Monday, February 22, 2016

'The Giving of the Law' (Exodus 19-20)

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world (Gen.12:1-3).  Abraham’s descendants multiplied in Egypt but they became enslaved. They cried out to the Lord and the Lord called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The Lord brought ‘His mighty acts of judgment’ upon Egypt and their gods so that Pharaoh let the Israelites go (Exodus 7-12, 12:12). Yet, Pharaoh changed his mind and he pursued Israel pinning them in by the Red Sea. The Lord divided the sea so that the Israelites were able to walk through on dry ground. Pharaoh’s army followed them into the sea and Pharaoh’s entire army drowned. So the Israelites trusted in the Lord and in His servant Moses. However, they quarreled when they faced the difficulties of life in the desert. The Lord miraculously provided the Israelites with food and water and He gave them a military victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17). This brings us to the story of God giving Moses and the Israelites His law at Mount Sinai. You can watch the video and read the comments below. 
 This is a great story because it shows us something of the holy and awesome character of our God. However, it is also a disturbing story because you get the impression from the story that God is so ‘holy’, and so ‘far above and beyond us’ that He is unapproachable. Moses was told to put a boundary around the mountain to keep people from going up and approaching God; or they would be put to death (Exodus 19:23-24). The story also teaches that God is a God of grace which we can miss among the ‘thunder and lightning’ and ‘fire and smoke’. Remember that the Lord God had already graciously delivered Israel out from slavery in Egypt. The Lord carried the Israelites ‘on eagle’s wings’ and He brought them to Himself. Then God bound Himself ‘in covenant’ to Israel and Israel was to be God’s ‘treasured possession’. Consequently, among all the nations Israel was to be a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’.

The story tells us how God so loved Israel, that He graciously saved them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself to be His people. Consequently, as God’s people the Israelites were to ‘obey Him’ and seek to reflect the character of their redeemer God. As God’s people they were to ‘Worship the Lord as the only true God’. In addition, they were not to misrepresent God by making an idol of any created thing to represent God and they were not to misuse the Lord’s name. They were to ‘work six days and then rest’ in imitation of their God who created everything in six days and rested on seventh day.  Also, they were to honor their parents and love their neighbors as themselves. As the Lord’s ‘treasured possession’ and a ‘holy nation’ they were to reflect God’s character and in so doing they would show the nations what God was like and that they were God’s special people.

The story also tells us something very important about man. Man cannot simply approach God any way old he wants. God came down on Sinai but, only Moses could approach God. Israel was to keep their distance (Exodus 20:18-21). When God manifested Himself on Sinai, Israel only wanted Moses to speak to God because they feared that if God spoke to them they would die. God was saying, ‘I’m the Lord the ‘gracious and compassionate God’ and I’m coming down but ‘I’m holy’; so ‘stand back’. God was saying, “I’m coming down to ‘make myself known’, but they could not approach the Lord any old way you wanted (Exodus 20:22–24). God called Moses up the mountain and gave him His law. Among all the nations God was revealing ‘His will’ and ‘His character’ to Israel. Israel was free to approach the Lord as ‘His People’ but they could only approach Him through a mediator and by means of a sacrifice. God revealed Himself to Israel though ‘His Law’ which was like a portrait of the ‘Holy character of God’.  Now when we look at the portrait of God’s holy character, ‘the Law’ becomes for us something like a mirror. In this sense ‘the Law’ exposes our sin and imperfections and our need for a Saviour who we know to be the better new covenant mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the embodiment of Israel’s God.

Gal.3:24 the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith’.

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