Thursday, January 04, 2018

The World’s Greatest Deal (In Writing)

Exodus 34:27-28:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’
“So he was there with the LORD forty day and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”

Thoughts on the Passage

When God came to the end of His instructions to Moses, He told him to write down "these words" – words which formed the basis of the covenant between God and Israel. He was not (at that time) writing down everything that God said from chapter 34:10-26. In my opinion, this was the follow-up to God’s instructions to Moses in chapter 34:1 when He told Moses to get another two tablets “like the former ones” and He (God) would write on these tablets the words that were on the former tablets which Moses had shattered out of anger.
While Moses had been with God for forty days and forty nights, he did not eat bread or drink water. (I believe in this context, we can assume that simply means he did not eat or drink, period.) And either during or at the end of that period of time, he wrote, on behalf of God, or under God’s instruction (or dictation), the Ten Commandments on this second set of tablets. Now, I must tell you that at least one commentator does not agree with me.  Robert Jamieson feels Moses wrote down all the words from Exodus 34 that God spoke right down to the end of verse 26, and that God wrote the Ten Commandments on the second Tablets. Certainly Deuteronomy 10:1-4 seem to support him. Others are silent on this point.
What causes the confusion is that Exodus 34:26 refers to “he” lower case, which normally does not refer to the Lord or God, at least in Exodus.  (We know for example in Exodus 34:34, the word “Him” is capitalized when referring to God.  So, Exodus 34:26 poses a dilemma for us as it would seem to indicate that Moses did the writing on the Tablets (yes, for God) and it was just the Ten Commandments. You will need to do further study and decide for yourselves. It is true that at some point, Moses had to write down all the words God had spoken earlier – but was it from memory, or was it while he was on the mountain. You decide.
For me, the messages from this passage are very clear:
When God says, “write something down”, be sure you do it because it is very important. In fact, this is the greatest written deal or covenant ever made between two parties and in this case, one of the parties is God.  We have to be careful not to blow it.
(I spend a lot of my time negotiating collective agreements between management and various unions, personal agreements between two people (often married ones who need to call it quits), and fair severance package agreements between a dismissed employee and his/her former employer. But none of them come close to being as important as the covenant that God established with His people through the Ten Commandments.)
While there are literally hundreds of Old Testament laws that God set up for the Israelites to follow (613 to be exact), I am confident there is not a single one that could not find a “home” in one of the Ten Commandments if we really tried hard enough.  For me, the Ten Commandments are a “high-level summary” of all that God wants and expects from His children.
That means that while you and I can get into an argument about whether or not Old Testament laws and instructions apply to us today, what we can agree on is that, one way or another, God expects even a person living in this day and age, to keep all of the Ten Commandments.
This does not mean man is capable of keeping all ten of these commandments all the time. And God knew that. He knew about it with respect to the 613 laws, and He knows about it with respect to the Ten. God also knew that as breakers of one of these commandments, we cannot be in His Holy presence, no matter how much He loves us.
But the Good News is that God did not stop there, He had a way to get over that legitimate hurdle He had established because He loves us. He had a way by which our sin could be paid for in a way that would wipe our spiritual criminal record clean and make us acceptable for His presence.  He had His Son die in our place, pay the penalty for us, and provide for us a way to be adopted by God.  That’s the Good News although the world has tried for the last 2000 tried to convince everyone it is Fake News.

And one more thought: Sometimes to get the message from God straight and clear, we need to focus totally on Him – no food, no drink. We need to fast. And no, that’s not just Old Testament stuff – we’re told to do that in the New Testament as well.  As far as this passage goes, there is debate whether a man can live 40 days and 40 nights without food or water. But while that’s a moot point physiologically, it need not be in this instance since we’re talking about a meeting being a created being with His Creator and Almighty God – the God of miracles.  So, yes, Moses did go 40 days and 40 nights on a complete fast.  But then again, who needs to eat in the presence of God?
As always, your questions and comments are invited.

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