Friday, May 29, 2009

Universal Declaration of Divine Rights (Exodus 19)

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Commissioning the sun as the morning alarm is risky business. It means that on rainy days, one wakes only at noon, and in some confusion. These "summer" days however, she props eyelids open at 7am, leaving a delicious sliver of quiet time before work for pottering around and making breakfast, slowly, hummingly, wafting the olfactory equivalent of a quick hug,

Mac & Cheese Truffled Mac & Cheese
and then, with the even slimmer sliver time left over, something to pack for lunch.

Then, because it is the season for mergers and acquisitions, investments and divestments, equity and debt financing, the madness begins.

Quick in-between rememberingtobreathe notes, before they're forgotten:

Exodus 19

Events in Exodus are seen collectively by the rest of the Bible as the greatest OT epiphany, most magnificent manifestation of living God to his people.
  • revealed character of God
  • demonstrated how God deals with his people
  • inaugurated the OT people of God
  • showed where people stood/stand in relation to God and how they must prepare to meet him (Exodus 19)
  • God's character enshrined in the law (Exodus 20)
  • 10 commandments instructed/instructs the redeemed people of God how they were/are to live in relationship with their God (Exodus 21-23 as detailed law code)
  • 10 commandments and other sub-legislation instructed/instructs the redeemed people how they are to live in relation with the rest of the world, how they are to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
  • official formalisation of relationship with God in the reading/signing of book of the covenant - I will be your God, you will be my people (Exodus 24)
We learn the truth about God so that we know how to live rightly in relationship with him. Doctrines are not theoretical, abstract theological propositions that lead only to intellectual arrogance and spiritual decline but practical and relational, and very humbling indeed. Massive truth - who God is and why he has a right over our lives.

19:3-6 as summary of whole book of Exodus?

(1) God reveals what he has already done for his people in their redemption.
  • They are reminded here that it was entirely God's work (people completely helpless).
  • And also utterly God's initiative (people didn't want to be rescued).
  • Grace.
  • God's faithfulness - Exodus 3 - evidence that what God said was true would be that the people would worship God on same mountain
  • And the purpose of redemption was relationship.
  • Highlights the care with which God preserved them. Not mere action hero but was concerned for intimacy with his people.
So it was not that by keeping the law that they became people of God. Law given to people who had already been rescued. Response to grace - trust and obedience.

(2) God reveals where his people stand in relation to him (rest of Exodus 19)
  • fearfulness of God's presence - visible presence, audible voice - so that people would trust
  • 19:16, 18 - people trembled, mountain trembled.
  • awesomeness
  • nothing casual about the presence of God. you don't just waltz into his presence
  • nothing unhealthy about trembling before god - Deuteronomy 5, Hebrews 12:18 - scary indeed but see that you do not refuse. God is a consuming fire. Call to fear God actually intensifies with progressive revelation rather than diminishes. Therefore, not that OT God = scary, NT God = cuddly. NT does not say relax in presence of God.
  • we are not fit to be in his presence
  • so there are limits, boundaries, between sinners and God. They cannot meet him face to face or they will die
Therefore proper preparations must be made before meeting with king of kings
  • external cleaniness is a reminder of internal purity
  • who will ascend the hill of the Lord? only those with clean hands and a pure heart
  • relationship with God must come first even before the most intimate intra-human relationship.
  • preparing to meet God requires our full attention and must never forget with whom you are dealing
Then again, only a few can meet him. (Were the priests and elders in possession of purer hearts than rest of people? Unlikely given later behaviour. Suggests election of some sort. Clearer in other passages.)

Repetition of God's warning
  • God's severity
  • God's compassion. "lest" - doesn't want them to die. Isaiah 19:22
(3) God's rights
God ab initio has the right to be worshipped and obeyed even though the Israelites refused to worship and obey him, he has given them even more cause to do so.
  • what God has done precedes what he requires
  • covenant of grace
  • covenant is a rehash of Abe's covenant but in greater detail.
  • requires general wholehearted commitment regardless of details.
  • Romans 12:1-2 - in view of God's mercies (that is what has been set out in Romans 1-11). We owe god everything. All that is necessary is obedience. Grace alone secures blessing but obedience keeps channels open so God's covenant mercy and faithfulness can be their experience. Law's context is not justification but sanctification. Now law written on tablets of heart - to enable us to start living as his people.
(4) God's treasure chest
If the people did what was required of them, then God's intended design for them would come to pass: they would be his treasured possession, that is, God's private bank account, personal treasure chest. Elsewhere in the Bible, this means crown property, the personal property of a king in contrast to the general realm over which he rules and which is also his (cf 1 Chronicles 29:3, Ecclesiastes 2:8).

God's imposition of terms of relationship is already a mercy and grace because they only deserved death, not even the smidgeon of a relationship. It is therefore not a contract to wriggle and wraggle about. No negotiation.

Obedience is intimately connected with blessing. Not in arbitrary reward way but in a organic cause and effect because this is how the universe was created to work and how God is.

"because the whole world is mine" - suggests that the final purpose in calling Israel is not to sit around dolled-up and pretty but to address his concern for the world at large

(5) Foundation of people's relationship with God and with the world is holiness - "kingdom of priests and a holy nation"
  • holiness that the law/God defines
  • obedience to as a mark of holiness
  • holiness is being set apart and obedience to the law/God will set the people apart. Seen in their undivided allegiance to the Lord, they will reflect the character of their God and point others to him (ref also to Jethro's conversion in Exodus 18 when he heard what God had done for Israel in rescuing them from Egypt)
  • holiness also defines the priesthood. A priest is separate from the community he seeks to serve. He may only serve as long as separation is maintained. The holiness of God's people would enable them to serve God and serve (by serving?) the rest of the world. The Hebrew for "nation" - goy is rarely used of Israel in the OT, reminder of Abrahamic promises - Gen 12:2
If this came to pass, it would mark a vast improvement in divine-human relations. The people would know how God wanted them to act and as priests they would be able to communicate with him. Ref Exodus 18 and how Moses had the only hotline to God and the major traffic jam on the Moses end.

But just when things were looking up, we are reminded of the perversity of God's people. Moses had just gone up when God tells him to sprint down again. Assumedly, the barriers for their safety and really simple instructions ("don't go past the barriers") and their own fearful trembles had not put off some people from wanting to have a gawk at God and a mobile phone photo for Facebook.

How would God ever get this lot to the Promised Land? And instead of minimising his exposure to failure (to keep his promises), he is heaping on risk upon risk by adding promise upon promise*, seemingly throwing good money after bad. But from all that we've seen of God so far in Exodus, greater stakes means greater glory. The best is yet to be/come.

* even though this promise appears conditional, yet if God's intention is to reach out to the world and so far, he has only this straggly lot, then it is possible that he has implicitly promised to work through them.

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