Seven weeks have passed since the people left Egypt, and in today’s passage, they arrive at Mt. Sinai. The rest of Exodus takes place here.
***This section of Exodus records what will later be referred to as the Book of the Covenant (24:7) and includes:
- the Ten Commandments (20:1–21);
- instructions on worship (20:22–26; 23:10–19);
- rules and principles for community life (21:1–23:9); and
- instructions for entering the land of Canaan (23:20–33).
“Covenant” is an important word in the Old Testament. It’s an old word that might have lost its impact over the years, but essentially, it means a sacred contract. God’s part of the covenant is His promise of His presence with His people. In the Old Testament, the covenant is based on “law.”
Even though the laws found in today’s reading seem reasonable, we know that they are impossible to obey perfectly. The purpose of God’s law is to set the standard for holiness. Because of sin, this standard can never be reached. But that’s where Jesus fits into the picture. He bridges the gap between God’s holy standard and our imperfection.
We see Jesus telling a parable in Matthew 20 to describe His Kingdom. This parable emphasizes God’s generosity as each worker receives more than he deserves… but it also reveals that entrance into the Kingdom is not earned, but rather, it is a gift.
Just think about the generosity of God from what we have read so far…
When Adam and Eve broke covenant with God, God’s rescue plan was set into motion…. A Savior would come through a people that He would set apart as His own. God preserved Noah, called Abraham and restated His covenant promise to Isaac and to Jacob. He used Joseph to bring His people to Egypt and after 400 years, God did not forget his promises – but rescued His people from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. And now they stand before Mt. Sinai where they see lightning and smoke and they tremble with fear (19:16-19) at this AWESOME God that for some reason has chosen them.
And as God gave the covenant law, He knew that… just like Adam and Eve, they will break covenant. But his rescue plan will not fail. The promised Savior will come. And Jesus will usher in a New Covenant. A covenant based on grace instead of law. Jesus keeps covenant for us – so that we no longer have to tremble before Mt. Sinai but we worship before Mt. Zion!
For you have not come to …a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. …Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, …and to God, the judge of all, …and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:18-24).
Does this make the law meaningless to us?? By no means! The law reveals God’s holy character, and God’s Spirit writes the law on our hearts. Jesus fulfills all of the requirements of the Old Covenant so that we might be heirs of the new covenant of GRACE! That’s good news. That’s the gospel :-)
***Outline taken from ESV Study Bible notes