A Most Important Preface

When you start a book, do you read the preface? Or do you get right into the meat of the writing? I have usually found prefaces interesting, but not crucial to understanding the author. The preface to the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-2, however, gives you the crucial perspective you need to understand what God is saying here.

Know your God. Your God speaks to you. God has not left you in ignorance. Marvel that he communicates with you. He has revealed himself clearly enough in creation and conscience to leave all without excuse, Romans 1:21,28; 2:14,15. Here he identifies himself by his covenant name, the Lord, Exodus 3:14. God is the author of these commandments. They are not a collection of human ethical principles, nor are they borrowed from the Code of Hammurapi. He gives authority and permanence to the law. God’s speaking, even his speaking the Ten Commandments, is an expression of love for his people. And on the part of his people, love is expressed in obedience, John 14:15. Children, recognize that you owe your parents not just verbal appreciation, but obedience. Continue reading “A Most Important Preface”

When God Descends

As we prepare for “the big one” here in the Pacific Northwest we think negatively about earthquakes. But the earthquake described in Exodus 19, terrifying though it was, indicated something very positive. Hebrews 12 ties that earthquake to your unshakeable inheritance of God’s kingdom.

The Lord’s coming down to Mt. Sinai is an earth-shaking event. Understand who is coming down. Imagine what you would have seen, heard, and felt, had you been among the Israelites that day. The mountain was covered with darkness—a thick cloud and smoke. There was thunder and lightening, and a very loud trumpet blast, increasing in intensity. You would have felt the whole mountain shake violently. Why these spectacular happenings on the mountain? God himself, the Creator of the universe, was coming down on the mountain to meet with his people. Continue reading “When God Descends”

God’s Treasured Possession

It is Valentine’s Day on Tuesday. Feelings are important. Do something special for your valentine! But, while you celebrate, remember that there is more than feelings involved. You live in a culture that is feeling-oriented. How I feel about myself, how I identify, supposedly determines who I am. Though our popular culture does not recognize it, there is something objective about you—you are made in the image of God. That gives you worth and value. And there is something objective that identifies us as God’s people—he has made his covenant with us. Although centuries earlier God had made his covenant with Abraham, from whom Israel descended (and you can look all the way back to Eden and find the substance of God entering into a covenant with our first parents), here in Exodus 19:3-6 God makes his covenant with his people, Israel. As we will see, this is not just historical trivia, but it is a specific instance of the covenant relationship God has with you, his people.

Look at what God has done. God carried Israel on eagles’ wings. God is going to give his law to Israel and make his covenant with them. But first God reminds his people what he has done for them. The indicative precedes the imperative. He defeated the oppressing Egyptians with the plagues. He brought his people through the sea. He fed them with bread from heaven and provided water from the rock. No wonder he describes his activity as carrying them with eagles’ wings! The Exodus is the redemptive event in the Old Testament. Israel is delivered as they trust in Moses, Exodus 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. Continue reading “God’s Treasured Possession”

How Great Is God?

The current controversy over who should be admitted to our nation as refugees has created a great deal of heat. The pulpit is not the place to rehash those controversies, but to point us as God’s people to pray for those in authority and to pursue justice and mercy—in all areas of our lives. There is an issue even more important than who should be admitted into our nation: who properly belongs to God’s kingdom, who has entry into his nation, who are his people? Exodus 18:9-12 sheds light on that, looking forward to what Paul says in Ephesians 2:11-22.

Praise God for rescuing his people from arrogant enemies. Jethro joined Moses and Israel for a time. Jethro, also known as Ruel (possibly a clan name), was priest of Midian, and Moses had married one of his daughters. At some point after starting back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, Moses had sent Zipporah and their sons back to Jethro. Now Jethro brings them to Moses. Continue reading “How Great Is God?”