Close Menu X

God's Commands Show The Way of Love


The basic responsibilities that we have as the Lord’s people are set forth in Exodus 20:1-17, which we commonly call the ten commandments, although they are literally referred to as the ten words (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 10:4; the well-known word Decalogue literally means ten [Greek: deka] words [Greek: logous]). Dr. Daniel Block, whose teaching has had a significant shaping influence upon me, describes these ten words as “the ten principles of covenant relationship”.[1] Since Jesus taught us that all the law and the prophets are rooted in the two love commands (see Matthew 22:34-40), we ought to understand the ten words/principles of Exodus 20:1-17 as a definitive setting forth, in summary form, of our basic covenantal obligation to walk in love: first and foremost, to walk in love toward the Lord; and secondly, to walk in love toward our neighbors. Instead of seeing the ten commandments as dos and don’ts that would make us preoccupied with our own performance on the religious treadmill, we ought to see the ten commandments as God-ordained windows that open to our view the beautiful way of love. 

In the same vein, here is one other insight from Dr. Block that has been helpful to me in thinking about the Decalogue:

“… this document functions as an Israelite version of a bill of rights. However, unlike modern bills of rights, the document does not protect one’s own rights but the rights of the next person. Each of the terms may be recast as a statement of another person’s rights and the adult male’s responsibility to guard the rights first of the covenant Lord, and second of fellow Israelites”.[2]

With these thoughts in mind, and acknowledging my indebtedness to Dr. Block’s articulation of the ten principles, here is a helpful way of understanding these foundational commandments:

• Commandment #1: The Lord has the exclusive right to my ultimate devotion and loyalty (see Exodus 20:3).

• Commandment #2: The Lord has the right to be worshiped by me on His terms (see Exodus 20:4-6).

• Commandment #3: The Lord has the right to be faithfully represented by me in words and deeds (see Exodus 20:7).

• Commandment #4: The Lord has the right to my time (see Exodus 20:8-11). At the same time, the fourth commandment teaches me that the members of my household have a right to fair treatment and proper rest.

• Commandment #5: My parents have a right to my honor and respect (see Exodus 20:12).

• Commandment #6: My neighbor has a right to enjoy his life without being physically attacked by me (see Exodus 20:13).

• Commandment #7: My neighbor has a right to enjoy his marriage without it being attacked by me (see Exodus 20:14). By implication, my nearest neighbor – my wife – has a right to enjoy her marriage to me without our marriage being adulterated by me.

• Commandment #8: My neighbor has a right to enjoy his property without it being attacked by me (see Exodus 20:15).

• Commandment #9: My neighbor has a right to be accurately and honestly represented by me (see Exodus 20:16).

• Commandment #10: My neighbor has a right to enjoy the feeling of security in his marriage, his household, and in all his possessions (see Exodus 20:17) – thus I must not covet anything that belongs to my neighbor. At the same time, the tenth commandment teaches me that the Lord has the right to be loved and obeyed from my heart, for the New Testament teaches us that covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Therefore, if I break the tenth commandment, I am at the very same time also breaking the first commandment.

The bottom line is that my fundamental disposition ought to begin with a desire to see God honored (this is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer), and this God-honoring disposition must be demonstrated in a desire to see my neighbors flourish in all that concerns them (their life, their household, their marriage and family, their property, and their reputation). So, we should always seek to understand God’s commands as authoritative directions on the pathway of love for God and neighbor. Let's be diligent to let God’s commands direct us accordingly, even today!


[1] Daniel I. Block, How I Love Your Torah, O LORD! Studies in the Book of Deuteronomy. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011: p. 24. See all of Chapter 2, "Reading the Decalogue Right to Left: The Ten Principles of Covenant Relationship in the Hebrew Bible," p. 21-55.

[2] Daniel I. Block, Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012: p. 161. See all of p 160-168.