Exodus 20:17 ~ 20110918 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
09/18 Exodus 20:17 Word #10 I Shall Not Want; Don't Desire the Wrong Things
God is addressing his covenant people whom he has rescued out of slavery and taken to be his own. He is declaring to them what it will mean to be in relationship with him. I am YHWH who brought you out of slavery. #1. You must have no other gods before me. #2. You must not misrepresent me with images. #3. You must uphold my reputation. #4. You must set aside time to enjoy your relationship with me. #5. You must show honor to those I have placed in authority. #6. You must honor life that I created. #7. You must honor your covenant commitments. #8. You must protect the rights of those around you. #9. You must uphold the reputation of those around you. And #10:
This word takes God's commands to a whole 'nother level. When Jesus pointed the rich young man to the commands 'you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall honor your father and mother,' the young man felt he could honestly say 'all these I have kept from my youth' (Mt.19:20; Mk.10:20; Lk.18:21). Saul the Pharisee, was able to say that he was, 'as to righteousness, under the law blameless' (Phil.3:6), but he confesses that this particular command aroused the sinful passions of his flesh (Rom.7:5). He says,
This particular command makes it clear that God requires more than superficial external obedience. God is concerned about our hearts and our inward desires.
The word translated 'covet' means 'to desire or delight in'. When Moses repeats this command in Deuteronomy 5:21, he adds another similar word that means 'to desire, long for, or lust after'. Both of these words are used in both good and bad ways in the bible. Desiring or longing for your neighbor's wife or his possessions is wrong. But in Genesis (2:9) God filled the garden with all kinds of trees that were desirable. And he gave it all to our first parents for their pleasure and enjoyment. In the Song of Solomon (2:3) this word is used of good sexual desire between a husband and wife. In Isaiah (53:2) it is used for a desire for the Messiah. Listen to how this word for coveting or desire is used in Psalm 19:
Here we see that coveting is commended when we covet God's truth and God's ways more than much fine gold.
The synonym that Moses uses in Deuteronomy is used of David's reminiscent longing for water from the well of Bethlehem (1Ch.11:17); It is used for the soul's yearning for God (Isaiah 26:9).
Both of these words are used of God's own holy desire for mount Zion (Ps.68:16; 132:13)
When the New Testament translates the tenth commandment it uses the Greek word (epiyumew epithumeo), a compound of ( epi epi) – on upon or to, and (yumov thumos) - which means passion, heat, boiling up. This is a word that communicates intensity of desire or fervent passion. It, too is used in both bad and good ways. When Jesus talks about adultery of the heart (Mt.5:28), he uses this word. Jesus also uses this word (Mt.13:17) to describe the passionate longing of the prophets and righteous people to see the days of Messiah. Jesus used it of his own desire to eat the final Passover with his disciples (Lk.22:15). Galatians 5:17 draws a contrast between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit – the very same word is applied to both good and evil desires. Paul in 1 Timothy (3:1) tells us that aspiring to serve the church as an elder is a noble desire.
So the tenth command does not simply say 'thou shalt not covet' or 'you may not desire', because there are good things that we should desire, and passion and desire are God-given drives that can and should be used for his glory. This final command is not so much a new and distinct command as a summary command that under-girds all the others. What we are forbidden to desire is specifically that which would lead us to break God's other commands. Do not long for someone else's wife, which would lead to adultery; or someone else's property, which would lead to stealing or jealousy or even murder. This command comes under and behind the others and says not only don't do these things, but don't even allow your heart to be enticed by these things.
In fact, the New Testament equates covetousness with idolatry.
So if covetousness is a form of idolatry, and the covetousness that is forbidden is desiring the wrong things, and idolatry is worshiping the wrong things, then our desires are a form of worship. The person or thing that we long for, that we delight in, that we look to for satisfaction, that has become our God. The longing, delighting, desiring, is worship.
What we are saying goes something like this: 'I think this thing or this relationship will satisfy my deepest longings, but God says that this is off limits for me, so I will have to go against what God says in order to have what will satisfy me.' I have elevated the thing to the position of a god that I look to for satisfaction, and I have dethroned God, who has become an obstacle to my happiness.
This is why God tells us that it is so important to be content with what we have. Jesus tells us:
Take care and be on your guard, because everything in our consumer society cultivates covetousness. We must battle this tendency that is resident in our hearts. Paul tells young pastor Timothy:
It is not having riches that is wrong. It is the discontent, the desire, the love, the craving for something we don't have that is so deadly. When we are so caught up and focused on the thing that we don't have, we neglect to thank God for all the good that he has given us. We imply that he is not good for withholding the thing we think we need. We demonstrate our unbelief in him as our provider. We become focused on the gift and lose sight of the giver.
Be content and lift your eyes to remember that you have the one thing that will truly satisfy. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If God himself promises to always be with us, we possess the one thing that will bring lasting joy. Being content is not settling even when there is something better to be had. Being content is realizing that we have the best thing and we can stop looking and simply enjoy.
Let's dwell for a moment on what we have.
How often do you stop to count God's blessings to you? My sins have been forgiven! I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ! God's steadfast love and mercy is abundantly poured out on me. On top of all that, he satisfies my soul with good!
God has chosen us to be near him, to enjoy his presence forever. What greater benefit is there than that?
We turn so quickly to people and things to bring happiness. We have deceitful desires (Eph.4:22) that lie to us and persuade us that we can find fulfillment in more or better or bigger or different or new. “In your presence there is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Genuine fulfillment is found only in God.
We must realize that it is truly all about God. Heaven is all about God. Not the gold, not the gates, not the loved ones – all those things are good, but there is nothing, no-one in heaven or on earth to be desired besides God. God is my portion forever. You shall have no other gods before me. When God is at the center, all other desires fade in importance. I desire nothing besides you!
One thing. One thing is the passion of my life, my heart's desire. One thing I seek after. One thing I covet, I long for. One thing is the burning passion of my heart. To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. To be with him forever.
Is this the one thing you covet? To sit at the Lord's feet and listen to his teaching? To enjoy the satisfying richness of his presence?