Deeper Christian Life Ministry – Search The Scripture 19 March 2023 (Lesson 54)
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TOPIC: Moses Receives The Law At Mount Sinai (STS 19 March 2023)
MEMORY VERSE: And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 4:7)
TEXT: Exodus Chapters 19 to 24
Moses succeeded in bringing the children of Israel to Mount Sinai as God had promised (Exo 3:12). They left Rephidim behind with its negative experiences and came to camo before the mount where God chose to enter into a covenant with His people. This study deals with the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The chapters under study reveal that; ONE, preparations are necessary to meet with God (chapter 19); TWO, He gives laws and demands absolute obedience from His chosen people (chapter 20); THREE, God commands cordial interpersonal relationships, justice and equity in the society. Therefore, He stipulates sundry civil laws and regulations (chapters 21-23). FOUR, the old covenant offers limited privileges and restricted access to God. Even the chosen and favoured leaders, such as Aaron and the seventy elders of Israel were forbidden to come near (chapter 24). These chapters also lay bare the awesome majesty of God, on one hand, and His concern for our lives, on the other, even on issues seemingly little such as a missing donkey. LASTLY, those who are called to minister to God people must wait on Him to receive what to give to His people.
1. PREPARATION OF ISRAEL TO RECEIVE THE LAW
Exo 19:1-25; 1 Sam 7:3; Amos 4:12; Lev 11:44; 20:7; Num 11:18; Jos 3:5;1 Cor 7:5
God brought the Israelites to Mount Sinai in order to enter into a covenant with them. But before entering into the covenant, He stressed the need for Israel to prepare themselves both inwardly and outwardly. He reminded them of His past mercies, how He delivered them from Egypt and brought them to Himself. He used the figure of an eagle bearing its young on her wings to describe His care and protection of the Israelites. God also revealed to them the greater blessings and privileges that awaited them in the future. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation…” (Exo 19:5,6). The New Testament describes believers as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people..” (1 Pet 2:9), “kings and priests” (Rev 1:6). In effect, God wanted the Israelites to know He was ready to bless them, but on their part, they needed to prepare their hearts to trust and obey Him. Trusting God and obeying His commands are necessary requirements for anyone to enjoy His fellowship and receive other blessings. But above all, we should submit our lives to Him in perpetual obedience and service. God’s blessings are available to anyone who would enter into covenant relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Israelites responded in complete agreement that they would obey and do all that the Lord commanded (Exo 19:8). Apparently, they were ready to keep the terms of the covenant though they were yet to know the details. Without mincing words, Israel’s answer and promise were presumptuous. It showed a people willing to obey God but ignorant of their inbred weakness and human limitation. Later events would reveal how incapable they were to walk straight with God in their own strength. However, under the new covenant dispensation, believers are called to a life of obedience to God enabled by grace and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:5; 1:17; 1 Cor 1:4; Gal 2:21). What the law could not achieve by legislation, grace accomplishes by impartation of divine ability.
Part of Israel’s preparation required that they sanctified themselves, wash their clothes and abstain from legitimate conjugal union. To sanctify in this sense would mean to set themselves apart to God.
In scripture, the word sanctify, and its derivatives, sanctification or sanctified, is used in different ways. One, it means to consecrate or set apart a person, thing or place for holy use. This is the sense in which a person is asked to sanctify himself (1 Sam 16:5; 2 Chro 35:6). Also, this is what Jesus implies when He said, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself..” (John 17:19). Two, to sanctify also means to make a person or place clean, holy, free from defilement and sin. When applied to the people of God, it means to make holy by the ‘removal of inbred sin, the adamic nature and crucifixion of self (John 17:17; Eph 5:26; 1 Thess 5:23; 4:3). Washing of clothes symbolises external cleanliness and the inner purging required to walk with God. It is obvious that washing the clothes without a corresponding cleansing of the heart is valueless in God’s sight. Those who would approach God must be inwardly clean and maintain outward decency as well. New Testament believers are admonished to “…draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:22). The Israelites spent two days for their self-preparation and Purification.
The abstinence stipulated in this period of preparation to meet with God must also be understood as a mark of self-denial and not an indication that lawful conjugal union between a man and his wife impedes receiving from God. It is a common spiritual exercise abstain from food and physical pleasure in order subdue the flesh and allow the spirit to focus on God (1 Sam 21:3,4; 1 Cor 7:5; Jonah 3:5-8; Joel 1:14;2:15). God commanded the Israelites not to touch the mountain or gaze on Him when the emblems of His presence manifested at Sinai. This indicates that He prohibits undue familiarity with holy things and unholy curiosity or probing into what He has chosen to keep secret (Deut 29:29; Eccl 5:1). The cases of Uzzah and the men of Bethshemesh should also serve as warnings not to handle holy things with levity or manifest carnal curiosity in God’s presence (2 Sam 6:6,7; 1 Sam 6:19).
The role of Moses as an intermediary between God and the children of Israel at this time is notable. He made several trips to the mount to meet God and back to speak to the people. Bear in mind that the base of the mountain, where the people were assembled, was quite a distance to the top where God met Moses. This shuttle between fellowship with God and ministry among the people is a mark of true ministers of God in particular and true believers in general. We must never be tired of climbing up to meet God or going down to minister to the people (Exo 19:21-24).
2. PRESENTATION OF THE LAW TO ISRAEL
Exo 20:1-26; Deut 5:7-21; 4:13; Matt 4:10; 5:20-48; Rom 13:8-10
After the Israelites had prepared themselves, God manifested the tokens of His presence on Mount Sinai through thunders, lightnings, thick cloud, unearthly trumpet sound, smoke, earthquake and audible voice. These tokens were expressions of God’s majesty and proofs of His great power to Israel.
There were other times God manifested His presence in less dramatic ways such as in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13), visions and dreams (1 Kings 3:5-14). The Israelites trembled when they saw and heard the physical signs that announced the presence of God. Then, the Lord introduced Himself and explained the basis for the law He was about to give them. “l am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exo 20:2). The Ten Commandments consist of two sections. The first section or first table contains the first four commandments, which cover man’s duties to God. The second section relates to our duties to other people. The first commandment prohibits having other gods beside the true God (Exo 20:3; Psalm 81:9; Isaiah 43:10; Matt 4:10; 1 John 5:21). The second commandment places a ban on image worship: no graven images, whether a representation of the true God or of false gods, are allowed.
The Lord who made the heaven and the earth cannot be adequately represented by the image of anything He has made (Exo 20:4-6; Isaiah 40:18; John 4:23,24). The third prohibits taking God’s name in vain. This refers to using the name of God in an irreverent or careless manner (Exo 20:7). The fourth deals with worship and rest on God’s holy day. He appointed this day for rest and spiritual emphasis. The moral principle of this commandment is the basis for the observance of the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day by Christians in the new dispensation. The major difference is that while the sabbath law emphasises rest, the Lord’s Day focuses on worship (Exo 20:8-11 ;Acts 20:7).
The fifth commandment is the first among the duties of man to his fellows. Children are commanded to honour, obey and care for their parents. A promise is attached to this command: “that thy days may be long upon the land” (Exo 20:12; Eph 6:1-3). The sixth forbids murder. This prohibition includes homicide (killing of another person intentionally), suicide (self-murder) and abortion. Life is sacred and it is the greatest possession.
God gave to every man. It must be treated sacredly and preserved (Exo 20:13; Matt 5:21-26). The seventh is against adultery. This covers all forms of’ sexual immorality – adultery, fornication, masturbation, lesbianism, sodomy, pornography and every kind of behaviour that promote lust (Exo 20:14; Matt 5:28). The eighth disallows stealing. Theft, pilfering, robbing, receiving stolen items, dishonest accumulation of what belongs to other persons are all classified as stealing. We must not steal the property, idea or work of other people. Neither should we steal human beings, that is, kidnapping, engaging in human trafficking or keeping a person in an illegal marriage (Exo 20:15) or eloping with someone’s daughter. The ninth is against bearing false witness. God prohibits lying, false witness, deception, calumny, maligning and perjury. Those who spread unverified stories that turn out to be untrue will be guilty of bearing false witness. We must not speak ill about our neighbours or slander them (Exo 20:16; Psalm 50:19,20). The tenth is against covetousness, that is, secret desire to possess what belongs to others (Exo 20:17). The New Testament equates the sin of covetousness with idolatry because the object we covet invariably assumes the position of an idol in the heart.
Believers are admonished to be contented with what they have. Indeed, all the commandments are summed up in one- love. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commnandment, it is briefly comprehend in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his nneighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8-10).
3. PROMULGATION OF ISRAEL’S LEGAL CODE AND SEALING OF THE COVENANT
Exo 21:1-36; 22:1-31; 23:1-33; 24:1-18; Deut 4:1-19,32-40; Heb 9:18-24;12:24
The Lord gave specific laws and regulations, which have certain peculiarities to govern the civil society of Israel. One, Israel’s legal codes originated from God and are incorporated with their moral and ceremonial laws. Two, the law has a higher standard of justice and equity for all categories of people.
Three, it has provisions protecting the rights of slaves, the poor, women, widows, orphans and the less privileged. This was an uncommon feature in the world at the time of Moses. Moreover, God set forth the laws to safeguard life, property, personal rights and proper worship. Among other laws, we observe here: law about altar and proper worship (Exo 20:22-26), servant (Exo 21:2-11), murder and strife (Exo 21:12-27), penalty against carelessness (Exodus 21:28-36), property theft, loss and restitution (Exo 22:1-15), personal actions (Exo 22:16-31; 23:1-8), Sabbath, appointed feasts and true worship (Exo 23:10-33}. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ raised the bar and gave new perspectives on some of these laws. He pointed out that murder is not limited to killing someone physically but includes hating someone (Matt 5:21-26; 1 John 3:15) while adultery includes impure thoughts. Rather than seek to enforce the rule of ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth, He taught the principle of non-retaliation (Matt 5:38-41). After giving the commandments, God promised His people protection, healing, provision, long-life, among other blessings.
These blessings are to be received on condition of obedience by the people (Isaiah 1:19). Then, the Lord ratified and sealed the covenant of law with His chosen people. For this purpose, He commanded Moses to bring up with him Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel. These were representatives of the entire nation. Moses rehearsed all that God had commanded before the people and they unanimously promised to obey them. Significant lessons stand out in the Mosaic covenant. One, God loves to be a covenant Partner with His people. He entered into covenant with Abraham, Israel, David, etc. Today, we have the new covenant He has made with believers through Christ (Matt 26:28; Heb 8:8-13; 12:24).
Two, faith and obedience are necessary to enjoy the covenant benefits in our relationship with God. Three, the old covenant had significant shortcomings; it offered limited access to God as shown by the emphasis on setting up bounds around the mount and the limit placed on Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders. They were to worship afar off. But in the new covenant, believers are brought near by the blood of Jesus. Four, almost everything was sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificed animal in order to ratify the covenant. The new covenant has been ratified with the blood of Jesus Christ (Matt 26:28; Heb 9:1-24). Today, God still brings people into covenant relationship with Himself. This would happen when we turn away from sin and turn to Him through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 6:17,18).
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW:
- Recall two civic laws in our text that regulate interpersonal relationships.
- Explain the word ‘sanctify’ as it is used in our text and what it means to you as a Christian.
- In what ways do people manifest undue familiarity and carnal curiosity in spiritual things in our present time?
- Explain the New Testament summary of the Ten Commandments.
- Point out major lessons portrayed in this lesson.
- What is expected of ministers of the gospel before appearing before their congregation?
- How can we enter into covenant relationship with God?
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