Afternoon Sermon: Did God Leave All Mankind To Perish In The Estate Of Sin And Misery?, Baptist Catechism 23, Ephesians 1:3–10

Baptist Catechism 23

Q. 23. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer. (Eph. 1:3,4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 5:21; Acts 13:8; Jer. 31:33)

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3–10

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3–10, ESV)

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Introduction

The catechism has been all bad news from questions 16 through 22. In those questions and answers, we learned all about Adam’s sin and its terrible effects upon the whole of the human race. Here in question 23, we hear good news.

Again, the question: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? 

Before we go to the answer, it should be acknowledged that God would have been right to leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery. God would have done nothing wrong –  he would have been perfectly right and just – to leave men and women in their sins and to give them what they deserve. 

Now, for the good news. 

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The Good News

The first word in the answer to our question is “God…” That is significant. If mercy and grace were to be shown to man, if salvation were to be provided, God had to take the initiative. God had to act. In other words, man in sin is in a helpless and hopeless state of being.

Next, our catechism says, “having…” “God having…” Having is past tense, notice. So we are about to learn about something that God did “before” Adam fell into sin. I say “before” knowing that that is not a completely accurate way of speaking about God’s determination to offer grace to fallen man, for God is not bound by time in the way we are. Soon, we will learn that God determined to show grace to man “in eternity”. That is the more accurate way to put it.  

Back to our answer: “God, having out of His mere good pleasure…” our catechism says. The words, “out of his mere good pleasure” speak to what motivated God. What motivated God to show grace to sinful man? Was it something deserving in man? Did someone convince, or pressure God to show grace? No. God determined to show grace from within himself, “out of his mere good pleasure.”  The most famous of all Bible verses, John 3:16, speaks to this when it says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). What “moved” the Father to send the Son to accomplish redemption? The perfection of his love moved him to provide a savior. In other words, it was not something outside of God that moved him, but something from within, namely, the perfection of his love. 

When did God determine to show grace to fallen man? Here it is stated with precision. “From all eternity”, our catechism says. This truth that God determined to save sinners “before” Adam sinned and “from all eternity” is found in many places in the scriptures. In my mind, the clearest of these texts are the ones that contain the phrase, “before the foundation of the world”. Clearly, these texts are  speaking about something that happened before the heavens, earth, and even time itself were made. 

In Ephesians 1:4 we learn that God “chose [those who believe]  in [Christ]  before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV). 1 Peter 1:20 says that “[Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you…” (1 Peter 1:20, ESV). In John 17:24 we hear the prayer of Jesus to the Father, wherein he says, “I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24, ESV). Lastly, in Revelation 13:8 we hear about “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” that was “written before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, ESV).

All of these texts clearly teach that God determined to show grace to sinners and to bring them to salvation through a redeemer, Christ the Lord, before the world was made, before man fell into sin, and in eternity.

What in particular did God do in eternity? Our catechism is right to say that he “elected some to everlasting life…” This is the doctrine of election or predestination which is so clearly taught in holy scripture. 

Again, Ephesians 1:4 says that God “chose us in [Christ]  before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV). Verses 5 and 6 continue, saying, “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5–6, ESV).

There are many other places where this doctrine is taught. In John 17 Jesus speaks of those given to him by the Father in eternity. In Colossians 3:12, those in Christ are called “chosen ones”. Romans 8:33, 9:11, 11:7, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1, and 2 Peter 1:10 all use the language of election to refer to the believer. Those who are united to Christ by faith are said to be the elect or elected by God. This is another way of saying that those who place their faith in Christ in time were first chosen by God in eternity. 

And I suppose now would be a good time to remind you of what motivated God to choose, elect, or predestine some (and to leave others in their sin).  It was not something deserving in the creature, but out of God’s mere good pleasure. In other words, this election was by the grace of God alone. There is no room for boasting, therefore. And this is what Paul so famously says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV).

So we have learned about what God did in eternity. Now we will learn about what God has done in time.

“God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.”

When and with whom was this covenant of grace made? Not within God in eternity, but between God and man in time.  

If we wish to be more precise (which is in fact important here) we must say that this covenant of grace was ratified when Jesus Christ lived, died, rose again and ascended to the Father. That is when the covenant of grace was made. But we must also admit that the saving power of this covenant was present in the world before Christ’s death and resurrection. Indeed, the saving power of this covenant of grace was present in the world even in the days of Adam. Shortly after Adam fell into sin a promise was made that God would provide a Savior who would, in the fulness of time, arise from the offspring of the women. 

All who have ever been saved from their sins – be it Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, or any other who lived in their days – were saved by faith in the promised Messiah.   

The covenant of grace is the New Covenant of which Jeremiah 31:31 spoke. The covenant of grace is the one mediated by Christ. It is the one that instituted on the night he was betrayed, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And taking a cup, and having given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28, ESV). It is this covenant, the New Covenant, that is the Covenant of Grace. This covenant alone provides for the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, the mediator of this covenant, who atoned for sins through the shedding of his blood. 

We have already learned about covenants. Remember, a covenant of works was made with Adam in the garden. It is called a covenant of works because Adam had to work (or obey) to obtain the blessing of that covenant. Why then is the New Covenant called the Covenant of Grace? It is because in this covenant the work has been done for us by Christ. The only thing for us to do is to believe, and we have already heard in Ephesians 2:8 that the ability to believe is itself a gift from God. 

This covenant – the Covenant of Grace – is not a covenant of works for us. It is a covenant of grace. In this covenant, God has promised to “deliver [his elect] out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.“

Please allow me to make just a few remarks about the phrases, “to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.”

One, notice the language of “estate” again. Man was created in an estate of innocence. When man sinned, he fell into an estate of sin and misery. But those who have faith in the promised Messiah are brought into another state of being. They are transferred into an estate of salvation. 

Our confession of faith calls this estate “the state of grace”.  Listen to the way 2LCF 9.4 describes this state of being. “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he frees him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he does not perfectly, nor only will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.”

Two, our catechism does not only talk about the estate that the elect are brought into when they believe upon Christ, but also the estate from which they are freed, namely the estate of sin and misery.  Again, in the Covenant of Grace God promises to “deliver [his elect] out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.”

Thirdly, notice that this salvation is obtained, not by works, but through faith in a Redeemer, Christ Jesus the Lord. 

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Conclusion

So here is the good news. Though man fell into sin and was hopelessly lost in an estate of sin and misery, having “lost communion with God”, being “under His wrath and curse”, and being “made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever”, “God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.” The Redeemer is Christ the Lord. “whoever believes in him [will] not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18, ESV).

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Discussion Questions: Exodus 21:1-23:19

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AT HOME OR IN GOSPEL COMMUNITY GROUPS

Sermon manuscript available at emmausrbc.org

  • How does recognizing the literary structure of a text help us correctly interpret it? 
  • Where is the emphasis placed in the case laws section of Exodus 21:1-22:27? Where is the emphasis placed in the imperatival laws section of Exodus 22:8-23:19?
  • Though we are not under the civil laws of the Old Testament in the way that Israel was, what can we learn from them? How might we apply them personally? How might we apply them politically?
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Morning Sermon: Exodus 21:1-23:19, Civil Laws For Israel: An Introduction

Old Testament Reading: Selections From Exodus 21:1-22:27

“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.” (Exodus 21:1–2, ESV)

“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12, ESV)

“When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.” (Exodus 21:18–19, ESV)

“When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:28–29, ESV)

“When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.” (Exodus 21:33–34, ESV)

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” (Exodus 22:1, ESV)

“If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, an oath by the LORD shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution.” (Exodus 22:10–11, ESV)

“If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” (Exodus 22:16–17, ESV)

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22:21–27, ESV)

New Testament Reading: James 1:27

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

We have come now to what is probably the most neglected portion of the book of Exodus. The narrative of Exodus 1 through 18 is well known and much loved. The story contained there of the birth and deliverance of Moses, his forsaking of Egypt, his encounter with God in the burning bush, his commission, the ten plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, and God’s leading of Israel into the wilderness, is truly epic. Chapters 19 and 20 are also well-known and much loved. There God appears to Israel at Sinai and begins to enter into a covenant with them. He appears to them in a most awesome and glorious way. He speaks his moral law to them with a thunderous voice. The people tremble, fear, stand afar off, and beg that no further word be spoken to them, requesting that Moses mediate between them and God. 

Chapters 21 through 24, which we are just now being to study, go together with chapters 19 and 20. All together Exodus chapters 19 through 24 tell us about the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses. The covenant was introduced or proposed in chapter 19. In chapter 20 God spoke his moral law from Sinai with his own voice – this moral law served as the foundation for all other laws in this covenant. But in Exodus 20:22 through 23:19 God gives more laws to Israel to govern them as a society. These laws are about worship and civil affairs. Finally, the covenant is confirmed in Exodus chapter 24. 

I’ll admit, this portion of Exodus is not nearly as exciting as the story which preceded it – at least not on the surface. And not only is this portion of scripture less exciting, it also seems very foreign to those of us living so long after the Old Mosaic Covenant has passed away, having been fulfilled by Christ. 

So it is somewhat understandable that this section of the book of Exodus is neglected by those who live now, not under the Old Covenant, but under the New. Notice I said “somewhat”. Also, I said “understandable”, not “acceptable”. In a moment I will tell you why we ought to pay very careful attention to these civil and ceremonial laws given to Old Covenant Israel. But for now, I wish to acknowledge that there is a sense in which these laws are not for us. 

These laws were given to Old Covenant Israel to govern them as a nation. Old Covenant Israel was not a common nation, but a holy nation. There are some civil laws that God gave to Israel which were unique to them, therefore, and should not be adopted by common nations. Sabbath-breakers were to be put to death in Old Covenant Israel. So too were idolaters and false prophets. Here I am simply saying that this law code along with its punishments was given by God through Moses to Israel to govern them as a nation under the Old Covenant. It would be wrong to assume that God’s intention was for the civil laws of Israel, along with their civil penalties, to be adopted without alteration by all nations. Nowhere does the text say this. Nowhere is this suggested in the scriptures. In fact, the context in which these laws were given to Israel makes it quite clear that these laws were given to govern them as God’s special people. Israel is here entering into a special covenantal relationship with YHWH. No other nation on earth before or after could claim this. As I have said, these civil laws were given by God, through Moses, to Israel, to govern them under the Old Covenant. Just as we are not obligated to obey the laws given to Israel pertaining to worship at alters (20:22-26), the observance of festival days (23:10-19), or worship at the tabernacle through the priesthood (25-30), neither are we obligated to take these civil laws and to apply them with exact strictness in the common nations in which we now live. This would be a grave mistake. I belabor this point a little because there is a movement known as theonomy which is currently gaining popularity amongst the Reformed which makes this error. It is a misinterpretation of scripture, and it is contrary to our confession of faith (see Second London Confession Of Faith chapter 19).  

At this point, some may wonder how it is that we can claim that God’s moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments is still binding on us, whereas these civil and ceremonial laws are not. I’ve spoken about this issue before. Many arguments can be made for the permanence of the moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments, and the abrogation of the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. The strongest of these arguments come from our consideration of the New Testament and the way in which Christ and his Apostle spoke concerning the law of Moses. Clearly, they taught that the moral law remains binding, whereas the civil and ceremonial have been fulfilled by Christ and thus taken away. For now, I wish only to draw your attention (once more) to the distinction that is made in the book of Exodus itself between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the laws given to Israel through Moses. God spoke the Ten Commandments with his own voice. He revealed them first. And later in Exodus, we will learn that he wrote the Ten Commandments with his own finger on tablets of stone to be kept in the ark of the covenant. The rest of the laws given to Israel were revealed in a different way. They were added later. They were revealed through Moses the mediator. This does not make them less inspired or less important. But it does make a distinction for us. God’s moral law is most fundamental. It is everlasting, unchanging, and universally binding. And to this moral God added ceremonial laws to govern Israel’s worship and civil laws government of the people. 

So, there is a good reason why when we read the Ten Commandments they seem so familiar to us, and when we read the ceremonial and civil laws that follow, they seem to be foreign. These civil and ceremonial laws that were given to Israel to govern them under the Old Covenant are foreign to us. The culture of Israel (and of the surrounding nations) is foreign to us. Their special covenantal relationship with God is foreign to us. But please hear me. It would be a terrible mistake to ignore the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. There is so much to learn from them concerning matters of morality, justice, and even our salvation in Christ Jesus. For this reason, we will not skip over or rush through this portion of scripture but will come back to it next week to move rather slowly through the laws of Exodus 20:21-23:19.

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The Structure Of Exodus 21:1-23:19

In this sermon today I would like to provide you with an overview of this portion of Exodus. And I think the best way to do this is to draw your attention to the structure of Exodus 21:1-23:19. I think knowing something about the structure of this large section will help us to better understand the individual parts. 

As you read Exodus 21:1-23:19 you can sense that there is a structure to it, but it is not immediately apparent what that structure is. I found David Dorsey’s book, “The Literary Structure Of The Old Testament” to be helpful here. He shows that Exodus 21:2-23:19 is divided into two large sections. 

Firstly, we find case laws in 21:2-22:27. In case law examples of legal cases are given which then serve as a precedent for future legal decisions. Case laws say, here is what you are to do in this situation. And then it is up to judges, governors, and kings to apply the principles in the one case to others as they arise. This requires wisdom. Case laws are typically presented with the language of “if/then” or “when”. You can clearly see that language in 21:2-22:27.  

Secondly, we find imperatival laws in 22:28-23:19. Imperitaival laws are stated with imperatives or commands. Imperatival laws are stated with the words, “you shall…”, or “you shall not…” If you look at 22:28 you can see the beginning of the “you shall…”, and “you shall not…”, imperatival formula. 

So there are two large sections within Exodus 21:2-23:19. The first contains case law, and the second contains imperatival law. And both of these sections are highly structured. I’d like to show you the structure of each, not to fill your minds with useless information, but one, to help you have a clear understanding of this portion of scripture, and two, so that you might see where the emphasis is placed in these laws which God gave to Israel. Literary structure is often used to bring clarity to a passage, and also to place emphasis on some things over others. 

Both of these sections containing case laws and imperatival laws are structured chiastically. This means that in each section the first part mirrors the last, the second part mirrors the second to last, the third part mirrors the third to last, and so on. Diagrammed out, the passage looks like a “V” laid down on its side so that it points to the right. In a chiastic structure, everything leads up to a central point, and then descendants back down from there in a symmetrical way. And so it is with the case laws of Exodus 21:2-22:27, and the imperatival laws of Exodus 22:28-23:19. 

Consider now the literary structure of the case laws of Exodus 21:2-22:27.

a Kindness to servants (21:2-11)

b Capital offenses: “he shall be put to death” (21:12-17)

c Noncapital bodily assaults requiring restitution (21:18-27)

d Death or injury of a person by an animal (21:28-32)

e Loss of property due to an accident (21:33-36)
e’ Loss of property due to theft (22:1-9)

d’ Death, injury, or loss of animal by a person (22:10-15)

c’ Noncapital bodily offense: the seduction of a virgin (22:16-17)

b’ Capital offenses: “shall be put to death” (22:18-20)

a’ Kindness to aliens, widows, orphans, poor (22:21-27)

We could probably spend a lot of time analyzing this structure. I’ll make only a few remarks, for the sake of time. 

One, notice that this section containing case laws is divided into ten parts. This matches the Ten Commandments. I think we are to see that these civil case laws are rooted in God’s moral law. 

Two, in his book on the literary structure of the Old Testament, Dorsey notes that when a passage is structured in a symmetrical or chiastic way and consists of an even number of parts (like this one does), then the emphasis tends to be placed, not in the middle (or peak) of the chiasm, but at the beginning and end of the symmetrical pattern. This makes sense, doesn’t it? When the symmetrical pattern consists of an odd number of parts, the whole thing comes to a sharp point (a, b, c, b’, a’). The emphasis is often placed upon what is said in the middle of the chiasm. But when there are an even number of parts, the passage does not really come to a point or peak but is blunted (notice how in this passage e and e’ (prime) share the middle). And indeed, when we consider the content of this section we find that the emphasis is placed at the beginning and end of this chiasm. Notice how things move from most serious (crimes punishable by death) to less serious (the loss of property due to accident) in points b through e, and then from less serious (the loss of property due to theft) back down to most serious (sins punishable by death in Israel) in parts e’ through b’. 

Three (and this is the thing that I really wanted to show you), this even-numbered chiastic structure of Exodus 21:2-22:27, which places the emphasis (or stress) at the beginning and end, starts by demanding that kindness be shown to servants and ends by demanding that kindness be shown to aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor. 

This might sound strange to you, but this brought tears to my eyes when I saw it. The first set of civil laws which God gave to Israel as a nation begin and end with this emphasis – you must care for the weak and vulnerable among you. Treat them justly. Do not oppress them, but seek their well-being. Remember that you were slaves and sojourners in Egypt. Do not oppress or mistreat the slaves and the sojourners who dwell in the midst of you, therefore.   

Laws concerning the just and kind treatment of slaves, aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor are mentioned first and last. In other words, they are stressed or emphasized.  Again, the pattern in this chiastic structure is clearly from most serious to least, and then back down again from least to most serious. And what is emphasized as being the most serious thing of all for Israel as it pertains to their treatment of one another in society? Do not take advantage of the weak and vulnerable among you! Care for them! Seek their prosperity. Threat them justly! Do not oppress.  

As I have said, the imperatival laws of Exodus 22:28-23:19 are also structured as a chiasm. This section is made of seven parts, though (an odd number), and so we will find that the emphasis is placed, not at the beginning and end, but in the middle.

Consider now the literary structure of the imperatival laws of Exodus 22:28-23:19.   

a Responsibilities to God (22:28-30)
(tribute from crops and herds; no other gods)

b Do not eat meat torn by wild animals (22:31)
(do not scrounge for food; God will provide for you as his holy people) 

c Justice upheld (favoritism not to be shown to the poor in a lawsuit) (23:1-3)

d CENTER: Kindness to personal enemies (23:4-5)

c’ Justice, especially for the poor (23:6-9)

b’ Do not eat sabbath year produce (23:10-12)

(leave it for animals; Sabbath rest; God will provide)

a’ Responsibilities to God 23:13-19)

(tribute from crops and herds; no other gods)

Please allow me to say just a few words about the structure of this section, before concluding with suggestions for application. 

One, this section follows the pattern of the Ten Commandments moving from laws pertaining to the worship and honoring of God to the honoring of our fellow man. Do you see it? Love God. Honor him with your produce, your children, and your flocks. Trust him to provide as you keep his commandments. And your love for God must manifest itself also in your love for neighbor. Uphold justice for both the rich and the poor – show no partiality. Yes, even do what is right to those you consider an enemy within society. “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him” (Exodus 23:4, ESV).

Two, I have said that stress is placed here, not on the responsibilities we have before God, but on the love we are to show to our fellow man – yes even our personal enemies. By that, I do not mean that love for man is to have priority over love for God. No, what I mean is that in this section of scripture which is about the civil laws given to Old Covenant Israel, stress is placed upon the proper and just treatment of others within society. Do you love God? Then you must fulfill your obligations to him, and you must also love your neighbor by doing what is just and right no matter if they are high or low, friend or foe. That is where the laws the imperatival laws of Exodus 22:28-23:19 take us.    

Three, taken together these two sections (the case laws and the imperatival laws) do away with every excuse that men and women may give for the unjust treatment of another human being. Some might say,  I can oppress them because they are weak and I am strong. Or, I can act unjustly against them because I am poor and they are rich. Or, I am permitted to do him wrong because he is my enemy. When God began to give Israel her civil laws, he said “no” to all of this. He stressed that the weak and vulnerable in society are to be honored, not exploited; that justice is to be upheld always for the rich man and the poor man; and that we are to do what is right and good before God, even towards those we consider to be our personal enemies.    

I know that this sermon was a bit unusual in that I have dealt with a very large portion of scripture in a very general way. We will return to Exodus 21 and look a bit more carefully at verses 1-11 next Sunday, Lord willing. But hope you have benefited from this overview of the section of scripture that is before us. Having considered the whole, I do hope that we will be in a better position to consider the parts. And more than this, I hope you have been struck by the emphasis that is placed upon the obligation we have to care for the poor and vulnerable within our midst and to uphold justice within the societies in which we live. The civil laws that God gave to Israel demanded this, and I am saying that all nations have an obligation to do the same – to protect the vulnerable, cease all forms of exploitation, and uphold justice always. 

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Suggestions For Application

So how, in particular, are we to apply this portion of Holy Scripture to our own lives today? I will make suggestions for application under two headings: First, politically. Second, personally. 

Politically

First, let us seek to apply the truths of Holy Scripture politically, that is to say, within the context of our own society. 

Some of you may be thinking to yourselves, did he forget what he said earlier about these laws being for Israel and not for us, and his strong opposition to the theonomists who wish to take these laws and apply them in exhaustive detail in our nation today? 

No, I have not forgotten about that. Though it is very important for us to remember that this law code was given to Old Covenant Israel, and not to any other nation on earth, it is also important for us to consider the just and morally upright laws that were given to Israel so that we might formulate and uphold just and morally upright laws of our own in this nation – laws that are fitting to our particular circumstances and our status before God as a common (not a holy) nation. 

Great care must be taken as we contemplate these things. 

One, we should remember that in Old Covenant Israel church and state were united together by the command of God in a way not true of any other nation on earth. This is why external violations of the first table of the moral law were considered to be civil crimes punishable even by death.  Sabbath-breakers, false prophets, and idolaters were to be put to death in Old Covenant Israel. We ought not to seek to impose these laws in this common nation, or any other, where church and state, elder and Emporer, are given distinct spheres of responsibility and jurisdiction by God.  

Two, some of the laws given to Old Covenant Israel were given to them to govern the realities of the world in which they lived. In the ancient world, for example, slavery or servitude was a reality. We will come to talk about this in detail next Sunday, Lord willing. Here I am simply saying that the existence of laws regulating slavery in Old Covenant Israel does not mean that slavery ought to be instituted in our society. No, these laws regulated slavery (which was different from the form of slavery that existed in this country not long ago), to ensure that it would be just, for the betterment of the poor, and to forbid all forms of abuse and exploitation. Again I say that the laws concerning slaves regulated the way things were in the ancient world. That is how the economy worked, and these laws did not seek to change that but to ensure that justice would be upheld in Israel.   

Three, though we must take great care to see the uniqueness of Old Covenant Israel and her laws, we must also be careful to observe those moral and just principles contained within Israel’s laws so that we might grow in moral maturity ourselves and be useful in the societies in which we live as we seek to promote justice, peace, and prosperity among all men.  

Please hear me: The civil law code of the Old Testament is not binding on us, but it is of great use to us, for in it we see the holiness, wisdom, justice, and goodness of God displayed. This law code was for Old Covenant Israel only. Not even modern-day Israel should seek to implement it in exhaustive detail, for the Old is gone and the New has come. But all of the nations of the earth may learn from these civil laws, for they are rooted in truth, are morality pure, and perfectly just. 

These laws were given by God, to Israel through Moses. These laws are perfectly upright and just, therefore. The nations of the earth should take notice. 

Yes, the nations of the earth may also consider God’s moral law as revealed in nature when seeking to establish and uphold just laws of their own. All can see plainly that there is God who is to be worshipped, and that men should do unto others as they would have others do unto them. These obvious truths and their implications should be enough to provide societies with a foundation upon which to build their judicial systems, wherein men are left free to worship God, and wherein those who commit crimes against persons are punished with proportionate penalties – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life (or some other agreed-upon form of restitution). This is what we call retributive justice. Yes, there is enough light in the light of nature to enable societies to wisely build their judicial systems, leaving men and women free to worship and to provide a living for themselves, while also punishing evildoers. But here I wish to say to our fellow citizens, to our lawmakers, law enforcers, and politicians (as if any are listening), look to the Holy Scriptures. Consider the Ten Commandments in your quest for the truth regarding what is right and wrong, good and evil. The light of nature reveals it, but the light is so much brighter in the Scriptures. And consider how God applied these Ten Commandments to govern Israel as a society when he gave them their civil laws. You cannot adopt them in total as you make and enforce the laws of this land, for we are not Old Covenant Israel. But we can look upon them to consider them so that we might grow mature in matters of morality and justice.

I highly doubt that any of our politicians will ever hear my voice. But you are listening, brothers and sisters. And here is the challenge that I would give to you – learn to think biblically, carefully, and critically about matters of morality and justice and the political issues that we face in our day and age.  

I think it is especially important for Christians in this country today to break free from the partisan politics of left against right, Democrat versus Republican. Yes, at the end of the day we will likely be presented with one of these two options in the voting booth. And yes, the Republican Party does tend to stand for so-called Judeo-Christian values more than those who have “D” by their name. But really, this is a rather shallow way of looking at things. In my estimation, there is plenty of blame to go around. Both parties fall far short of God’s standards. Unplug from the partisan politics, brothers and sisters. Unplug from the propaganda. And become students of Holy Scripture as it pertains to matters of justice so that you might better pray for this nation, and if this Lord has called you to it, work for the betterment of this society in the political realm.

You know, I will admit that I feel a sense of frustration regarding the moral and political state of this nation. Evil is all around. The government has grown so big, so distant, and our laws so complex, that it feels as if very little can be done by the common citizen to bring about any real and lasting change. Two things comfort me, the first far more than the second.

One,  I serve a God who is Sovereign over all, who is working all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purposes. He is establishing an eternal kingdom than cannot be shaken. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord, I am a citizen of that kingdom now, and I await the consummation of all things, the new heavens and earth. Whatever happens here – no matter how good or bad things get – that will not change, for God is faithful, he will surely do it. I trust that you all have the same confidence.

Two, I do also take some comfort in the fact that I can, by the grace of God,  control what I think, say, and do. And I have some ability to impact those around me, perhaps even our local community. As it pertains to the betterment of society, the upholding of morality, and the pursuit of justice, this is where we must aim – not at the globalists; not at the elites in Washington; not even at the technocrats – they are so far beyond our range. We must focus our attention on those people and institutions right in front of us. 

Husbands, love and lead your wives. Parents, raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Brothers and sisters, love one another. Fellow citizens, love your neighbors as yourself. Do good to all, especially to those who believe. Yes, be aware of what is going on in the world. Do not be naive! And then focus your love and attention on what is right before you and within your reach. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.     

Personally

So I have spoken a little to the political. Let me now offer some suggestions for personal application. 

Brothers and sisters, we should love and contemplate God’s law. All of it. The moral, civil, and ceremonial. I’m afraid God’s law has been neglected by many within the church today. But our opinion should be that of King David who loved God’s law deeply and cried out to God, saying, “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments” (Psalm 119:5–6, ESV). Yes, David was under the law in a way that we are not. He was obliged to keep the civil and ceremonial. But we too should love God’s laws and fix our eyes upon them, not to be saved – for salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone – but so that we might grow in maturity, wisdom, and obedience. 

Secondly, as we consider the civil laws which God gave to Israel, we must be careful to treat others in a way that is good, right, and just, even if those in our society do not. There is a great deal for us to learn from the civil laws given to Israel. Yes, we should long to see our society embrace God’s moral law and to enact and enforce laws that are just. But even if they do not, we do have an opportunity to treat others in a way that is good, honorable, and just. As we do, we will shine as lights in the darkness more brightly, and the gospel we proclaim will be adorned with beauty as men and women observe our good deeds. 

Thirdly, do be especially mindful of the weak and vulnerable in our society and in our midst so that we might be careful to protect them, provide for them, so far as we are able. As I have demonstrated, concern for the oppressed and vulnerable was emphasized when God gave Israel her civil laws. Here again Exodus 22:21-27, and with this we close. “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22:21–27, ESV).

 Our God is kind and compassionate. May the Lord enable us to be kind and compassionate too. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Exodus 21:1-23:19, Civil Laws For Israel: An Introduction

Week Of June 26th, 2022

WEEKLY READINGS
SUNDAY > Deut 30, Ps 119:73‐96, Isa 57, Matt 5
MONDAY > Deut 31, Ps 119:97‐120, Isa 58, Matt 6
TUESDAY > Deut 32, Ps 119:121‐144, Isa 59, Matt 7
WEDNESDAY > Deut 33‐34, Ps 119:145‐176, Isa 60, Matt 8
THURSDAY > Josh 1, Ps 120-122, Isa 61, Matt 9
FRIDAY > Josh 2, Ps 123-125, Isa 62, Matt 10
SATURDAY > Josh 3, Ps 126-128, Isa 63, Matt 11

MEMORY VERSE(S)
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13, ESV).

CATECHISM QUESTION(S)
Baptist Catechism #23:
Q. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.

Posted in Weekly Passages, Posted by Mike. Comments Off on Week Of June 26th, 2022

Week Of June 19th, 2022

WEEKLY READINGS
SUNDAY > Deut 23, Ps 112‐113, Isa 50, Rev 20
MONDAY > Deut 24, Ps 114‐115, Isa 51, Rev 21
TUESDAY > Deut 25, Ps 116, Isa 52, Rev 22
WEDNESDAY > Deut 26, Ps 117‐118, Isa 53, Matt 1
THURSDAY > Deut 27, Ps 119:1‐24, Isa 54, Matt 2
FRIDAY > Deut 28, Ps 119:25‐48, Isa 55, Matt 3
SATURDAY > Deut 29, Ps 119:49‐72, Isa 56, Matt 4

MEMORY VERSE(S)
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV).

CATECHISM QUESTION(S)
Baptist Catechism #22:
Q. What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?
A. All mankind, by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Posted in Weekly Passages, Posted by Mike. Comments Off on Week Of June 19th, 2022

Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Misery Of Our Fallen And Sinful Estate?, Baptist Catechism 22, Matthew 25:31–46

Baptist Catechism 22

Q. 22. What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?

A. All mankind, by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever. (Gen. 3:8,24; Eph. 2:3; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 6:23; Matt. 25:41-46; Ps. 9:17)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:31–46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’” (Matthew 25:31–46, ESV)

*****

Introduction

Questions 16-22 of our catechism all contain bad news.

Q. 16. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?

A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God. (Gen. 3:6; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 5:12)

Q. 17. What is sin?

A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (1 John 3:4; Rom. 5:13)

Q. 18. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit. (Gen. 3:6,12,13)

Q. 19. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression. (1 Cor. 15:21,22; Rom. 5:12,18,19)

Q. 20. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:18,19: Is. 64:6)

Q. 21. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereunto man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereunto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. (Rom. 5:19; 3:10; Eph. 2:1; Is. 53:6; Ps. 51:5; Matt. 15:19)

Q. 22. What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?

A. All mankind, by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever. (Gen. 3:8,24; Eph. 2:3; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 6:23; Matt. 25:41-46; Ps. 9:17)

I should tell you that good news is coming. It is coming very soon, even in the next question, which is, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?” Answer: God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.”

We will consider the good news in a could of weeks, Lord willing. For now, I wish to encourage you to let the bad news sink in. No one likes bad news, especially not bad news of this magnitude. But the bad news concerning our sin and its consequences must be preached and contemplated for two reasons: One, it is true… Two, it is the bad news that makes the good news so very good. 

*****

What is The Misery Of Our Fallen Estate?

We have learned that when Adam fell into sin, his fall brought the whole of “mankind into an estate of sin and misery”, for Adam was our federal head or representative. 

We have also asked what is sinful about his fallen estate. 

Now we ask what is miserable about it. Let us consider the answer piece by piece. 

“All mankind, by their fall…” one, “lost communion with God…” 

It is interesting that this is the first misery mentioned. Many would think that sickness and death were the greatest miseries that came upon humanity as a result of sin. Our catechism starts here, though. Sin brought the misery of alienation from God. Our communion with God was ruptured… That is the first and greatest misery… Do you agree? 

Two, “All mankind, by their fall… are under [God’s] wrath and curse…” 

Wrath is God’s holy and just response to sin. Curse here refers to the judgments of God that were threatened in the Covenant of Works; “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die…”, he said. We are under God’s wrath and curse in our natural and unregenerate condition. This is why Paul speaks of those not in Christ as being “by nature children of wrath…” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV). This was not Adam and Eve’s natural condition before the fall, but is was their condition after the fall. Indeed, all who are born into this world after them are born, “children of wrath.”

Three, the words “and so” in our catechism indicate that what follows are the consequences or fruits of being alienated from God and under his wrath and curse because of our sin.  

First of all, we are  “made liable to all the miseries of this life…” It is because of sin that we experience pain and sorrow, sickness and death, and conflict with each other. The work of man is difficult (the ground produces thorns and thistles. And childbirth for women is arduous. All of that, along with every other misery of life, is the result of man’s fall into sin, his lost communion with God, and his coming under God’s wrath and curse. 

Secondly, all are made liable “to death itself.” Perhaps you have noticed that all men die. If Adam would have obeyed he would not have died physically, but would have been translated from life to a higher order of life. After the fall, men and women go from death to death, that is to say, from spiritual death to eternal death and the gateway is physical death. But those united to Christ by faith go from life to life. They are spiritually alive in Christ in this world, and because they are in Christ they will live before God forever and ever (they will enter into the higher order of life that was offered to Adam but forfeited). But they will pass from life to life through the same dorr, namely, physical death. Those in their sins and those in Christ must walk through the same door, the door of physical death. Those who die in their sins go from death to death. Those who die in Christ go from life to life. And this is why Paul says, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, ESV). For the one in Christ, the sting of physical death has been removed. 

But not for the one who dies in their sins. For the one who dies in their sins, death is the doorway from death to death. This is the third and last consequence mentioned that comes as a result of our alienation from God and being under his wrath and curse: “the pains of hell forever”, that is to say, eternal punishment.

*****

Conclusion

You know, men and women do like to talk about the love of God and of Jesus Christ. Indeed, God is love, and in Christ the love of God is manifest. There is no doubt about that. But because God is love (perfectly so), he is also perfectly against all that is evil. We cannot fail to talk about this. God is love, but he is also perfectly holy and just. The scriptures have a lot to say about that. Christ himself had a lot to say about that. I read Matthew 25:31–46. That passage concluded with these words from Jesus: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Do not miss this, friends. Christ taught that hell is the destination for all who are not in him, who live lives of unrighteousness before him. Hell, that is to say, eternal punishment is a real place. That is where all who die in their sins will go. But all who die in Christ, united to him by faith, will pass through the door of death into life everlasting in the presence of God. Be found in Christ. Turn from your sins and believe in him to the saving of your souls. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Misery Of Our Fallen And Sinful Estate?, Baptist Catechism 22, Matthew 25:31–46

Discussion Questions: Exodus 20:18-26

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AT HOME OR IN GOSPEL COMMUNITY GROUPS

Sermon manuscript available at emmausrbc.org

  • Why did Israel fear God at Sinai? See Hebrews 12:20.
  • Why did Israel request that Moses mediate? How does this prefigure Christ? 
  • Why did God give Israel preliminary instructions for worship when instructions for the construction of the tabernacle were forthcoming?
  • What did animal sacrifices communicate to the worshipper concerning sin, its consequences, and the coming Savior?
  • Moses and the Old Covenant of which he was mediator could not cleanse the worshipper really and truly. Only faith in Christ the mediator of the New Covenant could do that. See especially Hebrews 9 and 10. Discuss.
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Posted in Study Guides, Gospel Community Groups, Gospel Community Groups, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Discussion Questions: Exodus 20:18-26

Morning Sermon: Exodus 20:18-26, The Response Of Israel To The Giving Of The Law

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 20:18-26

“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. 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. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’” (Exodus 20:18–26, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 12:18–29

“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18–29, ESV)

*****

Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

We have been considering the Ten Commandments for many weeks now. And in our prolonged consideration of the Ten Commandments, it is possible that some have forgotten the redemptive-historical and covenantal context in which these Ten Commandments were first given by God to Israel.

Do not forget the redemptive-historical context, brothers and sisters. After Adam fell into sin, and the whole human race with him, God promised to send a Savior, who would arise from the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). In the course of time, one man was set apart through whom this redeemer would come, namely Abraham. God promised that he would have many offspring, that they would possess the land of Canaan, become a great nation, and be a blessing to all the nations of the earth ultimately through the Messiah who would come into the world through them. The children of Abraham would possess the land and become a great nation, only after suffering in bondage in Egypt for a time. All of this was foretold. 

Here I am reminding you that the Exodus story is a continuation of that story, which is found in the book of Genesis. At just the right time, God sent Moses to rescue Israel from Egyptian bondage and toward the promised land. The Ten Commandments were given to Israel by God after he had redeemed them. One thing we must remember is that Israel was redeemed to worship. They were redeemed to be God’s treasured possession on earth. They were redeemed to obey the Lord as God’s chosen people until the Messiah was brought into the world through them to bless all nations.   

Do not forget about the redemptive-historical context, brothers and sisters. And neither should you forget about the covenantal context. Here I am reminding you that when God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Sinai, he was entering into a covenant with them. When God enters into covenants with man he establishes how the relationship between them will work. He sets the terms of the relationship. He announces the rewards for obedience, and the punishments for disobedience. As you know, God made a covenant with all humanity through Adam in the garden before sin entered the world. Adam broke that covenant, and humanity was plunged into sin and misery as a result. But God, by his grace, did also make a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. And here in Exodus 19-24 we see God transacting a covenant with Israel. This covenant – which is commonly called the Mosaic Covenant – is an outgrowth or development of the Abrahamic Covenant made earlier. Both are the result of God’s graciousness and his promise to provide a redeemer. Both are covenants of or works, substantially (men must keep these covenants – these covenants can be broken). And both the Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenants carry within them the promise of the gospel concerning salvation for the nations through the seed of the women, which was first announced in the days of Adam after his fall into sin. All of this has been said to you before. Here I am simply reminding you of the covenantal context of the Ten Commandments. When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Sinai, he was entering into a covenant with them. 

Please allow me to give you an overview of how God made this covenant with Israel. The covenant was introduced in Exodus chapter 19 as Israel stood at the base of Sinai, and as Moses went up into the presence of God. The Ten Commandments of Exodus 20:1-17 serve as the foundation for all of the other laws of this covenant. For this reason, they were spoken directly by God, and they were spoken first. After this, in Exodus 20:18-21, Moses is established as the mediator of this covenant. In 20:22-26 we find preliminary laws concerning worship. In 21:1-23:9 God gives preliminary laws for Israel as a society. In 23:10-19 we find laws concerning worship, especially as it pertains to festival days. In 23:20-33 God renews his promise to Israel concerning the conquest of Canaan. And finally, in chapter 24, the covenant, which we typically call the Mosaic Covenant, is confirmed. This whole section is like a wedding ceremony between God and Israel, therefore. In Exodus 20-24 we are witnessing the establishment of a covenantal relationship between YHWH and Israel. This is important to remember, for this covenantal relationship is the foundation for the rest of the Old Testament. If you wish to understand how Old Covenant Israel related to God, then you must know about the covenant that God made with them.   

Today we will be considering only Exodus 20:18-26. Here we see Israel’s reaction to the giving of the Ten Commandments by God from Sinai, and God’s gracious response to them. 

 *****

Fear And Trembling

First of all, notice Israel’s response to the giving of the moral law of God at Sinai: they were afraid, they trembled, and they stood far off. Verse 18: “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off…” (Exodus 20:18, ESV).

This is to be expected, is it not? This is how sinful men and women respond when they encounter God, who is radiant in holiness and awesome in power. This is how sinful men and women respond when they are confronted with God’s moral law, and when they come to see their sin in the light of God’s purity. When sinful men and women encounter God – when they perceive his glory and hear the power of his voice – they are filled with fear and they tremble.

This reminds me of how Adam and Eve responded to the presence of God after they had rebelled against him. When God drew near to them in the garden after they ate of the forbidden tree, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8, ESV). They were afraid. This fear that Adam and Eve felt was not a part of their natural condition. Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve had reverence for God, but they were not afraid of him. Sin alienates man from God. When sinful men and women come into the presence of God Almighty, they tremble with fear and retreat. This is due to the awesome power and holiness of God contrasted with the smallness and sinfulness of man. We stand guilty before God (if not in Christ). We deserve to be judged by him. And who can possibly stand before the Almighty One, the Creator and Judge of heaven and earth?   

God revealed his glory to Israel as he spoke to them at Sinai. What did the people of Israel see? They saw a thick and dark cloud, lightning, fire, and smoke. Now, please do not misunderstand. God is a most pure spirit. He is not cloud, lighting, fire, or smoke. He manifested himself in this way to show forth his power and glory so that Israel might develop a proper fear of him. And what did Israel hear? They heard the sound of a trumpet (rams horn) which announced God’s presence. And they heard the voice of God, which was said to be like thunder. And what did God say? He spoke the Ten Commandments to them. He gave them the moral law. 

Now, why did the people of Israel tremble? Certainly, the sights and sounds of the glory of God at Sinai must have been overwhelming to them. But the writer of Hebrews helps us to see that there was something else going on here. In Hebrews 12:18ff we are reminded that when Israel stood before God at Mt Sinai they saw a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned’” (Hebrews 12:18–20, ESV). The writer to the Hebrews tells us why the people trembled: “they could not endure the order that was given.” That is why they trembled. 

To understand what is meant by this, we must remember that God was entering into a covenant with Israel. In Exodus 19 God spoke to Israel through Moses, saying, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:4–6, ESV). And how did Israel respond? “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:8, ESV). After this, the Lord appeared to Israel in glory and spoke his law to them, and they trembled with fear. They trembled with fear because they realized that they could not endure the order that was given. They could not keep God law but had already violated it in thought, word, and deed. 

Please understand this about the Old Mosaic Covenant, brothers and sisters. It could not save. It only brought condemnation. Now, when I say this I do not mean that those who lived under the Old Mosaic Covenant could not be saved. No, I mean that they could not be saved from their sins and made right with God through the Old Mosaic Covenant. The Old Mosaic Covenant brought condemnation and death. It magnified sin. It showed Israel, and through them, the world, their need for a Savior. How then could those who lived under the Old Mosaic Covenant be saved from their sins? By believing in the promised Messiah, Christ Jesus the Lord, who is the Mediator of the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace. All who have ever been saved from their sins have been saved through the Covenant of Grace through faith in the mediator of that covenant, Christ the Lord. 

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A Mediator Requested

What did the terms of the Old Mosaic Covenant cause Israel to do? First, they were afraid, they trembled, and they stood far off. After this, they begged for a mediator. Verse 19: They  “said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:19–21, ESV).

A mediator is a person who stands between two other parties. A mediator is a go-between. If you have a conflict with another person, a mediator can help to reconcile you. You talk to the mediator, and then the mediator talks to the other person on your behalf, and visa-versa. Here we see that the people of Israel asked Moses to be a mediator between them and God. They could not endure the glory of his presence or the power of his voice. Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die”.

Again I say, the Old Mosaic Covenant did not provide for the forgiveness of sins. It did not clear the conscience of the people. It could not lead them, therefore, into the presence of God Almighty in a real, true, and spiritual way. Some who lived under that Covenant drew near to God, really and truly. But please understand this: they drew near to God, really and truly, not through the Old Mosaic Covenant, but through faith in the promises of God which looked forward to the New Covenant, and to the shed blood of Christ, the mediator of that Covenant. 

Clearly, you can see that Moses was the mediator of this covenant that God entered into with Israel at Sinai. It was through Moses that God redeemed Israel. And it was through Moses that God spoke to Israel and led them in the way.  God spoke the Ten Commandments directly to Israel at Sinai, and they begged that no further word be spoken to them, for they could not endure the order that was given. The people of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 

Moses comforted them with these words,  “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” I think the meaning is this: do not fear, this is not judgment day. It must have felt like judgment day to the people of Israel. The sound of the trumpet announced God’s coming. His voice was like thunder. Thick darkness, lightning, fire and smoke was all around. The moral law was declared, and all of Israel knew they stood guilty before this holy and awesome God. This must have felt like judgment day to them. They begged for a mediator. And Moses the mediator comforted them with these words: “ “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” This is not the end, in other words, but the beginning of something. God Almighty had set Israel apart to be his holy possession of all the peoples of the earth. They were to worship and serve God on earth. God’s presence would be manifest in the midst of them. They were to be a holy nation. In them, the kingdom of God on earth would be manifest. It was crucial, therefore, for Israel to begin with a healthy and reverent fear of the Lord. The Lord tested them at Sinai. He tried them as metal is tried in the fire. If God was to be their covenant God, and if Israel was to be his covenant people, then they needed to understand how awesome and holy this God was, and what it is that their sins deserved. Israel knew that they could not stand before YHWH, and so they asked for a mediator. And so “the people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”

Moses mediated between God in heaven and Israel on earth. From this point onward God would speak to Israel through Moses. And Israel was invited to approach God through Moses and through the laws for worship that were revealed to him from heaven. Please do not miss this point: Through Moses’ mediation Israel was able to approach God on earth, but not in heaven. Moses, and the covenant he mediated, were earthly. Through Moses, and the order that was given to Israel through him, provision was made for Israel to approach God on earth, to be cleansed on earth, but not to be cleaned and reconciled to God in heaven in a real and eternal way. 

If you wish to learn all about this you may read the book of Hebrews. There, Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, is contrasted with Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant. In brief, through Moses and the Covenant he mediated, the people of Israel were able to be cleansed and draw near to God in an earthy and temporary way. But through Christ and the covenant he mediates, worshippers are able to draw near to God in a heavenly and eternal way. 

Christ takes us all the way home, in other words. In Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins. Through Christ, we are reconciled to the Father. In Christ, we have adoption as sons. These spiritual, heavenly, and eternal benefits come to all who have faith in Christ. This was true of those who trusted in him before he was born into this world through the promises that were made. And this is true for all who trust in him now that he has come.

It is true that Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, but note this: Moses was not the Messiah. He was not the Savior. He was not the Son, but a faithful servant in God’s house. This is not to demean Moses or the Covenant he mediated. Moses was good and faithful. The covenant he mediated was good in and of itself. But we must remember its purpose. Its purpose was not to provide eternal salvation and the forgiveness of sins. No, under the Old Covenant Israel was set apart as holy on earth, the kingdom of God was prefigured on earth, and sins were magnified on earth, until the promised Messiah would come into the world through them, to make real atonement for sins, and to reconcile the elect to God the Father really and truly for all eternity. 

If you need an illustration of this, consider the Old Covenant temple. Worshipers drew near to God through the blood of animals which could cleanse them in an earthly way, but not their conscience. The construction of the temple itself communicated this reality. The holy of holies was closed off to the people of Israel, remember? Only the high priest would go in once a year and not without blood. The message was that the way to God had not yet been opened up. But what happened to the curtain that divided the holy place from the holy of holies when Christ breathed his last? It was torn in two from top to bottom, for the way to the Father had been opened up, not through the blood of bulls and goats, and not through the order of the Old Covenant, but through the blood of Christ and through the New Covenant which he mediates. It is not Moses, but Christ, who brings us to God. It is not Moses, but Christ, who is the Savior. It is not the Old Covenant, but the New, that saves us from our sins and reconciled us to God the Father. 

When Israel saw the glory of God, the holiness of God, and the reality of their own sin and guilt through the declaration of the moral law, they knew they needed a mediator – a go-between – someone who could work reconciliation on their behalf. The one true mediator between God and man was not given to them on that day (Moses was a mediator, not the mediator), but he was present with them in the form of type and promise. They had the promises of God concerning a coming Savior. They had a type of the one who was to come in the man Moses. If Israel was to be saved from their sins and reconciled to God really and truly, they were to trust, not in Moses, but in the Messiah to whom Moses and the Old Covenant pointed.

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Invitation To Draw Near To God Through Sacrifice

Not only did Israel need a mediator because of their sin, they also needed a way to draw near to God in worship.  

Worship is the proper response to revelation and redemption. God had redeemed Israel from bondage, and he revealed himself to them. What then should their response be except to worship? And so here God gives them preliminary instructions for worship. 

Verse 22: “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. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it’” (Exodus 20:22–26, ESV).

I have said that these were preliminary instructions for worship because soon God would instruct Israel to construct a tabernacle, and later a temple, for worship. But Israel was to worship God immediately, and so these instructions were given.

God’s people had worshipped at alters from the time that sin entered the world. Adam, Eve, and their children knew how to offer sacrifices to God. The patriarchs, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob worshipped at alters. Here Israel is instructed to do the same. When they approached God in worship they were to bring a sacrifice of animal blood. Animal blood could not take away human sin. But it served to remind the worshipper of their sin, and of the wages of sin, namely death. It also reminded the worshipper that God had promised to provide a Savior who would crush the serpent’s head, whose heal would be bloodied in the process. 

Israel, like those who lived before them, was to worship, not with idols, but on simple alters made of earth and uncut stone.  In other words, Israel was to worship YHWH, not according to the customs of the nations around them, but according to the commandment of God. YHWH is to be worshiped… in the way that he prescribes. 

The LORD reminds them here not to worship with idols. We will need to remember this when we come to the episode of the golden calf in Exodus 32. Not only had God forbidden idolatry in the second commandment, he reminded them of this prohibition here while giving positive and preliminary instructions for the worship of his name. The people of Israel would soon rebel, choosing to worship according to the customs of the nations around them rather than according to the command of God. 

Why did the LORD command Israel to construct simple alters made of earth and uncut stone? Undoubtedly this was to guard against idolatry. Where was Israel’s focus to be when worshipping? Not on their creativity and craftsmanship, but on God who is in heaven. Some may object to this saying, but the tabernacle and later temple were elaborate. Yes, but they were constructed, not according to the creativity of man, but by divine revelation. God revealed to Israel what the design of the tabernacle should be. And the design of the tabernacle was to remind the worshiper, not of their own creativity, but of God wor of creation. The tabernacle and temple were miniature replicas of the heavens and earth that God had made.  

And what is the meaning of this prohibition: “And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it”. Ritual nakedness was common in the worship of the pagan nations. Here YHWH forbids it. The people of Israel were to be modest as they approached the LORD in worship. 

I have already said that Christ was prefigured in the mediation of Moses. Moses the mediator anticipated Christ the mediator. Now I will say that Christ was prefigured in the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant too. Those animal sacrifices cleansed the worshipper on earth, but they could not cleanse the conscience of the worshipper before God. Only the blood of Christ, the God-man, could do that. Those sacrifices of old pointed forward to him. 

This is the point that the writer of Hebrews makes so beautifully in chapter 10 of his sermon. In 10:4 he says, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, ESV). And then after arguing for the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant he says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have the confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…” (Hebrews 10:19–20, ESV).

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Suggestions For Application

Please allow me to now bring this sermon to a conclusion with a few suggestions for application. 

One, consider the wisdom of God in bringing salvation to all the nations of the earth through Israel. God’s plan of redemption is truly marvelous to consider. He promised to send a savior in the days of Adam. He set aside one man, Abraham, and promised to make a great nation of him and to bless the nations through his offspring. He redeemed the children of Abraham from Egyptian bondage and entered into a special covenant with them – a covenant that set them apart as holy, that magnified sin, and vividly held forth the promises of the gospel through faith in the Messiah. I’ve said enough about this already. Here I am exhorting you to contemplate the wisdom of God in his plan of redemption. Christ, the Savior of the world, did not appear out of the blue, but in fulfillment to many promises, prophecies, types, and shadows. The Old Mosaic Covenant was particularly beautiful in this regard. Christ was vividly pictured in the Mosaic Covenant, and we are beginning to see that even here in the passage that is before us today. Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, was a type of Christ, who is the mediator of the New. Moses mediated between God and man in a typological and earthy way. Christ mediated between God and man really and truly. Through Christ, we have the forgniss of sins, a cleared conscience, and reconciliation. Christ brings us all the way home by the sacrifice of himself in obedience to the eternal covenant. Here I am urging you to contemplate it God’s plan of redemption and the unfolding of it, so that you might grow in your love for Christ and stronger in your faith in him, seeing that he came in fulfillment to promises previously made. 

Two, I urge you to fear the LORD.  And by this, I mean two different things for two different groups of people. 

To those not in Christ I say, fear the LORD and tremble just as Israel did. When Israel saw the glory of God, considered his holiness, and heard the moral law by which all men will be judges at the end of time, they feared, trembled, stood afar off, and asked for a mediator. If you are not in Christ – if you are in your sins – this should be your response too. You have reason to fear the LORD, for on the last day he will come with the sound of trumpet to judge all people in righteousness and holiness. None will be able to stand before him, unless they are found in Jesus Christ the Messiah, the only mediator between God and man. So I say to those not in Christ, fear the LORD, and take refuge in Christ the mediator to be shielded from the wrath of God that is to come.

Those who are in Christ must fear the LORD too, but not in quite the same way. Fear the LORD, knowing what it is that your sins deserve. Fear the LORD – that is to say, have a deep reverence for him. But do not fear him as you would a judge, for if you are in Christ, God is not your judge, he is your Father in heaven. Fathers should be respected and feared by their children, but not in the same way that guilty criminals fear a righteous judge. Judges condemn; Fathers lovingly lead, provide, and discipline. As the Proverb says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” And it is also the fear of the LORD which does drive to faith in Christ, the only mediator between God and man. 

Three, having been delivered from the domain of darkness, having beheld the glory of God Almighty, having acknowledged our sin, and having run to Christ the mediator for refuge, my we also be compelled to worship the Lord. And may we worship and serve the Lord in the way he has prescribed. You will notice that God is to worshipped… and he does always reveal the way of worship. There was a way to worship from Adam to Moses. There was a way to worship from Moses to Christ. And there is a way to in these last days from Christ to the consummation of all things. We are not free to decide how God is to be worshiped but are to submit to his word in this. God is to be worshipped always through faith and obedience. But he is especially to be worshipped by his people as they assemble Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day to pray, to hear God’s word read and explained, to sing, and to observe the Supper. All of this is to be done to the glory of God through faith in Christ.  

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Exodus 20:18-26, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Exodus 20:18-26, The Response Of Israel To The Giving Of The Law


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