"And God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.'" (Exo. 20:1-7; cf. Matt. 22:37,38; 4:10; I Cor. 10:7; Heb. 12:28,29; James 5:12).
These laws were designed to keep the people monotheistic and properly focused on Jehovah alone. They came from an idolatrous, polytheistic society and would struggle to shed this baggage for about a millennia even after inhabiting Canaan because of their own stubbornness and the wicked influences of neighboring nations (cf. Josh. 24:14,15; Eze. 20:5-8). God is "jealous" in that He will not allow the honor that is due to Him to be given to another (cf. Exo. 34:14). These laws were also intended to guard the sanctity and nobility of God's name. They were not to use God's name in an empty way (e.g., in order to support a lie or in order to speak defiantly or irreverently).
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exo. 20:8-11).
Humans are designed with a need for rest. We presented some detailed thoughts on "the Sabbath" previously in two lessons and encourage the interested student to consider them (cf. 04/26/08 & 05/03/08). Additionally, it should be noted that Exodus 20:11 is explicitly clear that God created everything on planet Earth in six days. There is no room here for a gap theory or day-age theory or any other kind of theory that perverts the plain meaning of the inspired text!
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's" (Exo. 20:12-17; cf. Eph. 6:2,3; Matt. 5:21-30; 19:16-22; Rom. 2:21,22; 13:8-10).
To honor one's parents is to respect and obey them, not curse or strike them. Honoring parents is also about being their "retirement fund" where necessary (cf. Mark 7:10-12; I Tim. 5:4,8). There is definitely a difference between killing and murder; the latter is forbidden here.
Although no one living today is under the authority of the Mosaic law, nine of these commandments are repeated in some form in the New Testament as has been noted throughout this lesson. Even today these sins come from the heart and defile a person (cf. Matt. 15:17-19). It should be noted that eight of these commands are negative in nature. There is a place for both positive and negative commands in preaching since both are found in God's word (cf. II Tim. 4:2).
"Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, 'You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.' And Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.' So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was" (Exo. 20:18-21).
Almighty God spoke these ten "words" (commands) to them audibly and they were terrified! Later in the book, we are told that Moses was "there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He [i.e., God] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments" (Exo. 34:28; cf. Deut. 4:13; 10:4). Moses was a great mediator or go-between (cf. Num. 12:6-8).