There’s a common saying out there “seeing is believing.” But there are a few characters in Exodus that defy this catchy idiom. Remember the story of the Golden Calf from your Sunday school days? While we’re not at that point in our study of Exodus yet, there is a very interesting little passage here in Exodus 24 that directly connects with that well known story of Israel’s quick abandonment of God. Do you remember who the key players of the Golden Calf incident were? Aaron and the elders of Israel. Well, those same key players were part of an amazing experience a month before the Golden Calf drama.
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.”
Do you feel like you’re in uncharted territory? Does the future seem uncertain and hazy? While this is a somewhat new era for our country and our world, it’s not new to the history of the world. Many nations faced turmoil and uncertainty. In fact, in our study of Exodus, the Israelites are at the beginning of an unknown future. They had left behind all that they had previously known and were walking forward into uncharted territory. But God gave them a promise. And as we look back through the lens of history, we know that God kept His promise. Therefore, we can walk forward into an unknown future because we have a known God. And we can have confidence because the same God who went before the Israelites goes before us.
But what was God’s promise to the Israelites?
“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them.”
Rules can have a negative connotation, especially in our post-modern, post-truth culture. However, if we didn’t have rules, lawlessness would abound and life would be miserable. When the Israelites left Egypt, they left the laws of the Egyptians and rules of Pharaoh and placed themselves under God’s authority and under Moses. They were becoming a new nation, and every nation needs a set of rules to govern the people and dictate justice.
We’ve just reached one of the pinnacle moments in Exodus, when God reveals Himself to His people and speaks directly to them. However, the Israelites didn’t like hearing from God. They wanted to keep Him at arm’s length. So Moses went up to the mountain to meet with God and receive from Him the rest of the commands and rules God set for His newly freed people. Unlike the monarchy the Israelites came from, this nation would be formed and led by God.
The Ten Commandments. The building blocks of Judaism and, thus, Christianity. Many of us were raised with them, and were taught them from a young age. They are posted in Sunday school class rooms and displayed in prominent places. You could probably rattle them off from memory. However, we must be careful that familiarity doesn’t breed nonchalance. The Ten Commandments are not something we should take lightly. They are the standards our holy God set for us to be a people worthy of His name.
“On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 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. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.’”
Things were looking good for the Israelites. They had just won their first battle and were being fed daily with God’s gift of manna. However, as with any group of sinful people gathered together, conflict arose among the people. So while everything seemed to be going great, Moses was stuck listening to the complaints of the people and judging between them day in and day out. Not a very exciting task! But being the servant leader Moses was, he didn’t complain, but tirelessly sat and judged the people each and every day
Welcome back to Exodus! It’s been awhile, but I’m excited to dive back into the life of Moses and the story of God as He transformed a ragtag group of ex-slaves into a conquering nation. Israel had a long ways to go, but each step in their journey brought them closer to the Promised Land and closer to the heart of God. So let’s return to following their footsteps through the pages of Exodus that we may learn from their mistakes and see how God can use broken, imperfect people to accomplish His divine purposes.
When I read some of the stories in the Old Testament it amazes me what some of God’s leaders had to put up with. We think we have difficult people in our lives, but what about them? Have you ever considered how challenging Ahab was to Elijah? But even more trying is when the difficult people in your life are part of your spiritual family, fellow believers with the same faith and God you profess. This is probably the most difficult! But Moses is a great role model for us in these situations.
Manna: God’s divine provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. We’ve already seen that through this miracle God shows us two points: 1) He will always provide, and 2) He wants us to trust and believe His Word. Let’s now look at the other two points we can glean from the miracle of manna.
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