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Mount Sinai: The LORD Gives His Law to His People

 

Scripture Readings: Exodus 24:1-18 (text); Hebrews 9:11-22

November 30, 2014, 7:45-8:00 AM • KSYC 103.9FM (Yreka, CA)

On Christmas Day, December 25, Hollywood will release yet another movie, entitled “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” Like all Hollywood movies about Bible stories, including “Noah,” “Son of God,” and “The Passion of the Christ,” this movie will be the unbelievers’ and cynics’ version of a Biblical story.

"Mount Sinai" by El Greco, 1570-72 (click image to enlarge)

“Mount Sinai” by El Greco, 1570-72 (click image to enlarge)

Ridley Scott, producer of “Exodus,” speculates that two earthquakes and two tsunamis on opposite ends of the sea, parted the waters. Christian Bale, a big, strong 39-year-old who plays the role of a meek 80-year-old Moses, says that Moses is “likely schizophrenic” and very “barbaric.” I’m sure that like all Hollywood movies, there will be lots of myths and legends added to the movie that are not in the Bible, such as a prophecy that the baby Moses will be Israel’s future general, and a real war between helpless slaves and the most powerful army in the world. Obviously, Hollywood is out not only to make millions, but also to ridicule and discredit the Christian religion and its final authority, the Holy Bible. No Christian should waste his precious time and money on this rubbish.

Today, we will briefly look at what the Bible says regarding some things about the Exodus and Mount Sinai, the third in our series on Biblical mountains. But this story goes back all the way to Abraham and Isaac, whom we looked at last week. When God revealed his promises of multitudes of descendants and a land for them, God also prophesied that his descendants “will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen 15:13-14). These prophecies were fulfilled when during a great famine in Canaan, Abraham’s grandson Jacob and all 70 people of his household went down to Egypt. Jacob’s family ended up staying in Egypt for good, and in 400 years, Abraham’s descendants became a multitude of families and children. So the Egyptians made them slaves and oppressed them, for fear that these people would gain power in their own kingdom.

To fulfill his promise to bring judgment against their Egyptian masters, and to bring Abraham’s children out of Egypt, God raised a Hebrew-Egyptian, Moses, who would go to Pharaoh and tell him, “The LORD says to you, ‘Let my people go!’” In fact, God wanted Pharaoh to let the Israelites be free so they can “worship God on this mountain” (Exod 3:12). “This mountain” is actually Mount Sinai. After the people arrived at Mount Sinai 50 days after escaping Egypt, God repeated his promise to Abraham that his people “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” (Exod 19:5-6).

At this first worship service on Mount Sinai, God delivered his Law to the Israelites as Moses read what is called “Book of the Covenant,” the Ten Commandments and the laws he wrote in Exodus 21-23. Later, when they traveled in the wilderness on the way to the land of Canaan, God gave them many more laws and regulations. And each time, the people responded with a vow, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

What is the Law that the Israelites promised the LORD to obey? There are three kinds of Law in the Book of the Covenant. The first one is what we know as the Ten Command-ments, which remain as the guide for Christian believers in the daily conduct of their lives— their “moral” behavior. This is why it is also known as the moral law. Jesus did not abolish this part of the Law given at Mount Sinai. It remains as the revelation of God’s will for all people. He summarized these Ten Commandments into two great commandments: love for God, and love for neighbor.

The second kind of law given at Mount Sinai is what is called the ceremonial law. These are the rules and regulations in Israel’s worship of God, which include the priesthood, sacrifices, and the tabernacle. Finally, the third kind of law given to Israel is what is known as the civil law. These are the laws that were specifically given to regulate the civic life of society. Like the laws of America today, the civil law defines rules and regulations, and the just punishment against violating them.

All Christians agree that the ceremonial law is abolished because they were all fulfilled by Christ in his life, death and resurrection. He is our Great High Priest who is the Mediator between God and believers. He himself is the Sacrifice for all the sins of his people. He is also our Temple, whose body was destroyed on the cross, but who was raised from the grave on the third day.

Most Christians also agree that the civil law is abolished because it was given for a specific nation and period of time: Israel during its existence as God’s chosen people, until Christ came to fulfill the whole Law.

What about the moral law? Is it still binding to Christians? Many Christians believe that it is not, saying that now we are under grace and not under the law. That Christ is now our Law-giver, not Moses. That sinners are not saved by obedience to the Law, but by faith alone in Christ alone. To all of these, all Christians must agree.

Yes, we are under grace, because of the work of Christ on the cross. He lived a perfect righteous life all the way to his death on the cross. All the sins of God’s people were counted to him as the Substitutionary Sacrifice, so that God poured out his wrath on him. And all sinners who believe and trust in him and his finished work on the cross are not under the condemnation of the Law, but are given the perfect righteousness of Christ. This is how God justifies sinners like us who repent and believe. Our righteousness cannot ever come from our good works, because one sin condemns us to eternal hell. Only the righteousness of Christ counted to us who believe will deliver us from the curse of sin and hell.

Paul has a warning to those Christians who believe that the moral law is abolished, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2). Christians must live their daily lives guided by the Ten Commandments and all the commandments given to them in the New Testament. For example, Verses 19-21 of Galatians 5 give examples of violations of the Ten Commandments: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies.” Likewise, Verses 22-23 give examples of obedience to this Law: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle-ness, self-control.” The popular teaching today in many churches that the Ten Commandments do not apply to us anymore has led to behavior and lifestyles among Christians that are not much different from unbelievers.

The moral law is the guide for Christian living. But the moral law has another use. Paul says that the moral law exposes our slavery to sin. All human beings know they sin because God hardwired the Law into our minds. No one can tell God, “I didn’t know.” So when a person allows that he is hopeless in saving himself from his sin, the Law leads and teaches him to repent of his sin and believe in Christ as his Savior and Lord. This is why the Law is also called the “tutor” or “guardian” to Christ (Gal 3:24).

The last use of the law is that it serves to restrain sin in a civil society. Since all mankind have the Law written on their minds, we see that the second table of the Ten Command-ments are built into the laws of all civilized nations of the world. It is a crime punishable by civil laws to disobey higher authority, commit murder, adultery, theft, fraud, and perjury. Without these laws, a civil society will not be civil.

At Mount Sinai, God gave Israel the Law. At the Mount of Calvary, Jesus was crucified to fulfill the Law and give his people the good news of salvation from sin and eternal judgment.

LET US PRAY: Most Holy God, teach us your way, O Lord, and lead us on a level path. Teach us, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then we will keep them to the end. Give us understanding, and we will keep your law and obey it with all our hearts.

This week, direct us by your Word in all our journeys to and fro. Give us joy and patience in the work that you have given to us. Bless us in our happiness and pleasure. Sustain us in care, anxiety, or trouble. Protect us from dangers and evildoers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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