Exodus 20:1-11[ref]NIV New International Version Translations[/ref]
1 And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus is the second of the Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses. Genesis ends with the death of Joseph and Exodus begins with Joseph’s sons and highlights the growth of the people of Israel in population. Our area of Scripture highlights the first Moses went up Mount Sinai and got the Ten Commandments on two tablets of Stone.
Here we find the basis for God’s Law. It is simple in form and laid out in ten principles:
- You shall have no other gods before me
- You shall not make for yourself an idol
- You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
- Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
- Honor your father and mother
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Items for Discussion
- Look at each of the Ten Commandments one at a time. Discuss the following for each:
- Why would God give us this Command? (Think benefits)
- Is there any confusion in the nature and meaning of the command?
- Assuming society in general is not interested in keeping these, how has society tried to redefine them and make them weaker?
6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 1 1“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
The Book of Acts can be thought of as the second volume of a two volume set. Volume one is the Gospel of Luke. The Apostle Luke is credited as the author of Acts. Its full title is “The Acts of the Apostles.” Interestingly, however, Luke concentrates his writing on only two of the Apostles, Peter and Paul.
In chapters 1 through to 5, Luke deals with the birth of the church. In chapter 1 he covers the period from Jesus’ crucifixion leading up to the Day of Pentecost (50 days from the first Sunday after the Passover). After a prologue, v1-5, he narrates the ascension, v6-11, and then the events in the upper room prior to Pentecost. These passages are appropriately named “the ascension.
v6-7. The disciples dream of the day when the nation of Israel will be reestablished as it was in the days of Solomon. They dream of themselves as the chief executives in the new kingdom, cf. Mk.10:35ff. Yet, the future state of the nation Israel is not their worry. It remains in the sovereign will of God, cf. Mk.13:32. In fact, Jesus is non committal over Israel’s future, although he knows only too well that things are about to be put right. Israel will soon be judged. As for the timing of the coming days, it is not for the disciples to know. Their focus must be on a spiritual kingdom “not of this world”.
v8. The special task given the apostles by Christ is to proclaim the gospel, the message of God’s sovereign grace in Christ. Christ’s kingdom is realized when this message is proclaimed, heard, and acted on in repentance. They must proclaim this message from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. To carry on this work, the work Christ himself was engaged in, they will be “anointed” as Christ was anointed. They will receive an empowering of the Holy Spirit to enable them to carry out the work of witness-bearing.
v9. A cloud surrounds Jesus and he disappears from the apostles’ sight. The cloud might have moved upward (v10), or just dissolved. This event establishes the celebration of Ascension in the Church Year (40 days after Easter). Although we celebrate Christ’s entry into glory and the taking up of his heavenly reign, in reality his resurrection establishes his rule at the right hand of the Father. Christ rises to reign in glory. His appearances to the disciples over the last 40 days are theophanies – manifestations of divine glory.
v10. The disciples naturally look upward for Jesus, seeing he was leaving the earth. When the cloud cleared, two angelic messengers stood before them. “Dressed in white”, “in dazzling apparel”, Lk.24:4.
v11. The angels, following their prime directive, convey a message to the disciples. Jesus now leaves in cloud and glory; in like manner he will return. What of his coming back? Is this his Second Coming or the coming of the Holy Spirit? Either way, the disciples will experience his presence through the Holy Spirit. His present glorious reign will energize his people through the filling of the Holy Spirit. He “ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things”, Eph.4:10. The apostles then hurry back to Jerusalem to wait for the promised anointing.
Items for Discussion
- These are some of the very last words we have directly from Christ. What relevance should we assign to them?
- Matters of churchmanship, denominational doctrines, social justice issues, church growth, church versus state relations and the like, all pale before a far greater purpose. How is it that we serve this higher purpose?
- There will be times when we can support this greater purpose personally. When we cannot, how can we still remain engaged and provide support?
- In what way has Christ assured the success of His instructions to the Apostles?
- What is the significance of Christ’s ascension today?