Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17NKJV
This week we look at Question 110 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?” The last section of the answer reads, “The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.” Last time we examined this question we looked in general at the two different kinds of motivations God gives to obey the second commandment. Today we begin to consider more specifically how the Catechism explains these motivations.
The first reason we should obey the second commandment is because God is sovereign over us. God’s sovereignty refers to His absolute right of rule and dominion. Because of His sovereignty over all human beings God has the right to make demands of us and we have the obligation and duty to fully obey those commands. The word propriety in its original meaning speaks to this same principle. Propriety, as used in the seventeenth century by philosophers Locke, Milton, and others, meant property, and as such it called attention to one’s possession or exclusive rights of ownership. In other words we should obey God’s commandment for worship because He alone exclusively owns us. He created us and so we are His property. The fact then that God is the rightful sovereign over mankind: man’s lawgiver, ruler, and judge; coupled with the reality that we are entirely His property because He made us for Himself from nothing establishes a powerful reason as to why all human beings ought to keep the second commandment.
However, we can go even further. The context of the giving of the commandments is not one where God is speaking to mankind generally but it is clearly one where God the Redeemer is particularly instructing His peculiar people whom He has so recently redeemed. Thus, the preface to the Ten Commandments, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exod. 20:2). Manifestly, this statement could not apply to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Amorites, Canaanites, or any other peoples who were not brought out of Egypt and through the Red Sea a few weeks prior. God deliberately performed many miracles including ten spectacular plagues on the Egyptian people in order to deliver His covenant people – who were mostly Jewish, but a mixed multitude were also included with them from the beginning (Exod. 12:38 – and bring them into His land and form them into His nation. Thus, God’s sovereignty over and propriety in Israel were established by His act of redemption. Because He rescued them from Egypt and because they followed Him and accepted that rescue, He was now their master and they were now His possession.
This same principle extends to all who would accept God’s terms in the covenant of grace, the fullness of which is manifested and explained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God offers us redemption and forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ. If we accept this offer God becomes our Savior and our Lord, He becomes sovereign over us by the act of redemption. Likewise we become His property and possession because He has purchased us from the curse by way of His own blood. This is the great reason why we should keep His commandments. Because when we profess to have an interest in His covenanted salvation, we are by definition professing that He is our sovereign and that we are His property. Therefore we ought to keep His commandments.