Didja hear the one about the young preacher who wrote home to his preacher dad about the problem he was having? The son had just been called to a church in a university town. He told his dad that every time he preached and started to say something about science, he remembered that a scientist was in the congregation. When he spoke about history, he remembered that a history professor was present. He was also intimidated because of the English professor and the mathematician. “Dad, what am I supposed to do?” he asked. His father wrote back and said, “Son, just preach the Bible. They won’t know a thing about it.”[i]
What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?
Nothing. I just thought it was a good story.
Summary of Exodus 17-20: Moses is instructed to strike the rock at Horeb for water, and then Israel prevails in battle against Amalek. Now that the people are so many and need to learn to live with one another as God’s people and not slaves, Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) advises Moses to appoint men to help settle disputes and maintain order. God makes a covenant with the people, who prepare for the LORD to come down to Sinai, where God gives the table of contents to the law in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments).
First, leaders are chosen people who get to do what they are told. Notice, I said, “get to.” Moses did not choose to be a leader, he got to be a leader. I will venture to say that he had reached point in his life when all desire was gone because the only vision he had was the south end of north-bound sheep. Now, he may have had high ambitions as a younger man for some kind of greatness, but I suspect the pin that burst his balloon was when his authority was questioned, “Who made you prince over us?” He had no answer . . . then. This is why it was important for him to ask God in the bush, “who shall I say sent me?”
There is no room for subjectivity if leadership is to be done accomplished in a godly manner, i.e., effectively. Moses could not in his wildest dreams come up with a plan on his own that included all the events he alone has experienced thus far. It is not humanly possible to move that great amount of people, much less deal with them once they were moved. God had to equip Moses with the tools He needed, the words to say, the mouth with which to say it (in Aaron), the direction to go (the cloud) and the discernment (in his father-in-law) to tap others to help because leadership is a huge endeavor. The only credentials Moses brought to the whole affair was inadequacy, stammering and bare feet.
This is astounding. Unheard of. By today's standard, Moses needs a conference or something . . .
Second, God’s people are chosen people who get to do what they are told. Notice again, I said, “get to.” Look at the Israelites and see where their heart is. Their “want-to” is someplace else altogether—if they are not looking over their shoulder back toward Egypt, then they are certainly looking out for their individual interests to the hurt of everyone else.
Israel as a young nations is learning very quickly that as God’s chosen people, He is going to live in their midst. Life is no longer the same. They get to do something different. God’s people get to live with God in their midst—the same God that made everything. The same God that made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same God that floods the earth to punish sin and promises not to do it that way again. The same God that disperses people who come together when God tells them to spread apart. The same God that eliminates entire cities with fire and brimstone and turns people to salt. Yes, that God wants to live in the midst of His people.
The same God that judges nations AND their gods. The same God that brings plague after plague on people, and is able to allow those not to touch His own. The same God that kills only the firstborn. The same God that parts the sea with the breath of His nostrils and causes the earth split apart and mountains to smoke and rocks to shake and lightning to flash and thunders to trumpet and knees to tremble. Yes, this God want to be next door neighbors with you.
Is He safe? Is God safe? Of course not! He is great and terrible and swift and thorough. And he wants to live right smack dab in the middle of the hood.
God’s people get to enjoy His presence by living according to the way He prescribes. Or pay the price.
God’s people don’t get to worship any way they want. God’s people get to worship the way God wants. (20:22-26) [see Spurgeon quote, below]
God’s people don’t get to abuse others harshly or unfairly. God’s people get to treat others as if they were created in God’s image. (21:1-27)
God’s people don’t get to abuse the rest of creation. God’s people get to subdue and steward it for the one who created it all. (21:28-36)
God’s people don’t get to live for themselves, but others (22:1-15).
God’s people don’t get to be immoral, power manipulating oppressors (22:16-27).
God’s people don’t get to “vent” because they do not get their own way but are to center their lives around God. (22:28-31)
We get to live with HIM in our midst! Our 35 million laws cannot replace the handful of commands found here.
Thoughts from the quotables:
Guthrie: “If you find yourself beginning to love any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than your Bible, any house better than God’s, any table better than the Lord’s, any person better than your Saviour, anyone better than your soul, a present indulgence better than the hope of Heaven—take alarm!”[ii]
Chambers: “We do not consciously disobey God, we simply do not heed Him. God has given us His commands; there they are, but we do not pay any attention to them, not because of wilful disobedience but because we do not love and respect Him. “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” When once we realize that we have been ‘disrespecting’ God all the time, we are covered with shame and humiliation because we have not heeded Him. . . . Am I putting God in the humiliating position of having treated me as a child of His while all the time I have been ignoring Him? When I do hear Him, the humiliation I have put on Him comes back on me—‘Lord, why was I so dull and so obstinate?’ This is always the result when once we do hear God. The real delight of hearing Him is tempered with shame in having been so long in hearing Him.[iii]
Spurgeon: “God’s altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour’s work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man’s chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in him alone. Many professors may take warning from this morning’s text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.”[iv]
[i] Brumbelow, David R. The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow. Garland: Hannibal, 2005.
[ii]Hardman, Samuel G., and Dwight Lyman Moody. Thoughts for the Quiet Hour. Originally published: Chicago: Revell, c1990., August 15. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998, c1997, c1994, c1990.
[iii]Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year, February 12. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935.
[iv]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, July 14 AM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.