Wise Advice, Wiser Commands, and Guardrails

Thoughts on Exodus 18 – 23

Chapter 18 of Exodus is an amazing chapter that isn’t taught as much as I think it should be. It talks of Jethro, Moses’ father in law, who is not an Israelite giving fatherly advice to his son in law. He recognizes that his son in law is being blessed and used by the God of Israel and offers wisdom and encouragement to Moses.

What is even better, Moses takes it all in. While all the people are whining and grumbling, Moses needs someone to remind him to take it easy. No need to get burned out in the work of the Kingdom. This is a message for each of us, and it is also a message that we need to take to those leaders we follow.

The takeaway from chapter 19 to me is found in verse 5 and 6. God heard the groaning of his people in Egypt. Likewise, he hears the whining and grumbling that is happening now after he has given them freedom. He tells Moses,

“If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

God truly has selected a nation to himself. He has set them apart from all nations.

The people came together and answered as one, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”

I have to remember that Moses is writing an account of all that has happened so that they would have a written account for future generations. On several occasions in the Old Testament the Word is read aloud to the people of Israel. Over and over they hear this history, and over and over they will obey and listen for a short time before going astray. Yet God is so faithful to His people. Even now when I fall away in to fleshly worldly ways, he is faithful to me.

Chapter 20 is the 10 Commandments. Instead of rehashing all of them here is the one that was screaming out at me:

  • Number 4 is remember the Sabbath. I am going to start making an effort to rest as commanded by my creator. He is smarter than me. I need to set aside a day and rest from the world and work, and let it be holy to God.
  • Verse 11 is interesting that it spells out again that in 6 days God made the heavens and earth and all in it.  I’ll leave it there and hit this topic later.

The next few chapters are going to go through a list of other laws given to the people by God.

  • Laws about Altars
  • Laws about Slaves
  • Laws about Restitution
  • Laws about Social Justice
  • Laws about Sabbath and Festivals

It covers A LOT. There are odd and specific ones like what to do if someone seduces a virgin, if someone is found to be a sorceress, if someone is found having sexual relations with an animal.

WHY? Why would all this stuff be spelled out. Back in chapter 18, Jethro tells Moses to get some other men around him to help resolve disputes between people. It occurred to me that the Israelites really have no concept of being free. Back in Egypt they were slaves and had no freedom, but here they are suddenly without any government rule.

I enjoyed the sermon series that North Point did a while back called Guardrails. The major takeaway is that we as people are constantly flirting with disaster and we need to establish guardrails to keep us from that disaster. I think this is what God was doing with the people of Israel. This wasn’t  God laying down random laws in an oppressive manner. This was a Loving God establishing boundaries to keep his people safe.

And ultimately the greatest law as given by Jesus in the New Testament is to:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

This is the great and foremost commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22: 39

And last, at the end of Chapter 23, God reminds them that if you do all that I have told you. If you accept the guardrails that I am trying to establish in your lives, when you go before your enemy, I will Blot Them Out. I will send terror and hornets before you. Don’t make covenants with their gods. Trust me to do what I say I will do.

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