Everything changes for the people of Israel after Exodus 32.
God’s anger is clear and more, and more detailed, laws are added in after this incident. Before that we have the Ten Commandments, some instructions about altars and goading oxen and how to treat Hebrew love slaves. After this incident we have 600+ others.
One refrain that occurs throughout the incident is that “the people cast off restraint”.
The advantage of giving up an all knowing, all seeing God for a blind and inanimate idol is that there is no sense that it is watching you. So you can do what you want.
Unfortunately for a lot of weak and vulnerable members in the Israeli society at the time, what a lot of bullies and many stronger members wanted was to exploit them – egged on by the demons behind the idol of course. If that had been left to take its course then the all too repetitive and tragic pattern of oppression, corruption and lawlessness played out in too many societies before and since would have been their lot too. God, and Moses, weren’t about to let that happen.
I’m thankful that I have a God that watches over me. I’m also thankful that His character is relentlessly unchanging. Faith in Him and these facts about Him – I know what He is like and what He wants – keeps me pure.
I was speaking recently with a good friend about the law and he said to put the word “instruction” where you see the word “law” and that gives a better sense of the meaning.
So what is the next instruction that God puts in Exodus after the Ten Commandments? Actually it is about altars. But what is the one after that (in Exodus 21)?
“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.3 If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him.
4 “If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.5 But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’6 If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”
I don’t want to go free, God has given me everything. Pierce my ear to the door of your house, O Lord!
So here’s the thing: any law gives sin power (Romans 7:13) and fallen human nature being what it is as soon as we see a law we long to break it (Romans 7:21-24). To make things worse, there can be great pleasure in breaking laws.
But I’m not living on that planet. Well I am but my spirit isn’t. I’m somewhere else (Ephesians 2:6). I died to the law when I was born again to a new life in the Kingdom of Light, the one where the great Lover is king.
I recently asked a friend to quote the 10 commandments. She began by saying: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40). Just like a true Christian should. It’s all about love. We have died to the law (all laws including the ones in the bible) and now we live in a love relationship with Yeshua (Romans 7). Of course, being in love, all our thoughts are wrapped up in Him and what we can do to please Him.
There is a problem – we are in a long distance relationship. We are in love, so He lives by His Spirit in our hearts, we know what He wants, we can hear His voice in our hearts and follow in His ways. But He is not here bodily, He is in heaven. Thankfully He sent us a lot of good love letters over the ages which tell us all sorts of His/stories about how He deals with people and what pleases Him and what doesn’t. Included among them are a lot of commandments, laws and prescriptions for life. We don’t have to do them of course – we are not under law – but if we do them we may find that that pleases Him depending on the law and the heart with which we carry it out. Laws are also a good way of checking if we are still in first love. If they are a burden to carry out then it is probable that we are not in first love. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Sacrifice doesn’t feel like sacrifice when it is done in love (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13, 12:7).
So recently I’ve been challenged to think about doing those laws that please Him like keeping the Sabbath holy. For me the Spirit in me is indicating that that means sitting around all day reading the bible, which is nice. He also has shown me that (again for me- we are not under any law in these matters) that it starts at 6pm on a Friday evening and ends at 6pm on a Saturday. The great thing is that you can take it or leave it, I on the other hand, have so enjoyed the extra fellowship and time with my first Love that I can’t wait to do it again. Well I can but you know what I mean.
It is no coincidence that in Abraham’s life Genesis 24 follows Genesis 22. Ok, I know that sounds obvious but what I mean is in Genesis 22 we have that – how can I say it- astounding act of obedience by Abraham to God’s command to sacrifice his son. I deal with this in another blog but suffice it to say here that it, of course, is a foreshadow of God the Father going though the death of His own Son on the cross a couple of thousand years later.
Genesis 24 foreshadows God the Father (Abraham) sending the Holy Spirit (his faithful and intimate servant) to get a bride, the Church, (Rebecca) for His Son Jesus (Isaac).
Some points that stand out to me from this story:
All the servant’s master’s goods were in his hand, he just took 10 camels and off he went.
The servant didn’t even have to tell Rebecca what to do, she knew and did it.
The servant did nothing to help Rebecca water 10 thirsty camels. I wonder how many times she had to run back and forth with water containers while he sat and watched?
The wait was worth it for Rebecca though. She got some pretty cool gifts after she had passed his test.
Rebecca had no problem leaving her father’s house and going with this stranger to a land far away that she knew nothing much about. Talk about trust!
It’s a lovely story with much to teach us about a right response to the Holy Spirit. Have a read, you are sure to spot other things.
Paul has said this a few times now: When there is no law there is no sin:
For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
This morning I woke and spent time with God. Wonderful time with God. This is always a good thing.
This morning I realised that any law anyone might have written or spoken against what I am is null and void. I’m accepted in all my complexities and peculiarities.
I am consoled though that I am not alone in this. We all need levels of acceptance and freedom from sin that only the cross can bring. I’ve died with Christ (Galatians 2:20). The law doesn’t apply to me any more. Go and take a run and jump accuser.