Summary: A sermon reflecting on the covenant God made with the nation of Israel through Moses and the Ten Commandments.
Judge Roy Moore was in the news most recently as a candidate for the U. S. Senate from Alabama. He lost to his Democratic opponent this past November, but long before that Senate race, Judge Moore became famous for his refusal to remove a plaque of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. He ultimately lost his judgeship based on that little refusal, and he’s been in and out of trouble with the legal system since. That fact notwithstanding, Judge Moore was willing to lose his seat on the bench rather than take the Ten Commandments down from the wall. What drives people to take such actions? What drives many in our culture to file lawsuits to have the Ten Commandments returned to schools? What makes the Ten Commandments so important to us?
As we continue our “Covenant” series, we turn to the Ten Commandments. I chose that passage of scripture to talk about the Mosaic Covenant, not because the Ten Commandments are the Mosaic Covenant, but because they lay at the heart of the covenant God made with Moses and the Hebrew people, and because they are the most familiar to us. Everyone knows the Ten Commandments. No, not really. Everyone knows about the Ten Commandments, even if we can’t recite them.
The Mosaic covenant, or the Covenant of the Law as it’s been called, is not a “new” covenant that God is instituting with the nation of Israel. Rather, it is an expansion of the existing covenant God made with Abraham. It is part of the broader covenant of grace and this covenant doesn’t supersede any other covenant. The Mosaic covenant builds upon each previous covenant, offering a further revelation of the nature and character of the God who calls His people.
We think of “the Law,” and we think “the Ten Commandments,” but we can’t read the Ten Commandments in a vacuum. Actually, they’re simply the first words God speaks as He renews the covenant. We have to read them in the context of Exodus 19 – 24. It’s actually in Exodus 19: 4 – 6 that God calls out to Moses and says…
‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
God tells Moses to go down and get the people ready. Takes three days to “clean ‘em up” so God can speak to them. The Ten Commandments are spoken to the entire nation. When they heard the first ten commandments, they were so afraid they cut God off. They told Moses, “Tell Him to stop! If God wants to talk to us, tell Him to do it through you.” It actually takes Moses seven trips up and down Mount Sinai to get the whole law. That which Moses received is recorded in its totality in Exodus and also in Leviticus. In all, there were 613 laws that constituted the covenant with the people through Moses. That’s a lot of laws!
So, why this covenant of Law? Why was it necessary for God to further reveal Himself in this way? First, let me share that each of God’s covenants were revealed at a time of crisis or change. With Noah and creation, it was the change that occurred after the flood. With Abraham, it was after he left Ur of the Chaldeans, and here, with the nation, it was after their deliverance from Egypt.
So, here’s another crisis moment in the life of the nation of Israel. For two months they’ve wandered around the wilderness before reaching the edge of Mount Sinai. God is ready to make them into a nation, a holy nation, a separate nation. The commands that God offered there on the mountain dealt with relationships—the nation’s with God, and their relationship with each other. The first was the most significant—the vertical relationship between the nation and God.
• I’m the Lord your God.
• Have no other God’s before me.
• Don’t make any images of me.
• Remember the Sabbath.
Remember, the nations surrounding Israel in the wilderness, and the Egyptian culture from which they were delivered, were haunted by the unpredictability of their many gods. What would appease one god would likely upset another, and the people had no idea what would anger or appease them. Because God gave the Law, Israel would know exactly what God expected in their relationship with Him. The Law established a basis for trust and security in their relationship with God.