And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:5-8 ESV)
I had forgotten the amount of detailed law that is present in the book of Exodus. The ten commandments are there, but immediately after begins a list of other laws that expand on the basic ten. Some of them make perfect sense and others are difficult to understand, especially the ones dealing with how to treat slaves. It just seems bizarre that a nation of slaves would need laws governing how to treat slaves, but apparently, they did.
What struck me as I read through this section was that the Israelites had heard much of the law and entered into a covenant with God before Moses came down with the stone tablets for the first time. The order of events is interesting. The people had prepared to meet God by cleaning themselves up and abstaining from sexual relations. They gathered together and offered sacrifices. Then Moses reads the terms of the covenant to them. I’m assuming based on their response that this included all the law that has been recorded in Exodus to this point.
At this point the people respond. If you don’t know the rest of the story what they say sounds really good. They hear the word from God and respond with a commitment to obey. It is easy to say the words, “I will obey.” It is difficult to keep that commitment. The easy way out of this predicament is to never commit to anything. Much of our world lives this way. If you never make a promise you can never break a promise. Unfortunately, it is impossible to build a lasting relationship without some level of commitment.
Fortunately, we live on this side of the cross and the covenant we’ve committed to is based on grace and forgiveness. God knows we won’t keep all the promises we have made. All He asks is that we tell Him when we’ve broken a promise, so He can forgive us and restore the relationship that has been broken. As I was writing this the words of Matt Redman’s song “Unbroken Praise” came to mind:
So let my deeds outrun my words
And let my life outweigh my songs
Generally, the opposite is true for us, our words outrun our deeds. We commit to more than we will do. What would the world be like if we kept our commitments? At work I learned and often practiced the expression, under promise and over deliver. I don’t think that’s what Redman is implying in his song. I’m certain that’s not what God desires. God desires obedience and it is worth committing to.
To my grandchildren:
Make promises and then keep them.