When we come to Mount Sinai, we must be filled with awe at what God had accomplished up to that point, and at what God was about to unfold. Here God was keeping His promises to Abraham simply because He decided to. In doing so, He set a family group of slaves free from bondage. God is in full control of the destiny of Israel. He leads out of Egypt. He parts the Red Sea. He brings the people to Sinai.
We see history from our perspective. We know the end of the story. But think how it must have been to be an Israelite in that company. You have just been freed from slavery. There is a rumor about a promised land. But first, you are headed to this mountain that turns out to be filled with fire, smoke, a thick cloud, darkness, thunder, lightning, and the whole thing is quaking. This terrible God is speaking to Moses, the one whom God used to bring all the plagues on the Egyptians. Then this God announces His intentions for the newly born nation of Israel.
You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you will be my peculiar treasure above all other peoples on the face of the earth.
The people respond, We will do what this God commands. Then the LORD gives the ten commandments. It is such a fearful sight and sound, that the people beg Moses to not subject them to hear God’s voice any longer. This great fire will surely consume us. You speak with God; if we hear His voice any longer, we will die. In all of history, who ever heard the very voice of God and lived to tell about it? (Deuteronomy 5:24-27) Moses drew closer to hear the rest of God’s laws for the new nation of Israel.
Think about the law from the perspective of a newly freed group of slaves. They had been mistreated, abused, and persecuted in the land of Egypt. Now the laws that were to govern the new nation of Israel would allow for fair treatment of all. No one will kill my children. We read that this was not the case in Egypt. Many children died because of Pharoah’s orders. No one will lay with my wife. I’m sure if an Egyptian saw a Hebrew woman that he desired, he simply took her. No one will steal my things. Slaves were most likely not allowed any personal property in Egypt. That’s why God commanded them to borrow all the Egyptians’ clothes, money, and precious jewels as they were leaving Egypt. If an animal wanders off, it is to be returned to its rightful owner, so no "finders keepers, losers weepers". No one will testify falsely against me. I’m sure in an Egyptian court of law that any Egyptian’s word would be considered above the word of a Hebrew. I’ll get to have one day out of the week for rest. I’m sure the Egyptians were not nearly as kind as this. The poor, the widows, and the fatherless are not to be oppressed. Yes, YES! We will do what this God commands!
But yet God’s purpose was to reveal that each person is a law breaker. What may have seemed like the blueprints for a utopian society quickly turned into a death sentence, since the penalty for disobedience to these laws of this God was death. These newly freed slaves quickly demonstrated their true colors within 40 days of the giving of the law. Their true colors were those of being sinners. It was obvious that they had not the ability to keep the laws of this holy God. They could not keep themselves from doing to their neighbor that which they despised when someone else did it to them.
If they had not the ability to keep the laws of God, were they worthy to enter into the land of promise that was to be governed by His law? This is not a plight of the Israelites. This is the sad story of the whole human race, you and I included. None of us has the ability to keep God’s law. None of us is worthy to enter the land of promise which is to be governed by the perfect will of God.
One aspect of hope in the giving of the law is that this is the blueprint for a kingdom of priests. That will be one of the foci in this series.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman