An Eye for an Eye – Justice and Mercy – Exodus 21:12-36

In our text the Lord elaborates further on His law and covenant which He had given to the people of Israel. In the sixth commandment the Lord commanded Israel, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13). Here in chapter 21:12-14 the Lord gives Israel regulations to apply the commandment to specific cases or situations. We find that not every case warrants the same punishment, as our just Judge decrees that His people and nation are to administer different punishments depending on the details of the crime, both in the wilderness and as they enter the land. In the first of three types of crimes in our text, we see the intentional killing of one made in God’s image is a capital offense, punishable by death. But if the killing was unintentional, the Lord would appoint a place of refuge. In verses 15 and 17, the Lord elaborates on the fifth commandment, “You shall honor your father and mother” (Ex 20:12): “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” Honoring God also entails honoring those He put in authority over us in this life, namely our father and mother.

After this, the Lord addresses personal injury in verses 18-27. Some acts of violence against others do not lead to death. It is from this section we find the well-known verse:But if there is harm then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Jesus quoted this text in Matt 5:38-39. Lastly in verses 28-36, the Lord addresses criminal negligence, which deals mainly with animals.

These laws deal with justice and are based on the Lord’s righteousness. But we also see the Lord’s mercy in our text. Israel was not to be as the nations around them, but to be a people set apart for His purpose as displayed in His law. They were to be just when justice was called for, and to show mercy when mercy was called for. While we are not the people of Israel, or under the Law as they were, these verses have much to teach us about the Lord and His righteousness. There’s much wisdom to learn from this text and from what the New Testament has to say about these things.

 

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The Book of the Covenant – Exodus 21:1-11

In Exodus so far, we’ve seen Israel in bondage under Egypt. We’ve seen Moses raised up by the Lord to be His mediator between Himself and the people. The Lord rescued Israel from their bondage and brought them to Mt. Sinai, where He spoke with them audibly and gave His Law to the nation as a whole in preparation for moving into the promised land. In our text this Sunday the Lord expands His Law to their everyday lives. In this section, and on to Exodus 23:33, the Lord explains how the Ten Commandments are to be applied in a case-by-case manner. Some refer to this section as “case laws.” In the first, the Lord addresses how Israelites are to treat their slaves or servants.

Today when we hear the word slave we immediately think of the early days of the USA. Slavery was wicked and cruel in our history as a nation. But that’s not how the word is used in our text. Israel has just come out of bondage, being slaves in the cruelest sense, but this is not what the Lord is speaking of here at all. During this time in Israel’s history and as they enter the land, some Israelites didn’t have enough to survive on their own. Others may have been in debt and in need of money to pay the debt off. And so, Israelites under monetary burdens like these would sell their services to another. They would live with the one who helped them and serve him until their service was paid off. In our text, the Lord sets standards on how to treat those that sell their services to another.

Today this may be equivalent to a live-in servant who serves for room and board plus a small payment. Or it may possibly be similar to one who joins the military for a four-year enlistment. The Army agrees to house, train, and care for you with pay. For all intents and purposes, for those years you belong to the Army until your contract is finished!

The Lord tells Israel they are to treat their fellow Israelites with kindness. Also, they are to be set free after six years of service.

The Lord has treated Israel well and they are to treat their neighbors well, as we’ll see in our text. Jesus summed up the commandments in Mark 12:30-31: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Altar, Sacrifice, and Worship – Exodus 20:18-26

Previously we have witnessed one of the most epic scenes in the Old Testament in Exodus 19:1–20:17. The Lord displayed his awesome presence to the people at Mt Sinai. He also spoke to them from the mountain in what we know as the Ten Commandments. Israel’s reaction was to tremble! They told Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Verse 21 concludes, “So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.”

In our text in Exodus chapter 20 verses 18-26, the Lord continues to speak with Moses upon the mountain. First, the Lord essentially reiterates the first two commandments concerning having no others gods and making no idols. While we may just pass over this, we must realize that when the Lord repeats something, the people of Israel (and we today) need to pay close attention! Secondly, the Lord continues with instructions for altars, sacrifice, and worship in verses 24-26. The Lord sets guidelines for making altars. While we have seen sacrifice and worship throughout Genesis and Exodus, this is the first time we read a set of rules for making an altar. Back in that time, pagan altars were quite elaborate. But God is very clear that this altar was not to demonstrate the craft of man. Whether it was to be an altar of earth or stone, it was to be constructed simply, thus directing attention to God and not to the work of man’s hand. Also in these verses we find the Lord giving guidelines for sacrifice and worship. He directs Moses to two types of sacrifices upon the altar, burnt offerings and peace offerings. In His mercy, right after giving the Law, which the Lord knows they will break, God makes a way for the people to atone for their sins.

On Sunday we will look at altars, sacrifice, and worship in the Old Testament, but we will also look at these things from a New Testament perspective and see how they even apply to our corporate worship today. It is wonderful to see how revelation progresses in Scripture from the Old to the New Testaments. We have seen it before most strikingly in the Passover in Exodus 12, and we will see it again in our text and beyond as we move forward through Exodus.

Exodus 20:1-17 – The Ten Commandments of God to Israel

In His glorious covenant with Abraham, the Lord promised that He would make Abraham a blessing to many nations (Genesis 12) and also that Abraham would: a) have an heir, b) his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and c) they would inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 15). Today in hindsight and with the progressive nature of revelation, we can see how all of these promises have come to pass, but the fulfillment was not as evident at the time Moses wrote Exodus. Abraham had an heir and his descendants were many, but they were bound in slavery in Egypt. The Lord miraculously set them free from their bondage and is bringing them into the Promised Land. On this journey they are called to the very mountain on which the Lord spoke to Moses in chapter 3. In what is truly an epic event within Exodus and all of the Old Testament, the Lord will again speak; this time not only to Moses, but to all the people of Israel. In our text and the verses that follow, God gives what is known as the Mosaic Law. It is a covenant that God made with Israel.

We’ll open up our text with first looking at the giver of the Law who is none other than Yahweh! Then in verses 3-17 we will see how the Law reveals certain attributes of the Lord Himself! Finally we will find Israel’s reply after receiving the law. Israel already answered Moses and said, “All that the Lord commands we will do” (Exodus 19:8) and will affirm this again in Exodus 24:3. But of course, they could not keep their word.

Why could Israel not do as they said they would? Was there a problem with the Law? No; it was with the people’s heart. They needed the Law written afresh on their hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6-8). They needed to be born again! Their failure to keep the Law points the Israelites to their sinful hearts and their need to repent and trust in the Lord. The Law also points to the sinless One who would come and fulfill the Law completely. So, the Law points forward to Jesus Christ! (See Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 4:15; and 1 John 3:5). We will close the message looking at the many tests in the New Testament about the Law and its function in the life of the believer in Christ.

 

 

 

The Aweful and Powerful Presence of the Lord – Exodus 19:16-25

From the Lord hearing the cries of His people in bondage, to Moses’ call on Mount Sinai, everything that has been spoken in the book of Exodus leads to our text in chapter 19:16-25. The Lord declared that Israel would worship Him on the very mountain where God had spoken to Moses in chapter 3. Israel has been brought to the mountain of God and has been there three days. They have been set apart for these three days to prepare to meet the Lord. Our text opens with the Lord’s presence displayed on the mountain. 16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

As the Lord descends upon the mountain, the natural is supernaturally transformed. Can we imagine what it would have been like to witness this powerful and aweful presence of the Lord on this third day on Mount Sinai? The skies begin to come alive with thunders and lightnings! A thick cloud envelops the mountain! The sound of the trumpet blows and gets louder and louder! The scene is described further in verse 18 as the mountain is likened to a great furnace with smoke billowing about as the mountain itself trembles! The Lord’s holy presence is seen by Israel as a nation, and they tremble in fear. Israel witnesses firsthand what Isaiah saw in a vision. Like Isaiah, Israel feared at the sight, and even Moses trembled as we discover in Hebrews 12. Praise the Lord, by Jesus’ sacrifice Hebrews tells us we have nothing to fear. Hebrews 12:22 contrasts what Israel witnessed and what we partake in as believers – But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. So, brethren, prepare to come to the mountain of God in Exodus 19:16-25 as we also witness, via His Word, the sights and sounds of the Holy One of Israel descending upon Mount Sinai.

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare to Meet the Lord – Exodus 19:9-15

The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” (Exodus 19:9-15)

The people of Israel are about to meet their God on Mount Zion. He instructs Israel on what they need to do and how they are to prepare for this event. They are to prepare to meet and hear from the Lord face to face. In three days time the Lord’s glory will be manifested on the mountain before their eyes. Please meditate on our text in Exodus 19:9-15 this week. Are you prepared to meet the Lord of all, the King of kings, the one who was, and is, and is to come? It’s a sobering thought to think the very next moment in our lives could be the last moment here in on earth and our lives in the present. The Israelites are about to meet their God, and at any moment we are all about to meet Him also. May you and I be ready for that great and awesome day.

A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation – Exodus 19:1-8

In Exodus 2 the Lord heard the groanings of His people and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While Moses was in the wilderness, he had an encounter with the Lord on the Mountain of God. There the Lord told Moses He would deliver the people from Egypt and promised Moses, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain(3:12). The Lord foretold this and it’s coming to pass in our text in chapter 19.

The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now He makes a covenant with all of the people of Israel as a nation. This is what we call the Old Covenant or the Law of Moses. Chapter 19 begins as Israel is camped at the base of the mountain of God, or Mount Sinai. We are treading on holy ground as we enter our text. All Scripture is God-breathed, but some texts are weightier than others, and this is one of the weightiest texts in Exodus and possibly all of the Old Testament. May we approach our text on bended knee as we marvel at the awesomeness and power of the Lord.

At such an important moment Moses records the very day they arrived at the mountain, in the third month. Moses, the Lord’s mediator, goes up the mountain in verse 4, and God speaks to him. First, the Lord, Yahweh, identifies that He is the one speaking. Second, the Lord reminds Israel of what He had done for them. He destroyed their enemies and brought them here as an eagle cares for her young. But third, the Lord adds a condition, sometimes referred to as a conditional covenant. The Lord says, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The people reply, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

This is a continuation of the covenant the Lord had made with Abraham. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that Israel failed to keep the Mosaic covenant. This covenant will show Israel they can never keep the Law fully, and it will drive many to the Lord for salvation, as evidence of the Lord’s faithfulness to His covenant and to His elect.