Sometimes, when I hear the cheesy and ultra-romantic things couples say to each other, whether in a TV show or in a movie or on Instagram, I cringe. Because a) I can’t imagine ever speaking like that to someone or even allowing someone to speak like that to me and b) I worry that inevitably, over time, the couple’s great dreams, plans, and hopes for their relationship will eventually dry up and all that will be left are memories of how passionate their love used to be. I know, Debbie Downer, right? I can’t help it!
I have some of the same feelings reading this chapter of Exodus, because in a way, this chapter is just as romantic as one of those passionate #mcm posts. God is still giving His laws and commands to the Israelites through Moses, who has gone up to Mount Sinai to talk with Him. This chapter, He spends time talking about justice and mercy, fair court systems, unbiased rulings, and treatment of foreigners (I feel like some of our country’s leaders need to give this chapter a read). He reiterates the importance and holiness of the Sabbath. He explains three annual festivals He’d like the Israelites to keep in remembrance and worship of Him.
Finally, after several verses of telling His people what to do for Him, He goes in explaining to them what He wants to do for them. It’s like God is lying next to Israel on the grass, cuddling them as He stares at the sky and expresses His wildest dreams for them and for His relationship with them. It’s beautiful. It’s romantic. But will this love last?
The Treasures Within:
From verses 20-33, God speaks pure poetry, describing His plans for His beloved. In verse 22, He begins with “if you (the Israelites) listen carefully to what he (God’s messenger) says and do all that I say, I will…”. Amazing promises ensue. But what about this first part? Isn’t faith and relationship with God supposed to be simple? We’re such small, sinful people that the things we do for God aren’t going to make Him love us or even make Him bless us, right? Isn’t the idea that serving God well translates to getting blessings from Him the exact opposite of a loving relationship?
God can’t lie. Later on, especially in the New Testament, God will explain through His prophets that the good things we do don’t translate to salvation or relationship. God’s not a vending machine. But think about love in its human forms. You could do random things for someone all day long – compliment them, wash their car, work their shift at work – but it won’t automatically mean you will get married to that person, or even just become friends! You’re just performing various tasks. But show me a married couple or two BFFs who never give each other gifts or help each other out or do anything with each other, and I’ll show you a failed relationship. Actions do not produce love, but love produces actions. Love is an active thing. That’s what God is asking of the Israelites: simple, true, active Love.
If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times – the relationship that God is describing in this chapter, the relationship He wants with His children the Israelites, is beautiful. Both halves of this chapter describe people who are totally and completely consumed with someone else. For obedience to and worship of God to spill over even into a nation’s justice system, it must be real. When you love God so much that you love and respect His children, even the ones who hate you (verse 5), you are deeply in love. When time and money is regularly set aside for God’s people to lose themselves in worship and praise (verses 14-16), it is a sign of true love. And when God promised to give the Israelites acres and acres of land, when He declared that He would lovingly heal them of all sickness and disease and give them long lives (verses 25-26), when He assured them that the people who hate them would not defeat them, it was because He was wildly and desperately and deeply in love. He promised to devote Himself to the Israelites if they devoted themselves to Him. God and the Israelites were like two crazy lovers, staring in each other’s eyes, gazing at all the potential and hope they saw in each other. TV and movies lie, but this couple was for real.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am that legendary Love you have been searching for.” No love, no passion, no hobby, no dream, no human connection will ever come close to the supernatural romance God has waiting for you. It sounds crazy, to passionately love Someone you have never seen. It sounds hard, to love Someone you can’t fully understand. But crazy doesn’t mean impossible, and hard doesn’t mean bittersweet. Part of the reason we have the love story between the Israelites and the Almighty God spread out and described in detail for us is so that we can know that this love is still possible today. This kind of connection, this deep trust, this all-consuming devotion can fill our lives today, right now. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So shoot your shot. God has been waiting.
What do you think? Where in your life could you pull God closer? What did God want you to get out of this chapter of the Bible?
There Are Always Questions:
- There are miscellaneous commands towards the end of the first half of this chapter. For example, in verse 19, after describing some of the worship festivals He’d like them to throw for Him, God reminds His people that they shouldn’t “cook a young goat in its mother’s milk”. Ummm, why? And why is this law here of all places?