Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Mishpatim

Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

Mishpatim shows us that our goal in life should be nothing less than fellowship with the Almighty himself. The Sidra concludes with Moshe, Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel being invited by the LORD to eat in his presence. This was no doubt an awesome experience for them all, but it was one that God desired for them. Despite our sin, there is a way to enter his presence, a way that he himself has made for us.

Little is said of what they saw in the vision but it is clear that they saw God represented in human form. This surely teaches us that there is something about God to which we can relate. It says in Genesis 1 that man was created “in the image of God”. A relationship is possible. Beneath God’s feet they saw a paved work of a sapphire stone, clear like the heavens, which revealed him as the God of power, ruling from the heavens, altogether above us. His rule is pure and, like a paving, ordered and according to a plan. How great and glorious God is! And yet it is possible for us to enjoy fellowship with him. Is that your desire?

How that can be achieved is made clear by all that comes earlier in the Sidra. Three things stand out and demand our attention: the Law, the blood of the covenant and the Angel.


The Law

A friend, a parent, or a spouse will not be likely to enjoy our company if we ignore the things that please them. No more can we expect fellowship with God if we disobey his laws. The Almighty gave the laws of the covenant to Israel so that the people would know what pleases him, respond in obedience and so enjoy fellowship with him. And what just and holy laws they were, revealing the Almighty to be someone we should want to know. He is one who has compassion on the weak and defenceless; he hates violence, theft and exploitation, perversion and disrespect. He understands our needs and, for example, provides us with Shabbat rest. How privileged Israel was to receive such laws! They sensed this and responded swiftly when Moses read the Book of the Covenant to them, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do”. That is the first thing required for fellowship.


The Blood

The second thing that stands out is the blood of the covenant. Some might think that the solemn response of the people was enough. God, however, requires more than that. The covenant was sealed by sacrifice. Animals were killed and offered to God and their blood was sprinkled on the altar and on the people. As he sprinkled the people Moses declared solemnly:,“The blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words”.

God was teaching Israel that if they were to have fellowship with him a death had to take place to cover their sin, for it was only after this that Moses and the elders were able to ascend the mountain to see God and eat before him. The celebrated commentator Nahmanides supposed that the Almighty did not lay his hand on the elders because they were worthy to see the vision. But nowhere does Moses record that this was the reason for their survival. The implication of the words of Scripture is that it was a marvel they were not destroyed! The only explanation for the fact that they were able to see God and eat before him was the power of the blood of the covenant. Another had taken the death they deserved so they were welcome to approach the Almighty. Here is real hope for us all. If we were told that we could approach God on the grounds of our own worthiness, who would dare to try? But if he has provided an atonement for our sins then we may approach him with confidence.


The Angel

Finally, we read of the Angel whom God gave to lead Israel to the Promised Land. He was to be feared and obeyed. What was remarkable was that God said, “My Name is in him” or, literally, “My Name is at the very centre of his being”. We have met him already in Sidra Beshalah as the one in the pillar of cloud and fire. Now we see him as the guide to the Promised Land, the place designed in the Almighty’s perfect plan as a place for fellowship between Israel and himself. That makes the Angel a person of crucial importance for entry into the place of God’s presence. We will look at his significance when we meet up with him again.

Is it the longing of your heart to have fellowship with the Almighty? This Sidra not only shows that such fellowship is possible, but that God himself desires it. Because of this, He has left us in no doubt as to the way it can be obtained. He requires that we walk in obedience to his commands and that we trust in the blood of his covenant to cover our sin.

Are you doing those things?


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