3.19 Implementation

After Sinai, the time of Deliverance was over, the tasks of Identity and Implementation had just begun. Moses cut two replacement tablets of stone to replace those he broke in anger when he discovered the golden calf.  When Moses descended the mountain the second time, his face glowed with the radiant glory of God (Ex 34:29-35).  

In Ex 34:10-16, God declared His future purpose for Israel.  This echoed His original promise to Abraham, however, now He added Israel's responsibilities.

          a.  God announced a new covenant with Israel, a covenant of "wonders never before done in any nation in all the world" (Ex 34:10).
          b.  He will drive out the Canaanites before them.
          c.  Israel was to make no treaties and not to intermarry with Canaanites.                
          d.  Israel was commanded to destroy their shrines and altars  (Ex 34:13). 
          e.  God will enlarge their borders (Ex 34:24).

         

The rest of Exodus, 35-40, is concerned with the construction of the tabernacle and its utensils.  "So Moses finished the work" (Ex 40:33), and God sanctified it with His Presence.  Now He was bodily resident among the community of Israel!  Like the admiral of a fleet who sets his pennant on his flagship, so the Lord shifted His Presence from the crest of Sinai to the small tent and the mercy seat over the ark.  

         

This is a hard concept for a later civilization that has part of its roots in Greek idealism.  Greco-Roman Christianity and its heirs banished God to His realm in heaven, where He was remote and men were off the hook.  Israelite religion brought Him dangerously close.  Let's see -- how can we know God exists?   Each side gives its answer.  On the one hand, the scholastic produces the ontological argument, and we scratch our heads. Alternatively, the Israelite could see the cloud settled over the tabernacle.  Yes, says the scholar,  but how do you know that God is in the cloud?  Maybe it is merely condensation of early morning dew.  Easy to find out, says the Israelite -- just take one step too close to that tent and that Presence.  If it's dew you get damp, if it's God you die. 

         

Here is yet another theme of Biblical faith, though not a racial one: the knowledge of God is tangible, corporeal, personal.  Israel is founded on the Lord’s Name, His deeds (which include His covenants, first with the fathers and now at Sinai), and His Presence.  It is not a matter of dogma, abstractions and systematic theology.  Rather, God is manifest in flesh, in history, in deeds.  Some people die when they get too close to Him, others' faces light up.  This is not "fides quaerens intellectum".  It is spoken word, miracle, command and obedience.  It is Emmanuel, God with us, even 1500 years before the Man with that name appeared.  Faith is response to the present Person, not mental assent to propositional truth.  How far later Christianity departed from its roots in Exodus, in the cloud by day and the fire by night.