PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 20:17 Word #10 Covet Only the Right Things

09/18 Exodus 20:17 Word #10 I Shall Not Want; Don’t Desire the Wrong Things

God is addressing his covenant people whom he has rescued out of slavery and taken to be his own. He is declaring to them what it will mean to be in relationship with him. I am YHWH who brought you out of slavery. #1. You must have no other gods before me. #2. You must not misrepresent me with images. #3. You must uphold my reputation. #4. You must set aside time to enjoy your relationship with me. #5. You must show honor to those I have placed in authority. #6. You must honor life that I created. #7. You must honor your covenant commitments. #8. You must protect the rights of those around you. #9. You must uphold the reputation of those around you. And #10:

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

This word takes God’s commands to a whole ‘nother level. When Jesus pointed the rich young man to the commands ‘you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall honor your father and mother,’ the young man felt he could honestly say ‘all these I have kept from my youth’ (Mt.19:20; Mk.10:20; Lk.18:21). Saul the Pharisee, was able to say that he was, ‘as to righteousness, under the law blameless’ (Phil.3:6), but he confesses that this particular command aroused the sinful passions of his flesh (Rom.7:5). He says,

Romans 7:7 …Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. …18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

This particular command makes it clear that God requires more than superficial external obedience. God is concerned about our hearts and our inward desires.

Good Coveting

The word translated ‘covet’ means ‘to desire or delight in’. When Moses repeats this command in Deuteronomy 5:21, he adds another similar word that means ‘to desire, long for, or lust after’. Both of these words are used in both good and bad ways in the bible. Desiring or longing for your neighbor’s wife or his possessions is wrong. But in Genesis (2:9) God filled the garden with all kinds of trees that were desirable. And he gave it all to our first parents for their pleasure and enjoyment. In the Song of Solomon (2:3) this word is used of good sexual desire between a husband and wife. In Isaiah (53:2) it is used for a desire for the Messiah. Listen to how this word for coveting or desire is used in Psalm 19:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Here we see that coveting is commended when we covet God’s truth and God’s ways more than much fine gold.

The synonym that Moses uses in Deuteronomy is used of David’s reminiscent longing for water from the well of Bethlehem (1Ch.11:17); It is used for the soul’s yearning for God (Isaiah 26:9).

Both of these words are used of God’s own holy desire for mount Zion (Ps.68:16; 132:13)

When the New Testament translates the tenth commandment it uses the Greek word (epiyumew epithumeo), a compound of (epi epi) – on upon or to, and (yumov thumos) – which means passion, heat, boiling up. This is a word that communicates intensity of desire or fervent passion. It, too is used in both bad and good ways. When Jesus talks about adultery of the heart (Mt.5:28), he uses this word. Jesus also uses this word (Mt.13:17) to describe the passionate longing of the prophets and righteous people to see the days of Messiah. Jesus used it of his own desire to eat the final Passover with his disciples (Lk.22:15). Galatians 5:17 draws a contrast between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit – the very same word is applied to both good and evil desires. Paul in 1 Timothy (3:1) tells us that aspiring to serve the church as an elder is a noble desire.

So the tenth command does not simply say ‘thou shalt not covet’ or ‘you may not desire’, because there are good things that we should desire, and passion and desire are God-given drives that can and should be used for his glory. This final command is not so much a new and distinct command as a summary command that under-girds all the others. What we are forbidden to desire is specifically that which would lead us to break God’s other commands. Do not long for someone else’s wife, which would lead to adultery; or someone else’s property, which would lead to stealing or jealousy or even murder. This command comes under and behind the others and says not only don’t do these things, but don’t even allow your heart to be enticed by these things.

Idolatrous Coveting

In fact, the New Testament equates covetousness with idolatry.

Ephesians 5:5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

So if covetousness is a form of idolatry, and the covetousness that is forbidden is desiring the wrong things, and idolatry is worshiping the wrong things, then our desires are a form of worship. The person or thing that we long for, that we delight in, that we look to for satisfaction, that has become our God. The longing, delighting, desiring, is worship.

What we are saying goes something like this: ‘I think this thing or this relationship will satisfy my deepest longings, but God says that this is off limits for me, so I will have to go against what God says in order to have what will satisfy me.’ I have elevated the thing to the position of a god that I look to for satisfaction, and I have dethroned God, who has become an obstacle to my happiness.

Cultivate Contentment

This is why God tells us that it is so important to be content with what we have. Jesus tells us:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Take care and be on your guard, because everything in our consumer society cultivates covetousness. We must battle this tendency that is resident in our hearts. Paul tells young pastor Timothy:

1Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

It is not having riches that is wrong. It is the discontent, the desire, the love, the craving for something we don’t have that is so deadly. When we are so caught up and focused on the thing that we don’t have, we neglect to thank God for all the good that he has given us. We imply that he is not good for withholding the thing we think we need. We demonstrate our unbelief in him as our provider. We become focused on the gift and lose sight of the giver.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Be content and lift your eyes to remember that you have the one thing that will truly satisfy. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If God himself promises to always be with us, we possess the one thing that will bring lasting joy. Being content is not settling even when there is something better to be had. Being content is realizing that we have the best thing and we can stop looking and simply enjoy.

Enjoying God

Let’s dwell for a moment on what we have.

Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

How often do you stop to count God’s blessings to you? My sins have been forgiven! I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ! God’s steadfast love and mercy is abundantly poured out on me. On top of all that, he satisfies my soul with good!

Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

God has chosen us to be near him, to enjoy his presence forever. What greater benefit is there than that?

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

We turn so quickly to people and things to bring happiness. We have deceitful desires (Eph.4:22) that lie to us and persuade us that we can find fulfillment in more or better or bigger or different or new. “In your presence there is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Genuine fulfillment is found only in God.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We must realize that it is truly all about God. Heaven is all about God. Not the gold, not the gates, not the loved ones – all those things are good, but there is nothing, no-one in heaven or on earth to be desired besides God. God is my portion forever. You shall have no other gods before me. When God is at the center, all other desires fade in importance. I desire nothing besides you!

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

One thing. One thing is the passion of my life, my heart’s desire. One thing I seek after. One thing I covet, I long for. One thing is the burning passion of my heart. To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. To be with him forever.

Luke 10:38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is this the one thing you covet? To sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to his teaching? To enjoy the satisfying richness of his presence?

Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

September 18, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , ,

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