|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from the Law of Moses|
Meditation No. 1
Meditation Title: Introducing the Law
Ex 20:1,2 And God spoke all these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
In a previous series we looked at the life of Israel to see what we could learn from their relationship with the Lord. In this series we focus purely on the Law of Moses, that Law given by God at Mount Sinai after Israel had left Egypt . Now before we start looking at the individual laws, it is important to focus on the context and see when and how these laws came. Chapter 20 of Exodus is the first writing in the Bible that records parts of the Law, and it comes in a particular historical context. As we have just noted and as our two verses today say, they come witin a couple of months of Israel having being delivered out of Egypt. They are on their way to the Promised Land but the Lord has brought them to Mount Sinai where they have this time of major encounter with Him.
When considering the Law, it is important to note that God, before He starts declaring what we call the Ten Commandments, emphasizes who He is and what he has just done. “I am the I AM (the Eternal One), your God,” is how He starts. He is reminding them of relationship. It is very tenuous at this state, very embryonic, but these laws are coming in the context of relationship with God. Now this is very important because the first of the Ten Commandments are all about that relationship, and people tend to forget that. Abraham had realised that God was the Creator: “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen 14:22) and this would have been conveyed to subsequent generations, but now God is referring to Himself (and we see it throughout the Old Testament) as “the I AM”, the Eternal One or the Ever-Present One. These Laws come from the One who is creator of all things, the eternal One, and who, therefore, will know better than anyone else how we ‘work' best.
There is also another point that needs facing when we think about the Law. Sinful man doesn't like rules; sinful man doesn't like the thought that there is Someone who knows best about how we should live, and so sinful man sees God's rules as restrictive. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters.” (Psa 2:2,3) That is how self-centred, godless, sinful man views God's laws – as chains and fetters that limit him (or her).
Nicky Gumbel of Alpha fame, used to tell the story of the time when he went along with his son to a boys' football match. The referee hadn't turned up and Nicky was asked by the boys to referee. He didn't know all the rules and so very soon the match degenerated into a shambles with lots of fighting and arguing going on. After a while the proper referee turned up and took over and immediately order was restored and the boys started enjoying the game. Rules were there to bring order and it was only within that order could they enjoy the game of football. Life is like that. The ‘rules' are simply God's way of communicating to us how He has designed us to work and play best. They bring order and security to life and when we disregard them (as we see happening in modern Western society) then chaos ensues and hurt and pain increase. No, God has just delivered this people from slavery and He's not giving them rules to create a new form of slavery. These rules bring a freedom, just like the rules of the football match bring a freedom to play and to enjoy the match. Sinful man doesn't see it like that, but hopefully we'll be able to see it again and again through these meditations.
Forty years later, just before Israel entered the Land eventually, Moses reminded Israel what had happened and we find his reminders and his instructions in the book of Deuteronomy. He reminded them, “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” (Deut 4:11-13).
One thing about Deuteronomy is that sometimes it does appear repetitious, because Moses knew that his people needed to hear it again and again if they were to take it in, so a little later we find him saying it again: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD , because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt , out of the land of slavery.” (Deut 5:2-6).
In chapter 4 he referred to the Ten Commandments as the basis of the covenant, and the Lord gave them to Israel on two tablets of stone. In chapter 5 he refers more widely to the covenant because the Law consisted of considerably more than just the Ten Commandments; they also included many more laws which the Lord spoke directly to Moses and which Moses wrote down. In these meditations we're going to see all of these laws and see how they aren't anything strange, but are simply rules to bring order to their lives together and as an expression of their relationship with the Lord. Are we as Christians today bound by them? No (for reasons we'll note as we go along), but we would do well to study them to learn from the wisdom of God. We hope you will find these meditations both enjoyable and informative, and so helpful to your understanding of the Lord and His purposes for the human race.