The Law of God is Always Good.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Exodus 19:2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. 3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. (NASB)
By virtue of the Old Testament lesson this morning we find ourselves in front of Mount Sinai. Mt. Sinai is only 7,400 feet high, tall for the region, but pale in comparison to other mountains found in many other places around the globe. Mt. Everest, for example, stands over 29,000 feet.
Yet, when it comes to God’s economy of salvation Mt. Sinai is the second highest mountain in all of human history. It is the place where God gave His children the Torah, the Law and Gospel through the prophet Moses, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.
Mt. Sinai has another name in the Bible. It is also called Mount Horeb and it was on Mount Horeb that God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called Moses to be the deliver and prophet. It was from a rock at the base of Mount Horeb that God gave His children water when He ordered Moses to strike the rock with his staff.
The first promise of the Savior was given to Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter three. The promise that the Messiah would be born of a particular bloodline, was given to Abraham. And now, 400+ years after leading His children into Egypt to save them from starvation, God brings them out of Egypt and to the base of Mount Sinai.
Here at Sinai, the Lord God gives His children their identity by doing two things. He reminds them what it is He has done for them and secondly, He gives them His Law and gives His covenant to them.
God’s first word from the mountain was a reminder of what He had done for them. 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.”
The second word was a invitation to believe, that is to trust. 5 “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
To obey is to trust. A few years ago, I was walking through Walmart after Father’s Day and saw a Father’s Day T-shirt on sale. $5.00. On the front it says, Trust Me, I am the Dad and it has two thumbs up on each side. I bought it knowing that if any of my children had seen it, they would have done the same. When a parent says, “obey me” the parent is saying “trust me. Do as I say. It will be okay. It will be better.” That is how we ought to view the giving of God’s Law.
To this end, God gives them the Ten Commandments and several regulations, that is “lesser laws,” all of which were given to keep His children safe both spiritually and physical, temporally and eternally. So in addition to the Ten Commandments, the Lord God gave Moses ordinances that the people were to obey in order to keep them safe in a world filled with sin, danger, disease, and death.
All the laws set forth in the first five books of the Old Testament, all the rules about what to eat and what not to eat, how to prepare the food and one’s self before eating, what to do with people who fall sick, as well as the system of justice and punishments, laws governing marriage and family, community, and the rubrics governing the worship service, the tabernacle, and so on were all given to keep the Israelites healthy, growing, strong, and faithful.
The Ten Commandments taught them what holiness looked like and showed them what was pleasing to God. The other laws were given by their loving Father to steer them away from the dangers that sin had introduced into the world.
The Ten Commandments were about spiritual and moral sins, spiritual and moral dangers that threaten the peoples’ relationship to the Lord God. But in this fallen world there are more than just spiritual and moral threats. There are temporal and physical threats. In the ancient world, and in parts of the world today that do not enjoy modern conveniences of technology, staying healthy and alive is quiet a challenge.
Just as parents make rules and establish boundaries to keep children safe, so also God the Father made rules and established boundaries of behaviors to keep His children safe. The law concerning the eating meats were sacrificed limited the Israelites to eating that meat on the first day of the sacrifice or in special circumstance on the second day.
While the ancient world did not know about germs, bacteria, and viruses God did and the Law protected them from these kinds of dangers – whether that was the primary purpose of those specific laws or not.
Washing, unclean things, and even the rite and command to circumcise has been shown to be good from the point of view of sanitation for a people who lived in an age when men did not believe in washing and keeping clean.
The Law of circumcision had theological import. It marked these people as different from all others on the earth by the shedding of blood in anticipation of Christ’s shed blood, but God is wise enough to do two things at once. Even the timing of circumcision is medically the best time for such a surgery in the life of a newborn.
Dietary laws kept the chosen people from eating things which carried the potential of disease — pork which might well carry Trichinosis; crustacean seafood which carries botulism and e-coli, and the like. Then there are the laws of washing, of cleansing after disease, isolation of particularly deadly contagious diseases, and so on.
Then there is the wisdom of laws that govern human the growth and development. God’s law is a model of mental health, justice, hospitality, and family. Monogamy and marital fidelity between and man and a woman has proven to be a great blessing when actually practiced among a people. It has served Western civilization well for thousands of years.
We are just now starting to see the consequences of the rejection of traditional marriage and family. The breakdown of modesty, wholesomeness, chastity, fidelity, and decency in our households and communities have brought about an increase in mental illness, disorders, slavery to base passions, pain, sorrow, selfishness, anger, and violence.
All across various academic disciplines (psychology, sociology, medicine, politics, etc.) we are seeing the results of sin and lawlessness on the human mind, will, and body. Genetics, triggering events, addictions, episodes and lifestyles of various kinds, and more shows what happens when sin and lawlessness combine forces.
In the giving of these “lesser” laws God sought to spare His people these injuries and to guide them around the dangers that could shipwreck faith and lead to self destruction. When the Lord God gave His children these various laws, God did not do it to be a “heavenly kill-joy.” He was wise and loving. He saw the results of these kinds of things on the human race.
As Christians we ought to see these things as they really are. Evidence of sin, original and actual sin. While on the one hand, God is the One who spoke His Word of judgment and death on sin, God the Father loves His children and desires more for them than hardship, judgment, and their just deserts.
In light of all of reality of sin and its affects on body, mind, and soul listen again to the opening sentences of the Gospel lesson. “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
Moses was the first ordained and true shepherd of over the flock of Israel. He had been called by God to shepherd the people Israel. He brought the Law, the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai so that the people would know their sin and the will of God. He brought the laws, the ordinances that help govern the lives of the people so that they would survive and thrive as a nation.
Moses was the first to write down the Gospel promise that the Messiah would be born and would crush the head of the serpent and save God’s people from their sins. Here at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God reminds them what He has done to make this people His people and the reason for which He has saved them. It was at Mt. Sinai, that God the Father, through the prophet Moses, pointed His children toward the great mountain in His economy of salvation, Mount Calvary.
Romans 5:6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . .8 God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
God gave us His Law for our good, but many do not believe. People today live in denial of their own sin and others don’t believe that sin, their sin has any cosmic and eternal significance.
Now we cannot keep that Law any more than the children of Israel did. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” they cried out. They didn’t. We don’t either, though some try hard than others to do so.
We are not here in this church this morning because of the Law. We are here because God has fulfilled His promise. Through the mouth and pen of Moses, God said to the Israelites there at Sinai, “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Through the mouth and pen of St. Peter God the Father has said to us. (1 Peter 2:9-10), “You are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN P0SSESSI0N, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”
Remember Mount Sinai is the second highest mountain in God’s economy. Mount Calvary is the highest and holiest of all. On the first God gives us true knowledge of sin and guidance for life. On the second, God the Father gave His son, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The Law of God is always good for it prepares us for our Savior, who “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus. Amen.