The Book of Exodus was written by Moses around 1450-1410 B.C. It can be divided into two sections. Chapters 1-18 provide a narrative account of the Israelites enslavement by the Egyptians and their deliverance by God from bondage. Chapters 19-40 provide laws and instructions that are to be used as God builds His nation. The actual exodus or exit from Egypt occurs in chapters 14-18. Right now, we are on chapter 17. As I read, I am constantly amazed at how much these stiff-necked people complain. Recall that God was so kind and powerful as to allow Moses to part the Red Sea. I did a little digging and found that the Red Sea, also known as the Erythraean Sea (which makes sense, because the prefix erythr/o means red), covers almost 170,000 square miles and has a maximum depth of 2,211 miles. Just imagine, if you will, walking across this major expanse and seeing a WALL of water towering on either side of you. I’d like to think that after I saw something like that I would never doubt God again, yet people today are exactly the same way. God is still showing His power today. People just aren’t paying attention. People claim to want a sign, but when God shows us something, it isn’t good enough, or it is attributed to something else.
And we complain. I’m guilty, I’ll admit. I have gotten a lot better in terms of being content with the things I have, so I’m definitely not as bad as I used to be. Now, though, instead of complaining about not having things, I have to get better about not complaining about situations. Namely this situation with whatever illness I have. Complaining doesn’t make it go away, it just makes me think about it and despair over it more. Nothing positive has come of complaining. At the end of the day I still feel weird. I have been actively working on a change of spirit in that regard—which means I have been praying about it more and complaining about it less.
Chapter 17 brings about even more complaints. So the plagues weren’t good enough, leaving Egypt wealthy wasn’t good enough, watching the parting of the Red Sea wasn’t good enough, quail and manna raining down from the sky wasn’t good enough. Again, the Hebrews are thirsty, and as of now I have yet to see any instance of them praying instead of complaining. They begin to argue with Moses about their lack of water. I’d have been indignant, and Moses’ response conveys just a bit of attitude perhaps: “Why have you turned against me? Why are you testing the Lord?” (This is the Easy Reader Version of the Bible, Exodus 17:2b).
The Israelites come back at Moses again with a preposterous statement: They accuse him of bringing them out of Egypt to die. It is almost laughable. But, aren’t we the same way sometimes? I know I have cried out to God about situations before. I’m not afraid to use myself as an example—let’s take my current job for instance. I felt incomplete not working outside the home. I did not trust God enough to work through my husband to provide for us. God gave me a job and I ended up being unhappy. Unhappy because I realized I would rather raise my children than work forty hours a week doing menial office work. I thought the grass was greener on the other side and I was wrong, but that is a prime example of when I asked God for something, received it, then did not appreciate it. So as I have said before in posts from long ago, the Israelites are a reflection of me.
Sidebar: One thing I like to keep in mind is that coming out of the world is not always easy. Some people have an easier time adjusting than others. I have my difficulties still. It was easy for me to stop drinking alcohol, but there are other habits that still infiltrate my mind more often than I’d like. I am still having difficulty curbing my language when I get angry or impatient, mainly when I am driving—which has dissipated some since I rarely drive anymore. Keep in mind that the Israelites were enslaved for 430 years and were not used to this whole concept of total faith in one God. This was new to them and would take some getting used to. Admittedly, their lack of faith considering the things they saw is still somewhat incomprehensible, but I guess their newness is a bit of an excuse…maybe? However, I’ve learned that the side I feed the most becomes dominant. We all have the human side with that lovely sin nature inherited from Adam, but we also have a divine side. When I feed my spiritual self with spiritual food such as the Word, prayer, fellowshipping with the saints, service, etc…I find that the old beast dies more and more. And I am more than happy to see her go. Life is so much better when lived with purpose. There is no better purpose than serving God!
My zeal to serve has only grown as I have grown in the Word. But I remember being a babe in Christ and being content to be a benchwarmer. As a babe, I was interested only in my comfort and my personal journey. I did things on my own terms, my own way because I was still selfish. As I have matured spiritually I finally figured out that this life isn’t about me. It’s about God! What can I do for God? How many people can I tell about Jesus? How can I let the light of Jesus shine every day? Spiritual growth has put in me a sense of selfless urgency. I am not content to sit idly in church, receive the message and go home. I want to share and spread the Gospel.
But I digress. Moses takes the people’s complaint to the Lord, fearing for his life (remember there are approximately 600,000 people, and although faith should have shown Moses that God would see him through, he was still new to this as well). God gives Moses a task: He is to go before the Israelites and have some of the elders accompany him to a rock at Horeb. There, Moses is to strike the rock and water will run from it. As always, when God says something will happen, it will, and this event is the same. Moses does as told and the elders are witness to this miracle of water coming forth from a rock. Moses names the place Meribah and Massah, which mean “strife, contention or arguing” and “temptation”, respectively.
In Chapter 18 Moses has an encounter with his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro is the father of Zipporah, Moses’s wife whom he met when he fled Egypt to the land of Midian. Jethro has heard that the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt, and while bringing Zipporah and the couple’s two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to Moses, he praises God and prepares some sacrifices and offerings to God. Jethro, Moses, Aaron and the Israelite elders eat together with the Lord. Then Jethro sees his son-in-law in the process of judging the Israelites and offers what appears to be sound advice—that Moses needs help. Again, there are 600,000 people, and this Godly nation has not yet been fully implemented—undoubtedly there are quarrels and misunderstandings. Moses has to tend to the needs of over half a million people. Now, we know that he is not truly alone—that he has God. So was it really necessary for him to receive Jethro’s advice positively and choose men to rule over 1000 people, 100 people, 50 people, and even 10 people.
My confusion is this: The Scripture states that Moses listened to Jethro. It does not say that he consulted with God about it first. So I am left to believe that he didn’t. So far, God is only speaking to Moses, not any of those men he selected. I am tempted to believe that although Jethro, an outsider, meant well, perhaps this was not the best plan of action, at least not without speaking to God first. Without direct contact with God, certainly the rulers could be corrupted or swayed by the people. Again—these are babes, not strong spiritual warriors. On the flip side, I assume it was physically and mentally exhausting for Moses to have to field complaints and moderate the issues of that large a group of people. I am sure that there were other duties that sometimes took a backseat to this task of judging people.
Jethro departs, and the story continues with chapter 19. This is the chapter that begins a section of extreme importance in Israelite history. At the onset of chapter 19, the nation has come to the Desert of Sinai and set up camp in front of Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb, one of the holiest places in the history of Israel. In this chapter, the Lord fully begins to give the laws that will be used to govern his chosen nation. It is at Mount Sinai that the Lord gives Moses the 10 Commandments as well as the instructions for building the tabernacle which will be the center of Israelite worship.
Once the nation has settled in, the Lord calls to his servant Moses from the mountain and gives him a message to give to Israel. I try to keep in mind that as God’s mouthpiece, Moses had to say exactly what the Lord told him to say, and it appears he did just that. At the beginning of this chapter, the Lord summons Moses and tells him to repeat the following to Israel (and remember I like to paraphrase a little): First the Lord reminds the people what he have done for them: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (19:4, NIV). So God is preparing to tell Israel exactly why he did what he did. It definitely wasn’t because they were an exceptional people. No, God had delivered them from bondage in order that they may glorify him and serve as an example of Godly living to all nations—similar to the manner in which by grace we were delivered from our sinful lives, and now, as new creations, ought to live lives that glorify God and bring people into closer fellowship with him through His Beloved Son Jesus Christ.
The Lord tells Moses to have the people consecrate themselves for two days, and he will come to them on the third day. To “consecrate” oneself is to prepare himself spiritually and physically for the Lord. The people had to keep themselves clean by abstaining from sexual relations and wash their clothes. Even today, consecration is something we ought to do as Christians. I am not talking about just showering and wearing clean clothes to church—I am more speaking along the lines of coming to the Lord with a clean mind. For example, before we attend church, or Bible study, before we take Communion or even before reading the Bible, we must prepare ourselves spiritually to receive the Lord. Our world is terribly fast-paced, and unfortunately people internalize work and other problems so much it consumes the time they should be fellowshipping with Jesus. It is difficult to do, but we have to disconnect from the world and all of our worldly issues in order to truly hear what God is saying to us. Being active during church service definitely helps me, and praying constantly also helps me to keep my mind focused on the Lord.
The Lord also informs Moses that no one, not even priests or animals, are allowed to approach Mt. Sinai. Naturally, people would be curious, but getting too close was prohibited and warranted a death sentence. Anyone who broke the rule was to be stoned or shot with an arrow, not bare hands, so as to not make anyone unclean. Moses does as told, and the people prepare themselves for two days.
Let me back up a bit. Although verses 5 and 6 of this chapter are not necessarily considered to be focal verses, they are powerful to me. God reveals his purpose for delivering Israel: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites”.
Again I must go back to previous chapters and think of what God has already done to show the Israelites how he could care, provide for, and protect them. Imagine God telling you that you are one of his “treasured possessions”. Well, guess what—we are! Man is supposed to glorify God. Of course we know everyone doesn’t. In my very humble opinion, all of mankind can be thought of as a treasured possession of God’s in a sense—he took the time to make each and every one of us, which so much thought as to number the hairs on our heads—but truly those of us who have accepted Jesus are undoubtedly God’s treasured possessions. We should be of good cheer when we consider that the all-powerful, all-knowing God considers us among his treasured possessions. Whenever a fellow human being attempts to make you feel small, smile and go on about your business. God loves you.
A striking scene takes place on the third day. God does not make his appearance quietly:
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a loud trumpet blast (God likes those trumpets, doesn’t he? Trumpets in the Bible can symbolize a number of things—a call to assemble, such as in this case, or a call to war, for example). Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire (God often uses the theophany of fire). The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him” (19:16-19, NIV).
Of course yours truly actually pictured this scene. This was no small disturbance. It couldn’t have been, or else the mountain wouldn’t have trembled! And my curiosity piqued at one point others probably wouldn’t care about, but this is how weird I am—I wonder what God’s voice sounded like? Was it a deep, rumbling Barry White bass-baritone? Or was it more Morgan Freeman-esque? Maybe Walter Cronkite-ish?
The Lord descended from heaven to the top of Mt. Sinai and beckoned for Moses to come to the top of the mountain. There, the Lord tells him again that he must warn the people not to let their curiosity get the best of them—they had to stay back from the mountain or die. During their previous encounter, the Lord had also instructed Moses to put limits (a gate, maybe? A fence? Some guards? I don’t know) around the mountain to keep people from getting too close, and this had been done. The Lord finally tells Moses to go and bring Aaron back with him. Moses dutifully does as told.
Chapter 20 is by far one of the most important chapters in Exodus. Here God gives Moses the 10 Commandments. Even people who are not Christian or Jewish find these commandments to be exceptionally valuable. As I read the commandments and all of the following laws—some of which can be redundant, I’ll admit—I kept in mind that Israel as a nation was a blank slate. These people needed very detailed instruction, and God definitely gave it to them.
Here we go:
“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. You shall not make for yourself an image 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 parents 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” (20:2-6).
Here, we see God again reminding Israel that it was HIM, and him ALONE, that rescued them from Egypt. Time and time again God had shown Israel he was their God, and for that blessing alone they should be content to have no other gods, one would think. However, it is safe to say the Israelites, whether willingly or not, had been indoctrinated with Egyptian beliefs and polytheistic views. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile River as a god and had even dedicated a god to the Nile River, as well as a sun god. I wonder if God was alluding to these gods when he mentioned not making anything in heaven above…or in the waters below. What is happening in this section is that God is telling Israel to put away their old way of thinking. He is not a god to be added to a collection of gods for worship. No, our God stands alone.
Some people take umbrage to the fact that God willingly claims that he is jealous. Why shouldn’t he be? Let’s examine some of his best work…
The universe. Exactly how big is it? No one really knows? Precisely. As sophisticated as man has become in terms of technology and space exploration, the universe is infinite. The nearest star is over 90 million miles away—the sun. Can we count the stars? How many planets are there really?
Our world. Our planet has a surface area of approximately 197 million square miles that is home to seven continents. About 70% of the earth’s surface is water, and it is estimated that between 700,000 to 1 million different species live in our oceans. The most recent calculation I found suggests that there are about 8.7 million different land species roaming the earth.
Humanity. If you hadn’t noticed, we don’t all look alike. In 2012 it was estimated that there were 7 billion people walking this earth. There are thousands of different ethnic groups speaking 6,500 different languages.
The human body. Our bodies are complex pieces of machinery. Again, man has made great strides in the fields of medicine, biology, etc., but there are still things that go on within our bodies that cannot be explained, predicted or cured. Yet our God knows all, as he created all.
Let’s think about that for a moment. If you had done all of that great work, would you want someone else to get the credit for it??? I was ticked off when a woman from one of my first classes at Capella copied off of several of my discussion posts.
I am definitely not suggesting that God’s jealousy is on the same level as our human jealousy. But if we consider what God has already done and how he lovingly sustains the universe, the world, humanity, and our bodies, we would have no need for any other god. This God we serve is a multi-purpose God. If God does nothing else for me, I still acknowledge the magnificence of creation on its own as evidence of his love and existence.
In terms of punishing children for sins, I wonder how God goes about this. Is this like a direct thing from him, or does it happen because parents who do not believe in God pass on their beliefs (or should I say disbelief) to their children? I suppose I should not jump ahead, but in books that follow where we see disobedience among Israel, we do see God punishing them by sending them to captivity, for instance. However, we also see instances were a generation dies out and a new generation repents and is spared by God. If I recall, there are plenty of times when Israel was going through their judges and kings that the nation experienced periods of apostasy and re-dedication to God according to the conduct of their leader at the time. So I am led to believe that God is not referring to punishing individuals, but instead punishing the nation as a whole, and only if they continue on in the idolatry of the generation that came before them. If we think about that further in terms of the judgment we all have when we die, we are going to answer only for our own conduct, not anyone else’s.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (20:7).
I wonder how God feels about the flippant use of phrases such as “OMG”. I wonder if that expression offends him—if so I am guilty of using it and have been taking steps to try to replace it with “oh my goodness”. I am a lot better off than I used to be, when one of my favorite swears including God’s name followed by something else. SMH. I cannot offer any good explanation as to why I would use the name of the Lord that I love and follow it with a curse. It doesn’t even go together. It was a learned behavior and unfortunately pretty difficult to eject from my vocabulary. But it had to be done. Language does not come without consequences. How big of a turn-off is not only a cussing Christian, but a Christian who uses the name of her God that she supposedly loves as she hurls an insult or a curse? Boy was I something else.
For those who don’t think it is a big deal, attach a swear to the name of a person you love dearly and see if it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. Put your mom’s name where you would put God. Then remember that we are supposed to love God above all.
“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 do no work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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” (20:8-11).
There has been a huge brouhaha over the years as to whether Christians are expected to practice the Sabbath. My belief is that we are not under the law, and as such are not under the Sabbath. HOWEVER… let us consider the concept of the Sabbath (Saturdays) in the context of modern society.
American society and our fixation on capitalism is sucking the life out of people every day. The typical workweek is thought to be forty hours, but let’s be honest. Most people I know work closer to fifty hours a week at least, because they bring work home with them. In addition to work, people belong to churches, social groups, maybe work on volunteer projects, watch television, have families, maybe friends, and on, and on, and on.
All of the things we are required to do can easily get in the way of what is important. My priorities are God first and family second. Life gets in the way of that sometimes.
In my Moody class, everyone is fifty years or older, with the exception of myself and my husband. They remember fondly when everything was closed on Sunday and television went off promptly at midnight. As such, Sundays were spent worshiping God and enjoying family. So although Christians are not under the Sabbath, we can definitely benefit from the Sabbath-day principle and use our special day, Sunday, the day of the week when Jesus rose and completed our salvation, to fully immerse ourselves in refreshing, liberating communion with God and fellowship with family and friends.
SIDENOTE: This whole issue of whether or not we are supposed to observe the Sabbath has caused some division and it is pretty uncalled for. I had a very rude and self-righteous woman in group on LinkedIn who picked several people apart for not believing Christians should observe the Sabbath. Her attitude was very ungodly. She presented herself as being spiritually superior to those who disagreed with her. It should never go that far. At the end of the day whomever believes in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is a brother or sister and ought to be treated as such, out of respect that none of us know it all anyway.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (20: 12). Notice that God does not say “honor your father and mother if they are fabulous parents”. The only stipulation I can imagine going along with this commandment is if a person’s parents do not follow God. In that situation, and I have seen it before, I believe that although a child is still expected to be respectful of their parents, they have to follow God first. God does not tell us that the parent-child relationship is always going to be rosy. Look at the relationship between us as God’s children and him as our loving Father. We let him down sometimes, don’t we? And unlike God who is all-knowing, kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Believe me, there were some nights when my babies were sick that I wished they did. As parents we do the best that we can based on what we know and believe, or at least we should. For that, our kids ought to respect us. God expects kids to submit to authority.
SIDENOTE: Sorry, this must be said. One of the things that consistently grinds my gears is to see children get out of line with their parents. It boggles my mind to see a pre-teen, or sometimes a kid even younger, cuss their mom smooth out in public. I often wonder how in the world did it get that bad? Don’t you whip out the rod on the kid the first time they cuss you? Obviously not in a lot of cases. So while children are expected to submit to authority, guess what mommy and daddy—you have to provide the authority, not try to be your children’s best friend.
I had to get that off my chest.
The others are pretty straight-forward.
“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (20:13-17). The false testimony one pertains to court proceedings.
Finally, God gives us this gem here:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (20:17). Why? Because after a certain period of time, that urge may be strong enough for you to act upon it. Every sinful act begins with a sinful thought. And while time is being wasted coveting someone else’s possessions, the blessings that lay right in front of you are being ignored. Besides, how can one know that God does not have something special in store for him, if only he could exhibit patience?
The people again show fear when they see and hear the lightning, thunder, trumpet and smoky mountain, but God does not necessarily want the Israelites to be afraid of him, just like our fear of God is supposed to be more of a respect-type fear than a frightened scaredy-cat fear. God is giving them a sign, letting them see who he is and just a glimpse of his power. Again, they have more confirmation than one ought to need that God is REAL. Moses tells the people not to be afraid, that God has come to test them that they may stop sinning.
At this point, the Lord gives Moses another message to deliver to the Israelites. They have seen for themselves that God has spoken to them from heaven, so again he reminds them not to make any gods alongside him, not gods of silver nor gold (it’s almost laughable to think that people create something of their own hands and worship it…blank stare). Next, God instructs them to make an altar of earth for him in order for them to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings (sheep, goats, cattle). When this is done, and God’s name is honored (which suggests to me than the action itself is not enough, the attitude/spirit must be right as well) he will come down and bless them. An altar of stones is acceptable, as long as they are not dressed stones that may be defiled by tools. Apparently dressed stones are ones that have already been cut down to shape (I had to look that up). God closes out chapter 20 by telling the Israelites not to come up the altar on steps, where they might inadvertently expose their private parts.
Again, Christians today do not fall under the law. We have a different set of circumstances under Jesus. Jesus did not cancel the law—He fulfilled it. These very laws appear in the New Testament in variable form (meaning they are not word for word). Despite the fact that we do not have to adhere to the 10 Commandments as the Law was given to Israel/Jews, I’d say it’s sound advice, wouldn’t you? I mean, it’s safe to say we shouldn’t worship other gods or kill people, right? Which is why I get confused as to why people have been filing lawsuits or taking whatever legal action to get the 10 Commandments removed from court buildings. How are those laws offensive? I suppose to the ungodly anything that even hints at God provides more conviction than they can handle.
HOLY SMOKES I had no intention of getting that long-winded. I suppose I can continue in a day or so.
Did I mention Exodus is one of my favorite books? Just sayin’.