Have you ever had a parent or a child or a boss or a close friend ask you to do something and you knew you didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t a moral issue. You didn’t have to do it.
You knew in your heart it wasn’t the right thing for you but they kept pushing and pushing and talking and talking and made you feel guilty enough until you said yes. And then afterwards, while you were doing it, you’re going, boy, I hate this. This makes me…
Anyone ever had that?
There was a violation of boundaries. Each one of us has boundaries or space and that boundaries or space is what we need in order to have healthy, growing relationships.
And your space on the volleyball court. We all have personal space and boundaries. You have your side of the road and they have their side of the road.
And when they cross into your side of the road, and whether it’s the relational road or the physical road, when someone violates your boundaries, it produces anything from a mild irritation to discomfort to anger to fear to a breaking off of relationship.
A boundary, quite simply put, is this. It’s where one person stops and another person starts. It’s where one thing stops and another thing starts. And where the one stops, and the other starts, is called a boundary.
And boundaries are often given by markers or, verbally, boundaries are created by the word “no.”
No, you can’t stand that close to me. No, you can’t drive your car on my side of the road. And, no, you can’t make me do your agenda if it’s not God’s will for my life, no matter how guilty you try to make me feel.
Boundaries are essential for all of us. Boundaries are essential for health. Boundaries are essential for relationships. Boundaries are essential for you to do life in a way that honors God.
And are you ready for this? God has boundaries.
And one of the most important times God lays out boundaries is in the Old Testament when He wants to take a people and make them distinct and help them understand.
Help them understand who He is, where he stops, and how they need to stop in relationship with one another and where you give room for other people to start.
And the title of the series is called God’s Boundaries. It’s a fresh look at the Ten Commandments - but look at them through the perspective of boundaries.
When boundaries are broken, relationships falter.
Ruben Shelly, in a book called Written in Stone - Ethics for the Heart, writes this. When looking back at the sixties experiment and then the seventies and the eighties. And at the heart of all that he’s going to say, is that boundaries were destroyed.
He says, the theme of the sixties was anti-establishment. In the protests against government, family, church, people who assumed that God was dead sank into self-destructive era of drugs, uninhibited sex, and moral anarchy.
Next, we moved into the self-absorbed decade of the seventies. Tom Wolfe dubbed it, “The Decade of Me.” And its best-sellers were, “Looking out for Number One” and “Winning Through Intimidation.”
We endured, then, the golden age of greed. The decade of the eighties. Athletes gambled on sporting events. Wall Street kingpins were jailed for insider trading. Officials in government were caught in sex, drug, and influence peddling scandals.
Now, and later, the nineties and the early 21st Century were faced with a crisis of ethics. Once, what we took for granted, as common decency, is now uncommon. The utterly outrageous has become ordinary.
The obscene is commonplace. Our code of ethics has eroded in such a massive scale that we’ve become cynical about morality and we sense that something is terribly, terribly wrong with the spiritual fabric of our world.
Since 1960, listen carefully, violent crime in America has increased more than five hundred percent.
A Justice Department study in 1987, predicted that eight out of ten Americans will be a victim of a violent crime in their lifetime.
Crime is so prevalent in America that Americans have altered their lifestyles out of fear. Whole sections of major cities are considered unsafe.
Shoppers worry about where to park at shopping malls. Women carrying mace in their glove compartments and purses.
More and more people are carrying guns and newspapers and talk shows document the fact that crime is the most important subject on people’s hearts. He wrote that before terrorism began to occur.
What I want to suggest is that we did an experiment in the sixties where we cast off restraint or boundaries and the overwhelming consensus in our day is, we need a moral compass. We need a North Star. We need a roadmap. We need a foundation for truth.
As someone wisely said, we did our own thing and now our own thing is doing it to us. But the problem in our world, our current, dilemma is, which boundaries?
You may have heard William Bennett, a few years ago, wrote a book on virtues. And it’s very politically correct to talk about ethics. Ethics courses popped up in the mid to late nineties in all kind of business schools.
The problem is, when you get specific. No one can agree on what is right and what is wrong. As Francis Schaffer said, when you remove absolutes and there is no right and there is no wrong, then people will begin to erode all kind of boundaries.
We’ve eroded boundaries about marriage. We’ve eroded boundaries about right and wrong. We’ve eroded boundaries about what is life and what is death.
And things that were unthinkable thirty or forty years ago, now we have live babies in the eighth or eighth and a half month that are perfectly healthy being aborted because the boundaries’ been shifted and we say, that’s not a real person until they come out of the womb.
Now, we say, if people aren’t useful to society, we kill them prematurely and we give it a fancy name because the boundary between what is life and what’s of value has been changed.
And here’s the deal. Unless we get clear on the boundaries that God has set, we’re in trouble. In fact, I know we’re in trouble when, instead of Billy Graham or a Christian leader telling the world that we need to have boundaries, it becomes Ted Koppel.
You know, Ted Koppel? Mr. Nightline himself? This is a quote out of his address to the University of Duke at their graduation. Ted Koppel, of Nightline says:
“Our society finds truth too strong a medicine to digest. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder, it’s a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They were the Ten Commandments.”
Notice he says “they are” not “were.”
“The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time.”
Now, that’s not a preacher. That is a man at Duke University who has a nighttime talk show looking at our world and saying something’s gotta change.
He closes that speech at that commencement by saying, “There is a harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction regardless of fashion or trend.”
As you turn the page, what I’d like to do with you is look at God’s boundaries for abundant living.
So often, when we think of the Ten Commandments, we’ve been informed far more by Charlton Heston and a movie that we are Scripture. And we have a picture of a very angry God with lightning bolts coming out of a mountain, steaming down on people, and putting something on some stone tablets in order to make people do what they’re supposed to do.
And what I want to tell you is that is an unbiblical position of what the Scripture has to teach. Is that just as there’s a double yellow line on a curved road that is at a boundary that says, “Do not pass, so that you can be protected,” God gave the Ten Commandments.
Just as there is a boundary that says that when people get so close you need enough space for your own protection let alone the germs, God set out boundaries like guardrails that go around a winding road to protect and provide grace and direction and help.
And what I want to do in the next ten sessions together is, I want to look at God’s boundaries, whose purpose is for abundant living. Who’s rooted in grace.
Who longs for you to have the best in relationships. Who longs for you to know Him. Who longs for you, not only to have a vertical relationship with Him, but a horizontal relationship with one another that is deeper and better than you could ever dream.
And so, on one tablet, he put boundaries or commands about your relationship with Him and on another tablet, he put boundaries about your relationship with other people.
And so, let’s look at boundary number, or literally, it’s called the ten words. It’s referred to as the Ten Commandments and in other places it talks about the Law. But, literally, it’s the ten words.
And as we dig in together, you’ll notice on the inside of your notes, there are three things you need to understand to understand what’s going on in the Ten Commandments.
First is, who gave us the Ten Commandments? Second, when and to whom did He give them? And third, why did He give them?
So, let’s start with the who. We’ve got Exodus chapter 20 verses 1 and 2 and I’ve put them on your notes.
And God spoke all these words and He said, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. Out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Notice they didn’t come from a summit or a seminar of worldwide leaders. They came from God. Notice, secondly, the who that gave them is the capital L-O-R-D. That is Yahweh. Or Jehovah.
The theologians call it a “tetragrammanon.” It is four letters with no vowels in Hebrew. It was too holy or too sacred. And the best that the theologians can come up with, it’s the core Hebrew word of the verb “to be.” I AM THAT I AM. The Everlasting One.
So, first, what we learn is who gave them. There is an Eternal One. And second, you’ll notice, I, the Lord God, gave you. Personal pronouns. God is eternal. He’s outside of time.
But He’s also personal and intimate. He says, I, Yahweh, the Lord your God. And third, notice, it’s in the context of grace.
The Ten Commandments didn’t come out of some blank slate where God said, “I am God do this.” It came after He had delivered Israel. The Israelites lived in a world of Egypt for four hundred years. There were over fifteen hundred gods.
Their kids grew up with fifteen hundred competing gods saying, “This is true.” And at the top of all the gods was Pharaoh. If you study carefully, you’ll learn that those ten plagues, each, those were the ten top gods in Egypt.
And when Moses was given power by God to defeat each one of those plagues and finally, Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s son, it was a way where God was letting His people know, I am superior to all the gods in all the world.
I am the Lord your God who delivered you. They’d seen the Red Sea part. They’d seen the enemies and the hardship. They’d seen the Red Sea close back over. They are talking about a God who said, “I love you, I care for you, I delivered you, I’m for you. Now, I want to give you some boundaries. I want to show you how to live in such a way where you can enjoy the deepest, best relationship with me possible and the deepest, best relationship with one another.”
And see, here’s the problem with the Ten Commandments. I mean, we think about them being on walls. These are the most revolutionary ten words in the history of mankind. They have shaped law. They have shaped relationships. How we think, how the world thinks is rooted in.
But you know what? Before they came, they weren’t around. They weren’t around. God is giving His truth to His people out of his love and out of His mercy so they could experience Him and experience in relationally people not going left of center.
And God didn’t want the discomfort and the irritation and the fear and the anger and the pain when boundaries are violated with Him or with one another.
So, the first thing to understand is who gave them. They come from an eternal God who is personal, who is loving. And then notice the last line. Who is all powerful. He says, “I brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery.”
And then the command. The command is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” So, when did it occur and to whom?
Open your Bibles, if you will, to chapter 19 of Exodus. And in the first six verses, we get a little background on who, when were they given and to whom?
It’s in the third month after the Israelites left Egypt. So, they’ve been through all this preparation and let my people go and the ten plagues and all the chaos and all the pain. And then finally, they’re set free and then they think they’re going to die and then they get to the water’s edge and God opens the Red Sea.
And so they’ve been, about three months, they’re just literally starting to get a little sense of a daily rhythm. You know? The fire and the cloud and it’s leading them. And so, they’ve been three months to the very day they came to the Desert of Sinai.
And after they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
Then Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you’re to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt [God of power] And how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. A God of compassion.”
See, in their day, that “eagles wings” would, very quickly was a word picture. They, they in their day would have been out in nature and seen how a mother eagle would take those eaglets and fly and then tilt the wings and drop them and they would flap and flap and then just at the last second, swoop under and take care of them.
He’s giving them a picture of, I’m the God of the most awesome power you have ever dreamed of. But I’m a God who cares for you as a people the way a eagle cares for its eaglets.
“…You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt. How I carried you on these eagle wings. Brought you to [notice the goal] Myself.”
“Now, if you obey me fully and keep my commandments, then out of the nations, you’ll be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words to speak to the Israelites.”
When? Three months after the deliverance. Who? To a people in bondage for four hundred years. To Israel. And notice, His treasured possession.
These are words of life and grace and encouragement. These are words, you’re going to be a kingdom of priests. These are words are saying to a group of people, all the earth is Mine. I created it. But a part of My plan, you are special.
And I’m going to bring you to Myself for Me. This isn’t about me giving you a straight jacket of rules and you’ve got to keep these rules.
I’m going to give you these boundaries in order that you can share with me at an intimate level what no person has ever experienced and then we’ll learn from later in Scripture, that I want to take this nation and I want to take it like a piece of coal and take it through a process where you become a diamond in the rough and when I give you My Law and My presence and My power, all the world will see, through this diamond, the glory and the glitter and the beauty of the God eternal on this planet. And that was His goal.
And so, he’s going to give them words of life. He’s going to give them the ten words, the ten boundaries. So they could have a relationship with Him and a relationship with one another.
Why did He give them? Notice in chapter 20. Skip down to verse 20. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid…” Remember the mountain has shaken now. The smoke has gone up. Lightning bolts. Basically, by this time they’re saying, hey, Moses? If God wants to talk again, you talk to Him. I think we got the message. He’s scaring us to death.
Moses says to them, “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you,” [Why?] “…so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Verse 21. “The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”
God gave these ten words to reveal Himself. How do you know God’s character of purity? The ten words. The Ten Commandments. How do you know what God wants for relationships? The ten words, the Ten Commandments.
God gave these to reveal Himself and he gave them to protect the people and to protect us from sinning. When you miss the mark, that’s what sin is. When you miss the mark in relationships. When you miss the mark with God, what is always the result?
Doesn’t it bring pain? Doesn’t it bring fallout? Doesn’t it bring chaos? It’s not just a matter of, don’t have sex before marriage. Do you think God knew about herpes? Do you think God knew about HIV positive? Do you think God knew about AIDS when He gave that command?
Do you think God knew about all the psychological studies we’ve done that when we find that people live together before they get married that the sexual satisfaction in the marriage is much less than those who don’t?
That the divorce rate is fifty percent higher? That the chances of being a one man or one woman mate really goes down when people live together? Why do you think God gave these rules?
Because out of His mercy and His love and His grace, he knew what would protect us. Sin always brings death. Death is separation and pain and chaos. These are not ten laws that are a straight jacket that you’ve got to do them because there’s a big God and He’s so big, he can make everyone do what He says.
These are the ten words of an ultimate, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal Father who is absolutely holy and pure and knows you and loves you and your children and loves you in your marriage and in your singleness and in your teen years and in your sunset years.
And has given words of life that if you obey them, it will keep you from sin. It will allow you to know Him. And it will allow you to meet God in ways beyond what you ever dreamed.