Image source: MountCalvaryBaptistChurch
I teach academic writing, and I would often emphasize to students the need to identify the ‘meat of the matter’ in anything they read and write. It is helpful to be able to identify the main point, or the meat of the matter, in whatever we are reading or writing, so we don’t go off point.
In the book of Exodus, the meat of the matter is laid out in Exodus 5:1 (The Living Bible): “After this presentation to the elders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh. They told him, “We bring you a message from Jehovah [Yahweh], the God of Israel. He says, ‘Let my people go, for they must make a holy pilgrimage out into the wilderness, for a religious feast, to worship me there.’”
Yahweh delivered Israel from Egypt with great power, and came down to live with them in that beautiful Tabernacle; God invested heavily in them, so that in turn they would worship him. Let this point sink in; God saved Israel, invested in Israel, so that they would worship him alone. Worship here goes beyond singing and dance, it means respect, trust, and submission to the authority of God
This brings us to the events of Exodus Chapters 19 and 20, when God first meets with the people. These events are placed in the middle of the book to symbolize their central importance. Israel have been saved from Egypt; they have made a long trek to Mount Sinai; they have rested; and now they have to wash their clothes, bathe, freshen up, stay clean, and come meet Yahweh for the first time.
Exodus 19: 16-19 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: “On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm… and there was a long, loud blast as from a ram’s horn… Moses led them out from the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire… the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake… Moses spoke and God thundered his reply.”
Reading on to Exodus 20, we see that it was at this awesome meeting that God spoke the ten commandments to Israel, with a voice like thunder. Yes, the commandments were first spoken so all the people could hear for themselves, before they were written down in stone.
All societies need laws to establish order and fairness, maintain peace, and ensure health and prosperity for the people. The ten commandments and other laws God gave them, established Israel as a Yahwistic community – Yahweh worshipping community. God gave the laws as a platform to organize a disorganized people, and as vision to unify a disunited people – the laws were for good, not for evil. Next week, we will see how the ten commandments and worship go together.
Lord, help us see the good purpose in your laws, Amen!