Exodus Came Before Sinai

When I was a kid I remember learning about the ten commandments. When we studied the ten commandments we always started with Exodus 20:3, “You will have no other gods before me.” We never started back a verse where God said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” That is an important starting point because it couches the rules right in the middle of God’s saving acts of deliverance carried out on their behalf. I don’t know who came up with the phrase that is the title of this post, “Exodus came before Sinai” but it is an accurate and important statement that helps us understand what God does and how what we do is only a response to what He has already done and is doing in the world.

In order to put this statement in perspective, let’s back up a bit. When Moses saw the burning bush in Exodus 3 what God didn’t tell them was that he was to assemble the people, give them the 10 commandments and the whole book of Leviticus, follow it perfectly and then God would deliver them. Nope. Instead, God rescued them first before he put requirements on them. Why? Because that is how relationships work. For example, imagine the first time you met the person you would eventually marry the first thing you said was, “I know you don’t know me but I have certain expectations for how I believe a husband/wife should treat their mate…so starting today I have some expectations for this relationship and the obligations you have to uphold in it.” Do you think that would go over very well? Of course not! Why? Because relationships don’t start with obligations and requirements. Those don’t come until after the relationship is solidly formed and even then they are the natural outflow of two people who are deeply committed to and in love with one another.

Back to Israel. God delivered them. God brought them into the wilderness where he provided food and water and guidance for them. What was he doing before any rules were laid down? He was establishing a relationship with them. And when the rules came, they were willing to choose to follow them because they knew the One who was setting the rules and how He had their best interest at heart in the matter. So Exodus comes before Sinai. That was true of them and it is true for us. Romans 5:8 says, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Over and over again Jesus showed this principle through his ministry. One of our men mentioned the woman caught in adultery. He rescued her first and then told her how she was to live. There are so many other examples but the point is the same – God loves us enough to rescue us. He is not interested in us robotically following a list of do’s and don’ts. But He knows that if we will willingly choose to follow Him that the boundaries He sets for our lives will be willingly followed because we know Him, love Him and trust Him.

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

8 Responses to Exodus Came Before Sinai

  1. Tim Archer says:

    I was reading yesterday about the different divisions of the 10 Commandments according to religious tradition. (Reading scholarly sources like Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Division_according_to_different_religions)
    Jews, Catholics, Orthodox groups and Lutherans all include the “preface” as part of the first commandment.

    I thought that tied in with your point today.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Darin says:

    Great thoughts. I struggle because at times people who are saved don’t recognize this. Great thoughts to chew on.

  3. James Wood says:

    I was just writing about this point in reflecting on the break in Ephesians at the beginning of chapter 4. The first half of the letter is all about what God has done for us (i.e. establishing the relationship) and the second half provides the context of that relationship. God has always worked that way too. He didn’t tell Abram to cut off his foreskin and then call him out of Ur.

    • Ken Sublett says:

      1. It’s true: Paul and Peter always define what Christ has given to us through gifted leaders.
      2. Peter said that “elders are to teach that which has been taught and refute those who oppose it.
      3. Peter puts the assembly focus on the prophets (the Christ Thread) and the prophecies made more perfect by the fulfillment of by Jesus. He outlawed private interpretation or further expounding because the eye- and ear-witness were leaving a written “memory” of Jesus being validated by God. He said that by giving heed (the only worship word) to these the day star would arise in our heart.
      4. Those who went beyond that are marked as false teachers just like the false prophets. Jesus confirmed in the prophecies (Jeremiah 23) that those who speak out of their own imagination instead of what the Lord has said are gujilty of blasphemy.
      5. In Ephesians 3 Paul defines the sole role of the ekklesia/assembly and in Ephesians 4 the inspired founders
      6. This protects us from the Cunning Craftiness of those who plan to deceive. Winds of doctrine are “fluctuo” or “Oratio” or “cito” to incite or arouse.
      Panourgema speaks of Sophistry (Sophia) where Jesus said that the Father hides Himself from the wise or SOPHISTS. This is cleaverness or skill, in music, singing, poetry or oratory.
      7. That leaves only speaking the truth in love: next, Paul defines the sole role of the ekklesia or his use of SYNAGOGUE. In Romans 15 that means “using one mind and one mouth speaking that which is written for our learning.”
      8. This is how we are nenewed in the SPIRIT of our MIND

      Christ in the wilderness and the Campbells restored for one shining moment in the bewitched West:

      Church is “A school of Christ.”
      Worship is “reading and musing the Word of Christ.” Musing is IN THE HEART as a place.

      That was hindered in the 1930’s when the evangelists began to be “located missionaries” and the budget became the dominant piece of our “pattern.”

      • mattdabbs says:

        Ken,

        I have no idea what you are talking about here or how it is related to the post. Can you either make some specific connections to the original post or elaborate a bit? Trying hard to follow your train of thought here but I am coming up empty for now. Help a brother out!

      • Ken Sublett says:

        I was connecting to the comment about the break in Ephesians 4: What Christ did for us in this chapter is to gift certain men to make certain that “cunning” people are silenced. Then, Paul defined the role of what he usually identifies as “synagogue.” I have tried to define the meaning of “cunning” by pointing to links which show how the word is used. I expanded on that in a quick look at Ephesians 4 by defining words and seeing what they meant in the Greek world and how they are used in parallel passages by Paul. “Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” is a fundamental meaning of good news: being an engineer by training I insist on knowing what a “laded burden” is and what REST means. It has the same meaning as SABBATH (Rest) which Israel profaned by PLAY which the Hebrew, Greek and Latin define as musical idolatry. That’s where Israel lost GRACE and was abandoned to “worship the starry host.” Since the Jews from the wilderness onward worshipped the starry host, that means we should use care when looking at the not commanded monarchy for patterns to be used in what is defined exclusively as “A school of the Word” where the Word or “that which is written for our learning” is defined in Romans 15 and the other not-musical passages.

        Christ HAS done it all for us and that is why we should not lade people down with “ceremonialism” which is legalism. The “service” of the Levites is defined as “hard bondage” and we should not impose any burdens on people not connected to “teaching that which has been taught.” The Lord’s Supper is defined with an evangelism or preaching word. Jesus didn’t command, Paul didn’t practice or command and the historic Church of Christ did not go beyond that for centuries. Both preaching and singing came with the post-Constantine priests who were accepted–unwashed–from paganism.

        It is not legalism to try to keep people from imposing these laded burdens on people already stressed to the limit and invited “outside the camp” to REST. No one ever “worshipped” on the rest day but the pagans.

  4. thebiblestop says:

    Great insight. I had never looked at the ten commandments that way.

  5. Jerry Starling says:

    I stumbled on this when I was a young preacher (early 20’s) and noted the “therefore” passages in Paul’s writings. I first called them a “Pauline characteristic.” Later (by my later 20’s?) I realized that other writers shared this trait. They would have a doctrinal section and follow it with some personal, moral teachings connected with “therefore.”

    It was much later (perhaps my mid-30’s or early 40’s) that it dawned on me that if that’s the way they wrote, then maybe that was the way I ought to preach and teach. It was about the same time that I realized that invariably, the “doctrine” was about what God has done for us.

    Congratulations, Matt! You’ve arrived at this understanding much earlier in your life than I did in mine.

    Jerry (soon to turn 71)

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