The time was 1445 BC, approximately 630 years after God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham, and just three months after the Exodus from Egyptian bondage.
God had provided fresh water and manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. Now God was about to reveal to His people His standard of righteousness. The place was at the base of Mount Sinai (Mount Horeb).
Up to this point in the wilderness God had spoken exclusively through Moses. Now He would appear on Mount Sinai, and even though speaking to Moses, the people would experience God’s presence and know that it was He who spoke.
God’s presence was witnessed both visibly and audibly.
“…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled…Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” Exodus 19:16, 18
Before God spoke to Moses in the presence of all the people, He had reminded him that it was He who delivered the Israelites from bondage. He further told Moses that Israel would be a special treasure above all people; they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. However, such blessings rested on Israel’s obedience to the laws that He was about to reveal.
This absolutely does not contradict nor supersede God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham and his descendants. However, their odyssey towards the fulfillment of that covenant would be fraught with hardship if they were disobedient along the way.
Then God revealed His standard of righteousness which would begin with the Ten Commandments.
1) There is only one God and it is He who was speaking
2) There was to be no worship of any image which would lead to idolatry
3) God’s name was to be hallowed, not taken lightly, especially not to be invoked in an oath
4) The Sabbath was a holy day
5) One was to honor their father and mother
6) Murder was forbidden
7) Adultery was forbidden
8) Stealing was forbidden
9) Lying was forbidden
10) Desiring something that belonged to someone else was forbidden
These laws were explained and illustrated with examples all during the forty years in the wilderness.
And just prior to entering the Promised Land, Moses reiterated God’s laws.
“Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them.” Deuteronomy 1:3
Moses told the Israelites that their first priority was obedience to God’s laws. They were to be the example for all nations. They were warned explicitly not to add or subtract from those laws.
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4:5-6
The Hebrew for ‘statutes’ has several significant synonyms including ‘commandments’ and ‘laws’ in addition to ‘judgments.’
And just as the forty year journey was coming to an end, Moses again stressed obedience.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God…and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes…” Deuteronomy 10:12-13
A millennium later the last prophet in the Old Testament confirmed the immutability of God’s commandments and statutes.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change…yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you…” Malachi 3:6-7
‘Ordinances’ is from the same Hebrew word for ‘commandments’ and ‘statutes.’
The immutability of God’s laws did not end with the Old Testament.
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