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Thursday, February 27, 2014




When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, they had been out of Egyptian slavery from three months. God gave them three days in which they were to consecrate themselves before He would meet with them in preparation of the establishment of His covenant with them.  God wanted to have a relationship with His people. He wanted their love, loyalty and faith. God's desire to have this unique relationship WAS UNIQUE. HIS COVENANT WITH THEM WAS ALSO UNIQUE.  Covenants were not uncommon in the ancient world, but a covenant between God and His people was something new to them. God wanted to dwell among them, care for them, and protect them.  In other ancient religions, man's purpose was to work incessantly for their gods meeting their god's needs. What a remarkable contrast between God's Covenant with the Israelites and the covenants of the pagans.  God in His covenant would do all the work. He would be their God, their King and their Judge.  But God had to set boundaries or borders in order that that He might govern their actions or behavior.  All the Israelites had to do was to TRUST AND OBEY HIM.  God's Law!


When we talk about the Law  that God gave Moses, it is often thought that we are referring to the Ten Commandments. Notice that God also gave Moses 603 other laws in addition to the Ten Commandments, totaling 613  laws.  These laws can be divided into three categories: civil or judicial, moral and ceremonial.

  • Civil and Judicial laws: These laws dealt with conflicts between citizens, disputes over property rights and personal injuries.  An example of this law is found in Exodus 21:33.
  • Moral laws: These laws helped in protecting the helpless such as slaves, widows, orphans and foreigners. These laws were unheard of in other law codes. God's laws were just UNIQUE. An example of this law is found in Leviticus 19:35.
  • Ceremonial laws: These laws included the tabernacle regulations, instruction for different kinds of sacrifices, and rules regarding cleanliness and holiness. An example of this law is found in Leviticus 22:26-27.

God' laws were always good, and not burdensome to obey.  The Israelites failed in obeying and keeping them, because they were rebellious.  Notice that the law itself was not harsh nor was it impossible to keep and obey.  In Psalm 119:97, David speaks of the law, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day."  Also, these laws were part of the Covenant between God and the Israelites in which He promised to be their God and to make them His special and chosen people.  

"Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."   
Exodus 19:5-6.

God gave Moses the Law when Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a period of over forty days.  The overarching Ten Commandments came first, then the moral and civil laws and finally the ceremonial laws.  The moral and civil laws were to provide the Israelites with a guidebook to live a righteous life for the first time.  The Ten Commandments were to dictate and define right from wrong according to God Himself as well as in the moral and civil laws.  God's purpose has always been for His children to live upright in their dealings with other people.  He also wants His children to share and care for the weak and helpless the same way that He cares.  This is evident through out HIS LAWS.  God's laws teach us that He is HOLY!  Also, it is very clear to see that God is a  JUST GOD.


The differences between God's laws that He gave to Moses and the laws written for other ancient cultures as in the case of the Code of Hammurabi are very distinct:
  • God's laws were only given by Him and not a human king.
  • The laws were given orally at first and then they were written down.  There was no other way.
  • These laws were designed by God with the purpose of having a relationship with His people.
  • The laws did not make any separation of social classes.  All Israelites were considered equal.
  • No one was to be punished for a crime committed by another person.
  • Punishments were commonly less brutal and tended to fit the crime.
  • Only one punishment was allotted for a crime rather than numerous punishments.
  • The death penalty was used sparingly.
  • Slaves were to be treated with kindness.
  • Slaves were to work for only six days, just like the rest of the household.
  • Hebrew slaves were to be freed after seven years.
  • The laws were built around relationships rather than property.
  • Human life was more valuable than property.
  • The helpless were to be protected.
  • Care was to be given to the alien or stranger.
  • The practice of charging penalties on loans was banned.
  • They were all expected to take care of the needs of others, even the needs of their enemies.
  • The dignity of the poor and helpless was to be protected.
  • Each person was to learn all the law.  Education about the law was very important. 

After the moral and civil laws, God gave the Israelites instructions to build His Tabernacle. This was a kind of mobile temple. Then God gave the ceremonial laws and the laws of holiness.  This new Tabernacle was to be God's dwelling place among His people. There was one condition, the Israelites had to make themselves holy in order to approach and be close to God:  "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Leviticus 19:2 NASB.  It is obvious they needed to learn to behave, appear and worship Him in a manner that was worthy of Him, if they wanted God to dwell among them.  The God of yesterday is the same God today!

There were many differences between God's Tabernacle and other Ancient temples. The Israelites were familiar with these Ancient temples.  Remember Egypt was filled with gods and their temples.  Each city had a temple for each god. Ancient temples were usually large, majestic and stationary, since most gods were tied to their localities. They were built using slave labor and vast amounts of money. They were usually higher than the surrounding buildings and houses. They were opulent in design, filled with rooms. Their holy place often had windows so that their people could see their god sitting on his throne.  The main focus of these temples was to meet their gods' needs. Their idol gods were fed twice a day. The king was the only one worthy of partaking of their gods' table.  This is outrageous!

In our next study we will be considering some fascinating facts about God's Tabernacle.


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