The kingdom of God is based on the people of God following the Ten Commandments of Yahweh. This was dramatically demonstrated in Exodus 19-20 as God was preparing to reveal himself to the assembled congregation.
Exodus 19:4-6 – “‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”
God was urging the people to listen to what he had to say and then to keep these commands as his covenant. If they did so, they would be his kingdom of priests and his holy, set apart nation.
Exodus 20:1 CSB – Then God spoke all these words: [the ten commandments]
Deuteronomy 4:13 – “He [Yahweh] declared his covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which he wrote on two stone tablets.
The people only had to listen to God (the Words he had pronounced as the Ten Commandments) and then to keep them as his covenant in order to be his kingdom of set apart people.
The Ten Commandments had at least three distinguishing characteristics:
- They were spoken directly by God to millions of people at once. Everyone assembled at the foot of Sinai heard the voice of God for themselves. He spoke the commandments to them directly so there would be no mistaking what he intended to say. This group included not only Israelites but a “mixed multitude” that also came up with them from Egypt. This was not an exclusively Israelite covenant, but for everyone there who would listen and obey.
- They were written in stone as an everlasting memorial. The ten commandments were not written on parchment like the rest of the law of Moses, but were carved into stone to demonstrate the permanence of their nature. Even when Moses broke the first set, God had him make two more stone tablets which he then engraved a second time with his commandments.
- They were written by God himself. God’s own finger inscribed the tablets with the commandments; this was not the mere writings or philosophy of men.
I can think of no other way for God to ensure that he is making clear the permanent nature of some instruction: he spoke it himself to masses of individuals at once, and wrote it himself in stone.
This is why the Ten Commandments are so critical to the gospel of the kingdom. It remained only for Yeshua to emphasize the attitude of the heart in truly keeping the ten commandments. Not only was it wrong to kill, but no one should think evilly of another. Not only was it wrong to commit adultery, but no one should even consider lusting after others.
This is why the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments are tied together. God’s unchanging standards for his kingdom were brought to life by Yeshua demonstrating how the heart attitude should be toward keeping them. The good news of the kingdom was that the instruction of God was now able to be kept from the heart through the indwelling Spirit of God.
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