And the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.
The giving of the law is one of the most beautiful parts of Exodus, and it is key in understanding who we are as the people of God and God’s desires toward us. The law lets us know that we are sick and lets us know how to walk in a way that pleases God. We need a Savior!
The Israelites had been set free from Pharaoh’s kingdom in Egypt about 7 weeks earlier than our text. They were slaves in his kingdom for 400 years. Exodus 20:1 - 24:11 is called “The book of the Covenant”.
A major theme that we glean from this portion of text is this: God delivers His people so that they can live in covenant with Him and in contrast to the world. We are called to live in the presence of God in the sight of our neighbors and the world.
Let’s look at some major themes that emerge from this beautiful moment in the history of God’s people.
God’s Deliverance Leads To Humanity’s Obedience
God opens up this part of His Word in Exodus 20:2. God reminds them of their story. He was their God and they were His people. He delivered them when they had done nothing. This is the gospel. God frees us by His grace, giving us new life, and then calls us to obedience to His words. Because God brought them out of Egypt, they are to live for His glory by following His commands. God’s plan - is that His people desire to do His will because they have already been saved, not to earn salvation. The people of God obey on the basis of God’s deliverance - any other foundation will not suffice.
The curbs that we have established for our response to this law portion of the text are legalism and license. We want to avoid both curbs. Legalism takes God’s Words that are meant to be a tutor to us and makes them a tyrant to us. In the New Testament, this concept is beautifully framed in 1 Peter 1:13-19. Peter is writing to God’s people that are scattered and living as a minority - living out their faith will be costly to them. This is a similar context in which we live today. Verse 18-19 is the motivation to obey God - our redeemed nature has been bought with the blood of Jesus. God who saved you is drawing you out of what you have known and into His presence. He wants your life to be conformed to His character so others see Him.
God’s People Live In Covenant
In Exodus 24 there is a ceremony that confirms the covenant between God and His people. This is a miraculous moment in Israel’s history. In order for a covenant to be established, it has to be confirmed by both parties. The covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15 is being unfolded throughout the book of Exodus.
We must put the obedience that God calls us to into the context of covenant relationship with God. The reason God heard His people’s cry in Egypt and rescued them is because they were His covenant people. They are now commissioned by God to live this law and because of the deliverance of God, they commit, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3).
The covenant is both delivered (doorposts) and sealed by blood (Moses throws blood on them). They are covered in the blood of the sacrifice and sealed in this covenant with God. The Church, like Israel, are a people that have been delivered by blood. Hebrews 9:11-14 speaks of Christ in relation to the Old Testament covenant.
Our faithlessness cannot break our redemption and our belonging to Him - but it will disrupt our fellowship with God. Our union with God in Christ and our communion with God in Christ are two healthy ways to think about this concept. Our communion (fellowship) with God can be disrupted by our sin and disobedience.
God’s People Live In Contrast With The World Around Them
The people of God were sealed in this covenant for great purpose. They were sealed to be sent! They are set apart and sent as a distinctly different group of people. The Israelites will fail in grand ways - but they will fail in covenant with God.
What is happening in these 80 plus verses on social, economic, and household issues? These are local applications of the 10 commandments. Many do not apply to us because we do not have the same household and societal rhythms. Michael Goheen wrote, “Israel is called to be a display people, a showcase to the world of how being in covenant with Yahweh changes a people.”
Israel is about to enter land and encounter cultures that are very different than what God is calling them to in these laws. They are going to be neighbors with these people. The lifestyle that God calls them to with these laws would appear radical and progressive to their foreign neighbors. The value of human life is shown as massively greater than all material values.
Israel has just been delivered from great exploitation. Naturally they would have been poised to go out and extend the evil exploitation and cruelty to human life that they had witnessed. They had the chip of slavery on their shoulders. God wanted them to create a holy curiosity among the nations. What kind of people would honor women and slaves this way? We, as God’s people, are also called to contrast living.
Let’s put Jesus on display with our lives!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?