Of all the things I hate in this world, one of the things I hate the most is working out. It’s hard, it’s sweaty, it’s painful, and I almost always get acid reflux. Yet, I do it. I once joked with someone that I only work out so that I can eat more food – for some reason, they did not find that funny, but it’s partially true! I work out to achieve balance between my food intake and to keep my body and heart healthy. Those are the rewards that come from exercise, and who doesn’t want good things? So I do it. I have this agreement with my body, and so far, it’s (mostly) turning out pretty nicely.
An agreement was made in this week’s chapter of the Bible, too, only it wasn’t between someone and their body. It was between God and His people. After the Golden Calf Fiasco, Moses is back in the mountain talking with God and writing down His words. God makes a covenant with the Israelites. He reiterates a few laws He’d mentioned before – the Ten Commandments, keeping the Sabbath, keeping the festivals, redeeming their children and animals.
There was another thing God made sure to mention in His covenant, and that was how the Israelites were to treat the nations surrounding them. He wanted them to stay away from them at all costs. He didn’t want any link between the idol-worshipers and His own people, whether it was something innocuous like marriage or something dry and political like a treaty (verses 15, 16). This was such a big deal to God that He said it twice (verses 12, 15). These were God’s terms. In faith and obedience, Moses signed on the dotted line. Would the Israelites hold up their end of the covenant?
The Treasures Within:
Following God 101
Arguably, a portion of Exodus, most of Leviticus and Numbers, and like all of Deuteronomy are devoted to the commands God has for His people – the commands that must be obeyed in order to be one of God’s followers – yet God in this chapter still decides to distill them down to just a few. One of the most prominent commands is to stay away from the people around them. Lest God sound like a psychopathic boyfriend of some sort, He explains.
There were tons of people groups in the land the Israelites were heading to inhabit, and literally none of them worshiped the true God. They all worshiped idols. They had holy stones, holy poles, and holy sacrifices (verse 15). They were just like the Israelites, only they didn’t believe in the same God. Mostly harmless, right? I mean, some of us would date people like the Canaanites and Amorites, but God shut that down before it could begin (verse 16). And He did so because He knew that those people would take the hands of His people, and lead them to worship the exact same false gods, and fall down in front of the same false idols. He knew that would be the end of the Israelites, so He warned them. He wanted to protect them.
This protection came in the form of His laws and commandments. The Israelite men, women, boys and girls didn’t go about their daily chores on the Sabbath, and they came together to celebrate God’s festivals, and they sacrificed their animals to their God. They did all this to stay safe. By pressing in close to God and listening to Him and obeying Him, they protected themselves from the tempting, evil rituals of the other faiths around them.
And what about us? The laws, the commandments…does it all start to get too much sometimes? Are we not all that into the rules God gave us? Do we joke about all the things God has asked of us that we don’t actually do? Is “I don’t know about all that” a common phrase we pull out when confronted with something that’s supposedly in the Bible? Do we compromise? Do we give a little here and allow ourselves a little there, because after all, God knows our hearts and it’s not that big of a deal? If that’s true, then we are in danger. The danger that God warned the Israelites about is just as real today. God aims to protect us now in the same way He did then – with His commandments. Obeying Him completely and totally is how we show the nations around us who we are. If we don’t, then we’re trapped in their snare, just like God warned.
Come Get Your Reward
So we obey God, we stay safe, right? A good deal – but that’s not all. Moses’s experience with God this chapter wasn’t just about the covenant. Moses actually saw God. His eyes fell upon our Creator, the most powerful Being alive, the Source of all wisdom, the Originator of true love – Moses saw Him. He passed in front of Moses, all the while proclaiming just who He was: Compassionate. Gracious. Patient. Overflowing with love. Just. His Majesty came face to face with little ol’ Moses, and when Moses emerged from that experience, it showed. It showed all over him, so much so that Moses had to cover his face.
This story, this image of God passing before a man, of a man literally illuminated with the glory of God – it doesn’t sound feasible, possible, or even legitimate to us. And it’s because we’re not there yet. I’m not there yet. We fill our lives with compromises, with halfway sins and limp 15-minute attempts at daily devotions. No wonder we don’t have the experience Moses does – we aren’t following God. Yet all the while God is calling. This is what is possible! That joy! That closeness! Yet why do we stay so far away? God wants us to come get our reward – the privilege of His presence – and it is possible if and only if we faithfully obey Him.
God’s Message To Us:
“You are safe in My arms.” It’s hard out here on these streets – no, like, it seriously is. We are constantly under attack. Depression, disease, death, insecurity, abuse, failure, and fear are just a few of the monsters and demons we have to fight daily. That stuff, all that icky stuff – that’s the reward of worshiping the idols of the nations around us: the idols of self, food, pleasure, fame, money, and their buddies. Believe me when I say that is the very last thing God wants for you. He hates to see you suffer. He mourns to see you go through what you do. He is dying – in fact, He did die – to keep you safe. To protect you. But we can only be safe and escape the danger of the monsters of this world when we are wrapped up in Jesus, loving Him, serving Him, and obeying Him. That is the ticket. That’s how we get out of here. That’s the key to happiness and the meaning of life. The rewards are rich, the promises bountiful, and the catch? There is none. What are you waiting for? Shoot, what am I waiting for? Let’s go bask in what God is giving us.
What do you think? What stood out to you from the covenant God described in this chapter? What message did God want you to get from this portion of His Word?
There Are Always Questions:
- Moses spent time with God and was filled with Him and His glory so much that his face shone. He came back down the mountain and the shine on his face was too much for the children of Israel. So he wore a veil so that they could carry on as normal. I wonder if there is any symbolism to this anecdote. Are there times when we need to shield others from the effects of God in us for their sake? What would that look like?