Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, January 23, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 24, Ex 19-21

Today's readings are Ex 19-21.

Ex 19 depicts the Hebrews at Mount Sinai where God will meet on the mountain with Moses and a few leaders while the people gather at the base. There are strict guidelines for how God is to be approached. Only those called and appointed by God may come into His presence. 

In Ex 20, God gives His people the Law. Far from being a “list of do’s and don’ts”, every facet of the Law is derived from the character and nature of God. Each commandment is a reflection of His attributes.
  • (Ex 20:3) He is the one true God. His people, therefore, should worship no other. He is to be the highest priority in their lives. Nothing will be more important to them than Him.
  • (Ex 20: 4-6) Any likeness man might make of any heavenly being can become a snare, a potential focus of worship. Worship of anything other than the one, true God, even an image of Him, is tantamount to blasphemy. God is a jealous God. This means that His zeal for the welfare of His people prohibits them from every form of substitution, neglect or contempt of His image. He is jealous for His children to the extent that He wants the very best for them. The very best is for them to be in an intimate relationship with Him as He defines Himself, not as they define Him or imagine Him to be. Anything less than God's exclusive, perfect self-definition becomes a frail counterfeit of the glory and holiness of God and is unacceptable. God will bless their faithfulness to Him. Unfaithfulness will be punished.
  • (Ex 20:7) We are not to use His name callously or frivolously. His name represents His character and nature. This includes but also goes beyond the usual prohibitions of uttering His name irreverently, dishonestly, disrespectfully or as some sort of magic talisman. It extends to misrepresenting God or using His name for anything other than His glory.
  • (Ex 20:8-11) There is rest at the end of the work God does. This rest will extend to His people once they have done what He calls them to do. Then they will enter into His presence eternally and experience perfect rest. They are directed to observe a Sabbath as a reminder of that promise.
  • (Ex 20:12) He gives life to the family, forming sons and daughters in the womb. To dishonor mother or father is to dishonor His handiwork and dishonor where He placed them.
  • (Ex 20:13) He is the creator of life. Only He has the right to take it away.
  • (Ex 20:14) God is perfectly faithful, promising Himself to only one bride. As His image bearers, our personal relationships should mirror that faithfulness.
  • (Ex 20:15) All things belong to Him and He is the giver of all things. Any effort or desire to rearrange the way He has distributed material possessions is a denial of His wisdom and authority.
  • (Ex 20:16) He is truth; any distortion of the truth is a distortion of Him.
  • (Ex 20:17) Wanting what we do not have is really being unhappy with what God has given us. This denies His wisdom and love for us.
The 10 commandments are reflective of the character and nature of God. As such, they will become the measure of how His people are being conformed into His image. They are not a set of rules. To the lost, they reveal their need for salvation. To those who are saved, they reveal our ongoing need for sanctification. As such, the Law is a gift of grace, constantly reminding us of our need to made holy. 

The rest of the laws, beginning in Gen 21, are broad extensions of each of the commandments. A convincing argument can be made that most of our modern civil laws are derived from these guidelines.

The guidelines for building altars have a similar, God-centric theme to the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:22-26). Altars are to be built of naturally formed stones untouched by the tools of man. God will dictate how He is to be worshiped and the manner in which He is honored. He forms the stones. Man is not to attempt to improve upon them nor make them, in his eyes, more attractive. 
The laws concerning slaves are of note (Ex 21:1-7). The Bible neither condemns nor condones slavery. Rather, it provides godly guidelines for those cultures where slavery exists. Men and women are not to be treated as property, but as people who have been created by God in His image. Treating another human being, particularly one entrusted to our care, without compassion and respect is a slight against their Creator and His image which both master and slave bear.

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