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Part Five: The Second Table of the Law

R. Kent Hughes has said, " a floral bouquet, [the Ten Commandments'] maximum effect comes when they are held together, and empowered by the power and love of God."

Consider the first four again and notice that the Ten Commandments are very significantly arranged.

The Division of the Commandments

Commands 1-4:

  • teach reverence for God
  • are vertical
  • are doctrine

Commands 5-10:

  • teach reverence for others
  • are horizontal
  • are ethics

It is crucial to see that these sections are in proper order. Our life spins on a vertical axis: our relationship to God. In fact, our entire lives are predicated on that relationship. If it is right, our relationships with others will be right (or quickly be made right). Conversely, if our relationship with God is wrong, then every other relationship in our life will be out of kilter, or far below its potential.

The only way to a well-balanced life is first relating properly to God. Psychology can be helpful if it takes into consideration the vertical axis. If it fails to do this, however, it falls short of lasting good, or the ability to bring total health.

The modern world has scrambled Jesus' summary of the Law:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Our Relationship with God

  1. No other gods before Him
  2. Make no idols or images
  3. Do not take His name in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day
Our Relationship with Others
  1. Honor our father and mother
  2. Do not kill
  3. Do not commit adultery
  4. Do not steal
  5. Do not bear false witness
  6. Do not covet
Today, society has reversed Jesus' summation of the Law:
"You shall love your neighbor with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength... and you shall love God as you love yourself."

If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then we will love our neighbors as ourself—the problem is, we have reversed this Commandment.This switch in the two tables of the Law is really why our world is in so much trouble. We don't have to go any further to explain all the crime, mistreatment, murder, abuse, drugs, social and economic ills common in our society.

R. Kent Hughes has said, "By making man the center and measure of everything, the ethical center is always changing. Truth, goodness, right and wrong are no more than what human opinion currently holds them to be—modern floating ethics. The impotence of this system is further sealed by demoting one's love for God to second place, which is really to give no place at all. This effectively removes the power to love others, because God's Word tells us, 'We love because he first loved us'—1 Jn. 4:19.

We see the erosion of the second table of the Law (relating to personal relationship), because that vertical relationship (represented by the first four Commandments) is waning or absent in so many in our culture. When society moved to modify the moral law of God and put man first and God second, havoc in legal jurisprudence and morality has ensued, because God's Law has been replaced and demeaned.

Our basic problem and our basic provision is wrapped up in our relationship with God. In it, we have all the tools and examples we need for every other relationship. This is why for Christians, a clear indication of our fading or lukewarm love for God is the violation of the second table of the Law. If we are struggling to obey God's commands relating to others, we should recognize it as an indication of a waning relationship with God!


Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.—v. 12.

Note: Teaching on this commandment is a collaboration between myself and Associate Pastor Paul Petersen, who taught the passage at Hillcrest Chapel.

Commands and Lamentations from a Father
(in King James English)
Laws when at Table

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck: for you will be sent away.

And though the pieces of broccoli are like very small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that's why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me, for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the milk. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass. Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time.

If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand, but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even not have I made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat it myself, yet I do not die.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor the bath water of any kind. Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick;. Yes and even sometimes do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in my anger. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of mine.


As we look at the fifth command, it's interesting to note that God gives it to a pretty mediocre group of people. This generation of parents has not been a stellar example of parenting, or anything else—except whining—to this point. It is the generation:

  • that saw the miracles God performed in Egypt
  • that walked through the Red Sea
  • that saw the pillar of fire at night and the cloud by day
  • that received manna daily in the wilderness...
    • and still sought other gods when Moses went to the mountain
    • and complained to Moses and God about every step along the Exodus, etc.

Aside from having a great worship service on the other side of the Red Sea, these parents have not been great examples so far, and yet God is commanding the children to honor this disfunctional group of adults.

Now fast forward to Deuteronomy 6, which takes place 40 years later as Moses is speaking to the next generation. The children have now become adults with the next generation of their children as they prepare to enter the promised land. They receive a "refresher course," having grown up watching their parents wander in the wilderness and die there.

Deut 6: 1-3 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

The promise was "so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." This next generation had a promise of God's blessing if they would practice the honoring of their parents. This business of honoring parents was obviously crucial to receiving the promise of God.

Some of you are thinking, shouldn't my kids be studying this? Aren't these words for them so they'll treat me better? Obviously, however, we can relate to this command whether we're 6 or 60, as it relates to our view towards our parents as well.

Surrounding each of the Ten Commandments are principles that apply to a broader situation. For example, Sabbath isn't just the observance of a day; it's a principle of rest and "God focus" in everyday life. Here we will see that the principle of honor starts in the home, but extends beyond it to other areas of life and ultimately to honoring God.

Notice, "honor your parents" is put on an equal plane with the rest of the commandments. "'Honor' in the Greek means to estimate, fix the value. To honor someone, then, is to evaluate that person accurately and honestly and treat them with the respect, reverence, kindness, courtesy and obedience which their station in life or their character demands"—Kenneth W. Wuest.

This doesn't necessitate absolute obedience, if the action required is an obvious and overt violation of the teachings of Scripture. One author writes that honor involves "obedience to one's parents during the growing-up years and reverence during one's mature years as demonstrated by respect, provision, consideration, and character."

Honor for our fathers and mothers is an essential building block for society's stability and health. If the young are constantly at war with the old, or those in authority, the foundations of society will be destroyed and each generation will be destined to make the same mistakes as the previous one.

Four Principles to Build a Foundation of Honor

Principle #1: Show respect for the "office" of parent

Lev 19:3a—"Each of you must respect his mother and father....." When you call a judge, "Your honor," you're not making a value judgment about that guy's character. He may be a jerk. When you say "Your honor", you show respect for the position. God says He put our parents in positions of authority over us, so we are to respect them. This is not unlike what we're trying to teach our children (and maybe remind ourselves) about the office of President of the United States: honor the office of the President (i.e., what the Presidency represents and should be).

Are there bad parents? Are there corrupt Presidents, policemen, judges, pastors, and priests ? Of course there are; but according to this 5th commandment, that doesn't let children—or us—off the hook in demonstrating honor toward parents and these authorities.

Ephesians 6:1—"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 'Honor your father and mother'—which is the first commandment with a promise—3 'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.' The principle is repeated in this New Testament passage as it relates to the Christian's response to government, slaves' attitudes towards their masters, wives' respect towards their husbands, and workers towards their bosses (Don't work for men but as "unto the Lord").

Principle #2: Show appreciation for your parents.

For some of you, this is a very painful message. It is easy to honor your father and mother when they are good, godly people, but some of you had parents who hurt you deeply and devastated your lives. I want you to know that the Bible says there is severe judgment for child abuse, and mistreatment and neglect and molestation—severe judgment. Jesus said, "Anybody that offends one of these little ones, it's better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and thrown in the bottom of the ocean." It is serious business, and God will be the judge of their actions.

So what does God expect me to do? How is someone to honor a parent who was dishonorable to them?

It honors your parents when you forgive them for what they did wrong and choose to focus on what they did right. Deut. 26:11 (paraphrased) tells us, "Be grateful for the good things that the Lord has given you and your family."

  1. You can appreciate your parents' effort; parenting is a difficult, time-demanding, energy-draining job. As a parent of two children, I have a new appreciation of what my parents went through raising four. It takes incredible energy just to corral your kids, much less teach them anything.

Have you ever considered how much easier your parents' life would have been if they hadn't had you? When was the last time you thanked your parents for just putting up with you? At my parents' 70th birthday party, my three sisters and I played, "What did we do that we don't think you knew we did?" We were saying our parents had done a good job with us, but we still had our "secrets" and now it was safe to tell them.

  1. You can appreciate their sacrifice. Parenting is expensive; the economics are staggering. If you're a parent today, it will cost you—to raise a child through college—about a quarter of a million dollars (and then some still don't leave home!).

    When a couple chooses to have children, they are choosing to do without some other things, so we should appreciate our parents' sacrifice. What could your parents have afforded if they hadn't spent that money on you, and your clothes, your school, your doctor bills? Somebody said a father is someone who carries pictures where he once carried money.

Principle #3: Parents can be the most visible and effective expression of Jesus' character to their children.

To demonstrate obedience, our actions must match our words. Colossians 3:21 says, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." The Amplified Bible is helpful: "Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children. Do not be hard on them or harass them; lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated; do not break their spirit." I couldn't reject the Christian faith by branding my parents as hypocrites. Yes, I still had to make the faith my own, but I couldn't get mad at God with the excuse that my parents didn't live out their beliefs. I knew that on the contrary, they prayed, tithed, and gave of themselves in service to others.


We cannot demand honor from our children; it is given in response to our teaching and godly lifestyle. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Each couple who brings a baby to be dedicated at our church recognizes that our responsibility as parents is to be the closest expression of the character of Jesus that they will see and be formed by.

Principle #4: Honor the elderly.

Leviticus 19:32—"Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD." How do you do that? Affirm your parents by staying in touch with them. Every time you write a letter or card, or make a call, you're obeying this command to honor your father and mother. (Proverbs 3:27—"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.")

The Bible says that the way you treat your parents is the demonstration of true faith, of whether you're really a Christian or not. First Timothy 5:8: "Anyone who won't care for his own relatives when they need help, especially his own family, has no right to say he is a Christian. Such a person is worse than the heathen." That's pretty strong.This is now a weekly occurrence at Hillcrest. Every week, someone in our body is experiencing a serious operation or illness with a parent, or considering the possibilities for various stages of care for their parents, or dealing with the death of a parent. As a primarily Baby Boomer church, we will share this focus on aging parents not as a phase, but a lifestyle of our spiritual care for them.


Let's summarize the progression of the principle of honoring:


  1. The Biblical pattern is that honor is learned through our relationship to our parents. Eph 6:2—"Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise."
  2. We learn to honor "God-given" institutions of government and justice. 1 Pet. 2:17—"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."
  3. That shows itself in honoring other people above ourselves. Rom. 12:10—"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Rom. 13:7—"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
  4. We realize that our personal happiness isn't our highest purpose; our purpose is to glorify God with all that He's given us. 1Cor. 6:20—"You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
  5. God's given a promise for this life. Prov. 21:21—"He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor."
  6. The ultimate goal, however, is eternal. This "culmination of honor" will be shown as we honor God in our eternal existence in His presence. Rev. 7:12 says the angels will fall down before the throne saying, "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

    You are who you are for a reason
    You're part of an intricate plan
    You are a precious, perfect, unique design
    Called God's special woman or man.

    You look like you look for a reason
    Our God made no mistake
    He knit you together within the womb
    You're just what He wanted to make

    The parents you had are the ones He chose
    No matter how you may feel
    You are custom designed with that plan in mind
    They bear the master's seal

    The trauma you faced wasn't easy
    And God wept that it hurt you so
    But it was allowed to shape your heart
    So that into His likeness you'd grow

God's message regarding honoring parents didn't end at Mount Sinai. In fact, Jesus talked about this commandment in the New Testament (Mark 7:9).

"And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
10 For Moses said, `honor your father and your mother,' and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'
11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God) 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.
13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down."



"Corban" is from the Hebrew word meaning "offering," used only here in Scripture. Jesus is referring to the despicable practice of children who refused to help needy parents on the pretense that money that might have been used for that purpose had already been dedicated to God and his service. By using this word in a religious vow, an irresponsible Jewish son could formally dedicate to God his earnings that otherwise would have gone for the support of his parents. The money did not necessarily have to go for religious purposes. The "Corban" formula was simply a means of circumventing the clear responsibility of children toward their parents as prescribed in the law. It would be similar to a "deadbeat" dad in our society who has a legal and moral obligation to pay child support and tries to weasel out of it with phony excuses.


  • If you are an adult, how would you say you are still honoring your parents?
  • Think about it for a moment—why would the honoring of parents affect the length of one's life?
  • If you are still in the home, would your parents recognize that you are honoring them?
  • If you are a parent, what would make it easier for your children to honor you?
  • How are we teaching them to honor others, by teaching them to honor us?

Obeying this commandment results in a number of wonderful provisions/results:


  1. A wonderful relationship will develop between parent and child. Honor opens the door to a great relationship with parents for life!
  2. Obedient and honoring children become a treasure to parents and society as a whole; growing up with the grace and honor to give to many other key relationships in life. In other words, honor and respect taught in the home breeds and multiplies outside it for a lifetime.
  3. In Ephesians 6:2-3, Paul repeats this command and points out again that obedience has a promise associated with it: that our days may be long upon the land—12b. It is pretty obvious that rebellion is costly, and many have paid a high personal price for their rebellion against their parents. This command affects our entire life, its quality and longevity. Even after we leave our homes, it goes on. It is an amazing thought that if we teach our children to honor us as parents and give them tangible reasons for that honor, we literally can affect the length of their lives!
  4. Honor taught in the home will prepare us to honor God for eternity.

You shall not murder—v. 13.

Not only is the act of murder condemned (12:12,14,18), but also every act which endangers human life, whether it arises from carelessness (Deut. 22:8), wantonness (Lev. 19:14), or from hatred, anger and revenge (Lev. 19:17-18). People are being killed by abortion, murder, euthanasia, or self-destruction by alcohol and drugs all over our nation today. The sanctity of human life is definitely under attack! In fact, as of November 1998, killing is now a live televised event, thanks to Dr. Kevorkian and 60 Minutes.

This commandment has caused a lot of controversy. Some have wondered how God can approve both capital punishment (Exodus 19:12) and this prohibition of murder. The simple answer is that in Hebrew as well as English, there is a distinction between "to kill" and "to murder." Murder is the taking of life without legal (execution after due process), or moral (killing in defense) justification. A positive application of this Command is, we have the privilege of bringing life to others through

  • the prayers of our heart
  • exterior actions such as words that heal
  • sharing the good news with others

    Matt. 5:21—"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder [Ex. 20:13], and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22] But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, [ An Aramaic term of contempt ]' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
    23] "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24] leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
    25] "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26] I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus moved the application of the commandments from the exterior act to the heart. He taught in the Sermon on the Mount that sin is not simply action, but can be committed in the heart even before the act is carried out. With that principle in mind, notice Jesus carefully explained that the heart of this Commandment also prohibits us from hating another. (See Matt. 5:21-26, esp.). We can wish someone dead in our hearts, yet never have the "courage" to commit the deed. We are not to be praised for such a lack of courage, when the heart is filled with hatred. Jesus considers it a form of murder.

Let me ask...

  • How are we doing with our anger?
  • Have we committed murder in our hearts?
If we think through the implications of obedience to this command, especially in the light of Jesus' words in Matthew 15, we must find ways to seek reconciliation with those who have sinned against us. Of course, if abuse was involved and our life might be endangered, then another means should be sought to ensure our safety. But insofar as it lies within us, this Command calls us to live at peace with everyone.


Keep studying with us! We're moving on to the next commandments.