A. GOD BEGINS TO TEACH HIS PEOPLE HIS WAYS
In the previous study we saw how God delivered His people from the slavery of Egypt. This does however not mean that they understood the ways of God. Their first father, Abraham, had been a man that walked closely with God. But his descendants had been living in Egypt for almost 400 years. They had been living amongst people who served heathen Gods. Many of them gradually began serving both the God of Abraham and these heathen gods. It was therefore necessary for the Lord to teach them His ways and Words.
B. MOUNT SINAI.
They were now moving through the desert on their way to the land Canaan. God led them to the mountain Horeb and told them to camp there for a while. He then commanded Moses to climb up to the top of the mountain to meet with Him. There He descended onto the mountain in a huge cloud from which lightning flashed continually. This caused the mountain and surrounding area to tremble and the people became very scared.
We read from Exodus chapter 24:15-18:
“Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
C. THE TWO TABLETS CONTAINING TEN COMMANDMENTS
While Moses was with God on the mountain, He revealed to him how He wanted his people to live their daily lives and the rituals they had to perform to please Him. By their example they would reveal to all nations that He was a holy, loving and most powerful God. He selected ten of these commandments as representative of all the others, wrote them down onto two tablets of stone which He handed to Moses to take down to His people. These are the words that were written on the tablets:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
D. THE WISDOM AND CHARACTER OF GOD REVEALED
As we read these ten commandments, we cannot but admit that they were wisely compiled. When we enter into a respected man’s home, we will observe that he had made good rules for his home. He had directed that all had to respect and care for one another. He did this in order that they could live happily and peacefully together.
Likewise we can see from God’s laws that He is good and that He makes wise rules for His people. The first of these laws deals with worshipping Him. It emphasises that above all other things, God’s people had to serve and worship Him and Him only. They were not allowed to serve any other so called god. They were not allowed to make themselves an image of an animal, human being or whatever with the intent to bow down and worship it.
Secondly His people were to speak His Name with great respect. Thirdly they were to keep the seventh day sacred unto the Lord and were not allowed to work on that day. The rest of the commandments dealt with how God’s people were to treat one another. They were to honour their parents, refrain from killing another human being and not commit adultery. They were not to steal from one another, falsely accuse one another or covet the property or the wife of another. One could sum up these commandments by saying that a person was to love the Lord God wholeheartedly and love other people as he loved himself.
Truly these were wonderful laws. If only God’s people would abide by them, what a peaceful life it would have been for them.
E. GOD’S PEOPLE BREAK HIS LAW
But while Moses was with God on the mountain, receiving these great laws, the people of Israel were down below in the valley already breaking them. We read from chapter 32:1:
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
2 Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”
9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10 “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” 11 Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”
14 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. 15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. 17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.”
19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.
21 Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 “For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 24 “I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27 He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
29 Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.” 30 On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”
33 The LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.”35 Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.”
What a sad story this is. These people had seen all the miracles that God had performed against the Egyptians. They had been delivered from the slavery in Egypt. God was busy taking them to a beautiful land of their own. And yet, within 40 days after Moses left them to go up the mountain, they turned their backs upon God.
F. THE NATURE OF PRESENT DAY MANKIND
The heart of man is very corrupt. Many people that repent and give their lives to the Lord afterwards do as Israel did. God delivers them from sins like drinking, stealing, fighting, adultery, etc. They had been slaves to and the devil was their ruler. But very soon they forget how these bad things, had ruined them, crippled them, robbed them. Then they turn back to the sins from which they had repented. You find them sitting with their former worldly friends, speaking the same bad language, laughing and enjoying their dirty jokes.
In 2 Pet 2:22 God compares them to a pig being washed by his master. However, the moment he lets him go, he rushes back to the muddy pond and rolls in it with great joy.
G. THE MESSAGE TO YOU AND ME
May this not be true of you. While reading this Bible study you may have sensed that God was speaking to you. You had seen that you were a slave of the devil and you repented and gave your life to God. The Lord Jesus washed you in His Blood and cleansed you from your sins. He forgave you all you had done and is now leading you into totally a new life, a good life. You yourself as well as the people around you are seeing a big change in your life. People are beginning to respect and trust you. Good people are befriending you and inviting you into their homes.
But satan hates it that you are prospering while worshipping the one and only God. He wants you to turn back to him and so he is continually tempting you. He is telling you that the old life was better. He is filling your mind with thoughts of the sinfull life you had been living. He is sending your old bad friends to you to lure you back to Egypt. Let me warn you: there is no second deliverance from Egypt. If you turn back now, it may be forever.
So let me give you good advice: fall on your knees and plead with God to deliver you from temptation. He will strengthen your determination to follow the Him. While Jesus lived on earth He was tempted by the devil but He overcame him and caused him to flee. He now lives within you by his Holy Spirit and will strenghthen you likewise. He will give you the victory. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, study his word, spend time with him in prayer and the temptations of this world wil fade away and loose their hold on you.
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