May 4, 2015.
Daily Reading: Exodus 17-20.
Background: Exodus 13-16.
Concepts and Connections.
God delivers twice more: Just as they have done in times passed, when the children of Israel ran into a hardship they immediately start to grumble and complain against Moses, saying that he brought them out of the land of Egypt just to kill them of thirst in the wilderness. They get so mad at Moses that they are almost to the point of stoning him! Yet when Moses takes the complaint to the Lord, He once again delivers the people out of their hardship, telling Moses to take the staff that he had used to strike the Nile with (see Exodus 7:20) to strike a rock at Horeb so that water would flow from it. With this, the Lord satiates their thirst and delivers them from yet another trial, though they grumbled and complained.
After delivering the people by giving them water to drink, the Lord fights for Israel against Amalek so that they would be defeated before His chosen people. Moses takes the same staff that he just used to strike the rock to sway the battle. Whenever he would hold the staff up, Israel would prevail against Amalek. Whenever he would put the staff down, Amalek would prevail. Notice the team work and help that Moses elicited from Aaron and Hur in order to keep his hands up. We often need the support from those around unto get us through various trials. It is also important to note that this is the first mention of Joshua, who seems to be the commander of the army of Israel here. After Joshua overtook Amalek, the Lord told Moses to write it in a book as a memorial, once again showing that God likes to use physical reminders of His power and deliverance so that subsequent generations can know who He is.
Protecting against burnout: In this chapter we get to witness an interesting interaction between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro who had come out to meet him in the wilderness after he had heard of all the great things that God had done for Israel to bring them out of Egyptian bondage (it seems that word was spreading). They had time to catch up with one another and Jethro rejoiced over hearing everything that God had done and recognized God as superior to any other gods that people may worship. However, when Jethro saw what Moses was doing to judge the people, how he would sit from morning until evening as people brought cases before him to be settled, he told Moses that what he was doing was not good. Jethro was concerned about the mental and physical well being of Moses, as he knew that judging the people in this manner by himself, day in and day out, would eventually result in burnout, which would not be good for any of the parties involved. He tells Moses to pick out some able men to serve as judges for the people, setting up a hierarchy of cases where small disputes would be handled quietly and easily by the judge set over a certain number of people, whereas the harder cases would be brought before Moses to decide. This story shows that it is okay to ask for help, and often it is necessary to ask for help. It is possible to take on too much, even if it is a good thing. Too much will lead to burn out, and one way to prevent this burn out is to ask for help. That is what we are here for one another to do.
Preparing to meet God: Just before the 10 commandments are given, the Lord tells Moses to get the people ready to meet Him at the base of Mt. Sinai. They were to be a certain distance away from the mountain, however, so that the glory of the Lord would not consume them. The Lord told Moses that the people were to be consecrated before they came out to meet Him, washing their garments and abstaining from sexual intercourse prior to meeting God at the mountain. When the people came out to the mountain, the glory of the Lord descended on it with a great display, together with thunder and lightning, a trumpet blast and a thick cloud. His presence was very evident, and it was so intense and frightening that in the next chapter we will see that the people tell Moses that he should speak to God for them, and not them directly, lest they die (see Exodus 20:18-21). Also in the next chapter, notice that the text reads “saw the thunder,” not “heard the thunder.” This meeting was truly overwhelming to the people, as can be expected when you are allowed into the presence of God. The Lord called Moses up and then told him to bring his brother Aaron up, but He made sure that no one else came with them. This scene continues in the next chapter with the ten commandments.
The Ten Commandments: Continuing on in the awesome presence of God found in the last chapter, we read here of the giving of the ten commandments from God directly to the people. Notice that the ten commandments were given first by God here, not on the tablets of stone that would come later. The ten commandments, which would play a central role in Jewish and perhaps to a lesser extent Christianity, are as follows:
1. Have no other gods besides the Lord God Almighty.
2. Have no idols/carved images to worship instead of God.
3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (not doing any work).
5. Honor your father and mother (the first command with a promise, see Ephesians 6:1-3).
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not bear false witness.
10. Do not covet.
These were not the only commands of the Law, but they were the beginning of the commands and they hold a very significant place in the Law (compare them to the “Bill of Rights” in the constitution). After the giving of the Ten Commandments, we see that the people are very frightened at the presence of the Lord (see previous chapter) and tell Moses to be their intercessor at all times, so that they will not die at the presence of the Lord. This chapter concludes with some laws about the alter and sacrifice to the Lord God.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Samuel 5-9.
Prepare to meet your God.