One of my favorite stores is IKEA. The company is the world’s largest furniture retailer. It is international in its scope selling home products and assemble yourself furniture throughout the world. When you purchase a furniture item it comes in boxes with all the materials necessary, including instructions. If you follow the instructions correctly you will have fulfilled the purpose of the furniture architect. Individual parts and elements can be pieced together to a united whole and a useful vessel.
However, we all know that many of us have problems following direction. Sometimes the instructions are complex and challenging. But one thing is sure, if you disregard the instructions confusion will follow.
The Ten Commandments are God’s instruction book. At times they can be complex and challenging but if followed will fulfill a life of purpose intended by our Creator. If we disregard God and His commands it is
certain that confusion will follow.
My friends, we have entered the twilight zone. We live in a day of not just apathy but abhorrence toward God. It’s in our homes where families are split by faith (religiously ex. Catholic/Baptist; relational ex: Christian/non-Christian); It’s in our neighborhoods where it is against the law to solicit about a church or pass out a Bible; It’s in our schools where students are taught God does not exist and discouraged from praying (side note: students can pray, bring bibles, share faith!); It’s across our states & government where tolerance is trumpeted everywhere except when it comes to the Christian faith – then it becomes the hypocritical intolerance of tolerance. The Holy Trinity has been replaced by secular’s version: Tolerance, Pluralism and Diversity. There seems to be a strategic agenda to diminish and degrade the Christian faith starting with the First Amendment freedoms of Religion and Speech.
Further, there is not only an apathy/abhorrence of God in our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, our states & government, but it is also in our churches. Someone said, “Elvis left the building”, and sadly someone could say the same about our churches that “God has left the building.”
To most Christians, God is viewed as the big grandfather in the sky who isn’t a very good disciplinarian and only knows how to love – SO there’s no urgency to evangelize because God will accept everyone. OR, God is viewed as distant or detached from humanity – SO there’s no urgency to grow in my faith through worship, prayer and Bible study. The Bible (God’s Word) becomes like the fine print of a credit card or computer software – rarely read.
We need awakening. We need revival, renewal and refreshing by the presence and power of God. This is our goal in studying Exodus; to encounter God in such a personal way that, we would call out to God saying as Moses “Lord, if your presence is not with us [we do not exist]… please show me your glory” (Ex 33:15, 18) and that our encounters would cause our faces would shine brightly, and our hearts to beat warmly and our lives to reflect the grace and truth given by our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.
EXAMINE Exodus 19:16 – 20:2
How would you describe God to someone who has never heard? Where would you start? What would be your reference points? In the giving of the Ten Commandments we see God revealing Himself personally.
At this point in the context of human history God has revealed Himself often. After the Creation accounts God interacts and walks with Adam & Eve. Later He gives special grace to a man named Noah and his family. There is also the blessing and promises given to Abraham and his descendants of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. The Israelites (Jacob) have become God’s prized possession and people. God said they were “a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, (Deuteronomy 7:6-9).
Exodus 1:1-8 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
And as many remember, the Egyptian Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites. In time, the Israelites wondered if God had forgotten them and His precious promises. God calls out from a burning bush to a man named Moses who God uses to deliver the Israelites out of slavery.
After 3 months of the Exodus the Israelites were encamped before Mount Sinai. They had seen God’s spectacular displays of power in each of the plagues (Nile river into blood; frogs; gnats; flies; livestock dying; boils; hail; locusts; darkness; human death). And now they are preparing to hear from God in clear commands.
The Israelites were exiting and entering lands that were extremely confused about the nature and desires of God. What does God expect of people? The worship and sacrifice was grotesque rather than genuine. The god Baal demanded human blood and so people would cut/slice themselves to gain God’s attention (ex.1Kings 18:26-29). The Canaanite gods Asherah & Ashteroth were worshiped by perverse sexual acts. And the most horrifying is the god Molech who required the sacrifice of innocent humans (Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10-13). Even infants and children were sacrificed and burned alive on the altar of a false god. Over a decade ago, in extending the runway at the DamascusAirport, workers found a pit of burned infant bones, dating back to the time of the Canaanites. These were little skeletons (children) of bodies broken & burned.
So Israel was entering the unknown of GOD. Whereas the other nations worshiped lifeless and created God, Israel was encountering the God who Created all life.
It’s like the events in Acts 17 where missionary apostle Paul enters Athens and the people are so “religious” that they have artifacts & altars to various sorts of gods and even one altar with the inscription “To the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). Then Paul says, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (17:23-25).
And so, this God they encounter speaks in 3 ways:
God has spoken in Power (19:16-19)
The people are encamped down below the mountain where Moses hears from God. The people witness the terrifying display of divine power of booming thunder, flashing lightning, thick dark clouds and bolstering trumpet blasts. The mountain was wrapped in billowing smoke & blazing fire with rocks quaking from the top. The Bible says the people “trembled”, which indeed is an understatement. FDR said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Well, fear was in front of the Israelites! Each of these [super-]natural phenomena were displays of God’s glorious power and character.
God speaks in power. You may remember a previous message series we did last summer on God’s amazing power (VBS theme). Here were some verses we shared in those messages:
Psalm 147:5 “Great is our Lord and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You and You are the ruler of everything. In Your hand are power and might, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all.”
Amos 4:13 “He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.”
Jeremiah 32:17 “Oh Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” (cf. 10:6; 10:12; 51:15)
Exodus 14:31 “When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in Him” (cf. Deut 26:8; 1Sam 2:10; Neh 1:10; )
One of the attributes of God is omnipotence (all-powerful; sovereignty). Sometimes theologians like to pose silly questions like, ‘Can God create a rock so big that even He can’t lift?’ Philosophers have rightly noted the invalidity of such questions. There is nothing too difficult for the Lord (Gen 18:14; Jer 32:27; Mat 19:26; Lk 1:27). He is the Almighty. God is able to do all the He pleases (Ps 115:3).
ð Viewing God’s power should result in fear & faith. Fear in that we properly view & reverence God for who He is. Faith in that we draw near to Him by His grace.
ð God’s power to the Israelites was for the Israelites.
One of the most amazing and awesome considerations of God is that He is infinite but also intimate. His power is available to us. Jesus, who has all authority/power (Mat 28:19), shares this power with believers (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).
à What are you going through right now that needs God’s power? Remind yourself:
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
Ephesians 3:20 “God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us”
— God is able to do anything but never acts inconsistent with His character. The use of His power is always according to His plan & purposes and is qualified by His other attributes, like wisdom, goodness, love, peace, etc.
God has spoken in Purity (19:20-23)
Moses is called to be the mediator between God and the Israelites. The Lord speaks to Moses and then Moses speaks to the people; and vice versa. Earlier in this chapter we see God telling Moses to tell the people & priests to consecrate (prepare/sanctify) themselves and even to wash their garments. The people are warned not to go up the mountain, as only Moses was allowed. The idea is that no one enters God’s presence casually.
Even afterwards of giving the Ten Commandments, the people tremble at God’s power and holiness that they realize the gulf between them and God. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).
We see in numerous biblical passages that when people encounter God, one of the grand takeaways is a sense of God’s holiness. God and all His glory is too much for human flesh. He is beyond us. Our sin is a flagrant foul and an open offense against God. And yet, there is a mediator. God is gracious. In this case Moses speaks between God and the people. Moses says, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin” (20:20).
ð How do you approach God?
This is crucial as we have explored the surrounding nations of the Israelites. Isn’t it interesting that in ancient days that people approached God with such fear that they went to extremes of personal pain; whether it was drawing blood or even sacrifice, their worship was costly and their commitment was clear. They were sincerely wrong but they were sincere.
A.W. Tozer said in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” And so, how is it today that people have come to approach God with such casualness? We worship when it is comfortable or convenient. Our worship is seldom with personal cost or concession. What does this say about us? What does your worship say about you?
ð God is calling you to reverence & repentance. In this study you should have a greater view of God. Just as Moses said essentially, the greater your fear of God the greater your fear of sinning. I believe the contrast is true too; the lesser you fear God the more you will sin.
à Real Repentance is the start of revival and it starts with me.
Hosea 10:12; 13:4-6 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and rain righteousness upon you… But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.”
People of Hosea’s day were so full of self that they could only “graze” on God. Let’s reverse this!
God has spoken in Salvation (19:20 – 20:1).
As God begins giving the commandments, He introduces Himself. These 10 Commandments are paramount not because they are good principles (though they are) but because they come from a Person – THE PERSON – God. God is the author of these commands. And they are commands not suggestions. They are not legislation from an ancient assembly or a conference committee. There is no filibustering, political gamesmanship or not even a controversial bill signing. There were no polls or pundits but only the power of God. God is personally speaking His commands… and to be noted this is the same God who saved Israel from slavery. In other words, the God who regulates is the God who rescues.
ð God loves you. His commands are for your good. His commands are filled with grace by pointing us to what is right, and even though we cannot follow them in ourselves, they point us to the One who does – Jesus.
James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Galatians 3:23-26 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”
John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Romans 3:21-22 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
µ Who is your Power, Purity and Salvation?
µ Is there reverence & repentance in your life?
 Referenced by Al Mohler, Words From The Fire, p.32.