“As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to those of his household.” (Martin Luther)
What does God say about all of these commandments?
He says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who do not obey these commandments. Therefore we should fear His anger and not do anything against what He commands.
God also promises grace and every blessing to those who obey these commandments. Therefore we should love and trust Him and willingly do what He commands.
Who would want to fall under God’s CURSE rather than receive His BLESSING?
“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods…” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).
It’s a fair deduction that the choice between blessing and curse is an either-or choice with no middle ground or fence-sitting allowed. Immediately following the First Commandment, God set Israel up to make the right choice: Because I am your God, you should choose My blessing for your future.
Contrariwise, going against God will bear an awful penalty: “If you by any means forget the Lord your God…I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). “The Lord your God…will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face” (Deut. 7:9-10).
This “repayment” includes drought, famine, and ethnic extermination (Deut. 11:17). Read Deuteronomy chapters six through twelve for some shattering details of the curse.
God also made the alternative crystal clear, the choice that would bring His blessing on their earthly endeavors. “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut. 7:9); “therefore you shall keep every commandment…that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land…and that you may prolong your days in the land…a land flowing with milk and honey…I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled” (Deut. 11:8-9, 14-15). Obviously this was the better choice.
How did Israel respond? “And they said, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). Good choice.
Soon, however, the prospect of earthly prosperity with fair weather and good crops went down the tube because of their unfaithfulness. As a nation Israel lost its God-sponsored prosperity.
Since “whatever things were written before were written for our learning… “ (Romans 15:4). The Conclusion of the Ten Commandments applies to us also.
What does it mean for us?
It means that His compassionate love and merciful treatment have won us over so that we as repentant and forgiven sinners are able to respond: “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient” in ways that honor and serve Him. It means that since we are bonded to Him by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), we have a heart for our Father’s will and intend to be His good children.
That’s who we are, and that’s how we intend to live.
Please notice, by the way, that God never even hinted that obedience to His law could save anyone from hell. He didn’t intend that compliance would justify, redeem, or save us. That’s perfectly clear from God’s Word: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21).
So when our Catechism says that God promises grace and every blessing to those who love Him and keep His commandments, it’s not indicating a second route to heaven, but rather that God will grant all sorts of blessings to make life pleasant during one’s earthly pilgrimage.
The Holy Spirit has taught us to distinguish between God’s completed act of justification and the never-finished process of our earthly sanctification.
It is still Jesus’ perfect obedience and self-sacrifice that constitute our righteousness—totally and exclusively—and therefore we respond to God’s redeeming love in ways that honor Him and serve our neighbor.
In conclusion, God encourages His children to love and trust Him and willingly do what He commands. To this help us, dear Father in heaven!
EDITOR’S NOTE: With this article our on-going series on the Ten Commandments concludes. We thank the respective writers, and pray that the holy Christian faith of each of us has benefited from their instruction according to the Word of the Lord.