TiO 45 – The Story – New Commands and a New Covenant
The Main Idea
As the people of Israel begin their trek through the wilderness God stops them for a while and begins to put some form to his relationship with them. To this point, God (Yahweh) was relatively unknown to the people, but in their escape from Egypt they saw close-up what he was capable of. Now it was time for God to reveal his holiness through laws and guidelines for his relationship with the people of Israel.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: Outside of the sun, can you think of other things which are intensely good but very dangerous if your approach them without caution?
Q2: What is the balance to be struck between seeing God as holy and seeing God as approachable?
Q3: What did you hear on the weekend or read in Chapter 5 that was new or that you saw in a new way?
Dig a Little Deeper
The people of Israel have been traveling for three months since they escaped from Egypt. They enter the Sinai desert and stop in front a a mountain, Mount Sinai. All the action of Chapter 5 takes place on and around this mountain.
Act 1: the Preparation (pp. 59-61)
“”Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”
Chapter 5 begins with the people of Israel, having travelled for three months since leaving Egypt, stopping in the Sinai desert in front of a mountain, Mount Sinai. Here God declares to Moses that he will meet with him but that the people need to be prepared for this meeting by washing and performing cleansing rituals. God is holy and so the people must prepare to meet with a holy God.
Act 2: The 10 Commandments (pp. 61-62)
“‘You shall have no other gods before me.’”
Once the preparation is complete, Moses goes up onto the mountain and meets with God. There he receives a long list of laws which define how the people are to act in order to be seen as the treasured people of God. The most famous of the long list of laws are the 10 Commandments.
Act 3: The Exuberance of the People (pp. 62-63)
“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’”
The initial reaction to the commands of God is enthusiasm and exuberance. With one voice and wholeheartedly they proclaim that they will obey God’s commandments to them. A sacrifice is done to seal the covenant.
Act 4: Moses Meets with God (p. 63)
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here ….’”
Moses returns to the mountain to meet with God. He is there for 40 days and God speaks directly to him.
Act 5: The Sin of the People (pp. 64-67)
“When the people saw that Moses was son long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come ,make up gods who will go before us.’”
Being an impatient and fickle people, the people of Israel grow tired of waiting for Moses to return. Fearing that this God, and his servant Moses, have simply abandoned them, they demand that Aaron, the priest and brother of Moses, make them new gods to serve. Aaron makes them a calf made of gold and a giant party breaks out. Moses returns and this does not go well for the people: not only is God angry at their sin but thousands of them are killed by those faithful to God and his commands.
Act 6: Repentance and Reconciliation (pp. 67-70)
“The Moses said to [God], ‘If your Presence does no go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are please with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’”
God tells Moses that he is already tired of the fickleness and sin of the people and that he is going to send them away but he will not accompany them—keep in mind that as they travelled they were still accompanied by a pillar of smoke (in the day) and a pillar of fire (in the night). Moses pleads with God: “If you do not go with us then were are going to stay right here.” God relents and their journey continues.
Looking back at the story, there are two themes: the holiness of God and the fickleness of the people of Israel. God wants to give guidance to the people about how to approach him, knowing that approaching God in an unworthy manner will mean death. And so he has the people prepare and then he gives them commands which will allow them to ….
Despite all that God has brought them through during their escape from Egypt and the three months since, the people of Israel are fickle, turning to their own solutions for guidance as soon as they feel Moses has been away too long. This will be the pattern that marks them throughout their history: they are quick to praise God but quick to abandon him when he is silent.
Through Chapter 5 the holiness of God is shown. Holiness, at its most basic, means “set apart.”
Q1: In what ways does God show his “set-apartness” to the people?
Despite being set-apart, chapter 5 shows that God wants intimacy with Moses and with the people.
Q2: How do the people and Moses prepare themselves to be in the presence of God?
In chapter 5 the people of Israel show themselves to be fickle, changing allegiances frequently.
Q3: What specific events in chapter 5 show the people of Israel going back and forth from following God and then, seemingly, abandoning him?
Q4: What are the consequences of their fickleness?
We all have stories of our acknowledgement of the holiness of God and our wavering allegiance to him.
Q1: Can you recall an incident when you were keenly aware of the holiness of God? Talk about that.
Q2: Are there places or times (not necessarily specific events) when the true nature of God is evident to you? Tell the group about that.
It is easy to look back at the people of Israel or the followers of Jesus and laugh at how little faith or commitment they had to God. But often, when we stop to think about our own lives the same kinds of weaknesses are revealed.
Q3: Do you have specific events in your life that demonstrate your lack of faith in God?
Q4: Have you seen God come through for you despite your lack of faith? Tell the group one of those stories.
Q5: Do you struggle to be faithful to God (or trust in him) when he seems silent? What do you do in those circumstances?
Pray for consistency in your life of faith: specifically, that circumstance would not dictate your level of trust in God and that you would regularly be reminded of how holy he is.