Moses has requested proof from Yahweh that he will, in fact, go up with his people into their new land. God will show up, and he will stay in relationship with these rebellious people. But how is that possible?
Observation of Exodus 34:1-28
Most repeated words: Lord (16 times), God/god (12x), no (6), tablets (6), covenant (5), days (5), make (5), not (5)
- much emphasis on Yahweh, God, in contrast to the other gods of the nations
- new tablets and the making of a covenant are also primary themes
The first paragraph (Ex 34:1-9) shows Yahweh keeping his promise (Ex 33:19-23) to show his glory to Moses.
- First, Moses needs to cut new tablets to replace the ones he broke (Ex 34:1-4) and bring them to the top of the mountain.
- Then Yahweh descends in the cloud to speak to Moses (Ex 34:5, compare with Ex 33:9).
- Yahweh shows his glory to Moses by…declaring his name and its implications (Ex 34:6-7).
- Yahweh is a God merciful and gracious, abounding in love [grace/mercy] and faithfulness [truth].
- He keeps love and forgiveness for thousands.
- He also will by no means clear the guilty. Sin has consequences for multiple generations.
- Moses responds in worship, once again begging God to stay among his people (Ex 34:8-9).
- He recognizes that this cannot happen unless God pardons their sin.
The rest of the section (Ex 34:10-28) is a speech by Yahweh in response to Moses’ pleading.
- The topic statement of the speech is: “Behold, I am making a covenant” (Ex 34:10).
- And, as though the burning bush and the plagues and the Passover and the exodus and the Red Sea and the manna and the water from the rock and the victory over Amalekites and the pillar of cloud and the fiery mountain—as though all these things weren’t enough, this new covenant will be something “awesome” unlike anything ever seen before (Ex 34:10).
- This covenant involves a promise and a series of 8 laws all repeated from earlier in the book (Ex 34:11-28).
- A promise to drive out the nations in the Promised Land (Ex 34:11, compare with Ex 23:23).
- Don’t make covenants with the inhabitants of the land (Ex 34:12-16, cf. Ex 23:24, 32-33).
- Don’t make gods of cast metal (Ex 34:17, cf. Ex 20:4-6, 20:23, 32:4).
- Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and redeem the firstborn (Ex 34:18-20, cf. Ex 12:17, 13:1-16, 23:15).
- Rest on the seventh day each week (Ex 34:21, cf. Ex 16:26-30, 20:8-11, 23:12).
- Celebrate 3 festivals each year (Ex 34:22-24, cf. Ex 23:14-17).
- Include no leaven in sacrifices, and allow no leftovers from feasts (Ex 34:25, cf. Ex 23:18).
- Bring the best of the first fruits into Yahweh’s house (Ex 34:26, cf. Ex 23:19).
- Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (Ex 34:26, cf. Ex 23:19).
- Yahweh wants this new covenant (particularly the 10 Commandments) written on the new stone tablets. Moses take 40 more days (cf. Ex 24:18) to complete this work (Ex 34:27-28).
Interpretation of Exodus 34:1-28
Some possible questions:
- Why does Moses need new stone tablets?
- Why does Moses need to replace the stone tablets himself?
- Why is God’s glory wrapped up in his name?
- How is this new covenant any more awesome than what Yahweh has done before?
- Why does this new covenant simply repeat the promise and 8 laws from earlier in the book?
My answers (numbers correspond to the questions):
- He broke the first ones (Ex 34:1) when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:19). He did this as a representative of Yahweh’s fierce anger (Ex 32:10, 19), signifying the covenant relationship broken seemingly beyond repair (Ex 33:3-5).
- The first ones were carved and written on by the finger of God himself (Ex 31:18, 32:16). But Moses has now demonstrated his full potential as mediator. When God repairs the covenant, part of what makes it more “awesome” than anything seen before is that it now includes a human mediator in the crafting of it. This foreshadows the significance of the last part of chapter 34, which I’ll cover next week.
- God’s decision to deliver these people was deeply rooted in the glory of his name (Ex 3:13-15). His plan to train Moses as a mediator was deeply rooted in the glory of his name (Ex 6:2-9). He toyed with Pharaoh so the whole earth would know the glory of his name (Ex 9:15-16). One of God’s foundational commands prohibits people from making light of his name (Ex 20:7). The whole book of Exodus has been concerned with the glory of Yahweh’s name. And now we learn the essence of the name, the essential identity of this God: he who is full of both grace and truth (Ex 34:6, John 1:14, 17-18). It was pictured early on in a bush that burned but was not consumed (Ex 3:2). Now we finally see the truth of his judgment on a sinful people combined with the grace of a new covenant to restore them to him.
- It is more awesome because it involves not only rescuing a needy people but even restoring and cohabiting with a blatantly rebellious people. It is not merely God’s plans for humans, but even his inclusion of them in his eternal purpose (e.g. requiring Moses to inscribe the new tablets). This is an awe-inspiring glory the world had never seen.
- Most of the repetition comes from chapter 23, the conclusion to the original Book of the Covenant. The repetition here highlights the fact that this covenant is still on. Though Yahweh threatened to destroy the people and start over (Ex 32:10), and though he refused to keep living among them (Ex 33:3-6), he has not followed through on those threats. He has restored their relationship in full to the way that it was before. In fact, there are even hints that it’s better than it was before (e.g. Moses’ shaping and writing the new tablets).
Train of thought:
- Yahweh’s glory is revealed through the inclusion of a human mediator to shape the new covenant, and his fundamental identity of combining grace and truth.
- The glorious new covenant involves not only a full and total restoration of the broken relationship between God and his people, but also a few hints of something more.
Main point: The glory of Yahweh’s new covenant lies in total restoration and a more intimate relationship than ever before.
Connection to Christ: Jesus, once again, is our true mediator. He forgives our sins and rescues us from slavery. These things are wonderful. But he also reunites us to God in a way superior to anything we would have had before sin entered the world. Jesus makes possible our full and final adoption as the sons of God.
My Application of Exodus 34:1-28
Head: I can trust that my God and Father is not grudgingly obligated to take care of me; no, he is ecstatic and delighted to have me for his son in Christ.
Heart: I cannot find such divine and eternal intimacy anywhere else. Nothing can satisfy my deepest longing for close relationships like what I have in Christ.
Hands: Stop sucking the life out of people. Don’t manipulate circumstances or conversations for my own security or self-fulfillment. I can take risks, speak the truth, extend the grace that has been extended to me. This will generate more patience with my children and greater eagerness for outreach.
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