God has placed over us in the home, at school, at work and in our lands) as our God-given representatives. Children are to obey their parents; and parents — especially fathers — are to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21; Deuteronomy 6:4-9). The only exception to God’s command to honor and obey parents is that we are “to obey God rather than men” when there exists a conflict between the will of parents and the will of God Himself (cf. Acts 5:29).

This means that children sin against God when they disobey their parents and do not show them the honor and respect which God requires. Parents, too, are guilty of sin when they do not bring up their children to know the LORD and His ways.

How thankful we can be that Jesus Christ kept this commandment perfectly for us, not only in deed but in word and desire! The Scriptures tell us that He submitted Himself to His parents and honored them (Luke 2:51; cf. John 19:25-27).

And, how thankful we can be that Jesus also bore upon the cross the just punishment for our sin! Through faith in Him, we sinners find pardon and forgiveness; and, in Him, we find strength and guidance to amend our ways and live in accord with God’s will and command.

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, forgive our sins against the perfect will of God, our Maker, and give us the desire to live our lives for You. Amen.

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13

Every human life is a creation of God, and every human life is precious to God. Why? Because God created man in His own image and Jesus Christ died for all people (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7,21-22; 9:5-6; Psalm 139:13-16; 1 John 2:1,2; 2 Corinthians 5:15).

Except in cases of punishing evildoers, defending life and property and waging just wars, God has reserved for Himself the right to end or destroy any human life (Genesis 9:5-6; Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:14; Exodus 20:13; Psalm 31:15; 39:4-5; 90:1-3; Job 14:1-12; Acts 17:24-28). The Bible teaches that the practice of euthanasia, abortion, self-inflicted death (suicide) and all other unjustified taking of human life is murder and sin.

Most feel they have kept this commandment of the LORD, as long as they have not actually killed or murdered another human being. However, as we see from the Scriptures, this commandment is far more reaching than the act of murder itself.

Exodus 21:29 and Deuteronomy 22:8 expand this commandment to manslaughter — the taking of human life through carelessness or negligence.

Jesus, in His sermon on the mount, says: “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22). The Apostle John also writes: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).

Perhaps we have not actually killed another person, but have we ever hated someone or called him a fool or empty-headed? If so — and which of us has not — we are guilty and condemned by this commandment of the LORD! This is why the Scriptures tell us that “there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

It is also the reason why each of us needs to repent — acknowledging our sins and failure to keep God’s holy commandments in our thoughts, desires, words and actions, and trusting in the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Messiah Jesus as full payment for our sins. In the crucified and risen Jesus, we sinners find forgiveness and life everlasting!

Dear Lord Jesus, true Son of God and true man, for the sake of Your blood, shed for us upon the cross, forgive us for our failures to keep Your holy commandments. Amen.

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

While me might commonly think of adultery only in the narrowest sense of being unfaithful to the marriage vow by engaging in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, this commandment of the LORD God really applies to all perversions of — all adulteration of — God’s original design and intent for the marriage relationship described for us in Genesis 2.

Thus, a person commits adultery when he or she is unfaithful to the marriage vow and has a sexual relationship outside of marriage; but a person also commits adultery through divorce, evil thoughts, pornography, fornication, sexual immorality, homosexuality and any other sexual perversion. Even a refusal to fulfill one’s duties in marriage is contrary to God’s intent and design (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1ff.). And, whatever is not in accord with God’s intent and design at creation — the lifelong commitment and union of a man and a woman in marriage — is adultery.

This is why Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). He also says, “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; cf. Mark 10:12; Matthew 19:3ff.). The Bible clearly teaches: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

When we consider this commandment, we again see our sins and failures to live up to God’s holy intent and design in creation. In fact, our whole culture is in rebellion against God’s will and design for marriage and a sexual union within marriage; and we, as individuals, have also disobeyed and rebelled in our thoughts, words and actions.

Our only hope is in Messiah Jesus, who kept this commandment perfectly in our stead and then bore our full punishment and won our pardon and release when He suffered and died upon the cross for the sins of the world and rose again on the third day. He calls us to repent of our evil ways and turn unto Him for forgiveness and life everlasting. Only through faith in Him and His blood shed for us upon the cross can we sinners find pardon, forgiveness and peace!

O dearest Jesus, forgive me for my sins in thought, word and deed. Change my heart to be like Yours. Amen.

“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

With this commandment, the LORD God forbids us to take or desire that which rightfully belongs to another. Thus, we are not to rob, steal or take the property of another by any dishonest means, including fraud, deception, unjust lawsuits, gambling, unrighteous labor or wages, unfair pricing and the like. Instead of seeking dishonest gain, God urges us to work and earn our own property and goods and to share with those in need.

The Bible teaches: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). God also tells us: “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:35-36).

Psalm 37:21 says: “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.” Jeremiah 22:13 warns: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice, who uses his neighbor’s service without wages and gives him nothing for his work….” Expressing these same principles, Leviticus 19:13 says, “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 24:14-15.) God warns against taking advantage of the poor and lending for personal gain when He says: “If you lend money to any of my people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest” (Exodus 22:25). God even forbids us to be lazy and dependent upon the charity of others when He, in His Word, commands: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

What does God require of us when He forbids us to steal? He would have us love our neighbor and do all in our power to help him protect and keep his property and business. We see this from the principle established by this command: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again” (Exodus 23:4). While it may not be an ox or a donkey, we are to return to our neighbor any property which he has lost and help him to keep what God has given him. Jesus Himself says: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). The Scriptures require us to treat our neighbor in the same way we would want to be treated. Thus, instead of taking away our neighbor’s property and business, we should be of service to him in keeping it.

Finally, instead of seeking to obtain the property of others for ourselves, God would have us share what He has given us and help others in their need. The Bible says, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

Have we kept this commandment as the LORD God requires? Again, we must admit our shortcomings and sins and repent, turning to the LORD God to deal with us in His grace and mercy for Jesus’ sake and imploring His help and strength to amend our ways and live for Him! In Jesus, and for the sake of His blood shed for us upon the cross, we find forgiveness.

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for my selfishness and greed. Forgive me for not loving and caring for others in need. Cleanse my heart and renew my mind that I might live for You and seek to keep Your holy commandments. Amen.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

First and foremost, this commandment requires witnesses in any court of law to be truthful in all that they say; and it forbids any false witness or testimony against another (cf. Exodus 23:1-3). The Bible plainly warns: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape” (Proverbs 19:5). Under Old Testament civil laws, false witnesses were to be punished with the same punishment that the one they falsely accused would have received if their witness were true (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Those who were not punished by man would come under the judgment of God Himself, who knows all!

Most people think little of speaking evil of others and spreading rumors and gossip about other people, but this commandment condemns this as well. Again, the Scriptures say: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren….” (James 4:11); and, “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). When a brother commits a trespass, we are to first go to him privately in an effort to bring him to repentance (cf. Matthew 18:15ff.); we are not to go and tell everyone else what evil he has done.

The prophet Zechariah writes: “’Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ says the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17).

Rather than bearing false witness against our neighbor and speaking evil of him, we are to love him and defend him against false accusation and gossip. The Bible says: “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Peter writes: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).

When we examine our own lives, thoughts and actions against this commandment of the LORD, we see again that we have fallen short and are in need of repentance and forgiveness. Messiah Jesus, God’s own dear Son in human flesh has kept this commandment for us; and He suffered our punishment when He shed His blood for us upon the cross. Acknowledge your sins and failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and life everlasting!

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, forgive me for speaking evil of others, spreading rumors and gossip, and failing to love my neighbor and defend him against the evil words of others. I ask this for the sake of Your innocent sufferings and death in my stead and because of Your glorious resurrection and ascension. Amen.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17

This commandment of the LORD teaches us that God requires not only outward holiness but inward holiness as well. Not only are our actions to be pure, but our thoughts and desires as well. Thus, we learn that we not only sin when we commit adultery or take our neighbor’s property or goods; we sin when we desire what belongs to our neighbor and is not rightfully ours.

Therefore, we are not to covet or desire our neighbor’s house, his wife, his servants or employees, his stock or any of his property. Rather, we are to trust in the LORD God and be satisfied in Him and in that which He has given us.

The Bible teaches us: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

We may not realize it, but our hearts, as they are by nature since the fall, are filled with evil thoughts and desires. When we entertain these thoughts and desires, they grow and often even lead to sinful words and actions.

This is why God warns against the sin of covetousness, for it is contrary to God’s will and desire for us and leads to acts of disobedience and rebellion. The Bible is filled with examples. David lusted after Bathsheba and took her, even committing murder to cover up his sin of adultery. King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and committed murder to get it. Judas desired money and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Rather than coveting, which leads to death, the LORD God would have us trust in Him and be satisfied with what He gives us. The Bible tells us: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6; cf. Psalm 37:3-7).

From this commandment, we truly see that God commands and desires that we be holy as He is holy — in thoughts, desires, words and deeds (cf. Leviticus 19:2; Mathew 5:48). Though we have miserably failed to keep God’s holy commandments, Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, has fulfilled them for us by living a holy life in thought, word and deed. He also went to the cross and bore there the full punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world that we might have God’s pardon and forgiveness, and life everlasting in heaven, through faith in His name.

O dearest Jesus, forgive me for my evil thoughts and desires as well as for my sinful words and actions. Cleanse my heart and give me a genuine desire to live for You. I ask this for the sake of your holy and precious blood, shed for me upon the cross. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matthew 15:21-28

What right do we have to go to Jesus for help? Not only are we, for the most part, not descended from Israel, but we are also poor miserable sinners undeserving of God’s grace and mercy. We have no standing of our own, no basis to expect God’s Son to hear us or to help us!

In the words of Jacob, we can say: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant” (Gen. 32:10a).

As we see from Matthew 15 and Mark 7:24ff., that did not stop a Greek-speaking Syrophoenician woman from coming to Jesus for help and deliverance for her daughter who was demon-possessed. She was a Gentile from the Phoenician part of Syria and not of the House of Israel, and Jesus was sent first to His own people; but she still came, asking not to take away what rightly was for the people of Israel but to eat of the crumbs which fall from Israel’s table.

This woman’s daughter was demon-possessed, something we hear little of in our day though it likely still exists but is diagnosed with other names. It appears, in such cases, that the devil or one of his evil spirits takes control of a person’s body, often seeking to destroy both body and soul. She begged Jesus to cast out this demon and make her daughter whole again. And Jesus granted her petition. The demon was cast out and her daughter was made well.

While we may not be bodily possessed by the devil, the truth is that each and every one of us comes into this world under the control and sway of the evil one. Ever since the fall of Genesis 3, people are born into this world “dead in trespasses and sins, in which [they] once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1,2; cf. Ps. 51:5).

The Bible tells us “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). And it says that “the god of this age has blinded [those] who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Only Jesus, God the Son, can free us from our spiritual bondage and reveal Himself to us as the Redeemer of the world. Only Jesus can raise us up from spiritual darkness and death and free us from the control of the devil.

Jesus said, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins … Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:23-24, 34-36).

We are not, for the most part, of the House of Israel. Nor are we deserving that Jesus should deliver us from our bondage to the devil. But when we humbly come to Jesus in faith, what happens? God delivers us from the power of darkness and conveys us “into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

The Bible tells us of Jesus: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:14-17).

The only-begotten Son of God took on human flesh and blood that He might obey God’s law in our stead and offer up Himself as a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins — all that we might obtain mercy and forgiveness through faith in His name.

And God “made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” and He brought us to trust in Christ after that we “heard the word of truth, the gospel of [our] salvation” (Eph. 1:9,13). “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself…” (John 5:24-26).

God graciously called us to faith in Christ Jesus through the gospel. And, when we come to Christ in faith, believing He atoned for our sins and the sins of the entire world, He forgives us all our sins, delivers us from the bondage of the devil and gives us new life in Him! Jesus makes us whole.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1: 8-9; 2:1,2).

Have mercy upon us, Lord Jesus! We are unworthy sinners deserving only of wrath and punishment, but we look to You and Your sacrificial death upon the cross for mercy and forgiveness. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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