Moses is revisiting the story of God writing His commandments a second time for Israel. The first set was broken after Moses saw what the people were doing.
When I was looking in my “Bible Helps” yesterday they talked about Moses throwing down the commandments. “Breaking the tablets indicates the deliberate ending of the covenant relationship: an impulsive gesture of fury and despair following God’s words in (Chapter 9) verses 12-14. A treaty of Esarhaddon, and Assyrian king (681-699 B.C.) forbids his vassal to destroy the treaty text, as this would be tantamount to rebellion.”
To me this indicates that because Israel broke God’s covenant Moses was unwilling to give them His written covenant, thereby possibly invalidating the original covenant. God had told Moses that He wanted to destroy the people and “blot out their name from under heaven” (verse 14b). I would say He wanted to end the covenant at that point.
Moses’ intervention into the people’s behavior and his prayers on their behalf moved God. God’s heart softened and He was willing to forgive the people. HE called for Moses to come back up the mountain with two new stone tablets so He could rewrite His covenant for the people.
I was just thinking about what the people might have been doing when Moses went up the mountain two more times. He went a total of three times in this span. The first time he went right after God spoke from the mountain to the people and verbally gave them His Ten Commandments. They were so frightened by His power that they asked Moses to be their intermediary. The ALL agreed to His covenant and His requirements before Moses left them. But within just over a month they had already asked for another god. Apparently God’s presence and audible voice didn’t take long to forget.
The second time Moses went up the mountain it was to intercede for the people’s lives. Before going He had the Levites go through the camp slaying people with the sword. About 3,000 people died that day. God also struck the people with a plague for their behavior. Apparently this had a more lasting impact on their behavior because when Moses was gone for another 40 days they didn’t rebel.
The third time Moses went up the mountain was with the new stone tablets. The first time God gave Moses the tablets the people had no idea it was going on. God created the tablets while the two of them were together on the mountain top. Moses was bringing down a surprise as he returned. This second time Moses had to cut the stones for God to write on. The people knew the purpose of Moses’ third visit. They knew what to expect upon his return. They waited this last 40 days without incident.
It occurred to me that it is difficult for man to stay committed to a course of action unless he has a strong motivator. Up until this point in Israel’s journey they had treated God like a vending machine. Decide what you want, put in your order, and expect a return. Their “orders” came in the form of grumbling and crying out. When they came to the Red Sea they cried out because they were trapped between the approaching army and the sea. God answered their cry with a way through on dry land. When they were hungry they grumbled about the lack of food and God sent them manna to eat. When they were thirsty they grumbled about the lack of water and God addressed that need too. To that point they didn’t have to put in any effort to see what God wanted. They only saw what they wanted and how He could meet their needs.
With the establishment of the covenant between Israel and God they were now required to meet His demands too. It was now a two way street but they didn’t decide to pick up their part until they had a personal loss from not following through on their end. The death of so many by the sword, the plague God sent, and the events of drinking the ground up idol were very personal. THESE events had an impact that God’s voice from the mountain didn’t.
To me, that BOGGLES the mind!!! I love looking back and seeing how God has worked in my life. There have been a few times in my life where I KNOW I have encountered the Holy Spirit at work. Those times are precious to me. Sometimes I think they might mean more to me than all the little things, but honestly, I think it is a tie. But I cannot fathom doubting or dismissing God after He displays Himself so tangibly. That fear they exhibited after hearing the mountain speak should have stuck with them a LOT longer.
I’m SO glad God decided to go ahead and reestablish His covenant with the people. This second generation that Moses is addressing now is God reestablishing His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I wonder if they recognize that Moses is speaking of a real “second chance” and that they are the living embodiment of it.
Father God, thank You for second chances. I’ve certainly used more than my share of them! Thank You that You don’t give up on me. It took a whole lot for You to remove Your promise from the first generation. I pray I NEVER push You even close to that point in our relationship!
Thank You for all the times You have demonstrated Your love and care in my life. Thank You for letting me look back and see both the big and little things that You have done for me. Please let me never forget all those wonderful glimpses into Heaven that You have given me. I want to be faithful to You always, even if the memories faded. Let the awe ALWAYS remain.