Rules are Rules!

May 12, 2024

Book: Exodus

Scripture: Exodus 20

Sermon Summary:

In this sermon, the relevance and importance of the Ten Commandments in modern life are highlighted, especially in relation to the roles of mothers and the unity of the church community. The ancient wisdom of the commandments is applied to contemporary life, with a focus on the relationship with God and with others. Through humorous anecdotes and practical implications, the sermon invites listeners to honor God’s sacred laws and reflect on the enduring power of these teachings in every facet of life.

Watch The Service Here

Sermon Points:

  • Mom Rules!
  • The Decalogue – The Ten Words
  • “We must keep in mind at the outset that the Decalogue is no mere list of laws given in the abstract. It is given by God to a people he has just redeemed. They reflect the manner in which his people are to be ‘holy’ (cf. ch. 19). It is, therefore, safe to say that these laws are more than simply good rules to live by. They show us something of the nature of God, and for this they deserve our close attention. We see in them not simply ‘what we must do’ but what God is like . . . The giving of these commands is not simply the introduction of rules that help us hold society together—to make us good citizens, as it were. Rather, it ‘integrates cosmic order and social order . . . (the) means by which the divine ordering of chaos at the cosmic level is actualized in the social sphere, whereby God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Freitheim). The giving of the law, in other words, is an act of re-creation.”

    -Peter Enns, NIV Application Commentary: Exodus

  • We find in the 10 Words instructions for how we are to relate to God as His people.
  • We also discover in the 10 Words how we are to relate to each other as the people of God.
  • Love God! Love each other!

Download a copy of the “Together in God’s Glory” Devotional Book – HERE

Key Takeaways:

  • The Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 are timeless and continue to resonate with us, guiding our spiritual journey and daily interactions.
  • The importance of unity within the church community is emphasized, especially when exploring the concept of being together as the people of God.
  • The ‘mom rules’ TikTok video by Nicole Jackson, which went viral, is celebrated as a humorous take on the relatable challenges of parenting.
  • The sermon draws parallels between divine directives and the loving, yet firm, guidance of motherhood.
  • The Ten Commandments are explored not just as societal rules but as divine order reflecting God’s character and expectations for humanity.
  • The division of the commandments into duties towards God and towards others is analyzed, revealing the call to worship God on His terms and the sacredness of His name.
  • Jesus’ fulfillment of the law is discussed, with the sermon inviting viewers to view the commandments through a New Testament lens, where they still hold relevance.
  • The sermon challenges the notion that everything is relative by sharing Dr. Moreland’s interaction with a student over the theft of stereo equipment and the impact of accepting moral absolutes.

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Scripture References:

  • Exodus 20 – The chapter where the Ten Commandments are listed and explained as God’s divine laws for His people.


  • Nicole Jackson’s ‘mom rules’ TikTok video is shared as an example of the joys and challenges of motherhood.
  • Dr. Moreland’s story of a student’s journey to Christianity is used to illustrate the importance of understanding and accepting moral absolutes


You know that if you’ve been here at all in 2024, that we have a theme as a church. This year, our theme is Together, and, as I’ve shared with y’all before, when I was out last July studying, praying, this word just kept coming to mind for me, and so we’ve given this year to exploring what it means to be together as the people of God. Our spring theme is Together for God’s Glory, and we are studying the book of Exodus together. We are working on working through the book of Exodus on Sunday mornings and then also on Wednesdays at the pastor’s Bible study, where we’re just going verse by verse. And so today I’ve entitled the message. Rules Are Rules, and the text for us is a very familiar one it’s found in Exodus 20. So if you have your copy of the Old Testament, I’d invite you to look at that with me. And the text for us is a very familiar one it’s found in Exodus 20. So if you have your copy of the Old Testament, I’d invite you to look at that with me.

As God gives Israel these ten words most scholars would say. Typically we refer to these as the Ten Commandments. And so Israel has been rescued, redeemed from Egypt, and they are now at Mount Sinai camped, where they’ll be for the next 10 months or so. And the Lord begins by sharing this particular revelation. So if you look with me at Exodus 20, verse 1. And God spoke all these words, I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. And God spoke all these words, 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 parents, of the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord, your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord has made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them. And he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord, your God, has given you. You shall not murder, you shall not has given you. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony against your neighbor, you shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Well, this morning, obviously, is Mother’s Day. So can I just say Happy Mother’s Day to all of our moms? Can we just say Happy Mother’s Day to moms. Thank you for the role you play in our lives. So I want to begin this message with this very simple statement Mom rules. Now you can read that one of two ways Mom rules or mom rules Moms have rules.

I don’t know if any of y’all have had a chance to see this video that actually came out at the beginning of the school year, this past school year at the end of the summer. There’s a mom, her name is Nicole Jackson and she made a TikTok video that actually went viral and she ended up appearing on all the morning talk shows across America nationally, at least several of them. And here’s the gist of her video. If you haven’t seen this, it’s hilarious. She starts the video by saying my son’s school starts up in a few weeks. Gist of her video. If you haven’t seen this, it’s hilarious. She starts the video by saying my son’s school starts up in a few weeks. So here’s my PowerPoint presentation for back to school rules. And she has a 13-year-old son and she entitled it what we’re Not Gonna Do, and this Ain’t that. So if y’all have seen it, you know how hilarious it is. Let me just read to you some of the mom rules that she gave in this video.

She says what we’re not going to do is change up our stomach energy. You’ve been living all summer on a diet of hot chips, chicken nuggets and every popsicle and disgusting drink known to man without one stomach ache. You’re not about to come to me telling me your stomach hurts like you have the intestinal tract of a geriatric Crohn’s patient. This ain’t that, she says. Secondly, what we’re not going to do is act like we can’t wake up. You’ve been getting up all summer it’s 677 in the morning and yes, I said 677 because it’s been some ungodly hour that doesn’t exist and asking me about breakfast. This ain’t that. What we’re not going to do is act like you ran out of supplies on the second day of school. I just spent $75,000 making sure that everything on your list was there. You’re not about to keep losing everything. This ain’t that. And then my favorite one she says what we’re not going to do is tell me about reports, permission slips, projects and picture day packets the day before they’re due. I’m not about to get my blood pressure up running around here to get all these supplies, get an outfit and do a project in the wee hours of the morning. This ain’t that. Well, that’s great. Parents, y’all know Y’all can save that instructional video for next year when school starts and show it to your children.

When they appeared on the Today Show, she had her son with her and he’s made a follow-up video to respond to his mother. Y’all need to see it. But what he said in the interview on Today Show, they said what’d you think about your mom’s video? He said well, it’s just full of lies. And his mom looked at him and they said, finally, they said, well, what did she lie about? And he said I didn’t eat that many chicken nuggets. That’s all he could come up with, but anyway, well, in the house in which I was reared we had mom rules. My mom had some rules that we abided by Get up, pick up, clean up.

She used to tell us my mom had a big deal about making up the bed. When you got up in our house when we were kids, you had to make up the bed. I never understood it. I always thought I’m going to get back in here a little while. It’s not that big a deal. I’ve even rebelled against it as an adult, because sometimes, when I’m starting to make the bed up, I think I’m not going to make this bed up today. I’m the man in this house if I don’t want to make my bed up. But Naomi is still back there somewhere and, uh, I don’t know if she’s watching or not, but I go ahead and make the bed up usually. And, uh, it’s one of the things Cindy believes in as well. We had a rule no food in your room. My mom believed in yes, sir, no sir, yes, ma’am, no, ma’am, thank you please. My mom’s parting words were usually be careful. And then my mom would also say once we got old enough and started driving, he said she would say this to us be careful today when you leave. You don’t know you may have a wreck, so be sure and wear clean. I’ll let y’all fill in that blank. So we had mom rules in our house.

Well, I found a few quotes about moms. Let me just share a couple of them with you. Agatha Christie said my sister said once anything I don’t want mother to know I don’t even think of if she’s in the room. Calvin Trillin said the most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers, and the original meal has never been found.

Betty White says it’s not easy being a mom. If it were easy, fathers would do it. Sorry, dads, I’m just reading. Phyllis Diller said I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them. Carrie Underwood says the majority of my diet is made up of foods that my kids didn’t finish. We had this rule. It’s my dad’s rule. But Buddy Hackett says my mother’s menu consisted of two choices take it or leave it.

Lane Olinghouse says the quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable. Susan Savannah says if your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle. Keep away from children. And then just a couple of anonymous quotes. Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out. If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to do it from the start. This one is definitely true. Nothing is really lost until your mother can’t find it. And then my favorite life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother. So can we just say thank you for what you do for us. We are appreciative, we’re grateful, thank you. So, with all that said, moms make rules. Well turns out. The Lord makes rules as well, and rules are rules.

If you look at this text, we typically refer to it as the Ten Commandments. That’s what the NIV actually has printed in the margin, but most scholars refer to this as the Decalogue. Decalogue is actually two Greek words joined together. That just means the ten words, and actually that’s what the text calls these, the ten words or these words. We will read it again in Deuteronomy and it will be referred to as the words.

In other words, here’s what’s happening Israel is now redeemed, delivered, but the nation is really in its infancy. Delivered, but the nation is really in its infancy. They have been slaves for generations and now they’ve been redeemed and set free and they are in their infancy as a nation. And they are going to be camped now at Mount Sinai for the better part of a year. So here’s what the Lord is going to do as we read the book of Exodus he’s going to explain to them first of all who he is, and then he’s going to explain to them what he expects from them. So, in other words, this emerging nation, god, is showing Israel that he is the God of history, but he’s also the God of their daily lives, and so he reveals himself through the law. In fact, some scholars would say, about the 10 commandments or the 10 words, that this is God’s nature, expressed in terms of moral imperatives.

So, with that said, let me read to you a quote from Peter Enns. He’s written a wonderful commentary on the book of Exodus. Here’s what he says about the Decalogue. He says we must keep in mind at the outset that the Decalogue is no mere list of laws given in the abstract, it is given by God to a people he’s just redeemed. They reflect the manner in which his people are to be holy Compare Exodus 19.

It is therefore safe to say that these laws are more than simply good rules to live by. They show us something of the nature of God, and for this they deserve our close attention. We see in them not simply what we must do what we must do but what God is like. The giving of these commands is not simply the introduction of rules that help us hold society together, to make us good citizens, as it were. Rather, it integrates cosmic order and social order, the means by which the divine ordering of chaos at the cosmic level is actualized in the social sphere, whereby God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And he quotes Freitag when he was writing a commentary on Exodus the giving of the law, in other words, is an act of recreation. I love that perspective, because sometimes we interpret the Ten Commandments as just a set of laws that are in the abstract, that are just for any community.

Now, it’s not to say that these Ten Commandments do not offer good counsel and wisdom. They do that, of course. It’s not to say that living by these commandments would order society. That’s also true, of course, but that’s not the purpose for the revelation of the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words. God is giving them to His people to accomplish two things. One, to reveal something about himself, and also to reveal something about his people, his expectations. Think about it Israel’s brand new, really. Even though they’ve existed for generations of slaves, they’re now emerging as a free people. What is God expecting from them? How does he want them to behave? What do they need to know about him if they’re going to live into their mission to be a kingdom of priests? Well, as redeemed people? That’s what the Ten Commandments really are. The Lord is giving them to his people.

So I want you to receive them today yourself, because sometimes Christians look at the Ten Commandments and say well, ten Commandments from the Old Testament. You know, jesus fulfilled the law, so we don’t necessarily have to abide by the Ten Commandments. Well, just imagine and continue to read in the Scripture how Jesus treats the Ten Commandments. Jesus does fulfill the law, but he challenges us to even go further, if you will, than these commandments. So here’s what I’d say about the Ten Commandments. They are. I believe that they are still in effect from a Christian perspective. They still reveal the character and the nature of God. They still reveal expectations from God, but we view them through the lens of New Testament people. I would also say the Ten Commandments are they’re specific enough to have meaning, but they’re general enough to allow for interpretation and common sense. So we have to read these commandments, understanding that they don’t cover everything in life.

This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, many scholars would say the Ten Commandments actually serve as the core values of the entire law, that all of the law now is going to build upon these core commands and expressions of core values and core principles. That would be my take on it. So, with that said, let’s look at the two major divisions of the Ten Commandments. I just want to do that real quick with you this morning, because the Ten Commandments, you can actually divide them into two sections, and that’s what most scholars do.

First of all, we find in the Ten words instructions for how we ought to relate to God as his people. So when we read the first four words, the first four commands, those commands have to do with the relationship we have with God. What is the nature of our life with God. Well, here’s what God says First of all, I’m your only God, so God is the only God that there is. You’ll have no other gods before him. And then, secondly, israel, as you know, was going to face a very real temptation, and that very real temptation was to act like everybody else. It’s a temptation that you and I face today.

Israel had it in their day, in Israel’s day. What that meant was there was a temptation to worship their God the way everybody else worshiped their gods. Israel lived in a polytheistic culture and so, typically speaking, in the ancient world, it was very common it may sound foreign to us, but it was very common for ancient people to craft some kind of image, normally out of wood, decorate it sometimes, and then they believed, once it was completed, the God that it represented actually animated that particular piece of art, if you will, and it became an idol. And then they would bow down and worship it, and as they were doing that, they were worshiping these pagan gods. Israel was going to be tempted to do the very same thing worshiping these pagan gods. Israel was going to be tempted to do the very same thing, even if Israel was not going to give in to worshiping the pagan gods. They were going to be tempted to worship their God the same way. Does that make sense? And so God said you’re not going to do that, you’re not going to fashion some kind of image of me. That’s not what’s going to happen. You’re going to resist that temptation and you’re going to worship me on my own terms, the way I demand to be worshiped, not on your terms. I would tell y’all that, even though we may not live in a day where people are making graven images per se, we still face the very same temptation to worship God on our own terms, rather than the terms that God himself demands. And and God says we’re not going to do that.

Then God says third, my name. My name is sacred. It represents my character, my essence. My name is to be honored, praised, proclaimed, shared, but not abused. You don’t misuse my name. You don’t take my name and add it to your calls. You don’t misuse and take God. You don’t take my name and add it to your calls. You don’t misuse and take God’s name into some effort that is vain and not connected to who he is. And then he says then, as a part of heaven being on earth. I want you to imitate me and I’ve given you an example. I’ve given you a model.

I’m going to put a weekly rhythm into your life and you’re going to live in that weekly rhythm and six days you work and one day you rest. There’s a day preserved for rest and for worship and you worship the God of creation. Now, in the Jewish understanding of that, that happened at the end of the week when Jesus came and he was resurrected from the dead. The earliest Christians were Jews and so very early on the tradition moved the day of rest in worship for Christians to the first day of the week in honor of the resurrection of Jesus. That was the day he was raised from the dead. Very early on in Christian writings, sunday became known as the Lord’s Day. But the principle is the same Six days you can give to your labor, give to your endeavors, even though you’re living as a person of God, but there’s one day that you set aside for Him and you trust Him to provide for you by giving Him that one day and then you can work on these other days. I told the folks at 830, I’ll tell y’all, just reminding us of how important that is to set aside a time and a day for worship. I told the folks at 830. I’ll tell y’all, just reminding us of how important that is To set aside a time and a day for worship. I’m preaching to the choir Because y’all are already here, so I get that. But just as a reminder, this is something that’s still in effect, not from a legalistic perspective, but in terms of a core value.

So how do we relate to God? Well, we understand he is God alone. He’s the only one to be worshipped. His name is holy and sacred. He is to be honored regularly, every single week. You build it into the rhythm of your life. He’s created you to live in rhythm. His creation lives in rhythm. He’s created you and I to live that way as well. So the early church embraced that as we should. So the early church embraced that as we should. Now, when you look at the next six commands, we’re reminded that God is the God of daily life. How are we supposed to live in community with each other? How do we live responsibly with each other? How do we live accountably to each other? Well, we discover in the ten words how we’re supposed to relate to each other as the people of God.

These next six commands, six words, are about our relationships and again they are specific enough to have meaning, general enough to allow for some interpretation and using common sense. So let me just walk you through them real quickly. First of all, honor your parents. In other words, the Lord is saying to Israel this core, foundational family relationship must always be important in the life of Israel. In fact, I’m about to put you in the promised land and if you want to live in the promised land and you want to stay in the promised land with my blessing, do this right here. So the Lord is he’s not. Some people read this and say honor your mom and dad so that you can live a long life. That’s a misunderstanding of this text. What he’s telling Israel is if you want to live well into the land I’m about to give you, honor your family commitments, honor your parents, live foundationally in that core relationship, respect and value just how important it is. And then you have these, a couple of these quick commandments that are just a couple of words.

For example, we’re told don’t murder. Life is sacred and so you don’t take another person’s life unnecessarily. You don’t murder, don’t commit adultery. Marriage is sacred and you’re supposed to honor the vows of your marriage. Don’t break your marriage vows. Marriage is God’s idea and marriage also reflects it mimics, if you will. It serves as a symbol of the relationship God has with you. Be careful in how you treat it. Don’t steal. You honor the ownership of each member of the community.

Don’t give false testimony Well, that particular one. It was applied in legal proceedings originally in Israel. Don’t lie in general, but in particular, don’t bear false witness. What did that mean? Well, if you go and spend some time reading the rest of the law, here’s what you’ll discover there are really harsh penalties laid out in the book of the law for behavior, and if people get convicted of crimes, the penalties are very harsh, and so you don’t want to do that in a way that’s not consistent with justice. So, in other words, if you’re called upon an illegal proceeding according to what this specifically commands you to do, tell the truth, because you get two witnesses together who can bear false testimony and you can accomplish things in the lives of others that are not just. Does that make sense? So he’s saying to Israel as you begin to grow as a nation and you’re going to govern yourselves, you just make sure that you tell the truth in those appropriate and important moments and then don’t covet. That’s an internal manifestation. In other words, don’t live your life comparing yourself to somebody else all the time. That’s the temptation we all face. If only, if only, if only I had that, if only did this, if only live in that neighborhood, if only, etc. Etc. Etc. Be grateful for who you are, without always comparing yourself to someone else. So here’s the thing God is telling his people live responsibly, honor Him in how you treat each other. So let me just summarize it like this Do y’all remember when someone in the New Testament asked Jesus what’s the greatest commandment?

Remember that question? And what did Jesus say? What did he say? Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, jesus said take those two commands Love God, love each other. That’s exactly what we’re commanded to do in the Ten Commandments. In fact, jesus says the rest of the law hangs on those two truths. I would tell you you could take all the law, all 600 or so laws, and somehow they will emerge from these two core commands to love God and to love each other. Those are the two pillars of the Ten Commandments.

Now I realize that the word commandments, that’s just not a word we like in our culture. We don’t like the word rules. Those are not happy words for us because I know I live in a culture that doesn’t like to be told what to do. I live in a culture where everybody’t like to be told what to do. I live in a culture where everybody wants to live any way they want to live and just let everybody live how they want to live and I’ll leave you alone. If you’ll leave me alone, and what’s right for me is right for me, it may be wrong for you. What’s wrong for you might be right for me. Don’t judge me, I won’t judge you. Live and let live. In fact, the philosophical word that basically serves underneath all that is just whatever. So is this right or is this wrong? Whatever? In fact, I hear people all the time saying there’s no such thing as absolute truth, and when they say that that’s an absolute truth statement, isn’t that fascinating. You can somehow say there’s no such thing as absolute truth by stating an absolute truth. So that lets me know you’re wrong if you say that there are things that are just true. The Ten Commandments are just true. This is what God has said, but I know that it chafes us a little bit. In fact, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Christian philosopher JP Moreland? He little bit, in fact.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Christian philosopher JP Moreland. He teaches at Biola and he’s a great Christian philosopher and theologian. He was speaking at the University of Vermont and when his session was over, some students invited him to have more personal conversations. So he was in a dorm room with a group of students and they were just talking about the message he had shared. He did talk about human dignity, the image of God and absolute truths, and here’s what one of the students told him. He said to Dr Moreland whatever is true for you is true for you, and whatever is true for me is true for me. If something works for you because you believe it, that great. But no one should force his or her views on other people, since everything is relative. Okay.

Dr Moreland decided he would test that. So once that student said that, he said okay, thank you. He stood up and he unplugged that student’s stereo equipment and started to walk out with it. And the student said wait a minute, you can’t do that. What are you doing? And here’s what Dr Moreland said. Student said wait a minute, you can’t do that. What are you doing? And here’s what Dr Moreland said you’re not going to force on me the belief that it’s wrong for me to steal your stereo? Are you, after all, everything’s relative? And so, after a long conversation about moral absolutes, he gave him his stereo back.

Well then, Dr Moreland was contacted a couple weeks later and this student said I want you to know, I’ve just become a Christian. He said, in fact, that exchange with you about moral absolutes and then you teaching me that lesson, led me to think about human dignity, the image of God, and he said I now have accepted Christ as my Savior. Dr Moreland said first of all he congratulated the young man, and then he said this he said I’m thinking about starting a new ministry called Stealing Stereos for Jesus, in other words, teaching people through actions how there really are absolutes, there really is a sense of human dignity and we do honor the image of God when we listen to God’s commands. And so this morning, what I would say to me and you is this it’s pretty simple. When I look at the Ten Commandments, we all know we could spend each Sunday now for the next few weeks just covering one of these. We’re not exhaustively covering them today, but in general, I would just leave you with this.

When you think about these ten words from God, here’s the challenge Love God, love Him well and then demonstrate His love by loving others well and then demonstrate his love by loving others well. That’s the challenge today. Let’s live into that. How about that? Well, let me pray for us, father. We are grateful today for your love for us. We’re grateful, lord, for the fact that you’ve revealed yourself to us, lord, that you’ve made yourself known through your word. Even though we’re reading an ancient text that’s some 3,500 years old, it still speaks to us today, and so we pray, lord, that we will learn to love you well and love each other well, and may we honor you in how we treat each other and live in community with one another, and that’s our prayer today. In the name of the Lord Jesus, amen.