Exodus 19-20: Eagles’ Wings
February 7, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
And so they come to Mount Sinai (19:1-2). They have been “born on eagles’ wings” out of Egypt (19:4). They are a rescued people, a redeemed people, set apart for God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (19:5-6). And now they are going to hear from God how he wants them to obey him (19:7-8).
The pattern is clear throughout Scripture: first rescue, then obedience, grace leading to and empowering works. The legalist reverses this pattern and attempts to earn God’s favor by the Law. But the Law was given after God had rescued his people to teach them what it meant to follow him as redeemed people.
That said, this grace is no cheap grace but is shrouded in awe and fear. God is awesome, in that much over-used rendition of the word, but in this case truly so. They cannot even touch the mountain, nor approach it, so holy is he (19:12-13). Moses speaks and God answers in thunder (19:19). Any who were there at that time would never have forgotten this moment.
God gives them the famous Ten Commandments (20:1-17), which also begin with rescue: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2). And now, therefore, God’s people are to obey him. The first half of the commandments is summarized by Jesus as loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). The second half is summarized as loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).
The Law is love for God first, above all—not making idols, not worshipping any other God. And then love for neighbor—not stealing, lying, committing adultery, or harboring jealousy or envy in our hearts. That commandment (“do not covet,” 20:17) was the one that Paul realized undid him as a self-righteous Pharisee (Romans 7:7), and these commandments are interpreted by Jesus, in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, as rightly meaning not merely external conformity but the intention of the heart. We may not have physically murdered someone, but there are many people we have wished were dead, or been angry with, and the same with adultery of the heart (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28).
By this standard we are all undone. Who can keep this Law? None, no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10), yet by the Spirit of Christ within us we can begin to fulfill the Law, to follow its precepts, and be more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ who alone perfectly kept God’s Law.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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