Book of Exodus Chapter Thirty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
We Will Not Be The Same
In Verse 1, "Now the Lord said to Moses, 'Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered." In Chapter 32 we saw an outraged Moses break into pieces the "former tablets" containing words etched on them by the hand of God. And see in these verses that God would patiently write these words once more—words desperately needed by everyone in humanity, for in them we are taught to love the Lord and love one another. You may have broken your word to God, but He has not forsaken you. As Paul would observe in 2 Timothy 2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful."
The Lord continued in Verse 2, "So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain." A lot of time had passed and Moses was now older in human years than we will ever be; yet notice God's command to him: "(Come) to Me on the top of the mountain." When we let the Lord into our hearts and lives, changes will occur that may or may not be noticed as they happen, which in Moses' case included longevity. Psalm 90 is listed as a prayer of Moses, and in Verse 10 of that Psalm he states, "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years...it is soon cut off, and we fly away." The span of life then was about like it is now, but here he was, older than he ever expected to be, but able to climb a mountain. And so it is for you and me. Giving ourselves to the Lord brings unexpected benefits not possible without Him.
And as it was for most of his adult life, He would do this task alone. In Verse 3, the Lord directed, "No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain." It took time and effort, but Moses did as the Lord said, and in Verse 4, "So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand." In our minds we can see this old man trudging up the mountain with two blocks of stone clutched in his arms, on his way to the Lord once more.
In Verse 5, "The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord." The Lord is standing right next to each one of us right this minute, which is wonderful, but most are spiritually blind. Moses, on the other hand, was allowed to SEE and to hear also. In Verses 6-7, we are given a glimpse of who the Lord is: "Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Such words would be gross conceit if we spoke them about ourselves, but this is the Lord speaking and He actually understates who and what He is. The Lord is full of compassion and grace for you and me. When we are honest about who we are, the phrase, "slow to anger" is very important, for all of us would not have survived, except He is gracious and kind. He is full of love for us, though most don't return that love. To look at the Cross of Christ is to see the depth of His forgiveness of our sin and lawbreaking ways. Yet grasp that the sins we commit will damage our children, grandchildren and others we encounter, far into the future.
Moses did what we should all do in Verse 8, as "Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship." If you've never truly worshiped the Lord as Moses did, you should take a "time-out" and try it. There is peace and joy in worshiping Him. And don't forget to ask for your need. Moses did exactly that in Verse 9: "He said, 'If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.'" Note carefully that the Lord already said He would not visibly accompany the nation into the Promised Land, but Moses kept on asking, and that kind of boldness should characterize your life and mine. The answer to Moses' prayer is is a qualified "yes" in Verses 10-11: "Then God said, 'Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. 11 Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.'" His Presence with them would not be the same as it was in the desert, but He did say "yes" to this man who is not different from us, except for the depth of his faith in the Lord.
People are great imitators, carefully copying the clothing, words and manners of people around us. God observes this tendency in Verses 12-13: "Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim" which is a warning to all of us—watch your associations, for they will change who you are. Verse 14 warns: "—for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—" and you might ask, WHY is He jealous? And the answer is: He's jealous on our behalf. He knows that if we sell our souls to one of the pursuits of this world, we will ultimately be destroyed by it. That's what He's talking about in Verses 15-16: "otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods." We should always keep in focus that our actions change us and what we become will damage others. Israel had recently made a golden idol, and Verse 17 is a reminder of the thousands who died as a result of that incident, as He cautions, "You shall make for yourself no molten gods."
We get busy with our chores and interests, often forgetting the Lord who has given us this day to be alive, which is why He has placed reminders in our lives, as in Verse 18: "You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt." The Egyptians meant to kill every first born male child of Israel, but instead it was Egypt's firstborn that died, because God made it so. The reminder of that event is glimpsed in Verses 19-20: "The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20 You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed." Has the Lord delivered you from something you should remember? Have you understood today that the place where you live and the food you eat has come from God? Create reminders around you and when you do remember, thank Him for all that He has done. Especially note that Jesus Christ was broken for us and we cannot reach heaven without Him. Let's thank our God today.
People everywhere try to be as busy as possible. If we're not working, it's watching television, texting, doing puzzles, knitting, woodworking, chores or whatever. God knows this about us and in Verse 21, as He often does, He introduces the concept of "rest" for our souls: "You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest." Even when there is much to do, take time out to rest. But this is more than just rest for our bodies. It's a time to ponder the Lord, pray, and worship Him for who He is.
The second and third feasts for Israel are reminders in Verse 22: "You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year," gathering all three feasts into Verse 23: "Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel." If the Lord puts something into your life and heart, you should do it. If what you are called to do seems in conflict with Scripture, then seek counsel and pray until you get an answer from the Lord. These verses are what Israel was called to do, and there is a call on your life as well. Israel was to have sufficient faith to answer His call to feast before the Lord in Jerusalem three times a year, as in Verse 24: "For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God." Like any contract, certain conditions applied, such as the restrictions indicated in Verses 25-26: "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning. 26 You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk." Everything was to be new continually; nothing casual, ordinary, or left over until tomorrow. Tablets have recently been found indicating that some of the nations to be displaced by Israel, sacrificed young animals to false "gods" by boiling them in their mother's milk and then sprinkling the milk on newly planted crops. The words of Verse 26 became a catch phrase, reminding the people to avoid idolatry.
Some theologians have confidently asserted that Moses did not write Books like "Exodus," but he did write them, as seen in Verses 27-28: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.' 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." Note carefully Verse 28 and see that this very old man did not eat or drink for forty days, ordinarily meaning he would die from hunger if thirst did not kill him first; except that God, who created the physical laws of this universe, can suspend those laws at any time. The Lord is not controlled by such laws, and as He wills, those He calls to His service.
There is something different about those who place their trust in the Lord, which took the form of a personal "glow" about Moses, as observed in Verses 29-30: "It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him." Those who trust in the Lord will be changed, but others may not understand. In Verse 31, "Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them." In Verse 32, Moses overcame their reluctance somewhat: "Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai."
His life, which we will find was drawing to a close, was permanently changed. In giving ourselves utterly to the Lord, each in our own way, we will be changed also. In Verses 33-35, "When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him." There is a "veil" over all who trust in the Lord. It's not something we do, but instead it's the Lord, protecting us and others from unnecessary fear. We may outwardly look the same, but thanks to the Lord, we will not be the same, now and forever.
Father, we want to be changed for the good. We offer ourselves to You, trusting that You have a different and better plan for our lives. We are Yours, Lord. We surrender to You. In Jesus Name. Amen.