20:22-23 The people had heard God speak to them; they saw and heard a display of his glory (20:22). So the Lord commanded them not to make gods . . . to rival him (20:23). No gods of their own creation, of course, could rival what they had just witnessed (though they would soon forget this; see 32:1-35).
22:28-31 The people were not to curse God or one of his appointed leaders (22:28). They were also not to defraud God by withholding their offerings and firstborn—which belonged to him (22:29-30). Israel was the Lord’s holy people. So they were to eat meat only in prescribed ways (22:31).
23:1-9 These ordinances call for impartial justice. The Israelites were to deal honestly and fairly with all people. No one was to be treated with favoritism—not even the poor (23:3). And no one was to be treated with injustice—not even an enemy’s animal (23:4-5). Injustice, false accusations, bribes, and oppression are to have no place among God’s people (23:6-9).
23:10-13 Israel was to observe a variety of Sabbaths and festivals. The law regarding a weekly Sabbath of rest for people and animals (23:12; see 20:8-11) was expanded to Sabbatical years to provide rest for the land and food for the poor (23:10-11). It was a reminder that God owned the land; they were stewards on his behalf.
23:14-19 The people were also to celebrate three festivals every year in honor of the Lord (23:14, 17). The Festival of Unleavened Bread was held in conjunction with the Passover and commemorated the exodus from Egypt (23:15; see commentary in 12:1-20). The Festival of Harvest (23:16), also known as the “Festival of Weeks” or “Pentecost,” took place after the wheat harvest, seven weeks after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The Festival of Ingathering took place at the end of the year (23:16). Each was a reminder of God’s provision for his people.
The practice of boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk may have been a pagan custom (23:19) that the Lord didn’t want his people to adopt.
23:20-26 Here the Lord stressed the need for obedience. He would provide an angel to guide and deliver the Israelites, but they must listen to him and obey him (23:20-22). When the people arrived in the promised land, they were to wipe out their enemies and demolish their objects of worship (23:23-24). If they were careful to do all these things, the Lord would grant them blessing and health (23:25-26).
23:27-33 God thoughtfully promised to drive the Israelites’ enemies out of the land gradually—or else the land would become desolate (23:27-30). He also prescribed the borders of the promised land: they would extend from the Red Sea in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and from the wilderness in the south to the Euphrates River in the north (23:31). Israel was to make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land or with their gods (23:32). Failure to drive them out of the land would result in them being a snare to the Israelites. Their idolatrous beliefs and practices would lure Israel, leading God’s people to sin (23:33). They needed the regulation of God’s laws if they were to enjoy God’s blessings—and that meant no compromising with their enemies and no idolatry.
24:1-2 God’s covenant with Israel was inaugurated with a ceremony. Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and seventy elders of the people were called to approach the Lord (24:1-2). This suggests that worship is not something we initiate. It begins with a divine invitation.
24:3 After the invitation, Israel received God’s revelation. Moses told the people all the commands of the Lord. This is a reminder that the only reason we can truly know God is because he chooses to make himself known to us. We learn about him because he decides to tell us.
We need God’s revelation. But the proclamation of the Word of God is not a mere opportunity for note taking. It’s a call to respond to God. The people said, We will do everything that the Lord has commanded. Hearing from God is necessary, but it is not sufficient. We must respond to him with trust and obedience, or else his Word has fallen on deaf ears. Scripture says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:23).
24:4-8 Next Moses built an altar with twelve pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel (24:4). They then made offerings and sacrificed to the Lord so that they might have fellowship with him (24:5). Moses took the blood of the covenant and splattered it on the altar and on the people to consecrate them (24:6-8).
The sacrifice and offering that God requires of his people today is called “a sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15). He wants us to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1). In other words, you are to worship him with your words and your deeds—not merely on Sunday but every day. He’s the King, and he deserves it.
The reason we no longer need to offer bloody sacrifices to have fellowship with God is because the ultimate sacrifice has been made. Jesus Christ obtained our eternal redemption “not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood” (Heb 9:12). Through his atoning sacrifice, the Son of God inaugurated a new covenant—one that provides complete forgiveness of your sins and grants you a new heart, so that you have the capacity to obey him if only you’ll place faith in him (see commentary on Heb 8:8-13).
24:9-11 Then Moses, Aaron, his sons, and the elders went up, and they saw the God of Israel. . . . God did not harm them, and they ate and drank (24:9-11). This means that the Lord let them see something of his glory in a manner similar to what Moses would later experience in a more dramatic fashion (see 33:18-23; 34:5-8).
Many people want to experience God; they want him to show up in their experiences. Israel, we must note, only saw God when they worshiped at his invitation, responded to his revelation, and received the blood of his consecration. If you want to experience God, then, trust in the consecrating blood of Jesus, worship him in spirit and truth, and respond to his Word with obedience.
24:12-18 God summoned Moses to the mountaintop so that he could give him the stone tablets containing the law and commandments that God himself had written for the people (24:12). Moses temporarily turned over leadership to Aaron and Hur, as Joshua accompanied him up the mountain (24:13-14). A cloud representing God’s glory covered the mountain (24:15-16). After six days, Moses saw God’s glory was like a consuming fire (24:17). He remained there forty days and forty nights (24:18).