Exodus 23:1-9 contains mostly ordinances that reiterate the ninth commandment (20:16). All people were to be treated justly and honestly in all legal disputes.
23:10-13 contains ordinances about the Sabbath and is an elaboration on the fourth commandment (20:8).
23:14-19 contains ordinances about the three agricultural festivals to be held every year:
1) Feast of Unleavened Bread in March-April
2) Feast of Harvest after the wheat harvest in the spring
3) Feast of Ingathering (also called the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles) in early autumn.We will be talking more in-depth about the feasts in the future. Here is a downloadable Feasts Chart that is helpful in understanding their significance in light of The Scarlet Thread of Redemption. The important thing to remember is that all adult males were to go to the tabernacle (or later, temple) three times a year to make offerings.
They were not to cook a young goat in the milk of its mother (23:19). This may have been ordered because of the Canaanite religious fertility rites where this was done. Perhaps God did not want them to do anything that looked like an act of idolatrous worship. They were to be a separate people.
In 23:20-33, there is a promise for entrance into the Promised Land. They were to be separate, so these verses stress the need for God's people to walk in obedience to His commands. If they obeyed, there were blessings and triumph over their enemies. One of God's biggest commands is that they not sin against Him by serving and making covenant with the inhabitants of the area or with their gods. Remember this for the future. It figures much into the remainder of the story of Israel, and it is not pretty.
Exodus 24 is a resumption of what left off at 20:21. Moses and Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel came up to the LORD, but only Moses came near to Him. Moses came back down and took the "book of the covenant" and read it to the people. Their response is significant, and you might want to mark it in your Bible, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (24:7). (We'll see about that!)
Then the altar and people were sprinkled with blood. This is the only time in the Old Testament where the people were sprinkled with blood. With this, Israel was ceremonially set apart through blood as the people of the true God. Then, Moses, Aaron, Aaron's two sons, and the seventy elders went and "saw" God and under His feet was a pavement like sapphires. Wow!
In the final verses of Exodus 24, Moses was called back up to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights, and Aaron and Hur were left in charge of Israel. There was MUCH that happened in those days both on the mountain top and down below. Just wait and see!
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
During the Passover prior to Jesus' death, he said, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Just as the Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:8) that ratified it and set them apart as the people of the true God, we, too, have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ. The New Covenant was established by Jesus and ratified by His blood. Subsequently, we, too, have been set apart as His people (see also 1 Peter 1:2).
Can you say HALLELUJAH!?
"You shall not follow the masses
in doing evil."
How timely that I would be on the final pages of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as I read this verse today. My stomach has turned as Dickens skillfully portrays man's inhumanity to man unleashed among the French masses during the "Reign of Terror" at the height of the French Revolution. It is hard to believe that such brutality has ever existed, but this is the nature of man and has replayed over and over again throughout history because we are prone to "follow the masses in doing evil." Studies show that we would do many things "en masse" that we would never do by ourselves.
I would like to think I would not have been swept up in the mass hysteria that surrounded this horrific period in history, but what would I have done if I had been oppressed by the nobility and at the point of starvation in abject poverty while the elite lived in opulence? I hope I never have to find that out, but it is an interesting question to ponder.
Today, I reflected on when I have "followed the crowd" or not stood up to the crowd, and my mind went immediately to a situation where I did not stand up and defend a friend when she was being talked about in a negative way. I did not know what to say. I tried interjecting positive comments about her, changing the subject, and eventually walked out of the room, but I did not stand up and say "STOP, it isn't fair that you are talking about her 'en masse' without her here to defend herself." My friend eventually confronted me about it when she found out about the situation, and thankfully, she forgave me for my cowardice, but I learned a valuable lesson: Do not be afraid to stand up and face the crowd when it is going in the wrong direction.
I am sure that there were those that did this in French Revolution at the cost of their very lives. Lord, please make me that kind of person!
Where have you followed the masses in doing evil? How will you stand up in the future?
Make the song that Moses sang at the end of his life your prayer today:
Ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He. (Deuteronomy 32:3b-4)