Throughout the scriptures, the Law is known by many names, which means multiple passages reference the Ten Commandments without using what we regard as its most recognizable term. It is amazing to see how much the content of scripture relies on the information given in this short passage of Exodus 20. It was given 3500 years ago and yet remains the most impactful document in the history of man. Though human courts and self-proclaimed moralists disdain it and seek to remove it from every avenue of public life, it is the truth to which the Supreme Judge of the living and the dead will hold us accountable. It is established forever in the court that really counts—the court of Chief Justice, Jesus Christ.
The judge is identified as the LORD. His name is a description of His abilities and authority. His name gives authority to His Law; it is righteous and just by virtue of the character of the one who gave it. It is good and righteous because He is the ultimate good and righteousness. Every commandment we break is neither good nor helpful for man. It is not only a violation of God, but also a violation of man who is made in the image of God. This is why the Ten Commandments address our relationship to God and to each other.
The apostle Paul wrote that the Law was given to show us our offenses. Their magnitude is exceedingly great so that we are left helpless to defend ourselves against the Law’s relentless condemnation. We have no escape from its penalty and are offenders with nothing to shield us from its terrible consequences. In itself, the Law has no recourse for lawbreakers. It cannot fix any transgression. It is black and white with no ability to be anything other than what it is. It cannot be merciful—it is sterile, without personality or compassion. However, the judge who enforces it is personal, He is merciful, and He is compassionate. But, He does not clear the guilty by setting aside its punishment. Instead, He allows the penalty to be imposed on a substitute who stands good for the penalty on our behalf.
The Law is marvelous because it sets us up for the manifestation of God’s grace. We could never understand the merciful and gracious character of God without the Law to condemn us. God could have dealt with us on the basis of the Law alone and would have maintained His righteous character, but this would not teach us His whole character. God seeks to be glorified by everything that is inherent in the name LORD. He shows us His justice by bringing us to the judgment seat of the Law, and then takes us around the bench to see the other side which is His mercy and grace. We learn to reverence, honor, respect, and glorify God through the full revelation of His character.
When we study the name LORD, these amazing facts leap out at us. His name encompasses all these wonderful features—lawgiver, judge, sovereign, AND redeemer. Rejoice because God gave the Law. Obey it for His glory! The commandments are the beginning of the full revelation of Almighty God.
Pastor V. Mark Smith