God's Holy Nation (part 3)

OT and Pentateuch  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:58
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Laws for a Holy Nation

Israel’s religion was a revealed religion. It was not adopted from surrounding nations but stood in sharp contrast to the religious standards and practices of the heathen nations of that period. Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 34.

The Mosaic Covenant

Exodus 20:2 NKJV
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Exodus 20:3 NKJV
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

God, who is the only God, must always come first Living a Full Life: A Pictorial Interpretation of the Ten Commandments (Orion: Halfway House, 1995))

This commandment concerns the position God should be given in the Christian’s life. The Bible teaches us that there is only one God, the God the Bible presents to us, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He must come first because He is first and wants to be the only God in people’s lives. He will not tolerate anything which is put in His place. False gods are those things we promote above God, or which we consider to be more important than God. They can be the pursuit of money, one’s job, children etc.
Christ once said: ‘No man can serve two masters …’ For the real Christian there is only one God, the God who loves us and comes to us as our Father in Jesus Christ. He wants us to love Him, worship Him, and serve Him. This is the cost of discipleship—to follow God in the person of Jesus Christ and Him alone.
The negative aspect: Do not reckon anything in your life to be more important than God.
The positive aspect :Make God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only God in your life. He is the Person you want to worship and to whom you want to dedicate your life.
How to understand the presentation: The 1 indicates the first commandment. The blue background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with God. If we add another arm to the top right hand side of the 1, we get an arrow pointing upwards (heaven is normally presented and indicated as being above us). This helps us to remember that there is only, and can be only, one God, the God of the Bible and He must always come first in the life of the believer.
Exodus 20:4–6 NKJV
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Don’t make idols (verse 4)
Don’t worship idols (verse 5a)
Don’t miscalculate God’s reaction (verse 5b)
Don’t forget God’s grace (verse 6)
Don’t misrepresent God

Worship God in truth

Where the first commandment concerns ‘Whom shall we worship?’ the second concerns ‘How shall we worship?’ The Bible prescribes that we must ‘Worship God in Spirit and Truth’
Joshua 24:14 NKJV
14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!
John 4:24 NKJV
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The purpose of this commandment is to keep our worship pure. All false forms of worship are idolatry. Worship is to give honour to a superior being, in this case God. To worship God is to offer something to Him, to prostrate ourselves before Him with a sense of respect, awe, honour and homage. Ultimately worship is an earnest desire to give to God, and primarily involves to adore and glorify Him for what He is and has done. Some of His attributes are that He is holy, almighty, omnipresent, and omnipotent. We see His acts in the fact that He loves us and forgives us if we really mean it when we confess our sins. These are only a few of the things He has done for us.
Jesus Christ once offered his life for us on the cross. He did this in order that we might give our lives to God, through accepting Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord. This is the greatest form of worship we can offer God.
The negative aspect: This commandment forbids the making of images of God, or idols to be worshipped.
The positive aspect: God is a jealous God who wishes to be honoured and worshipped exclusively. Do this by giving yourself totally to Him as an offer
Romans 12:1–2 NKJV
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
How to understand the presentation: The 2 indicates the second commandment. The blue background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with God. If we add a ‘head’ and ‘arms’ to the 2 it looks like a person praying; indicating the worship of God. This helps us to remember that we have to give ourselves (our everything) to God if we want to worship Him in sincerity.
Exodus 20:7 NKJV
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
God’s Name speaks to His
Reputation is attached to the name (
Character is built in the name (Jesus means God saves or Savior) chan
Personality is God’s distinctive traits (Jealous, merciful, etc)
Authority is built in the name

Honor the name of God

This commandment concerns respect for the name of God. In biblical (ancient) times, names were important. A name was not just a label or used to identify a person. It suggested that person’s personality. Thus God’s name reveals who He is and what He does. His name is His person. What we do to God’s name we do to Him. How then must we use His name? We should use His name only when we talk to Him and witness about Him. This should be done with the necessary respect, piety and adoration.
Matthew 7:21 NKJV
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
So if we confess the name of God in our words our deeds must correspond with our words. If not, we have broken the Third Commandment as surely as if we had used blasphemy.
The negative aspect: Do not dishonour God’s name by using it carelessly, in false or unnecessary oaths, or refusing to use God’s name to tell others about Him.
Making a name for ourselves instead of making His name great.
Praying our will not His will
Falsely Claiming to be speaking or doing by His authority
The positive aspect: We must use God’s name in a dignified way: with piety, and in honour. Primarily the commandment calls us to put our hearts into our worship of God—in church, in family devotions, in personal meditation, and in our daily lives. It means that all our words and deeds in the full range of our daily lives must bear witness to the honour of God, whose children we are and whose name we bear.
How to understand the presentation: The 3 indicates the third commandment. The blue background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with God. The 3 looks like the outline of a closed mouth (or lips). This closed mouth indicates that we should not take God’s name in vain. All this helps us to remember that we must be careful when we use God’s name and should honour and respect His name.
Exodus 20:8–11 NKJV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Honor the day of the Lord

This commandment concerns respect for the Day of the Lord. Our Sunday is different from and a substitution for the Jewish Sabbath. After God had led His people out of slavery in Egypt, He commanded this new nation at Mount Sinai (where He entered into a covenant with them) that they should work for six days. The seventh day could be used for physical and spiritual refreshment. The Sabbath was a call to rest. God also rested on the seventh day after He created the universe (Genesis 2:1–3). On this day believers should worship Him and have fellowship with Him in a special way, in order to be renewed for service in God’s world.
Exodus 16:22–30 NKJV
22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’ ” 24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25 Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” 27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29 See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Exodus 34:21 NKJV
21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
Exodus 35:2–3 NKJV
2 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
Deuteronomy 5:12–15 NKJV
12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Jeremiah 17:19–22 NKJV
19 Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 and say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21 Thus says the Lord: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
Nehemiah 10:31 NKJV
31 if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt.
Exodus 31:12–17 NKJV
12 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”
Ezekiel 20:12 NKJV
12 Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.
Ezekiel 20:20 NKJV
20 hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.’
Isaiah 58:13 NKJV
13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,
Through Jesus Christ a change came from the Sabbath to a Sunday as the day of rest. As the full meaning of the resurrection of Christ dawned upon the early church, they spontaneously shifted their day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the Sunday (the first day of the week). Because this was the day on which Christ arose, it became known as the Day of the Lord.
Mark 2:25–28 NKJV
25 But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: 26 how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” 27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
The negative aspect: Many things could be mentioned which ought not to be done on a Sunday. We can always add more to the list. Unfortunately many devoted Christians concentrate on this negative aspect and see abstinence from activities as a means of keeping this day holy.
The positive aspect: We have to stress what ought to be done on a Sunday, such as:
• attending church services/worship,
• teaching and listening to God’s word in catechism,
• partaking of the sacraments,
• entering into works of mercy, and
• seeking spiritual food for the following week.
How to understand the presentation: The 4 indicates the fourth commandment. The blue background indicates that it concerns our relationship with God. The 4 has been converted into a modern church building to remind us of the Day of the Lord when we usually attend church services. This will help us to remember that we ought to keep Sunday holy, and do what God expects us to do on this day.
Exodus 20:12 NKJV
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Respect your parents

This commandment concerns our attitude and acts towards any form of authority; to obey all authoritative people and authorities appointed over you, and to respect them (Romans 13:1ff). The home is the heart of society, the training centre and proving ground for living under the rule of God’s law of love in every part of life. However, the implications of the fifth commandment are that it reaches all areas and levels of life where we find authority. In a court of law a person has to submit to the authority of the judge, and the citizens of a country submit to the laws promulgated by the ruling regime. God has established various centres of authority in life to govern human relations. True respect for authority begins at home. How we are going to act in society outside the home, depends greatly on how we act in the home. Children have to listen to their parents and obey their rules and leadership.
In the Gospel of John we read frequently that the primary objective of Jesus Christ was to do the will of his Father, and He succeeded. He gives us an example of how we ought to behave towards any form of authority. Read the whole Gospel of John.
The negative aspect:
• Do not disregard or feel ashamed of your parents because of their personality, occupation or weaknesses.
• Do not disobey any rules, regulations and laws to which you are bound.
The positive aspect:
• Love your parents and obey their commands and submit yourself to their authority, notwithstanding who they are.
• Respect and submit yourself to the authorities under whose jurisdiction you find yourself.
How to understand the presentation: The 5 indicates the fifth commandment. The green background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with our parents. The 5 has been converted to form part of a man’s body. The 5 indicates the figure of a father with quite a large belly who definitely will not have any discipline problems. This 5 will then remind us of our fathers, parents, or the authorities to whom we are subject.
Exodus 20:13 NKJV
13 “You shall not murder.

Respect the lives of other people

This commandment concerns the respect we ought to have for our own lives and the lives of other people. Violence has become almost an accepted way of life: everywhere on a daily basis people are getting killed. Through racial discrimination the worth of human beings is devalued. Even through destructive words people’s lives are destroyed. This is what sin has done to the people who actually belong to God. Even the Son of God was not spared. They also killed Him. Yet through His death God opened our eyes to the meaning of life, and its worth. Life is a gift of God. Every man is God’s man. We are made in the image of God to reflect His glory. To harm anyone is an act directed against God.
You see, God sent His only Son into the world as ‘the Life’ (John 14:6) in order that we ‘may have life, and may have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). Do you believe this? Do you possess this life, eternal life, by the grace of God and the power He gives you to accept it?
The negative aspect: Do not be reckless with your own life, nor endanger the lives of other people.
The positive aspect: God calls us to respect our own lives as well as the lives of other people for life is the most valuable asset we have. Do all you can to promote the welfare of your neighbors. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself, even your enemies’ (Matt 22:39; 5:44).
How to understand the presentation: The 6 indicates the sixth commandment. The green background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with our neighbours. The 6 in a human hand indicates an object which can be used to hit and kill people. This will help us to remember not to kill (hurt) anybody, but to respect his life and consider his worth as a person.
Exodus 20:14 NKJV
14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Respect marriage

This commandment concerns sexual life, and marriage in all its facets. Sexual attraction is a gift from God. He created us male and female so that we can complement each other, because we need each other. The sex impulse is God’s way of leading us to courtship and marriage in the bond of Christian love. But sin spoiled it. Instead of love, we often find ungoverned passion. Instead of true marriage we experience prostitution, divorce and broken homes.
Marriage can be compared to a business consisting of two equal partners. Both have equal shares. What they invest now, they will receive with interest later. If this business is managed or controlled correctly every day, both partners will share in the dividends. If there are losses, both partners will suffer.
The good news is that Jesus Christ came to renew not only our lives but also our marriages and love relationships. We should remember that a good marriage is built upon the capacity to love, to trust each other, and the pure attitude of each partner’s heart.
The negative aspect: Do not become involved in any sexually corrupt practices such as prostitution, homosexuality etc. Do not be unfaithful to your marriage partner and be alert to the dangers of the presence of a third party in your marriage.
The positive aspect: Respect other people’s marriages. Control your desires. Work daily on your own marriage to ensure you have a healthy relationship. Respect and love your marriage partner as God loves you. Try to concentrate on your partner’s skills and not on his/her weaknesses. Read Ephesians 5:20–31.
For the children :This commandment means that they should not play their parents off against each other, or talk about one of their parents behind the other’s back. They should rather make positive comments in the presence of both parents.
How to understand the presentation: The 7 indicates the seventh commandment. The green background indicates our relationship with our marriage partner. The 7 is a broken stick to remind us of something broken. The couple indicates a (broken) marriage relationship. This will help us to remember that divorce is destructive. We should rather endeavour to have a successful and happy marriage relationship.
Exodus 20:15 NKJV
15 “You shall not steal.

Be a good steward of your possessions

This commandment concerns good stewardship of our possessions and refraining from damaging or stealing other people’s possessions. Gordon Spykman once wrote that ‘There are roughly four kinds of people in the world.
“What is yours is mine, and I’ll take it,” says the robber.
“What is mine is mine, and I’ll keep it,” says the miser.
“What is mine is yours, so I’ll share it,” says the humanist.
“What is mine is God’s, so I’ll share it,” says the Christian.’
Which category applies to you?
We must remember that none of our possessions really belongs to us. All that we have is a gift from God. In Psalm 24:1 we read, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; …’ Jesus says,
‘… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear, but first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.’ Also read
Matthew 6:25–34 NKJV
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The negative aspect: This commandment prohibits any kind of stealing such as:
1) shoplifting, gambling, any form of robbery;
2) hoarding possessions for yourself without any form of sharing it with the poor;
3) obtaining possessions without working for them (gifts and inheritances are exceptions).
The positive aspect: It commands us to respect the property of other people and share the abundance of our goods with the poor. It also calls on us to trust God to supply our needs.
How to understand the presentation: The 8 indicates the eighth commandment. The green background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with our neighbour. The 8 has been converted to a pair of handcuffs. We all know that handcuffs are used when a robber is caught. These handcuffs will help us to link the eighth commandment with ‘do not steal’, and call us to be good stewards of our possessions.
Exodus 20:16 NKJV
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Always speak the truth

This commandment concerns always speaking the truth. John 8:44 tells us that Satan is the father of lies. To lie is to live in darkness; a person who lies always wants to hide something. Lying can be compared to what happens if one gets stuck in an umbrella-thorn bush. Once you get stuck you can’t get out. The more you struggle, the more you get stuck. To live a false life is to destroy yourself. There are different forms of lying:
1) To lie outright: this is to deliberately state what is known to be the opposite of the truth,
2) To make false promises: some politicians, for example, deceive people to gain support with promises they never intend to keep,
3) To use selective bits of truth, and not the full truth, in order to give a wrong impression, is wrong: even ministers can mislead their congregations with a gospel that is not true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Remember that the truth will always reveal and conquer lies.
When Christ is living in you, you ought to speak the truth because He (Christ) is the truth (John 14:6) and the Spirit of truth will lead you into the truth (John 16:13) and the truth will make you free (John 8:31). The person telling the truth lives in the light.
The negative aspect: Do not lie, twist the truth or tell only bits of truth. Also, do not twist or distort other people’s words to create a wrong impression.
The positive aspect: Defend the honour and good name of your neighbour. Combat lies, and love to speak and do the truth.
How to understand the presentation: The 9 indicates the ninth commandment. The green background indicates that this commandment concerns our relationship with our neighbours. The 9 has the appearance of a musical note. But a musical note is the other way round, therefore we can identify this as a false note. This 9 then correlates the false note with the “false witness” of the ninth commandment. This will help us to remember not to live a false life, but to always tell the truth and live in the light
Exodus 20:17 NKJV
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Be content with your possessions

This commandment concerns loving other people’s possessions instead of loving them for themselves. The word ‘covet’ or ‘desire’ means to have an earnest longing for … ‘To desire’ is not forbidden by the Word of God; we may desire a healthy life, a good marriage, etc. What is forbidden is to desire to have something that belongs to our neighbour: his car, his house, his wife, his job etc. The tenth commandment forbids this. If you covet something belonging to your neighbour, your desire will influence your attitude towards him, and this will again influence your behaviour. The end of the story is that you will be so unhappy and restless that you will not find peace until you get what you desired. The tenth commandment seeks to free us from wanting the wrong things: those to which we have no right, and those which God has given to others. It also frees us from enmity with or bad attitudes towards other people.
Jesus Christ, who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) promised his disciples, ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you’ (John 15:7). When we abide in Christ we experience the guidance of His Spirit which enables us to ask only for what we need.
The negative aspect: Do not be jealous about what others have and you do not have. You will certainly also have things which they would like to have. Do not make others jealous by bragging about the things you have or are able to do.
The positive aspect: Be thankful for the many things with which God has blessed you—talents, gifts, possessions, health, faith etc. If you don’t have much, trust God to provide what you need.
How to understand the presentation: The 10 indicates the tenth commandment. The green background indicates our relationship with our neighbours. The 1 has been changed into a person standing with outstretched arms towards the things he desires. In the 0, three desires have been inserted. The background of the 0 is a darker green than that of the 1 to indicate that ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ This will help us to remember to be content with our possessions and to trust God for our needs.
The first day of the seven-day festival was a sabbath. So also was the day after the week of celebration. During the week the people lived in booths to remind them of the wilderness wandering. Numerous special sacrifices were made during the week.
The sabbath principle undergirds all the laws regarding festivals. Seven festivals were scheduled during the year. During these festivals seven days of rest were designated. The majority of the festivals fall in the seventh month. Every seventh year was a sabbatical year. The Year of Jubilee came after forty-nine (×) years.
James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed., Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), 392–393.The Mosaic Covenant
But they are of interest to Old Testament scholars because of a number of formal elements that they have in common with the way the covenant made at Mount Sinai was expressed. The following similarities can be traced:
Introduction of the speaker In a political treaty, the king would introduce himself by name, just as God does in the introduction to the ten commandments (Exodus 20:2).
Historical background The king then reminded the other party of what he had done on their behalf—usually military intervention of some kind. In the Old Testament, God reminds the people of their unexpected deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 20:2).
Requirements Then follow the obligations which are placed by the king on the other party. In a political treaty these would normally be military obligations, while in the Old Testament they consist of the requirements of the Law.
The document Arrangements were then made for the treaty to be written down, and deposited in a suitable place to be read at specified times. There is no such provision directly linked to the ten commandments in the book of Exodus, but similar instructions are given in Deuteronomy 27:1–8.
Witnesses were called to seal the covenant—usually the deities of both states. The Old Testament contains several examples of witnesses to the covenant. In Exodus 24, twelve pillars were set up, probably for this purpose, while a central part of the covenant ceremony recorded in Joshua 24 consisted of a large stone being put in a public place to serve as a witness to the promises that had been made (Joshua 24:25–28).
Curses and blessings were then invoked, depending on whether the treaty was observed or disregarded. In the Old Testament, there is a long series of such curses and blessings in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 27:11–28:68).
John William Drane, Introducing the Old Testament, Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000), 57.


The reciprocal bond made between God and His chosen people. Three such covenants are made in the bible. The first covenant was made with Noah after the flood and is binding on all humanity. The second was with Abraham, the first Jew and the father of the people, and for this reason male circumcision is regarded as a covenant.
The third covenant was made specifically with the Jewish tribes at Sinai when the law was revealed to moses and is eternally binding on all Jews. Jews believe that this covenant makes them God’s chosen people with the responsibility to uphold His will and to love God. The covenant brings with it reciprocal duties—the Jewish people are God’s treasured possession and function as his priests and holy people. This covenant is expressed in the affirmation of the faith or shema taken from the book of Deuteronomy 6:5–9, which begins: ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One!’
Ron Geaves, “Berit,” in Continuum Glossary of Religious Terms (London; New York: Continuum, 2002), 53.
1. At the head of the list is the weekly Sabbath (23:2–3).
The day was celebrated by suspension of all labor. The Sabbath commemorated the original creation rest and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
2. The Passover began at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the first month (23:4–5).
Each family ate a roasted lamb which memorialized the lamb slain and eaten on the night Israel was delivered from Egypt.
3. The Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced on Passover and lasted seven days (23:6–8). The first and last days of the feast were sabbaths in which no regular work was permitted. Special offerings were presented each day of the feast.
4. On the first day of the new week following Passover the Feast of Firstfruits was scheduled (23:9–14).
A barley sheaf was waved before the Lord to express gratitude for the spring harvest. Special burnt, meal and drink offerings were presented.
5. The Feast of Weeks—later called Pentecost—was observed fifty days after the presentation of the firstfruits (23:15–22).
This was a sabbath day on which wheat loaves were waved before the Lord. A burnt offering consisting of seven male lambs, two rams and a bull were presented. Two lambs and a male goat were offered as a sin offering.
6. The sacred seventh month was ushered in with the Feast of Trumpets (23:23–25).
The blowing of a ram’s horn signaled that all regular work was to be suspended. Special offerings were presented. The trumpets may be a memorial to the giving of the Law at Sinai.
7. The Day of Atonement, the most sacred day on the Israelite calendar, was scheduled for the tenth day of the sacred seventh month (23:26–32).
This was a sabbath day, and the only required fast day of the year. The rituals of this day are discussed in detail in Leviticus 16.
8. The Feast of Tabernacles (also called Ingathering) began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (23:33–43). James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed., Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), 392–393.

The Tabernacle

In contrast to many temples in Egypt, Israel was to have one sanctuary. Construction of the tabernacle was under the supervision of two foremen, Bezalel and Aholiab, who were filled with the “Spirit of God” and “ability and intelligence to supervise” (Exod. 31, 35, 36). Laymen who were motivated to help assisted with building, and freewill offerings were accepted from the people to supply the materials.
The tabernacle itself was forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide, divided into two parts. The entrance from the east opened into the holy place thirty feet in length. Beyond it was the Holy of Holies. Surrounding the tabernacle was a court having a perimeter of 450 feet and a thirty-foot entrance from the east. The eastern half of this enclosure was the worshiper’s square where stood the altar of sacrifice or brazen altar where the Israelites made their sacrifices. Between this altar and the tabernacle was the bronze laver where the priests washed their feet in preparation for officiating at the altar of sacrifice in the tabernacle.
Three pieces of furniture were in the holy place. On the right was the table of shewbread for the priests, on the left was the golden candlestick, and before the veil separating the holy place from the Holy of Holies was the altar of incense.
The ark of the covenant was the most sacred object in Israel. This and this alone was placed in the Holy of Holies. On the lid of the ark facing each other were two cherubim of gold with their wings overshadowing the place between them known as the mercy seat. This mercy seat represented the presence of God, and unlike the heathen, the Israelites had no material object to represent their God. The Shekinah (Hebrew—“to dwell”) glory of Jehovah God dwelled with Israel in the tabernacle. Here the high priest sprinkled blood once a year on the Day of Atonement in behalf of the nation. Subsequently, stored in the ark were the Decalogue (Exod. 25:21; 31:18; Deut. 10:3–5), a pot of manna (Exod. 16:34), and Aaron’s rod that blossomed (Num. 17:10). Before Israel entered Canaan, the Book of the Law was placed next to the ark (Deut. 31:26).
Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 35–36.The Priesthood

The Priesthood

In patriarchal times the head of the family officiated in making a sacrifice. Since the seed of Abraham had become a large nation, it was necessary to have priests officiate for orderly ministration and effective worship. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was appointed as the high priest, assisted by his sons, two of whom were smitten in judgment for bringing unholy fire into the tabernacle (Num. 3:2–4; Lev. 10:1, 2). By virtue of having escaped death in Egypt, the firstborn of every family belonged to God. Chosen as substitutes for the oldest son in each family, the Levites assisted the priests in their ministration (Num. 3:5–14; 8:17). In this way the entire nation was represented in the priestly ministry.
The priests represented the people before God, officiated in the prescribed offerings (Exod. 28; Lev. 16), taught the Law to the laity, and were responsible for ministering at the tabernacle. The sanctity of the priests as described in Leviticus 21:1–22:10 reflects a contrast with heathen practice.
Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 36.

The Offerings

The practice of offering sacrifices characterized God-fearing people from the time of man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Whether or not the various kinds of offerings were clearly distinguished and known to the Israelites when they left Egypt may be debatable. As a free nation and God’s covenant people, they were given specific instructions regarding their sacrifices (Lev. 1–7).
Four kinds of offerings involved the shedding of blood:
Burnt offering—The distinctive feature was that the entire sacrifice was consumed, signifying complete consecration (cf. Heb. 10:1–3, 10, 11).
Peace offering—This was a voluntary offering in which part of the sacrificial animal was eaten by the priest and the offerer, signifying fellowship between God and man (cf. Eph. 2:13, 14).
Sin offering—This sacrifice was required for sins of ignorance committed inadvertently (cf. John 1:29; 6:51).
Trespass offering—Infringement on the rights of others necessitated this offering and restitution where possible (cf. Col. 2:13).
The grain offering did not involve the shedding of blood but consisted of the products of the soil representing the fruits of man’s labor (Lev. 2:1–16; 6:14–23; cf. Mark 8:15; 1 Cor. 5:8; Gal. 5:9). Apparently the grain was never brought as an offering by itself but was brought in addition to other offerings. When expiation for sin had been made through the shedding of blood, then the offering of gifts was acceptable to God.
Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 36–37.

Feasts and Seasons

Through appointed feasts and seasons, the Israelites were constantly reminded that they were God’s holy people. To observe these holy periods was part of their covenant commitment. Briefly note the times designated for their observance:
• Sabbath—Weekly, by rest and cessation from work, they were reminded of God’s creative work and their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Note that this was included in the Decalogue (Deut. 5:12–15; cf. Mark 2:27, 28).
• New Moon and Feast of Trumpets—Trumpet blasts proclaimed the beginning of each month. The first day of the seventh month was designated as the Feast of Trumpets, ushering in the climax of religious observances (Num. 29:1–6; cf. Col. 2:16).
• Sabbatical Year—Upon entrance into Canaan, the Israelites were to leave the fields unseeded and the vineyards unpruned every seven years. The cancellation of debts and the freeing of slaves every seventh year reminded the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt (Exod. 21:2–6; Deut. 15:12–18; cf. Heb. 4:1–11).
• Year of Jubilee—After seven observances of the Sabbatical Year came the Year of Jubilee. This marked the year of liberty in which family inheritance was restored to those who had the misfortune of losing it, Hebrew slaves were freed, and the land was left uncultivated (Lev. 25:8–55; cf. Acts 4:36, 37; 11:29; 1 Cor. 7:23).
• Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread—First observed in Egypt, it annually reminded each family of their deliverance from Egypt. The Passover was the principal event, followed by a week when only unleavened bread was eaten. The Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the seventh month of their civil year, but the first month of their religious year (Exod. 34:17, 18; Deut. 16:1–7; cf. Matt. 26:26–29; Luke 22:7–13; 1 Cor. 5:6–8).
• Feast of Weeks—Observed fifty days after the Passover. Offerings on this day consisted of grain or flour, acknowledging that the family’s daily bread was provided by God (Lev. 23:15–20; cf. Acts 1:5; 2:1).
• Feast of Tabernacles—The final festival of the religious year held at the end of the harvest season. By living in booths during this week, they were to remind themselves of their wilderness sojourn. Every seven years at this time the Law was read publicly (Deut. 31:9–13; cf. John 7:2).
• Day of Atonement—The most solemn observance during the entire year! (Lev. 16:1–34; 23:26–32; Num. 29:7–11; cf. Heb. 7:27).
The instructions given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai made it possible for them to adopt a pattern of living that would distinguish them from the heathen environment in Egypt as well as in Canaan. The Law, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the offerings, and the feasts and seasons were provisions and means for them to live in conformity to God’s plan for His covenant people. Obedience and faith were essential in maintaining this covenant relationship.
Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 37–38.
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