Exodus 24:12-18 • Psalm 2 and Psalm 99 • 2 Peter 1:16-21 • Matthew 5:43-48
On the Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom they witnessed God deliver them from slavery and then crush their pursuing enemies under the weight of the Red Sea; experienced their first overt celebration of thanks in, and for, God’s gift of freedom; they literally tasted of God’s provisions and went to battle against the brutal Amalekites and won in a manner that could only be attributed to God. It had been quite a journey, quite an experience. After all of this, in chapter 19 of Exodus, we see the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai where they are going to learn how to live with each other and with God. God had prepared them for the journey (see chapters 11 &12), he had used the journey to prepare them for this moment. It is here that God’s covenant with the people is explained and established. Moses verbally explains the commandments from God to the people , and then God calls Moses alone to come further up towards God where he will receive the tablets with the commandments written on them along with more extensive instructions regarding worship. Moses enters a cloud for a holy moment with God, a moment that last forty days. To the people below the mountain, the cloud looked like a roaring fire, but inside the cloud, Moses experienced this holy prolonged moment with God. Don’t forget that later, near the end of this holy moment, the Israelites became impatient and returned to the Gods they had known in their Egyptian slavery. Note: think about the comparison of this holy moment between God, Moses and the commandments with the experience of the Jesus with his followers as he refers them to reconsider their depth of understanding of the same commandments God gave to Moses (Matthew 5-8).
Psalm 2 and Psalm 99 (Responsive Reading)
Both of these Psalms speak of human Kings and leaders, good and bad – and very bad (‘conspire against’ God), who either lead pointing to God or lead pointing to themself. In the end, the Psalmist reminds those who follow, or are somehow subject to these leaders, to always find refuge in God and not any human human ruler or leader (including those who present in a religious manner).
2 Peter 1:16-2
The book of second Peter is taking the congregation back to their core and basic beliefs as a reminder and the anchor of truth. False teachers/prophets have entered the church and taught that since Jesus has not yet returned – the prophesy of his return must be incorrect – casting doubt on Jesus himself. Their reasoning follows that they need to disregard the calls to follow God. Basically, they are attempting to rewrite the truth in a manner that changes the facts and history – a rewrite that matches the false prophets’ agendas and plans. Peter begins this letter by reminding the church of the first hand testimony they have heard and received, testimony that qualifies Jesus as the Messiah. The testimony of the experience of Peter, John, and James as they witnessed Moses, Elijah, and God proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior (the transfiguration). This first hand testimony is also a repudiation of the teachings of the false prophets.
As Christ preached his foundational sermon to his hodgepodge group of followers we have seen him challenge their understanding of being blessed, assure them that he did not come to abolish the law but instead to fulfill it, and raise the bar, and calling, of the law. He has taken the basics of being a good person and the ways in which we measure ‘goodness’ and ‘rightness’ and moved it to a much less measurable factor that looks at what is inside us, what is our center, our core. As he continues in our passage this week he has the audacity of saying that we need to be perfect, and that we should never settle for anything less.