Sermon: God Gives His Covenant Commands - Exodus 34

God showed Himself to be gracious, merciful and longsuffering by clearly outlining His demands for His covenant people.

Sermon Series: Covenant Foundations

  1. God Is and God Created - Genesis 1
  2. Paradise Lost - Genesis 3
  3. A Promise toward Paradise Regained - Genesis 12
  4. God Delivers - Exodus 12
  5. God Gives His Covenant Commands - Exodus 34

Scriptures: Exodus 34:1-9

Connection to unit theme

God had claimed a people for Himself, beginning with His promises to Abraham. God had been faithful to keep His promises, multiplying the nation numerically and delivering them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It did not take long for the people, despite God's goodness and faithfulness to them, to allow their hearts to chase after other gods. God showed Himself to be gracious, merciful and longsuffering by clearly outlining His demands for His covenant people.

Introduction

God's covenant people rebelled against Him, not long after leaving Egypt. God had lovingly heard their cries for deliverance, had delivered them from bondage and slavery in Egypt, and had demonstrated His might and power, even by dividing the Red Sea. And yet, when Moses was gone just a little too long on the mountain, they quickly responded by making a god of their own (Exodus 32). How would God respond? Would He simply take them out? Would He hit the divine "reset" button and start over? God's response of renewing the covenant with His people and giving them His law would show His mercy, kindness, and faithfulness, while at the same time showing His holiness and justice.

I. God's commands demonstrate His holiness and grace, His justice and mercy (vv.1-7)

The very fact that God called Moses back to the mountain to receive His "words" (commands) again – after the people's rebellion and idolatry (Ex. 32) – demonstrates God's longsuffering nature and His covenant-keeping faithfulness. The specificity of God's commands to Moses regarding the receiving of the law demonstrates His holiness and authority. God, not Moses, is in command here. God is giving the instructions. Moses is simply to walk in faith, submission, and obedience to all that God commands.

God's revelation of Himself to Moses (vv.5-7) outlines the various elements of God's character and nature. God says of Himself that He is "compassionate and gracious," "slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth" (v.6). He maintains a "faithful love" that causes Him to forgive "wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin." Lest Moses and the children of Israel hear this description and think that God is a pushover grandfather-like figure who will simply overlook their sin and rebellion, God declares His justice as well. He says He "will not leave the guilty unpunished" (v.7).

God gave the law to His people out of His goodness and grace. His law flowed forth from His holy character and, therefore, served as a constant reminder to the people of what He was like and what He expected of them. God's laws were not arbitrary restrictions designed to make His people miserable. They were outward expressions flowing from God's own character, given as a good gift from a loving God, to guide the lives of God's people. They were for the people's good and for God's glory.

Application: Do you view God's law as a restrictive set of external regulations that tell you all the things you cannot do? Or, do you see God's law as a good gift from a good God that expresses His holy character and nature, and His expectations of those who are His?

II. God's commands demonstrate His worthiness of worship and our need for redemption (vv.8-9)

What is the appropriate response to a holy God who reveals Himself in such a powerful and clear way? Worship and adoration. God's covenant demands, seen in His giving of the Law, had their foundation even in creation. As one commentator notes, God's creation "reveals the basis of the Law. If indeed God was before all things and made all things, how foolish it would be to have any other gods before Him! There were none. If indeed God made man in His image to represent Him, how foolish it would be to make an image of God!"1

Moses demonstrates this appropriate response to God's revelation of Himself and His holy character. Moses immediately falls to the ground in worship and reverence, the only right response to our awesome God.

Because of God's revelation of Himself and His character, Moses also acknowledged the needs of the people. First, they needed God's presence with them, as noted in Moses' request for God to "go with" them. They also, however, as a "stiff-necked people," needed God to "forgive" their "wrongdoing and sin" and to "accept" them as God's "own possession."

If the children of Israel had to live up to God's standard on their own, they were hopeless. There was no way this stiff-necked people could meet God's demands for holiness. They could, however, in repentance and faith, cast themselves upon God's mercy, trusting Him to provide a way for them to meet His covenant demands. The law could not provide the remedy. It only showed them their sin and their need for a remedy. Like a thermometer, the Law could not heal the people of their sin problem. It could only reveal their sickness. God would provide the cure.

Application: How do you respond to God's Law? Do you try to keep it to meet God's holy standard? Or, do you see that you could never keep it, responding instead by acknowledging before God your dependence on His grace, mercy and forgiveness?

Conclusion

God gave His law, not so people could be saved by keeping it, but to show them their inability to keep it and need for someone to keep it in their place. Christ has done that for us.

Randy Mann is minister of education and evangelism at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Ge 1:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.