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12 February 2017 Bible Reading

Today’s reading continues to look at the delivery of Mosaic Law, including those popularly known as the “Ten Commandments”. I’m always amazed at the ignorance on this topic. I’ve seen the Ten Commandments on government buildings, public monuments, and lots of private front lawns. In most cases, we are doing this not as some celebration of the Bible, an anthropological, or historical feature, but rather to promote the idea that we, as Christians, are following the Ten Commandments. But we aren’t. And we should really study our Bibles more and stop confusing our friends and neighbors.

Let’s remember a basic fact: the Ten commandments were a small part of Mosaic Law. We do not keep the Law of Moses. None of us (not even those professing to be religious Jews) is practicing daily animal sacrifice. We do not even keep the Ten Commandments, since the fourth one is to keep the Jewish Sabbath.

What is the proper view of Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, for the Christian? Second Corinthians 3:3-6 says:

“You are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts…. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”.

Paul has mentioned “tablets of stone,” and then the “new covenant.” He then builds a contrast between the old covenant, the tablets of stone that contained the Ten Commandments, and the new covenant, the basis of Christianity. Through Paul, the Holy Spirit elaborates upon the contrast:

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?” (verses 7-8).

This can be confusing, since it was God who gave the Law. Nevertheless, God is now revealing a fundamental contrast between the Law and the Spirit, between the old and the new. There is continuity, for both old and new are covenants of the same God. Even though God does not change, and his underlying principles do not change, his covenants do. The passage continues with additional differences:

“If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” (verse 9). The Ten Commandments were a ministry that condemned people. They had some glory, but not nearly as much as the new covenant. The Ten Commandments cannot bring righteousness, but the new covenant does.

“For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory” (verse 10). The Ten Commandments have no glory now, Paul is saying, in comparison to the new covenant, which brings life and righteousness.

“And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” What was fading away? Moses’ face was fading, but Paul is not talking about Moses’ face any more—he is talking about “the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone.” That is what “came with glory” (verse 7). That is what was fading away.

The Ten Commandments, Paul is saying, came with glory, but they are fading away, just as surely as the glory of Moses’ face also faded. The new covenant not only has much greater glory, but it also “lasts.” The Ten Commandments, Paul implies, do not last forever. They were designed as a temporary “ministry of condemnation,” designed to lead people to Christ.

Exodus 34-35:9
34 Yahweh said to Moses, “Chisel two stone tablets like the first: and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain. Do not let the flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.”
4 He chiseled two tablets of stone like the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him, and took in his hand two stone tablets. 5 Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. 6 Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, 7 keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.”
8 Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, Lord, please let the Lord go among us; although this is a stiff-necked people; pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
10 He said, “Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been worked in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among which you are shall see the work of Yahweh; for it is an awesome thing that I do with you. 11 Observe that which I command you today. Behold, I drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 12 Be careful, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be for a snare in the middle of you: 13 but you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and you shall cut down their Asherah poles; 14 for you shall worship no other god: for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Don’t make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, lest they play the prostitute after their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and one call you and you eat of his sacrifice; 16 and you take of their daughters to your sons, and their daughters play the prostitute after their gods, and make your sons play the prostitute after their gods.
17 “You shall make no cast idols for yourselves.
18 “You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out of Egypt.
19 “All that opens the womb is mine; and all your livestock that is male, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 You shall redeem the firstborn of a donkey with a lamb. If you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. No one shall appear before me empty.
21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
22 “You shall observe the feast of weeks with the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of harvest at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord Yahweh, the God of Israel. 24 For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land when you go up to appear before Yahweh, your God, three times in the year.
25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread. The sacrifice of the feast of the Passover shall not be left to the morning.
26 “You shall bring the first of the first fruits of your ground to the house of Yahweh your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 Yahweh said to Moses, “Write you these words: for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”
28 He was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread, nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mountain, Moses didn’t know that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him. 30 When Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them all the commandments that Yahweh had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses was done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before Yahweh to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out, and spoke to the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 The children of Israel saw Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
35 Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said to them, “These are the words which Yahweh has commanded, that you should do them. 2 ‘Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of solemn rest to Yahweh: whoever does any work in it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day.’”
4 Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which Yahweh commanded, saying, 5 ‘Take from among you an offering to Yahweh. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, Yahweh’s offering: gold, silver, brass, 6 blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, goats’ hair, 7 rams’ skins dyed red, sea cow hides, acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense, 9 onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod and for the breastplate.

Matthew 27:15-31
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the multitude one prisoner, whom they desired. 16 They had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus, who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that because of envy they had delivered him up.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes to ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 But the governor answered them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do to Jesus, who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let him be crucified!”
23 But the governor said, “Why? What evil has he done?”
But they cried out exceedingly, saying, “Let him be crucified!”
24 So when Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, but rather that a disturbance was starting, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it.”
25 All the people answered, “May his blood be on us, and on our children!”
26 Then he released to them Barabbas, but Jesus he flogged and delivered to be crucified. 27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium, and gathered the whole garrison together against him. 28 They stripped him, and put a scarlet robe on him. 29 They braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him, and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 When they had mocked him, they took the robe off of him, and put his clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Psalm 33:12-22
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh,
the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.
13 Yahweh looks from heaven.
He sees all the sons of men.
14 From the place of his habitation he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions all of their hearts;
and he considers all of their works.
16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an army.
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
17 A horse is a vain thing for safety,
neither does he deliver any by his great power.
18 Behold, Yahweh’s eye is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his loving kindness;
19 to deliver their soul from death,
to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul has waited for Yahweh.
He is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart rejoices in him,
because we have trusted in his holy name.
22 Let your loving kindness be on us, Yahweh,
since we have hoped in you.

Proverbs 9:1-6
9 Wisdom has built her house.
She has carved out her seven pillars.
2 She has prepared her meat.
She has mixed her wine.
She has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her maidens.
She cries from the highest places of the city:
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who is void of understanding, she says to him,
5 “Come, eat some of my bread,
Drink some of the wine which I have mixed!
6 Leave your simple ways, and live.
Walk in the way of understanding.”

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