The Law – A Sacred Trust, A Holy Calling
The Law – A Reflection of God’s Holy character.
And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.
– Exodus 19:3-8
From Egypt, God led the Hebrew people to a mountain in a desert called Sinai. It was here God said that if the Hebrew people obeyed Him, then they would be blessed as His treasured possession, and they would represent Him to all the nations of the earth. The people said they would do whatever God asked. And so it was, with lightning and thunder, and smoke and fire, God descended upon the mountain. And Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. On tablets of stone, God wrote laws by which to live and be blessed. He gave them to Moses to give to the Hebrew people. It was a sacred trust, a holy calling. For these laws were the ways of God.
– The HOPE, Chapter 7
Observe & Consider
What an honor! What a responsibility! Through trials and miraculous triumphs, the Hebrew people had been set apart from all the nations of the earth to enter into a covenant with God. This covenant was centered around the Law that God gave to the Hebrew people through Moses on Mount Sinai. Known as the Ten Commandments, this Law is recorded for us in Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In this covenant, God promised that if the Hebrew people obeyed His Law, then they would become His people and He would bless them. If they disobeyed His Law, then He would punish them.
The blessings and curses associated with this covenant are detailed in Deuteronomy 28. While this covenant is primarily defined in terms of the Hebrew people and their relationship to God, the ultimate significance of this covenant extends to the entire world. In the Exodus 19 passage quoted above, God promises that if the Hebrew people obey Him, then they will be to Him “a kingdom of priests.” Basically, a priest is an intermediary between God and man. A priest leads people to God and is God’s representative to people.
The Law represented the ways and the will of God for man. As the Hebrew people obeyed the Law, they represented the will and ways of God to the world around them. And as they faithfully represented God by obeying His Law, God promised to bless them so that the world would know what God is like! Simply put, God’s covenant is not only about the Hebrew people being blessed, it is about the world seeing God through the faithfulness of His people.
If you remember our study of God’s covenant with Abraham in Lesson 31, you may be wondering how what we are studying today is actually a covenant. In the lesson on Abraham, we defined a covenant as an unconditional, irrevocable promise from God. In the covenant we are considering today, the Hebrew people are promised blessing “if” they obey. Their blessing is not unconditional. It is based upon their obedience. Yet this is still a covenant because no matter how many times the Hebrew people may fall short of God’s Law, they will always be blessed when they return to God and obey. God will never reach the point that He “writes them off.” In this sense we could say that the covenant is the unconditional, irrevocable promise of God to bless the Hebrew people if they obey and to punish them if they disobey – but never to disown or abandon them!
Ask & Reflect
- If you read the Biblical narrative carefully, you will see that the Hebrew people agreed to enter into the covenant with God (Exodus 19:8) before they had received the Law (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21). In other words, they committed to do whatever God asked before they actually knew what He was going to ask. Why do you think they would do this?
- Would you be willing to commit to whatever God might ask of you before you knew what that might be? Why or why not?
- The New Testament teaches that everyone who trusts in and follows the God of the Bible is a priest (1 Peter 2:9) and an ambassador (Ephesians 6:20) of God. Like the Law given to the Hebrew people, this calling is a sacred trust. Are you ready for this trust? Explain.
Decide & Do
The Hebrew people were quick to accept God’s offer to enter into a covenant with Him, but they had a very clear picture of God. Not only had God delivered them from Egypt, but in the days after that miracle, they had seen additional miracles as they journeyed through an unfamiliar land:
- Exodus 13:21 – God led them in a pillar of fire by night and in a cloud by day.
- Exodus 16:13-15 – God provided a daily portion of a bread–like food called manna.
- Exodus 17:6 – God provided water from a rock.
- Exodus 17:9-13 – God gave them favor to conquer an army.
God proved Himself again and again to the Hebrew people. He proved Himself to be God, and He proved Himself to be good! As a result, they were ready to say yes to God, no matter what He asked.
We too can know about the miracles of God and become familiar with His provision and promises by studying His Word, the Bible. The Bible is the very picture of God that He wants us to see! It records everything the Hebrew people experienced ...and so much more! If you want to see God in action, then become a student of His Word.
For Further Study
- Covenant in the Bible. (Preceptaustin, 2006). (http://www.preceptaustin.org/covenant_in_the_bible.htm). Retrieved October 18, 2006. This site provides in Table form a summary of the foundational biblical truths of various Biblical Covenants.
- John Piper, Why the Law Was Given, A Sermon Given November 15, 1981. (© Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByTopic/11/320_Why_the_Law_Was_Given/). Retrieved October 18, 2006.
- Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn, Meet the Bible: A Panorama of God’s Word in 366 Daily Readings and Reflections (Zondervan, 2000).
- The Bible Gateway, A Searchable Online Bible. (http://www.biblegateway.com). Retrieved October 17, 2006. The Bible Gateway is a tool for reading and researching scripture online –– all in the language or translation of your choice! It provides advanced searching capabilities, which allow readers to find and compare particular passages in scripture based on keywords, phrases, or scripture reference.