ALIVE TO GOD
I praise you Lord, for your extravagant hospitality toward me today and every day.
Read EXODUS 34:18–35
18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
22 “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.[a] 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.
25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 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.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
The Radiant Face of Moses
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
- Exodus 34:22 That is, in the autumn
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Legalistic remorse says, “I broke God’s rules”, while real repentance says, “I broke God’s heart.”’1
This passage has two distinct sections: a description of God’s commands (vs 18–26) and a description of the interaction between God, Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites (vs 27–35). I shall reflect on them in reverse order.
Was Moses worried as he descended Mount Sinai with the duplicate ‘tablets of the covenant law’ (v 29)? Would he find that Aaron had let the people run wild… again? If so, would God forgive their sins… again? Fortunately, the Israelites seem to have learned their lesson, even though Moses seems to know they will fail… again (v 9). The difference-maker this time is that the people have an awareness of God’s presence; they see evidence in the face of Moses (vs 29–35). There’s a lesson for us in this. If we allow our Christian faith to become primarily defined by a list of rules, we are more likely to fail, because the Israelites aren’t the only stiff-necked people in the world! However, if we focus on God’s presence with us and on cultivating a daily relationship with him, we are more able to live as he wants us to. We see an example in marriage: the reason I ‘walk the line’ is not just because there’s a set of rules. It’s because I love my wife and want to be with her.
That’s not to say we can abandon all rules – see the representative summary (vs 18–26) of the list God gave previously. It is because humans are stiff-necked and because we have an enemy prowling around to take advantage of us2 that we need God’s commands. Some think they limit our ability to be happy, but the reverse is true: they guide us toward a life that is alive to God – and that’s what we really want.3
Ask God to help you put off the things that deaden your relationship with him and put on the things that make you more alive to him.