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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 34

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The Covenant Renewed

A. Moses meets with God again on the mountain.

1. (Exo 34:1-4) God calls Moses up Mount Sinai again.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain." So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

a. Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones: Moses broke the first set of tablets of stone, the ones written with the finger of God (Exodus 32:19). He broke them because Israel broke the covenant.

b. I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke: Now that Israel's heart was in a place to restore the covenant, God provided a new set of tablets of stone - and Moses brought them up on the mountain for God to write them.

c. No man shall come up with you: Moses here again acted as a mediator between God and the people. The people couldn't deal with God directly because of their own sin and rebellion, so Moses bridged the gap between the people and God.

2. (Exo 34:5-7) The revelation of God to Moses.

Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."

a. Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there: The cloud mentioned was no doubt the cloud of Shekinah glory. This was the same cloud that:

- Covered Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16)
- Went with Israel by day (Exodus 13:21-22)
- Went to the tent of Moses (Exodus 33:9-10)
- Filled the temple with glory (2 Chronicles 7:2)
- Overshadowed Mary at the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35)
- Was present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34-35)
- Will be present at the return of Jesus (Revelation 1:7)

b. Proclaimed the name of the LORD: This means that God revealed His character to Moses. The specific aspects of His character are mentioned in this passage, yet this was far more than a lecture on the nature of God. Moses experienced the character of God in a dramatic way.

c. And the LORD passed before him: As Moses did what God told him to do in Exodus 33:21-23, he experienced what God said he would. Hidden in the cleft of the rock, Moses saw "behind" the LORD - as much of God's glory as he could possibly take in.

d. The LORD, the LORD God: This is the "same old name" for God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew; this is no "new" revelation of God. This is the eternal, immutable God.

i. "The name of YHWH expresses all that He is and does, so this means proclamation of the saving acts of God … Here is God is Self-revelation, proclaiming His very self to Moses." (Cole)

ii. Knowing God should be the active interest of every human being, and especially of every Christian. "It has been said by someone that 'the proper study of mankind is man.' I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father." (Spurgeon)

e. Merciful and gracious: Merciful is better translated, "full of compassion." In five of the 13 times it is used, this word is translated full of compassion in the NKJV. This is the first place in the Bible where this Hebrew word rachuwm is used.

i. The word was also used regarding Israel and the Exodus in Psalms 78:38: But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. This is compassion in action.

ii. The word translated gracious comes from the idea "to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, or to bestow." It is grace, giving to the undeserving.

iii. F.B. Meyer on this word gracious: "That word has gone out of fashion. Our fathers petrified it; they made it the foundation-stone of a structure of granite, in which the souls of men could find no rest, and therefore we rather dread that word - Grace. And yet there is no greater word in the language than the word that stands for the undeserved, free gift of the Love of God."

f. Longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth: The idea behind the word longsuffering means that God is slow to anger. He doesn't have a short fuse and is patient with us.

i. We all know what it is like to deal with people who have a short fuse - the slightest offense, the slightest perceived wrong, and they are up in arms about it. God isn't like that. He is longsuffering.

ii. "Not merely adequate, but abounding is this great God of glory. He has barns and silos full of love and faithfulness; he is stacking it in the streets looking for a distribution system." (Erwin)

g. Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin: God's goodness is shown concretely towards us in His forgiving character.

i. Iniquity and transgression and sin are all mentioned so no one would think there was some type of sin God was unable to forgive.

ii. This revelation of the character of God to Moses forever puts away the idea there is a "bad" God of the Old Testament, and a "good" God of the New Testament. God's character of love and mercy and grace is just as present in the Old Testament as in the New Testament.

iii. Psalm 86:15 repeats this exact same revelation of God: But You, O LORD, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

h. By no means clearing the guilty: If His love and forgiveness are rejected, God will punish, and that punishment will have repercussions through the generations that hate Him (Exodus 20:5).

i. His loving, gracious, and giving character do not "cancel out" His righteousness. Because of the work of Jesus, the righteousness of God is satisfied and the grace and mercy of God are righteously given.

3. (Exo 34:8-9) Moses reacts to the revelation of God.

So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, "If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance."

a. So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped: His first, and primary reaction was simply worship. When we come to know who God is and all His great love for us, the most practical thing it makes us do is worship Him more than ever.

i. Indeed, Moses made haste to worship. He was compelled to worship God when he saw so clearly whom God was. When we don't have a compelling drive to worship God, it's clear evidence we don't really appreciate who He is.

b. If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us: Moses asked for the goodness, grace, and mercy of God be extended to himself and the nation.

i. When we see the goodness of God for what it is, we should not hesitate to ask that it be extended to us. If we know God is good, we should ask Him to be good to us. If we know He is forgiving, we should ask Him to forgive us. The knowledge of God is therefore not a passive exercise. When we know Him, it leads us to receive from Him.

ii. But Moses went even a step further than this, going beyond only asking these things for himself. He also asked for them on behalf of the nation also.

B. Renewal of the covenant.

1. (Exo 34:10-11) What God will do for Israel.

And He said: "Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

a. I will make a covenant: This was God's covenant, that Israel was invited to join. He did not negotiate the terms with Israel. Instead He dictated the terms to Israel.

b. I will do marvels … all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD: God's plan was to glorify Himself to all the nations through Israel, and to do this through the great things He did among them.

i. Israel had a choice regarding those great things. Either the great things would be blessings so great that every nation would know that God alone had blessed Israel (as was the case with Solomon). Or, the great things would be curses so great that every nation would know God had chastised Israel and yet kept them a nation (as was the case with the exile). Either way, God would glorify Himself through Israel among the nations.

c. I am driving out: God promised to do what Israel could not do by itself - drive out the nations of Canaan, allowing Israel to take possession of what God gave to them.

2. (Exo 34:12-16) Israel must be separate from the Canaanites in worship, politics, fellowship and marriage.

"Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.

a. You shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images: The culture of the Canaanites was so corrupt that it was beyond redemption. God did not want Israel to assume any of the sinful practices found in the culture of the Canaanites.

b. And they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods: There was a definite connection between the worship of the Canaanite gods and sexual immorality. Many of the Canaanite gods were fertility gods and they were worshipped with ritual prostitutes and sex.

3. (Exo 34:17) Israel must renounce idolatry.

"You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

a. No molded gods: This command was especially poignant in light of the golden calf debacle. No molded image could come close to displaying the glory of God, even in the partial sense Moses saw it on Mount Sinai.

4. (Exo 34:18) Israel must keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.

"The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time of the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.

a. The Feast of Unleavened Bread: This was a feast speaking of their purity before God, when all leaven - a symbol of sin - was put away and Israel walked in a symbolic purity.

5. (Exo 34:19-28) Various laws, mostly regarding Israel's separation from other nations and separating unto the LORD.

"All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep. But the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem him, then you shall break his neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year. You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven, nor shall the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover be left until morning. The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

a. Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord: God commanded that at three feasts each year (Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles), each Israelite man should gather before the LORD. He even promised a supernatural protection for an obedient Israel (neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year).

b. You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven: Leaven (yeast) is often a picture of sin in the Bible. Therefore, it was forbidden to include any kind of leaven in a blood sacrifice.

c. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk: This command is repeated from Exodus 23:19.

d. So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water: This was a completely unique and supernatural fast. It is definitely possible for someone to live without food for 40 days, but by any account it is a miracle to go without water for this long. This kind of fasting is never repeated or recommended in the Scriptures.

C. The shining face of Moses.

1. (Exo 34:29-30) Moses' face shines when he comes down from Mount Sinai.

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

a. Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him: His close communion with God physically affected Moses. His face had a shining appearance that was so noticeable that people were afraid to come near him.

2. (Exo 34:31-32) Moses relates the covenant of God to the leaders of Israel.

Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.

3. (Exo 34:33-35) The veil on Moses' face.

And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.

a. He put a veil on his face: We could easily jump to the assumption that Moses wore the veil so the people would no longer be afraid to come near him. It is easy to think that the veil was to protect them from seeing the shining face of Moses. But Paul explained the real purpose of the veil: not to hide the shining face of Moses, but so that the diminishing glory of his face would not be observed, - because the glory was fading.

i. Moses, who put a veil over his face, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away (2 Corinthians 3:13).

ii. The Old Covenant had a glory, but it was a fading glory. God didn't want people to see the fading glory of the Old Covenant, and lose confidence in Moses.

iii. The Old Covenant was great and glorious - but it looks pretty pale in comparison to the New Covenant. A bright autumn moon may look beautiful and give great light, but it is nothing to the noon-day sun.

b. The skin of Moses' face shone: The Hebrew verb for shone literally means, "shot forth beams." It is also related to a noun for  "horn." This is why the Latin Vulgate mistranslated this verb as "having horns," and so in most medieval works of art Moses is wearing a pair of horns on his head.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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