Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Exodus 18-20

In chapter 18, Moses' father-in-law Jethro, having heard of all that God had done in freeing the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, came to him in the desert with Moses' wife and sons. Moses went out and greeted him and told him all that had happened, and how the Lord had saved them. Jethro acknowledged that the Lord "is greater than all other gods" and offered a burnt offering. Aaron and the other elders came and ate with Moses and Jethro in the presence of God.

After watching Moses sit and act as a judge the following day, Jethro asked him what he was doing. Moses told him that the people came to Moses to seek God's will, and settle disputes. Jethro suggested that he was going to wear himself out, and that he should instead teach the people God's decrees and laws, and select capable men who fear God and make them officials over smaller groups of the people. The other officials cound handle the simple cases, and Moses would handle only the difficult ones. So he that that and put capable men of Israel over "thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens." Then Jethro returned to his own country.

In chapter 19, in the third month after the exodus from Egypt, Israel camped in the desert at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses "went up to God" and God called to him from the mountain and told him what to say to the people. He was to remind them of what they had seen and how God brought them out of Egypt, "carried...on eagles' wings" and that if they would obey him fully and keep his covenent, they would be, of all the nations, God's "treasured possession....a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Moses told the people, who said that they would do everything that the Lord has said. Moses then took their answer back to God.

The LORD told Moses to consecrate the people for the next two days, to have them wash there clothes and abstain from sexual relations, to stay away from the mountain and not to touch the foot of it on penalty of death and prepare for the third day. When the third day came, there was a thick cloud over the mountain, and thunder and lightning, and a very loud trumpet blast. And Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of the mountain. Moses spoke and God answered. He descended to the top of Mount Sinai, and called Moses to the top to meet him. God told him to warn the people that they must not force their way through, and the even the priests must consecrate themselves. Moses told God that the people could not come up on Sinai because of the previous warnings, but God told him to go and bring Aaron up with him.

And, in chapter 20, Moses went up Sinai and God gave him the Ten Commandments. When the people saw the lightning the smoke on the mountain, and heard the thunder and the trumpet, they trembled with fear. They stayed away and told Moses to speak to them, for fear of dying if God did. Moses told them that "the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." Them God told Moses to tell the Israelites not to make any idols, not to make "gods of silver or gods of gold." He told them to make an altar of earth and sacrifice their burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • There is no mention of Zipporah or Moses' sons from the time of the circumcision at the inn on Moses' journey back to Egypt (Ex 4:24-26) until chapter 18. They were traveling with him on his journey, but are never mentioned during the plagues or the exodus from Egypt. Now they arrive with Jethro, which would seem to indicate that they either never went all the way back to Egypt with him, or were sent back to Midian before the exodus. Clearly, they were sent back to Midian - what's not clear is when.
  • On the third day, God appeared to the people on Sinai. And on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared to the people. "Prepare yourselves for the third day" sounds as if it ought to be a verse from one of the Gospels, but here it is, in Exodus 19.
  • In 19:8, the people of Israel clearly accept the covenant which God has offered them. At this time, it has not yet been made clear what, exactly, is going to be required on their part. Yes, they need to obey God "fully" but they did not know what the orders would be. They accepted anyway. So they had some faith, even if it was an uneven and fearful faith. (How much faith is required to follow God after the demonstrations they had received is, of course, a mitigating consideration when tempted to get too effusive with praise for their acceptance of the covenant.)
  • The Ten Commandments:
    1. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
    2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
    3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
    4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
    5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
    6. You shall not murder.
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
    10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
    (Ex 20:1-17)

    The Ten Commandments appear again, in the same order with only minor textual differences, in Dt 5:6-21.
  • The fear of God, the fear of anything, helps as a motivating factor. But it's not a great long-term motivation. To really change long-term, behavior has to be motivated by a desire, or longing, or love. Fear is a great motivator short-term, but not for making fundamental changes.
  • As we see with the Israelites over and over and over again.

Psalm 2

Thoughts, questions, issues
  • I guarantee that it won't be the last time I say this, but there are some pieces of scripture that I cannot hear or read without the music starting up in my head. Reading the second psalm starts Handel's Messiah. "Let us break their bonds asunder." "...against the Lord, and against his anointed..." "The Lord shall have them in derision..." "Thou shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel..."
  • And, from the general obliviousness department, how have I never noticed verse 12? "Kiss the Son...blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
  • And there's verse 7 - "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." I've heard that passage in the Messiah a hundred times, and never stopped to think about where it came from, or to realize that it's an Old Testament verse, dating to hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.
  • And yes, I recognize that this is self-referential on David's part. But, just like the passage in Exodus ("prepare for the third day") it works on more than one level. If David was talking about himself, we still read it and hear the name of Jesus.
  • So the kings of the earth set themselves up, and take counsel together, and plan and plot against the people of God and their anointed ruler. And the Lord, sitting in heaven, laughs at them. "Man proposes, God disposes."
  • And there's a warning there, in verses 9-12. The Lord reigns, and what he wants destroyed will be destroyed, so the wise thing to do is to serve him with fear and rejoice with tremblings.

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