I believe it’s very likely that Mt. Sinai is in Arabia at Jabal al Lawz, pictured here, rather than the traditional belief of the Sinai Peninsula location where St. Catherine’s Monastery sits today. If you disagree, we can still be friends and I can respect your position. These pictures are at the least, fascinating, and it’s been determined that the black top of this mountain is not volcanic rock, but actual granite which has been scorched. This may be the place, not that it matters too much.
God gave Moses the moral law on this mountain, wherever it is, and I’d like to address the reason why before we look at the commandments one by one over the next few weeks.
1. The giving of the law established the fact that God wants a relationship with mankind. (Exodus 19:3-6)
I want to give you a principle that will help you in many different areas of your life. It will help you in your relationship with God, your relationship with your kids, and even your relationships at work. Here’s the principle: RULES without RELATIONSHIP leads to REBELLION. If you lay down rules for your kids to follow, but you spend no time getting to know them, involving yourself in their lives and allowing them to get to know you, then chances are that they will rebel against you. If in your work relationship, the only time that you ever have contact with your boss is when he is laying down the requirements of the job and telling you how far short you fall of those requirements, the chances are that you will resent that boss. You may not rebel outwardly for fear of losing your job, but there will probably be rebellion in your heart.
The same is true in your relationship with God. Part of the reason that you have a real problem with some of the laws that He has laid down for your life is because
you have not ever established a personal relationship with Him or you have never worked very hard to make that relationship strong and special. Do you know that before God ever laid down the first of
the Ten Commandments, He made it very clear that He wanted a special relationship with these people?
God demonstrates His power, His provisions and His protection to draw you to Himself (vs. 4)
God demonstrated His power when He rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. He sent 10 awe-inspiring plagues on the Egyptians to convince both the Egyptians and the Israelites that He truly was almighty God. He caused the water to turn to blood, and the sky to rain down hail, and the darkness to cover the face of the land in the middle of the day. And then when Israel was trapped at the Red Sea, God demonstrated His power by parting the waters so that the Israelites could cross over on dry ground. God demonstrated His provisions by providing them a fountain of water that flowed out of a rock and bread that materialized on the ground every morning. When Israel’s enemies threatened to destroy them, whether it was the Egyptians at the Red Sea or the Amalekites out in the wilderness, God demonstrated His protection by wiping them out. Why did God do all these things for Israel? Look at vs. 4. [read it]. God did all these things in order that He might bring them into a relationship with Himself.
The Bible records in James 1:17 that every good and perfect gift comes down from God the Father. That means that everything good that has ever happened in your life
didn’t just happen. It was sent down by God. Every time that there was food on your table, it was because God provided it for you. Every time that you have received healing from a disease or sickness
was because God demonstrated His power in your life. Every accident that you have ever avoided and every storm that you have made it through were because of God’s hands of protection surrounding you.
Why does He do these things in your life? Is it because you are good person? No. It is because He wants you to recognize His love for you and He wants to draw you into a relationship with
God communicates His desire to make you His special treasure above all other things (vs. 5)
God told Moses to tell the Israelites that if they would choose to enter into this relationship, that He would make them specifically His most prized possession of all that He had in the entire universe.
Ill.—2 couples have recently had babies, and everyone oooh’s and aaah’s over them. They are a prized possession that they guard closely.
That’s the same attitude that God has toward us when we make Him our Father. Think about the other options that God has to make into His prized possession. He could have chosen the angels. They are not scarred with sin. They do exactly what he tells them to do without question or hesitation. They are in a constant chorus of worship toward Him. But God didn’t choose them as His treasured possession. He could have chosen the stars as His treasured possession. They put off great amounts of light and energy. They are beautiful. But God didn’t choose the stars. He chose us. He chose [begin to point at people and name their names] as His treasured possession. You are more important to Him; He would rather have you than any other creature in the whole universe.
God communicates His goal to change you (vs. 6)
ill.—In a wedding, the bride was unusually nervous. She just wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to make it through the wedding ceremony without passing out. The pastor who was to perform the ceremony gave her a piece of advice. He said, “Instead of concentrating on everything that you have to do, just concentrate on one piece at a time. When the ceremony begins, just concentrating on making it down the aisle. As you make your way down, focus on the altar. Once you get near the front, turn your focus toward your groom and focus all your attention on him.“ The bride thought that was good advice, so she did just that. Only she was the type that had to voice her thoughts especially since she was so nervous. As she made her way to the front, everyone in the church could hear her saying, “I’ll alter him; I’ll alter him” [aisle, altar, him].
Many husbands and wives have entered into the marriage relationship thinking that they will be able to change whatever it is that they do
not like about their spouse. The groom thinks that he will be able to change his disorganized, sloppy bride into someone who runs the house well. The bride thinks that she will be able to change her
selfish, run around with the boys, don’t expect me to spend two minutes in the kitchen groom into someone who can cook and clean and take all his free time to spend with her. For one, it almost never
happens that way. And two, the desired change is not for the benefit of the person changing but for the benefit of the partner.
The change that God wanted to happen in the Israelites and what He wants to happen in us is for our benefit, our growth. He wants us to be changed in such a way that we can be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. You know what a priest is? A priest is an ambassador between God and man. God wants us to His ambassadors, His representatives. That is an honor which we could never deserve but that God gives to us out of His love for us. God desires that we change because He knows that the direction we are headed right now is only going to create suffering and destruction in our lives.
The reason that God puts rules into our lives is because He knows that the things that fall outside those rules will damage us and will hurt our potential enjoyment of the relationship that He wants to have with us and the relationship that we can have with other men and women.
“The Ten Commandments may seem very narrow, but so does every runway on airports around the world. Yet no passenger wants his pilot to
miss the narrow runway and land a few yards off the mark in some field or waterway or row of houses. The narrow ribbon of pavement is really the broad way that leads to a safe, comfortable landing.
So the seemingly rigid laws guide to a happy, fulfilled living.” [Leslie Flynn, Now a word from our Creator]
2. The giving of the law established the fact that the relationship must be on God’s terms. (Exodus 19:10-14)
God requires that you must be clean (vs. 10)
In preparation for God’s coming down to the people, He told them that they had to wash their clothes. That might seem kind of an odd demand from a God who identifies Himself later on as being One who is far more concerned with what is in the heart than what is on the outside. What message was God trying to communicate to the people by making sure that they washed their clothes? I think He was doing two things. He was telling the people that if they wanted to enjoy a relationship with Him with all the rewards that meant they had to be willing to get clean. The same is true of us. If we are going to be in relationship with God, then we have to be clean. Second, I think that He was illustrating the fact that the law He was getting ready to hand down to them could only clean them on the outside. It had no ability to clean them on the inside. Even if by some miracle they were able to keep the whole law from that day on, all that would have been affected was their outward actions. They were going to need something else beyond the law to clean them on the inside. (Rev 1:5) . . . Jesus Christ . . . loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Rev 7:14) . . . These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
God requires that you must be totally dedicated to Him “consecrated” (vs. 10); “abstain from sexual relations” (vs. 14-15)
God told Moses that He was to go to the people and consecrate them. To “consecrate” something means to dedicate it completely for one specific person or purpose. When you got married, you were consecrated to your spouse – you were dedicated to that one person for the rest of your life. If you have ever tried to call my home and continued to get a busy signal for a lengthy period of time over several attempts to get through, you have probably experienced the fact that we do not have a consecrated phone line in our house. Our phone line serves multiple masters. The reason you might get a busy signal at our home is because our one phone line is used to access the internet from our computer and to make phone calls. My daughter, one of these days is going to be wanting a phone line that is consecrated solely to her use in her room. Something that is consecrated is focused on one use or one person.
God wanted the Israelites to be totally consecrated to Him. He wanted their 100% unfaltering, unwavering devotion to Him. If He was going to make them His treasured possession, He wanted to make sure that they were going to devote themselves to Him to the same extent that He was willing to devote Himself to them. And this is where the part about abstaining from sexual relations comes in too. Abstaining from sex was not only an issue of cleanliness or holiness; it was an issue of devotion, an issue of focus. The reason He prohibited it in this instance was not because it was wrong, but because He wanted the people’s full attention on Him and on what He was getting ready to tell them. There would be time later on for them to focus attention on their spouses in the days ahead. Now was the time for them to take their minds off their personal pleasure and give 100% of their energy and concentration to the matter before them.
God expects our 100% devotion and attention too. If you are like me, sometimes when I go to God in prayer, that is when 101 different things that I have to do that day pop into my head. All of those things will wait. My focus at that moment is supposed to be on the Creator of the universe. I am aware that there are probably scores of different things that are going on in your life right now – responsibilities, plans, dinner, pains, heartaches, fears. Can I ask you to do something? Put all that aside for this time, and concentrate 100% on God and what He expects from you right now. Give Him all of who you are, and He will take care of all those things in His time and in His way. Just think about and act on what God is telling you right now. Don’t let the fears and worries of tomorrow stop you from doing what you know you need to do today in your relationship with God.
God requires that you observe His limits & His timetable (vs. 12, 13)
When God came down on Mt. Sinai to deliver His law to the people, He demonstrated His power and His glory. It was a like a huge thunderstorm descended on the mountain. There were bolts of lightning and frightening thunderclaps. The temptation was for curious people to venture up to the mountain so they could get a closer look at God. Wouldn’t the announcement that God was in town peak your curiosity? But God knew that if the people got too close without being prepared, it would cause their death. So He told them to stay back. He didn’t tell them to stay back because He didn’t want them to know Him; He placed that limitation on them because He knew the result that experiencing something they were not prepared for would have on them. It would be like venturing into a nuclear reactor without having been properly prepared with adequate safeguards. It would be disastrous and destructive.
Beginning here with the Ten Commandments and continuing on throughout the rest of the Bible, God puts scores of limitations on mankind as far as what He can and
cannot do. Some of those limitations are permanent. They will never change in my life. But there are some limitations that are temporary or are for just a particular period of our lives. Now that I
am adult, I no longer have to obey my parents. I still have to honor them though. Before I was married, I was limited on the ways that I could express my love to a woman. But now, I have the freedom
to express my love to my wife in ways that I could not before. All these limitations that God places on us though are not to hurt us or prevent us from enjoying all that life has to offer. They are
gifts from a loving God who wants to protect us from things that He knows will destroy us and ruin His best for us. They are a test to see if we really trust Him with the reins of our life. He’s
asking, “Do you really believe that my way is the best way, and that if you follow my way, your life will turn out far better than if you had gone off in your own direction?” God puts lots of limits
on us, but they are limits for our protection, not because He is stingy or old-fashioned.
3. The giving of the law established the fact that the law can never be the foundation for a personal relationship with God. (Deut. 5:23-27)
The law cannot relieve our fear
Look at how the people reacted to the presence of God there on the mountain. They were afraid.
What is your gut reaction when you see a police car in the median of the road or in your rear view mirror? Are you happy that they are there making the roads safe for everyone to travel, or does your heart start to beat a little bit faster because you are afraid that they are going to catch you doing something that you should not?
One day, each of us is going to have to stand before God as our Judge. Does that thought place fear within you or does it place joy? The very idea of facing judgment one day places fear within us if we are relying solely on our obedience to the law to get us into heaven. How can we ever be sure if we’ve obeyed the law completely? There is a better way. Rom 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” When we have Jesus as our Savior, we don’t have to fear the judgment day. Our standing then will not be based on how well we kept the law. It will be based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that provides for us.
Do you want to continue living in fear? Then just keep on trying to be good enough. Keep on trying to live up to the standard of the law. And be very careful that you never break the smallest portion of the law, because breaking even that smallest portion will make you guilty before God and will bring about your eternal sentencing.
The law cannot erase our guilt or shame
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
It is not the law’s purpose to remove our guilt. It is the law’s purpose to expose our guilt so that we will seek forgiveness.
James 2:10 says whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
The law cannot provide forgiveness or love
The sacrificial system was provided to cover over the sin, but it could never erase it and provide forgiveness. Constant offerings had to be provided because sin continued on and because the offering of animals could not pay the price that was necessary. Jesus was the final offering. Because of his sacrifice, we can have forgiveness and love.
The law cannot change us
All that it can change is our actions. It cannot change our heart, our motivation, our thoughts, or our destiny. (Gal 5:22-23, fruits of the Spirit) The things listed in those verses; are they internal or external? They are internal. Only God by His Spirit can change us from the inside out. God doesn’t just want us to be conformed to His system; He wants us to be transformed by His Spirit.
Ill.—A father had a rather strong-willed son. On the way to the store he kept telling the child, ‘Sit down and buckle the seat belt.’ But the little kid just kept standing in the seat. Again he said, ‘Sit down and buckle your seat belt.’ And after a time or two more the boy was convinced he had better sit down or disaster would strike. So he slipped down into the seat, snapped the seat belt closed and said, ‘Daddy, I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside.
That’s all that the law can do. It can make us sit down out of fear, guilt or shame, but it can’t provide forgiveness, and it can’t change our heart. [from message by Chris Talton]
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