How Now Shall We Live?
By Beth, Jan 29 2018 09:17PM
(This is a homily (mini-sermon) I wrote for my ministry degree.)
In 1999, Christian author Chuck Colson published a book that asked Christians the ultimate profound and enduring question: “How now shall we live?” And indeed, that remains the fundamental question here on earth after our conversion. Today we are going to look at some verses in Exodus wherein God prepares Moses and the Hebrew people for how they should live and conduct themselves upon entering the Promise Land -- the land of their deliverance and redemption. This was the place where they were to begin a new life with a new outlook and leave a new legacy…and God had specific guidelines for how they could make that happen.
Exodus 19:3 & 4 says: And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
Moses was to remind the Hebrew children of the LORD’s great deeds on their behalf. God’s wrath toward the Egyptians was a reminder of His justice for the oppressed. Later, in Judges 6:9, He again reminds them: “And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land…” Psalms 146:7 describes the character of God as one “Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners…” And truly, He did all of those things for His children in the Exodus story. And, according to the Scripture, He “bare them on eagles’ wings…” This is a metaphor; metaphors communicate concepts that cannot be expressed in literal terms. The enormity of God’s intervention on behalf of His children defies literal description, and so God uses a metaphor to indicate His sweeping deliverance of the Hebrew people from their bondage.
He established His love for them, His willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to protect and preserve them. And isn’t this the picture of a parent’s authentic love for their children?
Then, He set forth what He would (reasonably) ask of them in verse 5: (Exodus 19:5) Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine…
God wanted them to obey His voice and keep His covenant – then they should be for Him a peculiar treasure above all others. Seems simple enough, right? But what bearing does it have on us?
First, let’s begin with this: are we expected to obey His voice today? John 10:27 says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” Okay, are we supposed to keep His covenant today? Well, let’s begin with the question: what is His covenant? What is He referring to here? We can find the answer later in the Scripture (keeping in mind the importance of the framework of the whole counsel of God. )
Referring to Moses, Exodus 34:28 says: And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
Leviticus 26:15 says: And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant…
Deuteronomy 4:13 states: And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
And Deuteronomy 9:11 reiterates: And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
We now have clearly defined the covenant. God was preparing His children that, when they entered the Promise Land, they needed to keep the basic commandments which He was about to give to them (they come, literally, in the very next chapter.)
They are basic because they are the foundation of human decency. They are, indeed, what makes us human rather than merely a higher form of mammal. Made in the image of the Divine. Loving the Divine, and loving our neighbor in such a way that we never do them intentional harm in our daily living, nor try to gain in such a way that facilitates their demise. Jesus Christ, being at the center of our Biblical understanding, reminded us of our obligation, saying: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
But did Christ really mean the covenant, the Ten Commandments that were given to Israel? Considering that they were written by the very “finger of God,” and that Christ declared “I and my Father are one” in John 10:30, I would say resoundingly yes! He did mean –those-- commandments!
And if Israel would have truly established her civilization on those laws governing morality, governing basic truth and goodness, in Exodus 19:6, God proclaimed: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Israel had the potential to be religious leaders for the entire planet, and if she would only follow God’s commandments – to be “a kingdom of priests.” She could demonstrate to all other cultures the abundance of blessings bestowed upon a people who treat others as they themselves want to be treated and who show gratitude and honor to their Just, Merciful, Compassionate, Powerful, Holy Creator. A holy nation. A nation lifted high above all others to be a shining light. A “treasured possession” which God has “set His heart on.” These are the words that Moses was to speak to Israel. And these are the very words that we are to speak to the Body of Christ today.
If only the Israelites had obeyed! If only they had not insisted on making an idol of continual sacrifice, but rather had set their focus on overcoming sin! If only they had truly valued and regarded these words above their flesh – what a radiant, luminescent light they could have been!
We live in a culture that values acquisition over generosity; fame over humility; brutality over gentleness; lust over sacrificial love; and violence over peace. But how now shall we live after our deliverance, forgiveness and redemption from our past in bondage to sin? We should lead our own homes to be a shining light, a rare precious gem in the midst of an ever-darkening landscape; we should heed the words of the LORD in Exodus 19:“If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” (“Peculiar” here means a people expressly possessed by God and particularly prized by Him.)
Jesus said it most succinctly:
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Matthew 22:39 And Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
All of the Bible hangs on these simple commandments. This is the central message of Christ. This is the message repeated over and over throughout Scripture, both Old Testament and New. Live by these commandments…and experience life as a shining star in God’s kingdom: holy, peculiar, a kingdom of priests who shed God’s light in all that they do.
Thank you, God, for your Holy Commandments as guidance for our lives. Let us live to honor you in all we do. Help us to set an example by our humility and our obedience to your voice. Help those around us to truly know we are Christians by our Godly and neighborly love. Help us to shine the light of your goodness to all who encounter us, that they may see our good works and glorify you…and eventually, truly come to know you. Amen.
Nice work Beth!! Hope yous are doing very well!! God Bless you and yours!!
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