Exodus 34 Commentary: New tablets but same old law.
The LORD commands Moses to take with him another book so that the process can restart on a new page. Stone. That is the correct word. What the LORD wants to write is meant to last. It shouldn’t easily rub off. It is eternally important.
So Moses makes another trip up Mount Sinai. The LORD descends in a cloud and proclaims His eternal name. The name becomes the covenant name and its revelation is partly as a consequence of the unfortunate events, not too many days before.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34 verse 6 to 7 NIV
What a name! We wouldn’t know where to start from. The name fits the context but also much more. It combines both the compassion of the LORD and the grace, with timeless justice. Another, less likeable name is Jealous. We nevertheless have it. Compassionate, gracious, loving and faithful, yet full of justice. Add the verbs and adverbs and you have a complete lineup but that too is but just part of divinity. We only know but in part.
Moses is very much aware of this name and knows Israel is in real trouble. He prays for mercy again.
The commandments are repeated. The LORD calls them ‘terms of the covenant’. The LORD repeats the Abrahamic covenant. It’s these children of Abraham who will inherit and possess the land the LORD had given to Abraham. Further rules of engagement are detailed but again there is nothing new. The LORD maintains the same position. The LORD doesn’t change. The same high standards of holiness must be maintained.
After 40 days, (the first trip also lasted 40 days) Moses emerges from up the mountain and out of a cloud having had nothing to eat or drink. A miracle! The people are calm and there is no golden calf this time! Instead the LORD’S shining presence remains on Moses and people cannot get close to him. Man is afraid of God’s presence. We can tell Israel is not yet ready for God’s presence. For sure this kind of presence is too much for Israel. It is probably easier to show up in ordinary ways. So this story points to a day when the LORD would show up in a manger. Isaiah looked to the future when he spoke of the suffering servant.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53 verse 2 NIV
The main pick here is that Moses chisels out two tablets of stone so that the broken law can be written again by the LORD Himself. Man should provide his heart and present it to the LORD so that the broken law can be written anew by the LORD Himself.
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