Oh, you will, will you?
“They all responded together, “We will certainly do everything the LORD asks of us.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD.“ – Exodus 19:8 NLT
Someone once said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Back in the 11th Century, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was attributed with another saying expressing similar sentiments, “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.” In reading through Exodus 18-19 this morning, it seems that the people of Israel were full of good intentions and appeared to be enthusiastically willing to obey what God was telling them to do. But if you know anything about their history, it would seem that, while well-intentioned, they regularly failed to keep their word.
Chapter 19 records the giving of what has become known as the Mosaic Law to the people. God reminds them of how He had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and of His destruction of Pharaoh’s army. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle’s wings” (Exodus 19:3 NLT). Then He instructs Moses to tell the people, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6a NLT). God tells them, “out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure” (Exodus 19:5 MSG). All God asks is that they obey His voice and keep the covenant He is going to make with them. And their response: “Everything GOD says, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8 MSG). They sounded so sincere. They sounded like they really meant it, and they probably did. How many times have I made similar declarations to God with every intent on keeping my word and following through on my commitments – only to find myself dropping the ball and failing to hold up my end of the agreement. By agreeing to obey, they ratified the covenant with God. And they would do so a second time in chapter 24:3. But it wouldn’t be long before they broke their pledge. In chapter 32 we will read again the story of their rebellion against and rejection of God. “They have already turned from the way I commanded them to live. They have made an idol shaped like a calf, and they have worshiped and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt'” (Exodus 32:8 NLT). Rather than keep the word of God, they turned aside and made gods of their own. God responds to their rebellion by declaring, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are” (Exodus 32:9 NLT). He describes them as stiff-necked and obstinate. They were hardheaded and even more hard-hearted.
But I can be the same way. I can start out with the best of intentions. I can pledge to God that I am going to obey Him and really think I mean it! I can have all the best intentions, but as soon as the opportunity presents itself, I can find myself worshiping gods I have made myself. The god of my career. The god of my intelligence (a small god). The god of pleasure. The god of power. The god of prosperity. There are many gods I can turn to at any given time in my life. I have surrounded myself with them. And any time I feel like God is distant, I can always find one of them ready to accept my attention.
But we, like the people of Israel, are a people set apart. Peter reminds us that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). We have been chosen by God. We have been set free by God. We have been set apart by God as His possession. And what is even more amazing is that God has given us, as believers, the gift of His indwelling presence, so that we might have the power to obey Him and keep His covenant. He doesn’t rely on our good intentions. He gives us the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. So we have all that we need to live as those who have been set apart by God.
Father, thank You for not only setting me apart, but giving me the power to live like I am. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men