Israel Goes to Kindergarten
Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 20 and Revelation 19.
Maybe you knew off the top of your head that the LORD gave the “Ten Commandments” to the people of Israel in Exodus 20. Maybe you didn’t. But did you know what commandments came next? After delivering the backbone of the Law, take a moment to reflect on what the I AM said next:
And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.'” (Exo 20:22-25)
This was the very beginning of Israel’s covenant relationship with Yahweh. They have just promised, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exo 19:8). Throughout the rest of Exodus and the next few books of the Bible, we will read the instructions of God that transform these slaves-turned-wilderness-wanderers into a nation. God will “take them to school” in a sense and teach them with remarkable detail how to obey his voice, keep his covenant, and function as his “treasured possession,” a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo 19:5-6). This is where that education starts.
Think of Exodus 20 as Kindergarten in Israel’s development. Looking back over Exodus 20:22-25, how would you summarize the LORD’s instructions? Here’s my attempt: “REMEMBER, I am different, and I will teach you to be different.”
- “You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.” I AM. I am real. I see, hear, and know. I am in heaven, you are on the earth. I am not like you. Remember that.
- “You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.” I am different from every so-called “god” or “goddess” that you heard of in Egypt. Remember how I proved that. I am in heaven. Not only do I not need you to make a representation of me on earth, I will not tolerate it. I am different and I alone am God.
- “An altar of earth you shall make for me…” I welcome your worship, and I will tell you how to worship me.
- “I will come to you and bless you.” Though I am in heaven and you are on the earth, do not doubt this fact: I desire a real relationship with you.
- “If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones…” You are not going to impress me with your ingenuity, skill, or improvements. I expect you to fearfully respect me enough to follow my simple instructions. Never forget, I am different and I am teaching you, my people, to be different from the world around you.
Though we live at a different point in history and are people of a different and better covenant, those “Kindergarten” instructions to Israel should make us think today. This is our God:
- I AM
- I am different, and I alone am God
- I welcome your worship, and I have told you how to worship me
- I desire a real relationship with you
- I am teaching you, my people, to be different from the world around you