Exodus 21-23:9 The Book of the Covenant part 1

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen these verses used to attempt justify the arguments of those who don’t want to believe in God.

You often hear:

“What kind of loving God would allow people to own slaves or allow women to be raped?”

“What kind of God would tell His people to kill women and children?”

I will admit that these instances do sound strange and terrible but only if we look at them through our current understanding instead of who the original audience was and their understanding.

It was widely believed that every kingdom nation of their time had some kind of system of moral codes that had been passed down to their king by the gods who had chosen him to lead the nation.

With this in mind, God is giving Israel the Law that would change them from a group of tribes to a nation kingdom where He would be King.

They received the heart of the Law, the 10 Words or Commandments, first from God and now he had ascended the mount to retrieve the rest of the Law for the people.

Ancient rabbis claimed that there were 613 specific laws in the Law of Moses, which consisted of both oral and written instances.

What he brings back to them is a detailed set of civil, moral, and ceremonial laws that will change them from the Pagan influenced group that they had become into a newly built civil society ruled by God.

These specific laws were called “The Book of the Covenant,” and were used to explain how the 10 Words were to be lived out among the people.

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Exodus 20:22-26 Worship and man

22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

God knows us too well because, well He created us. He knows our thinking patterns, our tendency for laziness, and our need to be “connected” with something bigger than ourselves. A need to find purpose and meaning in this life.

In this case, He has to give Israel guidance as to Who He is and just how to approach Him in worship.

First He reminds them of just Who they are dealing with:

They had seen how God had delivered them in a miraculous way. They had seen Him come down onto the mountain and had heard His voice. They were so terrified that they were afraid to go near where He was.

We are the same as Israel.

How often have we stated:

I will join that group, Church, ministry as soon as I get back on track with the Lord

Then we never join because we get stuck in a cycle of ” I’ll never be good enough!” and we forget that He is only as far away from us as where we left Him.

He is telling Israel, “I AM the God of the universe! I AM here, I AM speaking to you from heaven!”

After reminding them Who He is; now He lets them know just how to interact with Him.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

The Lord had just given them His Word on not creating graven images yet it seems that a reminder is needed because He knew mans thinking. Many had readily taken up with the kind of worship they had seen and experienced in Egypt. Especially in light of the golden calf incident that is coming up.

These gods of silver and gold never speak. They don’t perform miracles for you because they are not real.

They also needed to learn how to worship.

24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

God knows mans’ tendencies to want more knowledge, deeper spirituality, or power over others.

When one mixes these tendencies with esoteric religious systems man gains control over the spiritual, mental, and sexual parts of a person no matter how godly it might sound.

It makes you wonder if, in our day, we have been guilty of polluting our worship by adding songs or music from the world but changing the words.

In the same way the occult or Mystery religions changed their words to sound more Christian but their “Lord” is not the same. Their “Christ” is not the real Christ.

Have we allowed occult influences to be intermingled with our worship of and walk with the Lord?

If Israel had built the altar correctly and followed how God wanted in sacrifice and worship then wherever He had recorded His Name He would come and bless His people.

Yet He wanted them to follow His prescribed way without adding anything.

God does not change. His wants are the same today. He wants to come and bless us today through Jesus Christ, our Savior, as we follow only Him and as we walk with Him

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Exodus 20:20-21 Moses drew near to God

20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

The people of Israel had witnessed the glorious works of God on their behalf.

They knew that God was on their side, in their corner, working on their behalf.

Because He was going to show His awesome Glory and these were the people he had chosen to call His own.

Yet His people were not willing to meet with Him. Moses was the only man willing to meet with God.

Deuteronomy 5:28-31

And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.

From this passage it would seem that the Lord was okay with their decision. Yet their relationship with the Lord wouldn’t be as close as the one Moses would experience.

God heard their words and He told Moses, “Let them stay in their tents.”

“As for you,” He told Moses, “Come stand by Me.”

This would continue until a Tabernacle was built, a place for Meeting with God, and it would only be once a year.

We can do the same today.

We get to a point in our lives where we acknowledge that we are not enough. We can’t handle things at all. We hit rock bottom and we ask God to take over and we either get saved or we step out in faith and renew our fellowship with Him.

Then we see the Glory of our Lord and we experience miracles in our lives.

Time goes by and we forget and we tend to start standing afar off once again. Our walk is hindered with the Lord.

Israel decided to stand afar off from God and it hurt their walk with the Lord.

He didn’t abandon them but it did limit their experience with Him.

Moses chose to draw near

Be like Moses

James 4:8

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

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Exodus 20:18-21 Fear God

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

Imagine the visuals that the Israelites were witnessing, the thunder, the lightning, the trumpet, and the thick black smoke coming from the top of the mountain. It scared them so much that they told Moses, “Hey Moe, why don’t you go speak with God, we’ll just stay right here!”

Imagine the ground possibly shaking from the thunder. The bright flashes of lightning. Imagine all of this with the thick smoke and a trumpet sounding. I would think that this sight would be like a UFO landing in the movies, or the Transformer movies.

They we’re witnessing something so awesome and vast that it scared them and made them stop in their places.

Notice Moses told them that they should not fear as in “be afraid,” but that the fear of God was before them so they wouldn’t sin.

They had witnessed the work of the Lord many times and it had always been for His glory but it also benefited the people.

They had known Who their Lord was but I really wonder if it had been a more one-sided relationship.

Had they come to expect it from God?

Had they merely seen God as a genie, or their own version of Santa Clause?

Were they leaning on Moses too much?

Are we this way?

This very instant they were actually seeing the God of the universe come down to earth. The One Who created everything with His Word and I think it made them take stock.

I wish I could have witnessed this episode but I know that I would be just as afraid.

Isaiah witnessed Him and he couldn’t speak

Moses fell to the ground

John knew and walked with Jesus yet, when he “saw” Jesus, he fell to his knees.

We can be just like Israel. We go to church, we read our bibles, we tithe, we give our time and then we expect the Lord to take care of us, all without truly standing in His presence.

I fear that many times we stop seeing the Lord as we should. We ask questions like “Is Jesus your friend?” and “If not then you are going to hell!”

as though we need to go on Facebook and add Him.

He is our Lord and Savior!!!

He came to this earth as our visual representation of God.

He is God in flesh and, like Moses, He came to tell us to “Fear God.”

Not like we and Israel tend to do by hiding in fear but to truly fear the Lord.

Fear as in respecting His awesomeness.

Fear as in expecting His discipline if we sin

Fear as in His faithfulness towards us as we commit our very lives to Him

Fear as in His justification for our souls and our eternal state

Fear as in His graciousness in that He is the Creator of all things and we are but vapor before Him.

Yet He cares for us so much the He came to this earth to die in our place.

We need to see Him for Who He really is.

We need to fear the Lord in the right way.

Psalms 111:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

We can know everything about Him and do many things in His Name but He must know us!

Matthew 7:21-23

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Make sure He knows you today and make sure you properly fear Him.

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Exodus 20: 12-17 The Next Words

12  Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Through Jesus we learn that each of these Words from God gall into one of two categories:

1. Our relationship to God

2. Our relationship to man

Matthew 22:35-40

New King James Version (NKJV)

35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Through the first, if you truly love God, you will already have these Words in your heart and life. God and only God will be the One and only God in your life. This would cover the first four Words. (3 or 4 depending on your choice of numbering)

Through the second we deal with how we interact with our fellow man. If you love God, you won’t kill, steal from, or treat others in any way other than God’s prescribed way.

It’s not just about how to be a good person but how God expected His people to live and act in His Land, His Kingdom.

The problem is that although they had His Words, His regulation, His expectations; when left to their own devices, they made things worse.

Israel took this and at some point decided to “help” God and others by adding terms and instruction through interpretation of His Word.

Sound familiar?

Part of the ministry of Jesus was to get Israel back to the simplicity of the original message of the Word of God and away from the mess that they had created by unintentionally moving away from His Word.

Sadly it seems that mankind is on the same course in our time.

It’s estimated that there is currently around 38,000 Christian denominations in existence. This raises the question, “Does the Holy Spirit lead people to create these separate groups or is it the spirit of man?”

I personally believe it is the latter.

Have we allowed tradition and our own hearts to guide our relationship with God and each other?

Which spirit are we listening too?

If we just take the words of Jesus to heart and really listen to His Holy Spirit, we won’t wander and follow our own way.

Yet this takes time spent in the Word, in prayer, and truly in a relationship with the Lord.

It’s being truthful with Him and yourself about where you are in your walk and honesty about your life and beliefs.

Let’s live His Word

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Exodus 20: 8-11 The Fourth Word: Remember The Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy

Exodus 20:8-11 

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 

In Genesis we learn that God created our universe in 6 real, physical, 24 hour days and on the 7th day He rested. 

Now He rested, not because He needed too, but because He was done creating. Here He is telling Israel to remember this day, the Sabbath or Shabbat and to keep it holy as it was blessed by the Lord and separated it for Himself. 

This raises some questions though. Questions that have been asked and debated by people who are way more spiritual and intelligent than I. 

It comes down to two major questions:

1. Are the 10 Commandments as a whole for the Church?

2. When and what exactly is the Sabbath?

We get all kinds of ideas and teachings from groups who feel they have the answers. Groups who will tell you that we are obliged to observe the Sabbath completely by attending Church on Saturday and doing no work on Sunday. 

Then we have groups who teach the exact opposite. The Law was nailed to the Cross and made of no effect to those who are “In Christ” and so we are not bound to observe it. 

I won’t begin to bore you with information about how Constantine created “The Lords Day” because the Catholic Church wanted a day that was separate from The Jewish Sabbath, or that days and weeks have been added and taken away over the decades. 

Here’s what I do know:

1. God rested from His work. Not because He needed too but because He was done and He blessed this rest. 

2. This rest was created for man. 

Mark 2:23-28 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. 

3. Jesus Christ is our True Rest

Hebrews 4:1-11 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 

The Law, the 10 Words is an example for us. A teacher that we are all sinful and that by our own work we can do nothing. Our striving for goodness is useless without Christ. 

We enter into His Rest when we are saved through Jesus Christ. When we are His then we follow His commands:

Love God with all our heart and mind

Love others

These two commandments from Jesus incorporate all of the 10 Words. 

If you love the Lord you won’t follow after other gods. 

If you love others you won’t steal or murder. 

As far as a Sabbath Rest is concerned, as Jesus said, it was created for man. We should take at least one day in seven and Rest from our labors. 


Not because we are told too but that God knows we would constantly work and eventually burn out. 

We should take a set aside day to be with family, to enjoy fellowship with nothing to distract us. A day to acknowledge each other and the blessings we have in and through the Lord. 

It’s not a requirement but a replenishing of our hearts, minds, and relationships with family and God. 

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Exodus 20: 7 The Third Word: Do Not Use God’s Name in Vain

Exodus 20:7 

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 

What is God’s Name?

The title, God is not His Name. Rather, it, as well as Lord, is a general reference to Gods Personal Name. We learn this in the first part of Exodus as Moses and the Lord have their first back and forth. 

Exodus 3:13-14 

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. 

“I Am That I Am” essentially means “To Be, self-existed, or eternal.”

The Israelites would not speak or write His Name because they felt it was too holy. So, when copying Scripture or writing His Name, they used what became known as the “Tetragrammaton” or “YHVH.”

This became “Yahweh, Yehovah, or Jehovah” but, since His Name wasn’t spelled or spoken for so long, we don’t truly know how it is pronounced. This was partly so that His Name was not used in vain.

Most of the time, we see this as a prohibition against cursing or invoking Gods general Name, or the Name of Jesus, as a curse word, and this should be something that we refrain from. Yet it means something much more. 

Firstly it tells us not to “take” the Lords Name in vain. 

Do we take it?

Do you let it be spoken around you by friends, in movies, on television, or in music?

Do you allow your kids to hear or say it?

The Hebrew word for “In vain,” is “Shav,” and it means “vanity, falseness, emptiness of speech, worthlessness, and carelessness.”

We forget sometimes that these Words were not some entity who is hurling out rules and regulations that man must follow or else, rather, these were coming from a loving Father Who wanted man to know how life should be lived in His world. 

He wants us to prosper not to fail. 

He knows how we are and he knows the things that we will allow to happen in our lives. 

To use His Name in vain:

There is a trivialization that occurs. 

When the Lords Name is taken in vain; when we use His Name as a curse or as a vow, we desensitize others to its true power and it loses its impact. 

There are ramifications that occur

We must be careful how we use His powerful Name because there are consequences. 

We can damn someone possibly through our words if they are important to them. 

We can damn our own intentions, works, or things with our words. 

James 3:5-12 

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. 

His Name is powerful and He would rather we use it to call on Him in time of praise, in times of need, and for help. 

In this we will not use or take His Name in emptiness but in glory and power as God intended 

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