1 - 4 The New Stone Tablets
1 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. 2 So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. 3 No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain.” 4 So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand.
The first few stone tablets were broken by man’s unfaithfulness, but that does not change God’s law. Moses has to cut out two new stone tablets and God writes exactly the same on them as He wrote on the first tablets. The basis of the relationship between God and His people remains the law.
Yet there is a difference. The first stone tablets are cut out by God (Exo 32:16), while this second pair must be cut out by Moses. Another difference we read in Deuteronomy 10. God says there that this second pair must be put in the ark (Deu 10:2).
The first stone tablets represent Christ. He is killed when He is come to His people. The second stone tablets are a picture of the believers. God wants that they show who Christ is. The believers are in Him, as are the tablets in the ark. Moses on the mountain is a picture of the Lord Jesus who is busy forming His people in the image of Himself.
5 - 9 The LORD Calls out His Name
5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. 9 He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.”
The LORD has said in verse 2 to Moses that he must stand before him on the top of the mountain. Now we see that the LORD in his condescending goodness comes down in a cloud, the dwelling place of his glory, and stands with Moses. Moses can only stand before the LORD because the LORD comes to him. It is the same with us. We can only stand before God because He came to us in Christ, who is the “radiance of His glory” (Heb 1:3).
The LORD calls out His Name. With this He calls out Who and what He is. Here Moses sees His glory pass by, which he asked for in the previous chapter. The names of the LORD show that He is first compassionate, gracious, patient, and rich in lovingkindness and truth, and also forgives, after which it follows that He also acts righteously, and in truth. This order we also see in the Lord Jesus, who is “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14) and of Whom it says that through Him “grace and truth” has become (Jn 1:17).
God can forgive on the basis of Whom He is, and He will punish the guilty on that same basis. He can forgive because He has punished the Innocent for those who know they are guilty. He keeps guilty he who does not repent. The consequences of sin work through into the generations. That is not to say that anyone is lost for what another has done, for each is punished for his own sins (Eze 18:20a). But if, for example, the father is a thief, there is a good chance that he will teach his children the wrong thing. They imitate it.
This revelation of God’s glory leads Moses to ask again whether the LORD wants to go in the midst of the people. The remarkable reason is the persistence of the people. That is precisely why Moses asks it. With this he indicates that the people will never reach the promised land by their own strength, but that the LORD will have to bring them there. He pleads with God for the people because He is God and not man (Hos 11:9b).
10 - 17 The LORD Makes a Covenant
10 Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. 11 “Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 But [rather], you are to tear down their altars and smash their [sacred] pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— 15 otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons [also] to play the harlot with their gods. 17 You shall make for yourself no molten gods.
God promises that He will go with them. He makes a covenant with them. He ushers in the covenant with “behold”, through which He emphasizes it. He wants His people to understand that He is making this covenant. The people must also realize that this covenant excludes any other covenant. They may in no way enter into a covenant with the inhabitants of the country who assert their rights to God’s land. Any connection with people who claim God’s land for themselves and thus deny God’s rights, is a denial of the connection with God.
A connection with the inhabitants of the country will lead to God’s people worshipping the gods of the country. And that is absolutely forbidden. That is why they must put an end to everything that reminds of false worship. Altars, sacred pillars and sacred stones, it all has to be shattered. God demands the worship of His people all alone for Himself. He longs for the love of a people He has freed to make it His own. He is an envious or jealous God. Not that He compares Himself to gods of gold and silver, wood and stone, but He does not want His people to get involved with it and lead themselves to destruction. He just seeks their happiness.
18 - 27 Repetition of Various Statutes
18 “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt. 19 “The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20 You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem [it], then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed. 21 “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; [even] during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, [that is], the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. 24 For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God. 25 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning. 26 “You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” 27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”
The repetition of various statutes shows that there has been no change in this either. Man’s sin will never cause God to adjust His standards of holiness and righteousness. God’s rights to the devotion of His people and to all their possessions are expressed in the three great feasts which the LORD once again expresses to His people.
The first feast is the Feast of unleavened bread, which is immediately linked to the Passover. This feast indicates that He wants to see a people who have disposed of the leaven – leaven is a picture of sin in all its forms - and who feed on good things. He wants their lives to be a feast for Him and for them.
This is linked to His right to “the first offspring from every womb”, with the extra accent that a firstborn must be bought free. In the right to the firstborn He wants them to acknowledge His right to all that they possess. Then they will not appear before Him with empty hearts. When they come to Him, they will have something with them to sacrifice to Him as an expression of the rights He has over them and also as an expression of their gratitude that they may be His people. He has received right on us through the work of His Son, through which we have been redeemed from the power of sin.
He wants Israel to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. Then they can reflect especially on what He has said. He also wants them to come to His house three times a year with the best fruits of the land. They don’t have to worry about what they leave behind. He will take care of that.
The second feast, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, which is held seven weeks after the Passover, is the feast for the first fruits of the land. This feast is linked to the offering of the first sheaf of the harvest to the LORD. It is the first fruits of the harvest. “Christ” is risen as “First fruit” from the dead (1Cor 15:23a). In the resurrection He also connected all with Himself, whom He redeemed through His work on the cross. They are first fruits of a new creation (Jam 1:18).
The third great feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, is the feast of the collection at the end of the year. Then the full harvest is brought in. It speaks of the renewal of all things in accordance with God’s plan. What already applies to Christ and His own will then be seen in all creation. Creation then delivers its full fruit for God, which is offered to Him by all who may be part of it.
By maintaining these statutes, they can express their love for Him. Love will want to obey Him and trust Him. He wants to see this with His people. This has to do with having an eye for the relationships that God has given and the respect for their tenderness. In natural terms, God shows this by prohibiting the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk. As unnatural as that is, so unnatural is it not to give God with a longing heart what is due to Him.
Moses is commissioned to write all this down. What is written down is recorded as a reminder for the present generation and to pass on to the next generation (Isa 30:8). God’s concern is also for the future, that His own will always know what He wants. By their sin with the golden calf, their understanding of what God has said has also been reduced. Sin always means that we have lost sight of God’s thoughts or at least understand them less. Therefore, we must be reminded by the Word.
28 - 35 The Shining Face of Moses
28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony [were] in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them [to do] everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.
The first time Moses came from the mountain with the law of God with him, his face did not shine. Now that is the case. When God reveals Himself in grace and love, it has a reflection on everyone who is in fellowship with Him (cf. Acts 4:13b). Moses himself does not know that his face is shining. It’s not something you’re busy with yourself either. It is simply the result of fellowship with God. Those who live in fellowship with God do not think of themselves.
Instead of being attracted by the radiance of Moses, Aaron and the Israelites are afraid. Legal people are always frightened by grace. They are full of themselves and their own abilities or attempts to please God. Grace persuades them that they are nothing. That is a message they do not want to hear.
Moses puts a veil over his face, so that the Israelites no longer see the reflection of God’s glory (verses 33-35). The meaning of this is explained to us in 2 Corinthians 3 by Paul (2Cor 3:7-16). There Paul applies the veil that Moses does over his face to the blindness that exists among all those who wish to place themselves under the law.
The law has had a certain glory, but that glory has disappeared because of the glory of Christ. Anyone who still wants to place themselves under the law is blind to the glory of Christ. Such a man has a veil over his heart. If anyone gets an eye for the glory of Christ, that veil is taken away.
Whoever has accepted the Lord Jesus in faith no longer has a veil when he ‘reads Moses’. The phrase “when Moses is read” (2Cor 3:15) means “when the Old Testament books written by Moses are read”. For anyone who has come to know Christ, this veil has been destroyed. That also applies to the whole people of Israel in the future. When they return to the Lord, the veil is removed. Then they will discover in the Old Testament that everything is written with the Lord Jesus in mind. That is the “discovery” of the two going to Emmaus and disciples when the Lord Jesus opens their minds (Lk 24:26,44-46).
Therefore the believer can now look at the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face (2Cor 3:17-18). When the veil is gone, we are going to discover things in the Bible for which we have previously been blind. When our eyes have opened, we will enjoy the Old Testament because we read about the Lord Jesus in it. The Holy Spirit would like to tell us about Him on every page of the Bible. The Spirit Who has the Old Testament written down did so to introduce the Lord Jesus in it. The whole Old Testament breathes the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. That is the meaning of “the Lord now is the Spirit” (2Cor 3:17).
People have said after accepting the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord: “I have received another Bible.” Of course they read in the same Bible, but they started to read differently. The Holy Spirit, from the moment they have received the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, has been given the freedom to show them the glory of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament. The veil has disappeared.
It is now possible to admire with open eyes the glory of the Lord, without even for a moment to be afraid. That is an unprecedented privilege. The more we are busy with the Lord Jesus as the One Who is now glorified in heaven, the more it will radiate from us as well. It changes us, so that both God and people will see more and more of the Lord Jesus in us.