We begin today with an exposition of the ninth commandment. We see that the command is about more than outright lying. There is gossip (23:1), a warning against a mob mentality (v. 2), classism (v. 3, 6), and even “looking the other way” so as to let an enemy suffer loss (vv. 4-5). Verse 9 again talks about sojourners. This is already the third time that God warns against mistreating sojourners. This shows how the national pride of Jews that formed throughout the centuries was misguided.
Verse 10 begins an expansion of the fourth commandment. Not only is the Sabbath day to be kept (v. 12 – and note the practicality of it in addition to the religious aspects), but a Sabbath year is to be kept (also practical). In verse 13, there is what may seem like an awkward transition to the first commandment. But this shows us how the Sabbath commandment (actually, all the commandments) are rooted in the first. In our terms, this may be equated to choosing not to worship on any given Sunday. With very few exceptions, when we do not, it is because we are choosing something or someone else over God. But if we seek to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we would not choose to neglect worshipping Him.
In verses 14-17 God prescribes the three annual feasts. The Feast of Unleavened bread is association with the Passover (this would include the “first fruits” offering). The Feast of Harvest (“latter fruits”) is Pentecost. The Feast of Ingathering is the Feast of Tabernacles.
God in verse 19 ceases from giving commands (I think of this as the “first round” of commands), ending with the command about not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. This is said, by some, to be the genesis of the Jewish tradition of not eating meat and dairy together. As Christians, we do not observe this tradition. So what do we make of this seemingly odd command? Well, first note that God finds this command important enough to repeat twice (see Ex. 34:26 – it is also repeated in Deut 14:21, but that is Moses’ recap of the Law). Second, while God repeats many commands, God only states this one when ending a round of commands. So what is God saying?
Well, for any mammal, its mother’s milk is it’s only means of sustenance for the first season of its life. It is all that keeps the baby alive. If one was to boil a baby mammal (like a goat) in its mother’s milk, the baby would die. So I think there are two aspects to this command. First, after giving commands, God ends with this (twice, as I said). I think that God is talking about taking that which is good and given for life, and making it a means of death. That’s what God doesn’t want Israel to do with the Law (including the commands He ends with this). The Law is good, seeking righteousness through the Law is not. In fact, works righteousness is sin, and it is death. God is warning against taking the good Law that He gave to preserve Israel’s life, and making it a means of death (i.e., sin). This is what Israel does by looking to works of the law for salvation.
Second, God is saying that there is a natural order (not as in a sequence, as in the way things are by nature). The natural order is that a baby lives off its mother’s milk. To turn that milk into the means of destruction for that baby is a corruption of the way things should be. We have already seen how practical God’s commands are. And that goes for many we will yet see. In other words, the Law was for man’s own good. You might say that the Law was made for man, and not man for the Law. To corrupt it and turn it around would be sin. Sadly, this is exactly what Israel winds up doing do with the Law.
God then again promises that Israel will inherit the land promised to them. The Angel that goes before them in Whom God’s name is, is the pre-incarnate Christ (we will see this shown multiple times). Note how “obey His voice” and “do all that I say” are equated. God is saying that Christ will do the work of fulfilling the promise. All Israel needs to do is faithfully follow Him. Note the command in verse 33 – Israel’s failure to obey will this will come back to bite them time after time after time…
In chapter 24, we see God tell Moses to come up to Him with Aaron and his sons (what will become the line of the High Priesthood), along with 70 elders (the numbers 7 and 10, notice). After Israel worships, and confirms their commitment to the covenant, those called go up on the mountain.
And let’s be honest. By this point in the book, because of all the commands that seem so odd to 21st century American sensibilities, we tend to zone out and just be skimming at this point when we read. But don’t miss verse 10. That’s Christ. And note the description of the clear sapphire pavement. We have our first glimpse of the indescribable glory of God that we will see in the Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation.
In verse 13 we see that Joshua (thus far only mentioned in the battle with Amalek) is Moses’ “assistant” (literally “servant”). We see that God, through the mentorship of Moses, is grooming Joshua for his future leadership role. We see that on the seventh day (again, that seven) God calls to Moses. And Moses was on the mountain “forty days and forty nights.” This is a Hebraism for a long period of time, not a literal accounting of time (see Matthew 4:2). In the Bible, it is only used when describing someone spending time in the presence of God (Moses, Elijah, and Christ – or the Law and the Prophets and their fulfillment).
Chapter 25 begins the preparations to make the Tabernacle. Here is where the plundering of Egypt pays off. The first specific description God gives is for the Ark of the Covenant. This will represent the very presence of God throughout the Old Testament. Then, God describes those things that are to be near to His presence in the Tabernacle – the table for bread of the Presence, and the golden lampstands.
As we go through the details of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, don’t skim. Don’t gloss over it. We are going to see some magnificent representations of heaven (which is what the Tabernacle pictures for us – it is the dwelling place of God, represented by the Ark). But why so much detail? Well, with each detail, with every description, realize that it points to how holy our God is. He is holy, holy, holy. What He commands needs to be followed exactly, in every detail. This points forward to the perfect obedience of Christ.