The best parts of the Bible are the times when God shows up. And this is arguably the most important and impressive moment of God showing up in the entire Old Testament.
The people of Israel have come to Mt. Sinai, just as God promised Moses they would.
The description of God’s entrance is completely spectacular. The only way it could be described is as a thick dark cloud descending on the mountain with lighting. There’s the sound of a loud trumpet and the whole mountain trembles. Then God speaks in a voice like thunder to Moses and the people.
And the point of God showing up, the point of him speaking to the people, is to start a relationship with them through something called a covenant. A covenant is simply an agreement between two parties - like a contract.
The agreement is pretty straight forward: If the people obey God’s commands they will be his treasured possession. They will live with God and be his people forever.
LOVE BEFORE LAW
Moses alone is allowed to go up the mountain, where God gives the first of his commands. These are famously known as the Ten Commandments, and they act as an overview or a table of contents for the rest of the laws.
The Ten Commandments tell us a lot about who God is. For starters, they begin with a heading about what God has done for his people. The entire basis of these commands is that God has saved this people from slavery. God saved Israel before he commanded them to do anything. He didn’t condition his saving work based on their obedience. In fact, he saved them despite their faithlessness and unbelief.
COMMANDS AS CHARACTER
As the commands unfold, we get a glimpse into the character of this God. Israel must not worship any false gods or make idols because there is no God like this God. He is unique, above all else, and worthy of every ounce of a human’s worship. Israel must keep the Sabbath because God desires rest and peace for his people. They must not murder because God saves the lives of his people. They must not commit adultery because God is faithful to his people. On and on, we can see who God is by how he calls Israel to live.
Where Is Jesus?
But as we know, both Israel and the rest of humanity have broken these ten simple and good laws over and over again. We did not hold up our side of the covenant. So we do not have the right to live with God or be his people.
JESUS KEEPS THE COVENANT
Nevertheless, Jesus does something amazing for us. As God came down on Mount Sinai, Jesus came down to earth. But this time, he didn’t come down in glory and power. He came down in humility and weakness. It’s as if Jesus flipped Mount Sinai on its head, bringing the glory of God on the peak down to us. But even if the presence came down, how can we live in it if we have broken God’s laws and covenant?
The answer is that he who made the covenant keeps the covenant for us. Jesus upholds our end of the covenant. He does so by obeying all the laws on our behalf. Jesus obeys every part of the Ten Commandments and credits his obedience to those who believe in him. Since Jesus has fulfilled our side of the covenant, we get to receive the promise attached to the covenant - God is our God and we are his people.
SAVED BEFORE SAINT
What makes this news even better is that God saves us in the same order in which he saved Israel. He rescued them, then gave commands. The same is true for us today. Jesus saves us before we do anything that makes us worthy of being saved.
This is critical for Christians to appreciate. Not only because it leads us to worship God, but because it leads us to more obedience. The basis of the Ten Commandments was the truth that God first saved Israel from Egypt. That is why they obey.
Jesus has done an even greater work in saving us from sin and death through the Gospel. It’s not that the good news of what he has done for us requires us to obey him. Instead, the good news of what Jesus has done for us move us to obey him. We obey him out of love because we want to.
JESUS AS EMBODIED LAW
Finally, we can also see the character of Jesus in the commands of Scripture. Not only in the way that what God commands, he values and perfectly upholds. But also in the way that Jesus became and forever is everything the law required. Jesus is completely truthful, faithful, and life-giving.
And what’s amazing is that just as God wanted Israel to be like him by obeying the law, Jesus is actually making us like him through the Holy Spirit within us. We get to become like the glory Moses saw on the mountain. We get to become like Jesus.
See For Yourself
May the Holy Spirit give you eyes to see the God who saves before he commands. And Jesus as the one who obeys the commands so we can be saved.