After a number of months in Exodus we come to a close this week. You’ll be quick to note that Exodus has 40 chapters and we are ending with chapter 34. This is not because the final chapters are unimportant or anything like that. Instead it is simply are reflection of the fact that much of the information is repeated from the previous instructions in the tabernacle. Before Moses was given the plans for the tabernacle. The final chapters are the implementation of those plans. If I wanted to, I’m sure that I could pull something new from these final chapters. The fact is that I don’t want to and you probably don’t want to hear it either.
This is really a perfect chapter to end with however. As I mentioned last week, chapters 33 and 34 serve as two great summary chapters. Last week we saw the glory of the Lord displayed just as it has been on display throughout the book in various ways. This week we close by taking a very brief look at the law but also the covenant between God and man.
I haven’t really touched on it much but Exodus has a lot to do with God’s covenant and the fulfillment of His promises to the Israelites. We see that in this chapter.
34 The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands.
Moses broke the Ten Commandments literally when he came down from the mountain and saw the Israelites engaged in revelry and worshiping the golden calf. It was undoubtedly a show of how the Israelites had figuratively broken the commandments. This left the Israelites without a copy of the commandments.
Now you might be wondering why a second set of tablets is needed. After all, I’m sure that Moses could recall the commandments and if not, God could remind him so that he could record them to paper. The commandments aren’t being recorded so that the people will be able to remember them. They are being recorded as a reminder and a testimony against them when they break them.
When I got my learner’s permit to drive a number of years ago, I had to take a written test. Before I took the test I had a book of rules that I had to study. This is not the point of these stone tablets at all.
So, if these aren’t rules to live by, what are they? They are in fact a covenant. Have you ever wondered why the Ten Commandments are recorded on two tablets? Probably not. You’ve probably just assumed that all ten wouldn’t fit onto one tablet so it was written on two.
In all likelihood that’s not the case however. A covenant is very similar to a contract today. It is an agreement between two people. In this case, the people agree to obey the commands and God will be their God. Well, what do you need for a contract? You need a copy for both parties. That way each party can look back at what they agreed to and be certain that they and the other party are fulfilling the agreement.
There are two stone tablets because one copy of the agreement belongs to the Israelites and one belongs to God. Both copies are kept in the safest place in the universe, in the ark of the covenant, under the seat of God. Did you catch that? It’s the ark of the covenant, not the ark of the ten commandments. The ark is a basically the greatest safety deposit box ever for the most important document ever.
So, this brings me back to my original point. A second copy of the Ten Commandments isn’t needed so that Moses or the people won’t forget the rules. Instead it is a copy of the covenant that both the Israelites and God are a part of.
Here’s just one more piece of trivia regarding the Ten Commandments. Whenever you see pictures of them drawn you’ll see 1-5 on the left and 6-10 on the right. Even if the sets of rules were split up over two tablets, this would technically be an incorrect display of what they really looked like. Hebrew is written from right to left, in other words backwards from the way that we write, so 1-5 would be on the right and 6-10 would be on the left. But I’m pretty confident that there are actually two copies of all the commandments anyway.
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Last chapter we saw the Lord pass by Moses and declare His name. Here we have a similar situation with the Lord declaring His name except this time He appears in a cloud. If I had to guess, the cloud is to obscure His glory.
Think about what it’s like on a clear and sunny day. Now think about a cloudy day. On a sunny day the sun can hurt your eyes if you are facing it. On a cloudy day the light is much more bearable. But despite the clouds it isn’t dark out. You can still see quite well outside even on the cloudiest of days. This is the Lord’s glory in a cloud. There’s still plenty there but the cloud obviously takes the edge off it so to speak.
The Lord declares His name, the Lord. That sounds a bit like double speak but it’s not. It’s something that is lost in translation. You’re probably aware that God has many names that He is called in the Bible. The Lord is the most common on however. Now, if you look closely, you’ll note that Lord is spelled in all capitals, LORD. This is how you tell the difference between a general reference to God and referring to God by His name. When it is in all caps, it is God’s name.
The name LORD is the Hebrew word Yahweh. It is also translated as Jehovah although Yahweh is probably the more proper pronunciation. And if you want to get technical about the spelling, it is spelled YHWH because there are no vowels in Hebrew. We’re getting into trivia now, but it is important to know that there is a distinction between Lord and LORD. The Lord declaring His name in front of Moses is an important thing. We might think of it as His signature as He declares who this agreement is with.
I’m going to skip over most of the next several verses because it is a repeat of the laws that have already been given. I do want to highlight vs 15-16.
5 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
We have a difficult balancing act to do as Christians. We need to be careful that we don’t split hairs and become Pharisaical in our beliefs. We can still have fellowship with other believers who might hold to different theological beliefs as we do so long as it doesn’t compromise basic Christian beliefs. On the other hand, we need to be careful to not compromise on important beliefs.
God warned precisely what would happen if the Israelites intermarried with idol worshippers. The people would be led astray. There is no better example of this than Solomon. He built the magnificent temple of the Lord but he also built temples to the idols of his wives.
Let’s close by looking at verses 29-35
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
This is a great way to close the book, or at least our study of it. When Moses came down from the mountain His face reflected the glory of the Lord. Now remember that Moses has not seen the full glory of the Lord because it has been dulled by the cloud. What the people see is a reflection of the dulled glory of the Lord. And even it frightens them. So Moses must put a veil over his face when he is with the Israelites.
Why is this such a great way to end our study of Exodus? Throughout the book we have seen God’s power on display and we’ve seen His glory shine throughout the book. We’ve also seen many pictures of Jesus throughout the book.
As Christians we are the modern day reflection of God’s glory. We are the modern day picture of Jesus. When you refer to yourself as a Christian, it literally means little Christ. If you call yourself a Christian, you are saying that you are Christ-like.
It’s easy to read through the book of Exodus and get caught up on all of the rules. That is why many people know the book to begin with because it contains the Ten Commandments. But doing so misses the great pictures of Christ.
If we are to be reflections of God’s glory and Christ’s likeness today there is going to be some sacrifices to be made. One of those sacrifices is time. Moses reflected God’s glory because he spent time with God. If we expect to do the same, that means that we need to spend time with the Lord as well.
The other sacrifice that must be made is comfortability. People who are not close to the Lord don’t like it when they are exposed to His glory. It is a light that shines in upon their dark deeds. This doesn’t mean that we are prying into their lives or that we should, it is simply a fact that people will not be comfortable with God’s glory being reflected at them.
It is not for us to hide the glory of God from other people like Moses did. He wasn’t wrong for doing so in his situation but we are called to shine the light of Jesus. We don’t have to be up in people’s faces about it but we aren’t to hide it either. Jesus said that He was the light of the world. If we Christlike, this makes us the light of the world as well. And if we are walking close to the Lord as Moses did, we will also reflect the glory of the Lord.