Scriptures to Read: Exodus 19-34, Deuteronomy 11:1, John 1:17, + Psalm 145:8-13
“You shall, therefore, love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always." (Deuteronomy 11:1)
Have you ever felt how incredibly hard is it to obey God in a season of unbelief?
There have been numerous times in my life that I have questioned God's purpose in certain situations and I have found myself weighed down by doubt and caught up in the storm of disobedience. I am sure the Israelites felt similarly when they were in miserable bondage and slavery in Egypt. I can imagine that the weight of disobedience and disbelief in God weighed heavily upon their shoulders.
However, it was completely and entirely God's plan to walk them through those years of hardship and torture; their trouble and toil were not in vain. God called, appointed, and raised up an obedient leader for them, and his name was Moses.
Through Moses, God would faithfully lead them out of the darkness and liberate them from their pain and captivity at the hands of the Egyptians. With God, they miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they received literal bread from the sky, and they even drank water from an actual rock.
Eventually, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1), and because of Moses's obedience here at the Mount, God graciously made a covenant with His people.
We see in Exodus 19, that Moses goes up the Mount to God and He called out to Moses and said, "‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation...'" (Exodus 19:4-6)
God called Moses and the Israelites to remember what they saw Him do in Egypt, and how He liberated them from the hands of their captors. He also reminded them that His covenant relationship with them is absolutely fundamental to their living as His own people. What is extremely crystal clear about God's covenant with them is that He desired obedience from them, and in turn, He would make them His people.
He promised five elements of the Mosaic Covenant:
A. Israel will be God's own prized possession. (Exodus 19:5)
B. Israel will be a kingdom of royal priests. (Exodus 19:6)
C. Israel will be a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6)
D. God will defend Israel from all of their enemies. (Exodus 23:22)
E. God will be merciful, gracious, + forgiving to the Israelites.
We see in Exodus 24 that Moses led the Israelites in sacrifice and a reestablishing of the covenant with the Lord. Moses, Aaron + his sons, and the elders worshiped and ate before Him, and finally, Moses and Joshua hiked further up the Mountain and entered the cloud in the Lord's presence, and Moses stayed on the mount for forty days and nights. While Moses was absent for that time, the people of Israel broke their covenant promise with God and disobeyed Him by making a golden calf to worship instead.
"And the Lord said to Moses, 'Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" (Exodus 32:7-8)
I know for me, it is so easy to sit back and scoff at the pathetic Israelites. They literally JUST made a covenant with the King of all Kings and in only forty days they already made a golden cow out of their own jewelry in order to just have something to worship. How silly is this? ...But then I remember the idols in my life. Money, time, clothes, relationships, my outward appearance, my career, success...the list goes on and on. How often do I claim to obey, love, and honor my Lord and Savior and in a few moments (way less than just forty days), I turn back to my sin and idols?
"Then God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them...'" (Exodus 20:1-4)
The Lord is a loving God, but He is also a jealous God. He takes His Lordship very seriously, and so like the Israelites, when idols consume, distract, and cause us to disobey our King, this makes God very angry.
So, on that day on top of Mount Sinai, The Lord is ready to unleash His burning hot wrath against the Israelites and their disobedience. Moses implored the Lord and says in Exodus 32:11-14, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people."
We now find ourselves in Exodus 34 after Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites and their disobedience towards God. God then allowed Moses to make new tablet stones and He descended in the cloud before Moses and proclaimed His name in verses 6-7, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." The Lord restored and renewed the covenant with the Israelites once more.
First, the Mosaic Covenant is not a picture that says if we disobey and commit a sin against God then the covenant is permanently lost to us, It is a reminder of God's sovereign grace, a foreshadowing of the redemption we find on the cross through Jesus, and a display of God's loving, kind, just, but forgiving character.
Next, the Mosaic Covenant is a reminder to us to trust. Without trusting that the Lord will indeed forgive us of our iniquities through the loving work of His Son, we will not receive forgiveness.
Finally, the result of faith in God is obedience. If we trust and have faith that He will do what He promises, we will, in turn, strive to obey and love Him always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)
May we now always remember God's sovereign hand over the Israelites, even in the midst of their disobedience and unbelief. The God of the Mosaic Covenant is the same God today in 2018, and His gift of mercy to the Israelites is attainable for you and me through the cross. May we rejoice and sing praises always, for, by putting faith in His Son + His gracious sacrifice, we can be confident that He has forgiven our disobedience + disbelief forever, and for eternity we too are His prized possession.
Praise the King!
"The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations." (Psalm 145:8-13)
1. ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2016.