Tuesday, 28 January 2014

(29) January 29: Exodus 19-21 & Matthew 20:1-16

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note how God’s holiness is displayed.

To ponder:
Fifty days after the Exodus, God establishes what’s termed the “Mosaic covenant.” The nation will spend a year at Sinai. Moses is the go-between (mediator). He relates God’s words. God reminds Israel of his grace and care for them (19v4). His covenant promise? They will be especially his: cherished and precious like treasure, and set-apart for his service (holy) like priests - perhaps hinting at their role of instructing the world in God’s ways. God’s covenant proviso? They must “fully” obey and so “keep” the covenant. The elders and people enter the covenant by their commitment to obey (9v7-8). Wonderfully these terms are used of us in our calling to “declare God’s excellencies” to the world (1 Pet 2v9-12).
            The obedience required is summed up in covenant “words” (20v1-17) to be written on stone. This is followed by “laws” (21v1-23v19), comprising “the book of the covenant” (24v3-4,7). To ensure Israel rightly fear, trust and obey however, God first displays his holiness (19v9, 16, 20): Three days of safeguards (abstaining from sex may have stressed devotion to the LORD) are followed by the climax of God’s awesome presence descending to “meet” with the people.
            In this context Moses leads the people to the mountain. God calls Moses up and reiterates the need to keep the people back. Moses then descends, and God speaks audibly to the people (20v1, Deut 4v19-13). They are so terrified they beg Moses to relay God’s word from that point (20v19). There could be no more powerful way to stress the weight with which we should treat God’s word. We are even more responsible (read Heb 12v18-29).
            The Ten Commandments are singled out, summing God’s will. Again, obedience is a response to grace received (10v2, 19v4-5). Like a loving husband, God is jealous, wanting Israel’s faithfulness. He warns that their personal response will implicate subsequent generations (20v5-6). They are not to call on God’s name flippantly, treating him at their beck and call (20v7). Especially, they are to devote a day of rest to remembering him. The call to honour parents has a prominent position. God’s purposes were to be fulfilled through offspring and parents were to pass on the faith. So honouring them was a key indicator of Israel’s faithfulness to God and whether they would therefore remain in the land (Eph 6v1-4).
            Following the commandments, the importance of simple and pure worship is stressed (20v22-26) – even though it would become elaborate. Dressed stones were used by pagans and nakedness after the fall was a sign of shame. God looks for uniquely Christian and modest worship from us also (1 Tim 2v9-10).
            Hebrews might be sold into servitude to pay debts or protect against poverty. In 21v2-11 God’s law ensured the rights of male servants to eventual freedom and to remain with their families. Female servants married to their masters were protected against being discarded or deprived – a word for relationships today.
           The laws in 21v12-36 stress retribution – punishment must match the crime (21v23-25); restitution – loss must be compensated; and responsibility – intent or negligence makes actions more serious. The death penalty applies Genesis 9v5-6. 21v15 and 17 are addressed to adults with respect to their parents, referring to attempted murder and contemptuous speech. They reflect the critical importance of the family mentioned above.
Praying it home:
Praise God for the wisdom and goodness of his commands throughout scripture. Pray that we would hear his word with due reverence and awe.

Thinking further:
For space we will not be able to comment on all laws. Two things need being said however. First, God’s law is given to a specific context. Israel are not in a position to manage prisons where life sentences may be served, nor to deal with complex legislation printed in numerous volumes of books. Rather they are a primitive society that have to survive in the desert and in Canaan against all the odds if God’s purposes are to be fulfilled. Critical to this is the cohesion of society and the family. Certain laws may seem too permissive like the legislation for slavery, or too harsh like the death penalties. But we must trust God’s wisdom in knowing what was necessary for Israel then, recognising our inability to judge these things from this distance and our own culture. Second, for these reasons we cannot just apply the law directly to our context. What it reflects are the principles of God’s character and creation applied to Israel’s circumstances (20v11, 1 Pet 1v14-16). As those made in God’s image, these principles were originally imbedded in human beings, and they are now written on the Christian’s heart by the Spirit (Heb 8v10, Eph 4v24). Our need is therefore to consider what these principles are, and any parallel circumstances they can and should be applied to today. This is somewhat easier where the New Testament does this for us.

If you receive this post by email, visit bible2014.blogspot.co.uk and make a comment.


Post a Comment