Intro to 10 Commandments
Exodus 19

Sermon preached on March 2, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

One of the courses I took in university was a course on the history of science. Early in the course the professor told us that the mark on the course was would be 50
% from exams and 50% from papers that we had to do. It was a full year course and there were two papers that were due before Christmas, an exam at Christmas, and two papers and an exam in the spring. The exams were on the course lectures and outside readings. There were three or four books that we had to buy for the first exam, and then three or four more for the second exam. It was a tough course but I worked hard and did well on the two papers before Christmas but I was a bit worried about the exam because I hadn't gotten through all the reading. But then I got really good news. On the last day of class before the Christmas exam the professor said that he was really busy and that if anyone didn't want to take the exam that they didn't have to—that 100% of their mark would be based on their papers. Since I had good grades on my papers I decided not to take the exam. The only thing that taking it would have done for me was to possibly lower my mark. I wasn't going to do that. It was great.

On the first class of that course after Christmas, the professor announced that that semester would not be like the first one—that there would definitely be a final exam and our marks would be based on the two spring papers and the final exam. But I didn't believe him. I had done so much reading, for nothing, in the first half of the course that I wasn't going to make that mistake again. I had other things to do too. I was taking other courses and they were a lot of work so if I could cut down on some reading I would have more time to concentrate on the other courses. Not only that, but books were expensive. Not only could I save time but I could save money by not even buying the books we were supposed to read. I also had to go and see Marg every weekend. She was at a different university and I didn't want to give up my weekends with her. So I didn't buy them and didn't go to very many of the classes because I didn't think we were going to be tested on the readings or the lectures. But I did concentrate on the papers. I did a lot of work on them and tried to do a good job on them because I figured that my whole grade would be based on them. But I wasn't absolutely sure.

Near the end of the year I decided to go to one of the classes, I think it was the second last one of the year—to find out if I was right about the exam being optional. At the end of that class the professor announced that the final exam would not be optional. A shocked, sick feeling came over me. I couldn't believe it. I had been wrong. As soon as the class ended I raced over to the university bookstore—I figured that I would buy the books and really cram for the exam. To my horror the books weren't in the bookstore. The clerk explained to me that by that time they had sent any unsold books back to the publisher. So I couldn't even buy the books. Then I rushed over to the library, hoping that I could borrow the books from there. But their copies were out. I couldn't get any of the books there.

I was in big trouble. I knew I was going to do very poorly on the final exam. So I resigned myself to that but still decided I was going to try salvage something—so I went to the last class, hoping that I could learn a little from the last lecture. It was at the end of that class that the professor made my dreams come true. He announced that he had changed his mind and that the final exam was going to be optional after all and that if anyone wanted to take their grade from the papers alone—he could do that. I can't tell you how happy I was. All my worry had been for nothing. I could safely ignore that exam.

Is our relationship to the law of God like that? Are Christians free from the law? Some Christians will tell you that you shouldn't really worry about keeping the law because we're not under law, we're under grace. They will tell you that we now have the Spirit to lead us and that we don't need the law anymore and that we can ignore it.

This morning we're going to look at what our text tells us about the law and our relationship to it. Exodus 19 is about the preparations for the giving of the law to the people of God and it has many things to teach us about our relationship to the law. The main thing I want you to notice here is that

the way the law was given shows that it is very valuable to us and should be close to our hearts.

God didn't just throw the law down from heaven as an aside to His people. They didn't just wake up one morning and find the tablets outside the camp. Quite the contrary, the law was given in a most remarkable way to show the Israelites that they were to hold it in the highest esteem and to be very careful about obeying it. The law was given to Moses. He and Aaron went up to the mountain and Moses talked to God face to face. When he came down from the mountain his face was radiant. (Exodus 34:29) Not only that, but God Himself wrote on the tablets with his finger. (Exodus 31:18) Our text, Exodus 19 ties in with all this. It's a remarkable chapter, in some senses unlike any other in Scripture. Verse 3 tells us how Moses went up to God and how God told him to remind the Israelites what He had done to Egypt and how He had carried them on eagle's wings. Then God urges the people to obey him fully and assures them that that is the way to blessing. After that God tells Moses that He is going to come to Moses in a dense cloud and that the people must be careful not to go up to the mountain or touch it—on pain of death. Then God comes to them in an impressive display of thunder and lightning, with same and fire and an earthquake. This is a chapter that has much to teach us about God's law. So let's look at these things.

The first thing we see here that shows we ought to have great respect and reverence for the law is the fact that God taught the Israelites that

obedience to the commandments was the way to blessing.

In verses 5 and 6 God told Moses to say to the Israelites.

"if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all nations
you will be my treasured possession.
Although the whole earth is mine,
you will be for me a kingdom of priests
and a holy nation."

The way to be blessed, the way to be close to God, the way to serve God in a way that is pleasing to Him, the way to be holy—these things are found in obedience to the law. We see this teaching throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 6:3 Moses told that Israelites that they were to be careful to obey the law so that it would go well with them and that they would increase greatly in the land the Lord was giving them. In Deuteronomy 32:47 Moses said to them,

"They are not just idle words for you—
they are your life.
By them you will live long in the land
you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

So let there be no mistake about it. These commands are your life. You Christians should love the law of God. It is the way to blessing. Your attitude about God's law ought to be the same as that of David in Psalm 119. He said, (verse 72)

"The law from your mouth
is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold."

But we need to make sure that we do not misunderstand the role of the law in our life. By saying that obedience to God's commands are the way to blessing I am not saying that we are saved by the law. Neither were the ancient Israelites saved by their obedience to the law. Some people believe will tell you that. They divide the ages up into certain dispensations and they will tell you that under Moses the Israelites were saved, not be grace, but by their keeping the law.

But that cannot be. The law required perfect obedience. The curse for disobedience was always death. Not one of the ancient Israelites, not even Moses, was able to keep the law perfectly. If they had been judged by their obedience to the law all of them would have been condemned to hell.

If anyone thinks that the ancient Israelites were saved because of their obedience to the law they not only misunderstand the law, but they misunderstand the whole context of the giving of the law. Peter Enns writes, (Exodus, p. 387)

"That Israel's faithfulness to the covenant is required should in no way be understood to mean that Israel worked for her salvation in the Old Testament. This entire scene at the mountain and the subsequent laws are predicated on what God has done. The Israelites are not to keep the law in order for God to save them. They have already been saved; God has brought them up out of Egypt."

This is what God said in verse 4. He said,

"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,
and how I carried you on eagles' wings
and brought you to myself."

The struggle in Egypt showed that God had saved and rescued a people who had been unable to save themselves. Not only that, but He had saved a people who were unworthy of salvation. Time and again they grumbled against Moses and against God. Time and again they rebelled against God and His leading. Time and again they wanted to go back to Egypt. But God saved them and brought them up out of Egypt. He did it for His glory and honor. He did it in part, that His name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16)

So the Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the promised land is not at all about the people being worthy and obedient to God and thus deserving of salvation. Not at all. To think of it that way would be to misunderstand the whole of Exodus and to misunderstand the whole nature of salvation. The salvation we have is God's salvation. He has done it. He was bringing the people out of Egypt and into the promised land in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham.
Peter Enns writes, (p. (387)

"We will never properly understand the Exodus if we forget the connection to the patriarchs, which is foundational to the book's message. The Exodus is about God's keeping a promise he made to Abraham."

That's what the rescue from Egypt is all about. We see this right at the beginning of the book. In Exodus 2 we read about the oppression of the people of Israel in Egypt and how they cried out to God for help because of their slavery. In verses 24-25 we read,

"God heard their groaning
and he remembered his covenant
with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
So God looked on the Israelites
and was concerned about them."

So God sent Moses to lead them out. Thus the exodus from Egypt and the entrance into the promised land was not essentially on the basis of God's people keeping the law—but about God's grace—about God keeping His promise to Abraham. We read about this promise in Genesis 15. It's all about God's grace. God tells Abraham that He will give him a son and that his offspring would be like the number of the stars of heaven. We are then told that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. It was not about works, but about God's promise. God then told Abraham that he would give that land to his descendants. He told him that although his descendants would be strangers in a foreign country and enslaved and mistreated for 400 years, He would bring them out. He said, (Genesis 15:14-16)

"But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,
and afterward they will come out
with great possessions…
In the fourth generation your descendants
will come back here,
for the sin of the Amorites
has not yet reached its full measure."

God as not giving the Israelites the promised land because of their obedience to the law. The exodus from Egypt and the entrance to the promised land was about God was fulfilling His promise Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was about God's grace.

In the same way, we are not under the law for a way of salvation. We are not under the curse and condemnation of the law. In
1 Corinthians 9:20, the apostle Paul wrote,

"To the Jews I became like a Jew,
to win the Jews.
To those under the law
I became like one under the law
(though I myself am not under the law),
so as to win those under the law."

Paul said that he was not under the law. He also taught that Christians are not under the law, at least in some ways. In Galatians 4:21 he said to his opponents, the Judaizers,

"Tell me,
you who want to be under the law,
are you not aware of what the law says?"

Paul then goes on and talks about Abraham had two children, one born of the slave woman the ordinary way, the other born free as the result of a promise. Hagar represented Mount Sinai and slavery. Paul says that the slave woman and her son will never share in the inheritance of the free woman's son. Paul insists that we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman and then says,

"It is for freedom
that Christ has set us free."

Thus it is clear that we are not under the law as a way of salvation, as a curse, and a burden of guilt. As he wrote in Romans 8:2,

"because through Christ Jesus
the law of the Spirit of life
set me free from the law of sin and death."

The law cannot save you. It cannot bring you into heaven. Since the fall into sin it has been unable to save anyone. In that regard it's now the way of condemnation. You cannot be saved by your works. You're a sinner. That means that all that the law can do for you is condemn you. In Romans 3:20 the apostle Paul declared.

"no one will be declared righteous
in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law
we become conscious of sin."

In Galatians 2:15-16 he declared,

"We who are Jews by birth
and not 'Gentile sinners'
know that a man is not justified
by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too,
have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law
no one will be justified."

And in Galatians 2:21 he said,

"for if righteousness
could be gained through the law,
Christ died for nothing!"

So we are not to look to the law as a means of salvation. When God told the Israelites that keeping the law was a way to blessing He was not meaning that they were saved by such. Peter Enns writes, (Exodus, p. 387)

"God has brought them out of Egypt. The law he now gives is the subsequent stage in Israel's developing relationship with God. It is what is expected of a people already redeemed… The people do not earn their salvation; but once saved, they are obligated to act in a manner worthy of their high calling."

Christians. Jesus has redeemed you. He has saved you. He paid the price that was due for your sins. He kept the law for you and give you His righteousness. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-24,

"But now a righteousness from God,
apart from law,
has been made known,
to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe.
There is no difference,
for all have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption
that came by Christ Jesus."

Now that we have the righteousness of Christ, we are expected to live for Him. As Paul continued in Romans 6:10-14 about Jesus and our relationship to Him.

"The death he died,
he died to sin once for all;
but the life he lives,
he lives to God.
In the same way,
count yourselves dead to sin
but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body
so that you obey its evil desires.
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin,
as instruments of wickedness,
but rather offer yourselves to God,
as those who have been brought from death to life;
and offer the parts of your body to him
as instruments of righteousness.
For sin shall not be your master,
because you are not under law,
but under grace."

Obedience to the law is the way to blessing. As Paul said in Galatians 6:8,

"The one who sows to please his sinful nature,
from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

The second thing in our text that shows us that the law ought to be very close to our hearts is the fact that

it shows us how to serve God correctly.

In verse 6, God told Moses to tell the people that if they obeyed Him and kept His covenant,

"you will be for me a kingdom of priests
and a holy nation."

Essentially the law shows us how to love and serve God correctly. That's what the law is all about. You'll remember that in Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus was questioned by one of the Pharisees. He asked Jesus,

"Teacher, which is
the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied,

"'Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
All the Law and the Prophets
hang on these two commandments."

In saying that Jesus was not saying anything new but was quoting form Deuteronomy 6:4-6 and Leviticus 19:18. From the beginning, the people of God were taught that the law showed them how to be holy, how to worship God acceptably. The law showed us how to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and our mind. That's what the law is all about.

There is no division between the law and the Spirit. The Spirit came to lead us in all truth. The Spirit came to glorify Jesus.
The one who loves God is one who obeys God's commandments. The apostle John told us about this in 1 John 5:3-4. He wrote,

"This is love for God:
to obey his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome,
for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

This is love for God, to obey His commandments. Christians, the commandments are wonderful. They show you how to love God.

Not only do the commandments show us how to love God, but the also show us how to be like God.

In Ephesians 5:1 we are told to imitate God and to live a life of live, following in the footsteps of Jesus. Paul says that there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality among us, or any kind of impurity, or greed, or foolish talk. He continued, (Ephesians 5:8-9)

"For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light
(for the fruit of the light consists
in all goodness,
righteousness and truth"

What is God like? He is an awesome and glorious God. His Commandments reveal Him. They show His character. That's why they were given as they were. The scene teaches us so much about God. God is holy. There is none like Him. He is high and lifted up. He is altogether holy. If they touched the mountain or saw Him the ancient Israelites would die.

The commandments reflect His character. They show us what is right. We are to worship Him alone and revere Him. We are to put Him first. We are to be like Him in some ways. We are to be truthful because His very character is truth. It is impossible for Him to lie. (Hebrews 6:18)

Christians, love God's law.

It teaches you much about God, it teaches you how to love Him and love your fellow man. To let go of God's law is, in a sense, to let go of God Himself.

Christians, your living according to the law.

The Israelites were to be witnesses to the world. Your living a holy life is your witness to the world.

The apostle Paul told Christians that we died to sin. We die to sin and live to God in order to be effective witnesses to those still dead in sin. Peter Enns, (p. 405)

"God's intent in raising Christ from the dead is not merely to get us into heaven, but to use us to raise others up from death. God has masterminded an 'alien invasion' of the world. We who are in Christ are 'from above.' Our citizenship is in heaven, since we have been raised with Christ. We are, therefore, ideally suited to set examples to the world of how life is to be lived."

Peter Enns, (p. 405-406)

"The example we set is not by lauding our morality over others but by humbly being light and salt to the world—that is, by demonstrating in no uncertain terms, by our words and our actions, that we are of a different pedigree, a holy race. It is in a manner of speaking, the clearest proof of the existence of God—not a logical and scintillating exegetical argument, not forceful rhetoric, but pure, humble, godly lives lived in the shadow of the cross and in the brilliant glow of the resurrection. By living such lives we show the world that the gospel works. It is not just words or a great idea, it changes us from the inside out and makes us into creatures who behavior is inexplicable."

The way you Christians shine is by obeying God's commandments—loving God and loving others.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. Exodus 19 shows you that God is awesome and terrifying. There are many references to death there. Both the events leading up to the giving of the law and the law itself show you that this world has got it all wrong. They're like me with that college exam—hoping against hope that they won't be held responsible. But unlike my professor, God doesn't change His mind. He can't lie. One day you are going to stand before the great judge and you are going to be called to account. Unless you're in Jesus you'll be lost.

Exodus 19 shows you that you're not holy. You can't stand in God's presence. Exodus 20 shows you that you haven't kept the law and that you can't keep it. Iin Romans 8:3-4 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For what the law was powerless to do
in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,
God did by sending his own Son
in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
in order that the righteous requirements
of the law might be fully met in us,
who do not live according to the sinful nature
but according to the Spirit."

You need Jesus—someone who died for your sins, someone who kept the law for you—and someone who can give His Spirit to you to transform you—to make you fit to dwell with God. Go to Him today.