Beyond the Ten Commandments, Exodus 21-23

While the Ten Commandments outline God’s law for His people in our dealings with Him and others, the Mosaic Law continues for two more chapters in Exodus. These laws fall under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments, further detailing God’s design for ancient Israel in the areas of mercy, justice, and social responsibility.

It’s easy and comfortable to focus on God’s grace, but the Old Testament reminds us that God is also perfectly just. Although these civil laws differ from contemporary customs, they follow the path of natural justice.

As Christians, we are not obligated under these laws since we are now under the new covenant. However, God has not changed His moral expectations of us. And we can still glean wisdom from reading the Mosaic laws God gave His fledgling chosen nation.

You may read Exodus 21-23 here: Bible Gateway.

Protection for Servants, Persons, and Property (21:1-22:15)

God’s value of life rings with tenacity through His commands that prohibit killing and stealing. He expects His people to respect their servants as human beings, even to the point of allowing families freedom in the Year of Jubilee. Who were these servants in ancient Israel? Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Foreign slaves were often war prisoners. However, impoverished Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children so that they could work and be cared for. In other cases, judges sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were, in some cases, allowed to sell debtors who could not pay. Forced Hebrew slavery for any reason was not practiced and is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest of crimes.”

Social Responsibility (22:16-31)

At first glance, these first few laws may seem harsh, such as: “Do not allow a sorceress to live,” (vs. 18). But sorcery was a crime against God Himself. The first commandment to “have no other gods” was abused by invoking evil powers. As one continues to read through this section, God’s mercy shines through His expectations of how the people are to treat widows, orphans, and the needy. God calls His people to honor Him by respecting and honoring those around them through generosity and justice.

Laws of Mercy and Justice (23:1-9)

God details acts of justice through the lens of fairness and honesty. Every practical requirement of God not only enables the Israelites to worship Him with their behavior, but also sets them apart from their pagan neighbors. He prohibits the lessening of faults and aggravating small ones. Neither does He allow excuses for offenders, accusations of the innocent, or trivial misinterpretations of the truth.

Sabbath Laws and Festivals (23:10-19)

These laws teach the need for dependency on God and the importance of mercy. The seventh week day and seventh year are designed for sacred times of rest and rejoicing in God. In following this schedule, God teaches His people to trust that He will provide and bless their faithfulness.

Because of the Israelites’ weakness for idolatry, God sets up a rigorous schedule in which they are to honor Him during three annual festivals. Their love and loyalty to God are shown when they arrive to these festivals with sacrifices instead of being empty -handed.

God’s Angel to Prepare the Way (23:20-33)

At the end of this chapter God promises to prosper and prepare the way for Israel by driving out their enemies and bringing them safely to the promised land. He commands them to be attentive and worship the angel alone that He will send ahead of them.

Reflect

I’m sure there are several questions to ponder in this section, but being a full-time taxi-mom lately, I’m drawn to the following question/challenge from Layman’s Bible Commentary: “Have you allowed your life to crowd out time for worshiping and celebrating God’s goodness? This is the blessing intended for all of God’s children—to come together in gratitude and to enjoy and honor Him on a regular basis. Indeed, periodic rest from the duties of the world helps us anticipate the heavenly rest which we crave—when all earthly labors and cares shall cease. How can you seize upon the blessing of a day of rest and worship more practically amidst a hectic life?”

Cheers to some intentional times of refreshment through worship and celebration! 🙂

The Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-21

Not too long ago my daughter shared a conversation she had with a classmate.

“Are you religious?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Are you?”

“Nope. And I’m glad I’m not . . . if I were then I couldn’t say any bad words.”

While his honesty and confession make me laugh, his perception of religion probably sides with the majority. Most of us chafe under rules that we think restrict us. There are 613 commands found in the first five books of the Bible. Admittedly, I have a difficult time reading through all of the Old Testament laws, let alone the book of Leviticus.

Although these laws are directed toward ancient Israel, how could anyone follow all these laws, let alone remember all of them? What is the purpose of the law? Are we expected to follow all of these laws today? What is the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant, and how are they linked together?

Although I’m camping out at Exodus 20 in the familiar Ten Commandments Campground, I hope this post helps answer some of these questions. You may read this passage here: Bible Gateway.

While all the Ten Commandments deal with our responsibilities toward God, the first four relate primarily with Him. The last six deal with people. How we relate to God will manifest how we relate to others.

After freeing the Israelites from bondage, God wasn’t about to chain their hands and feet with burdensome legalities. Rather, His desire was for Israel to become a holy nation and kingdom of priests (19:6). Israel’s accurate representation of God would only manifest through them if they adhere to His commands.

(Pinterest.com) God’s laws are given to free us to be all He desires us to be. The only restrictions He sets are ones that keep us from doing what might cripple us and keep us from being our best. His guidelines light our path and keep us from destructive paths when we follow them.

God desired to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness by meeting individual needs in a responsible and loving way. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The Ten Commandments are both a corporate constitution for Israel and an intensely personal revelation from God to His children. The you in the commandments is not plural, but singular. Each individual is therefore urged to enter into the joy of service by adopting this covenant and by obeying the laws which are contained therein. The Decalogue is not only a constitution, it is God’s standard for Israel’s culture.”

The correct interpretation of the law is best understood by a study of the Old Testament prophets. Rather than zooming in on the particulars, their focus is on the essence of the law (Hosea 6:6-7; Micah 6:6-8). By Jesus’ time, most people viewed the law through distorted lens. Instead of seeing the law as God’s principles to fulfill His ultimate law of love, law-keeping became an end in itself. The religious leaders added their own burdensome laws that even they themselves couldn’t keep. They promoted the idea that one had to keep every law to earn God’s protection and prosper on earth and the life to come. But God never intended for the law to be a means of earning His favor or salvation.

Layman’s Commentary adds: “The Mosaic Covenant was never given as a means of earning righteousness by law keeping. The new covenant is promised because the Mosaic Covenant could not be kept by Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Whenever Israel failed with regard to the law, it was not just a matter of violating the law in some minute particular, but it was a result of unbelief (Psalm 78:21-22, 32:-33, 37).”

In Hebrews, the Apostle Paul writes that the law is provisional and preparatory. The law not only laid out God’s principles, but acted as a mirror to show us our unrighteousness. Although the law was good, the new covenant is superior. By revealing God’s righteousness, the law demands righteousness. But the law can’t give righteousness (Gal. 2:21); only Christ can do that (2 Cor. 5:21).  Unlike the old covenant—where only a few could draw near to God—all who wish may draw near to God in the new covenant.

Layman’s writes: “The first manifestation of God on Mount Sinai portrays the marvelous truth of the holiness of God, and the separation which that demands. The second manifestation of the Lord (on Mount Calvary) reveals the marvelous grace of God, by which He draws near to us and by which we may draw near to Him. How careful we must be to keep both the holiness and the grace of God in perspective.”

The following video is a good animated explanation of the Old Testament Law by The Bible Project. They share not only how the old and new covenants link together, but also how Jesus fulfills the law.

God’s Manifestation on the Mountain, Exodus 19:16-25

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”  -Exodus 19:16-19

God was about to teach His law to His people. For the Israelites were called to be sanctified—set apart—unlike surrounding nations. You may read Exodus 19:16-25 here: Bible Gateway.

(Pinterest) “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” -Deut. 5:24-27

A storm in Scripture often symbolizes God’s power and awesome presence (Ps. 18:1-15; 29; Hab. 3:1-16). Darkness, lightning and thunder, and earthquake and fire manifest God’s greatness.

God’s manifestation on Mt. Sinai not only portrays His holiness, power, and purity, but also the separation that He demands between Himself and sin. The combination of washing their clothes, keeping their distance from Sinai, and witnessing the storm must have left a great impression on the Israelites’ sinfulness and God’s grand holiness. Not only did the Israelites tremble with fear, but Moses also admitted his own fear (Heb. 12:21; Deut. 9:19). And rightfully so, for “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). Only as the people revered God and obeyed could they truly be God’s holy nation and enjoy the privileges of being a kingdom of priests.

Reflect

What does it mean to have “the fear of God”? GotQuestions.org. explains this concept well.

For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe. (You may read the entire post here: “What does it mean to have the fear of God?”)

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Prepping for God’s Appearance, Exodus 19:9-15

“Are you prepared for what’s coming?” This is the question Prepper Journal inquires on their website. A quick Google search on prepping brings up about 38,500,000 results ranging from emergency food, water, lighting, heating, shelter, gear, etc.

But what about prepping to meet God?

Up to this point, God has shown the Israelites the importance of keeping their part of the covenant by obeying the laws He’s about to reveal. And the people have eagerly agreed to follow God’s laws. Now God has some specific prepping instructions for Moses and the Israelites.

The LORD said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. . . . Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.’” –Exodus 19:9-12

You may read Exodus 19:9-15 here: Bible Gateway. Verses 10-15 outline God’s expectations for the people as they prepare to physically and spiritually meet with Him. In order to dedicate themselves to God, Moses is instructed to consecrate the people by setting themselves apart from sin and ordinary daily routine.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The act of washing their clothes helped the Israelites prepare their hearts and minds to meet with God. Washing and changing clothes in the Old Testament is equivalent of 1 John 1:9 and 2 Corinthians 7:1.”

Boundaries on the Mountain

can-stock-photo_csp11158611Suppose a survivalist or adventure seeker—perhaps driven by curiosity—pushed past God’s boundaries marked on the mountain? His/her life would end in death, no matter the amount of prepping he/she did.

Why does God set boundaries on the mountain with such harsh consequences for trespassing?

Wiersbe writes: “The structure of Old Testament worship emphasized man’s sinfulness and God’s ‘otherness’. . . . The emphasis was always ‘Keep Your Distance!’” Those who dared to press past God’s boundaries would display an attitude of irreverence.

God never takes irreverence lightly.

Later, Abihu and Nadab would be killed because they became careless with this principle (Lev. 10). Although Uzzah’s intentions (to keep the ark from falling from the ox cart) stemmed from good intentions, his irreverence resulted in God striking him dead (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Moses’ slip of irreverence (striking of the rock) exempt his entrance into the promised land (Numbers 20:12).

Layman’s Bible Commentary Bible observes: “Irreverence is the by-product of an inadequate sense of the holiness of God. The Israelites do not yet have an adequate grasp of the holiness of God. The manifestation of God on Mount Sinai is a spectacular demonstration of God’s power and majesty. His coming necessitates preparatory consecration, and it also motivates continual consecration, as people could see themselves in the light of His glory and grace (Exodus 19:23).”

Reflect

Both in this age, and in the age to come—when we stand before God—we will either be prepared or unprepared to meet Him.

God taught the Israelites—in dramatic fashion—the distance between sinful people and a holy God. While the Old Testament emphasizes “Keep your distance from God”, the New Testament emphasizes God’s nearness. When God’s Son became flesh and dwelt on earth (John 1:14), He was named ‘Immanuel—God with us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus opened a new and living way into the presence of God (Heb. 10:1-25) through His death and resurrection.

This doesn’t mean we are God’s buddies or equals. But our Heavenly Father longs to have a loving relationship with us. Because Jesus paid the death penalty for our sins on the cross, He acts as our mediator to the Father. We can now come directly to God the Father through Christ. When we ask for forgiveness of our sins and submit ourselves to His Lordship, God the Father embraces us as His child.

Maybe you have prepped for earthly emergencies. But have you prepped to meet God face to face? It’s not about stockpiling good works in order to earn eternal life, but rather coming to Christ in faith and submitting to His Lordship. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 6:23).

How can we prep to meet God in worship? What daily distractions do we need to set aside in order to give Him the reverence He deserves?

The Prelude to Israel’s Constitution, Exodus 19:1-8

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  -Exodus 19:4-6

Chapter 19 serves as a prelude to the commandments God gives Israel. The purpose of His commandments, along with the perspective we should have toward them, are also found in this chapter. You may read Exodus 19:1-8 here: Bible Gateway.

I wonder what went through Moses’ mind and heart as he and the Israelites finally reached Mt. Sinai. For God’s promise to bring the people out of Egypt “to serve God on this mountain” finally arrived. This was where God had previously spoken to Moses at the burning bush. And now the Israelites would camp here for the next 11 months.

God’s Purpose for the Prelude

God’s reason for redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt rings with clarity as He speaks with Moses atop the mountain. In the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 18:18), God promises that Israel will become a great and powerful nation. This blessing is meant to be a channel of blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:2).

Although the ultimate fulfillment of God’s blessing would come through the Messiah’s life, death and resurrection, God purposed to use Israel in the interim. God’s condition? If Israel obeys God’s covenant, as defined by His law, then He will embrace them as His people and pour out His blessing.

Israel would become His prized and chosen nation: a holy nation set apart for God—a kingdom of priests who would act as a mediatory people sharing the way of entering into fellowship with God. (In Old Testament times, people couldn’t approach God directly. A priest acted as a go-between sinful human beings and God.)

Why did God choose Israel? Although He knew that no nation on earth deserves His love and mercy, He chose Israel despite her wrong doing to be an agent of salvation to the world and represent His way of life. Isaiah 60:3 predicted that kings and Gentiles would come to the Lord through Israel. “For salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

A Life of Maturity

(Jason Simpson/flickr photo share) . . . . God desired that Israel no longer be enslaved, but to soar and bless the entire world. Israel’s calling marks a great privilege and responsibility. God’s rigorous training program included discipline whenever the people returned to their comfortable, old ways.

I love how God used the image of an eagle when God gave Moses His words to pass on to the people. (Moses also used this image in a song he taught Israel near the end of his life, Deuteronomy 32:10-12).

As the young eagle grows, the parent breaks up the comfortable nest, forcing the young birds to fly in order to fulfill their purpose. While Israel probably felt that God had abandoned them at times, God was simply stirring the nest so the eaglet would spread his wings and fly. If one falls, the parent catches them and carries them on strong wings.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The eaglets illustrate three aspects of freedom: freedom from (they are out of the nest, which to us is redemption), freedom in (they are at home in the air, which to us is maturity), and freedom to (they can fulfill their purpose in life, which to us is ministry). True freedom means that we’re delivered from doing the bad, we’re able to do the good, and we’re accomplishing God’s will on earth.”

Reflect

Although this section ends with the people committing to obey God, it didn’t take long for their resolve to melt away in the desert heat. Instead of influencing the nations to worship Jehovah, the nations influenced them to worship idols.

Is there a commitment you have made to God? How is it going?

With Christ’s victory on the cross, God changed the pattern of having to go through a priest to approach God. Now we can come directly into God’s presence without fear (Heb. 4:16). When we’re united with Christ—members of His body—we also join in His priestly work of reconciling God and man (2 Cor. 5:18). Like ancient Israel, we are instructed to point others to God through our words and deeds (1 Peter 2:5, 9).

Have a great week!