Keeping Our Heart in the Covenant Promise of Christ
Our last foray into the Ten Commandments specifically ends with a word on a subject we are all ate up with, if we are honest: envy. It stalks our heart, our soul, and our mind. In some sense it is the motivation for the breaking of all of the laws of God. We want what we don’t have and we are jealous of those who do. This is especially the case when our eyes turn toward the wicked. How is it if we are the chosen people do men who are reprobates seem to have so much and do so well in this life? As we know this was a common lament of the Psalmist, yet as David usually does he reminds us of the vanity of it all. There is a saying which I hear from time-to-time that if you are living your best life now, than there is a problem. Central to our keeping of the Tenth commandment is remembering the simple truth of the value and worth of Jehovah, and in a very real sense, our value to Him. Any attempts of the evil one to move our conscience to quibble or complain is quickly defeated, or at least should be, by meditating on the goodness of God to sinners in Christ.
However, getting to that point can be a difficult climb. That’s why it is helpful in our fight against the old man to heed the challenges presented by our fallenness. There is a reason why when the writers of the Catechism put it together they follow the pattern of the law, its requirements, and ways we break it. All in order to point us to the one who has kept it perfectly on our behalf and calls us likewise to love Him and rest in Him in our keeping of His law.
Here’s this week’s Q/A:
Q. 148: What are the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbour, together with all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his.
Taking a positive spin on the warnings we first hear the testimony that in breaking the tenth commandment we show a discontentment with our own condition (that’s what estate means). We’ve talked before about how in the Christian faith what separates us from the Pagan world is this idea that the substance of the love of Jesus for His covenant people, which we experience in our spiritual union with Him, through which flows the benefits born through redemption is our true hope. It is wrong though to think about this in a way where we imagine the goodness of God comes only in the future. You may not be a baseball fan, but there is much hullaballoo right now over Shohei Ohtani’s 10 year contract for $700 million. The catch is that most of that is deferred to 2035. He’s only (only) going to making $2 million/yr right now, yet he banks that in the assurance that a time will come when he will receive the fullness of the promised reward. One of the reasons why we can fall into the temptation to show and live in irritation at our life situation is because we’ve come to think of the glory which comes as far off and to only be received in Heaven. Think here of the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. When he blows his top at his dad when the feast takes place for the returned sinner the father responds by reminding him of all the blessings he already has, and has access to, by the fact he lives in the safety of the home. If envy comes from forgetfulness, let us remember. So as is part and parcel of our keeping of the law we see here how the Fourth command buttresses our willingness/desire to obey the Tenth. The Lord’s Day is a special gift in order that we might renew our focus on the covenant mercies we have and receive now in the means of grace, which we have in spades.
We have the very presence of the Triune and what can be compared to that? The more we consider the nature of the wealth of our identity in Christ the less and less will we either worry or be anxious about the temporary accumulation of things which our neighbor has. Our envy is born out of not being thankful, taking our eyes off the glory of the cross and the empty tomb, and in some ways more importantly the bounty of our Lord’s reigning as the king of kings. Time spent in the Bible is a vital way to encourage the heart of our soul to be grounded in this peace. Page after page of Scripture points us both to the danger of doubt and the goodness of the felicity of the consistent knowledge that we are God’s and He is ours.
To buttress this point let us consider the example of the prophet Hosea as he speaks to Israel. He writes from portions of Hosea 8:2-14:
“Israel will cry to Me, ‘My God, we know You!’ Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him. ‘They set up kings, but not by Me; they made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold they made idols for themselves—that they might be cut off . . . Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel in which is no pleasure . . . They shall return to Egypt. ‘For Israel has forgotten his Maker.’”
In those words we see in stark reality the problem posed by the violation of the tenth.
When a husband begins to spiritually commit adultery against his wife, or a wife against her husband, the motivation is the same. They seek at first to share the duty owed, and then they begin to take away even that portion until none is left. Israel rejected the good and in doing so became like gentiles, not just enemies of God, but those outside the covenant promise. They looked at the compassion as it existed and convinced themselves something better was in the offer, and so the Lord gave them over to the passions of their heart, and they were destroyed. It is the same emotion that on the contrary we see out of Christ as He laments over Jerusalem in Matthew 23. Here is the consolation of Israel, the one promised, and they are so blind because they envy the power and prestige of the Romans and have forgotten the one who alone was able to save them from their oppression. For all men the answer is right in front of them, and in their abandonment of the promise they receive their reward.
In closing, as we end our time in the commandments it is again important for us to recall the preface in Exodus 20:1. All of the encouragement we receive to keep the law is bound up in the redemption of God’s people from slavery. We obey in faith and trust and love. As long as our mind’s eye is centered in the nature of Jehovah and His fullness then we will not turn our hands back from the plow. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and these things will be added unto you, both now and forever in Christ.
A last word.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church