Again Moses is commanded to prepare two tablets to replace the ones that he had broken. Moses was told to come up to Mount Sinai alone. He was warned that no should be on the mountain and that the flocks should not be on the mountain either.
A major experience of the renewal of the covenant was made upon the fact that God was “the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These characteristics are worked out in His “forgiving” of sin as well as in His justice. The full revelation of this was not seen until Jesus came. While iniquity would be visited upon the third and fourth generations, His steadfast love reached out to thousands of generations. The loving nature of God, even in the Old Testament, was His fundamental nature. The statement of iniquity being visited upon the third and fourth generations should not be understood as implying that children and grandchildren were to be punished for the sins of their fathers. The people later understood it this way, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel sought to counteract it. (Jeremiah 31:29-30 Ezekiel 18:-14) This statement could be understood as referring to the nature of the world God had created. The unrighteousness of the fathers does show up in the practices of the children.
Moses plead for a continued reassurance of God’s presence and blessing through God’s pardon was a bases for the covenant renewal. It may seem that Moses was in need of a repeated assurance of God’s presence. It is possible that since the threat of God that He would not go with them had been so real, Moses was constantly searching for a reassurance that God would be with them. It would have been a very human reaction.
God’s statement that the covenant was being renewed was the reassurance that Moses needed. As part of this covenant they were promised God’s marvelous works as an evidence of God’s presence. These were not just for the benefit of Israel but also as a witness “And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord.” The power of God among His people is always a visible thing.
This next group of verses seems to be the same as the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. There are many similarities but they are not the same. It is quite likely that various traditions were preserved by various portions of the tribes of Israel and ultimately brought together under the inspiration and leadership of God. We also need to recognize that in no way did they record or claim to have recorded everything that was said and done. The summary of these records would have served to remind them of the totality of God’s messages and deeds. Therefore to limit what is recorded here in this renewal would be a mistake. To fully understand what was said in the original covenant and in the renewal, we need to consider both sets of material.
Some additional ideas need to be considered here. The very fact of their covenant with Yahweh precluded their making a covenant with the people of Canaan. This applied to any kind of covenant, including the marriage covenant. In the ancient Near East, any covenant with another people involved their gods.
The commandment for the Sabbath observance was also quite broad and very specific. They were to observe it “In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” This was especially significant for a society based upon agriculture. The service of God was more important than the service to self. This is still a basic principle for anyone who seeks to serve God. God comes first.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai from the presence of God he was unaware “the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” This radiance was a symbol of the closeness of Moses to God. The attitude of the people towards Moses reflected the awe with which they held him.
Exodus seems to imply that Moses put the veil over his face so that he would not frighten the people. Paul, on the other hand, says simply “Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor” (Corinthians 3:13)
The experience of apostasy and rebellion had come to an end. It came to an end by the action of God, not by the action of Israel. God renewed the covenant and through that experience Israel was restored to their relationship with God. But what had happened was to become a pattern for Israel. The Israelites were to find time and time again how difficult it was to be obedient and faithful. It still is. But we have the advantage of the New Covenant in Jesus. The Israelites had been redeemed from slavery. By God’s grace, we have been forgiven and redeemed from sin.
Jeremiah 31:29-30, Ezekiel 18:1-4, Corinthians 3:13