This week our Torah portion describes the way of life that God gave to Israel. The laws reflect the character of God. They describe an ethical and moral way of life for people living 5000 years ago. They are examples of how people who are in covenant relationship with God were expected to live. I suggest that every single law and example somehow can relate to the Ten Commandments which serve as the constitution, so to speak, of Israel. We live in a vastly different world than our ancestors did. However, these laws help us to make 21st century decisions because the meaning behind the examples and laws is eternal. Yeshua taught the same way of life. The sermon on the mount gives us examples of how to apply the laws to our day. Overall, they are laws and examples of dignity, restraint, benevolence, and devotion to God alone.
In chapter 24, we read that when Moses read these laws to the people, they responded very positively. They said, “all that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient”! They also offered sacrifices. Then Moses and the leadership began walking up Mount Sinai and as the text says, “they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exo 24:10–11).
All of this constitutes the ratification of the covenant with the nation. Remember that the nation is already in covenant relationship with God through Abraham. This covenant, usually referred to as the Mosaic Covenant, is the agreement regarding how the nation was to live before God. Seeing God (!) and sharing a meal completed the ratification process. Now Moses proceeds to the top of the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. So far so good! If only Exodus ended here!
But we know in future Torah portions that the people make several grave errors in their obedience to God which have far reaching consequences. One thing we learn is that they had good intentions. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do”! Don't we all say that? But obedience takes more than good intentions. It means constantly choosing the right way and confessing our sins when we make wrong choices. As we may know, having faith means being faithful. As we read in the New Covenant Scriptures, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1b–3). We do this via the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) who dwells within us.
God never gave up on our ancestors even when they made horrible choices. They missed out on God's best for them, but they were never forsaken. We too are never forsaken when we sin. God loves a broken and contrite heart. May we have the same desire as our ancestors, but have a zeal that relies on the power of God in Messiah Yeshua to be a light to the world.