Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. — Exodus 23:32-33
When my children were toddlers, one of their favorite rainy-day activities was to draw designs in a tray of shaving cream. I would squirt a pile of white foam onto a baking sheet and sprinkle a couple of drops of red food coloring on the cream. They would happily dig into the mixture, spreading it this way and that, drawing “pictures” on the tray.
At first the red drops showed up in startling contrast to the soft, white mounds of cream. However, with just a few swipes of little fingers, a transformation took place. The bright red dots were replaced with long pink streaks. Within moments, the mixture had completely blended together — and all of the cream was pink instead of white!
What a visual picture of the importance of today’s focus verse. God warned the Israelites about their neighbors, whose beliefs and practices were in direct contrast to the way God wanted His people to live. He knew that the people He desired to be pure and holy could be harmfully influenced by the idolatrous cultures around them, so He warned them not to make covenants with those nations or with their gods. God knew the Israelites could not associate with these influences and remain undefiled, so He continually emphasized the importance of guarding against the heathen religions.
While our neighbors and associates may at first glance have little in common with the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, or Canaanites, their values may be completely different from God’s. As Christians, we are called to maintain a lifestyle that reflects our faith and commitment to God. This necessitates separation from anything that would tarnish our testimony or weaken our commitment, integrity, or standards.
Separation from the world involves more than keeping our distance from sinful things; it means staying close to God. There is no way to remove ourselves totally from all evil — we have to live here in a world polluted by sin. Nevertheless, we are to resist the ungodliness around us.
As we focus on God and concentrate on staying close to Him, living a life that is pure, holy, and pleasing to Him is indeed possible!
God had been revealing to the Children of Israel what would later be known as the Law of Moses. There were universal moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments. Then there were warnings, such as “Thou shalt not seethe a kid [goat] in his mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19), which were prohibitions against the common pagan practices of that era.
Three feasts were established at this time, each of which became an important part of Jewish religion and culture: The Feast of Unleavened Bread (also called the Feast of the Passover), The Feast of Harvest (also called the Feast of Pentecost), and the Feast of Ingathering (also called the Feast of Tabernacles).
The Children of Israel promised to obey the instructions of God, but in addition to their promises, it was necessary to seal the covenant with blood. In the Old Testament, God accepted the death of an animal as a substitute for the death of a sinner in most cases. (Execution was the penalty for some sins, such as witchcraft, as addressed in the previous text.) This sacrificial system, which brought forgiveness through the death of an animal, was only a temporary provision, pointing ahead to the death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, which would cover any sin.
In the ratification ceremony described in this portion of text, Moses read the Book of the Covenant to the people and they affirmed their willingness to obey. He sprinkled half the blood from the sacrificed animals on the altar to show that the sinner could once again approach God because something had died in his place. The other half of the blood he sprinkled on the people to show that sin’s penalty had been paid and they could be reunited with God.
A sacrificial feast was also a part of the covenant process. On this occasion, the feast was attended by Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two older sons (Nadab and Abihu) and seventy leaders (24:9-11). The phrase “they saw God” means that God manifested Himself to them in a special way. While it is unknown what they actually saw or how God was revealed, God’s presence was tangible to them. (Exodus 33:20 and Deuteronomy 4:12 indicate that they did not see God in a visible form.)
Then Moses was instructed to go up on Mount Sinai (24:12-18). Joshua also went up, although the Bible names Moses only as entering the cloud itself. Aaron and Hur were left in charge of the Children of Israel for the forty days that Moses was gone.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The revelation of the Law to Israel
C. The ordinances
5. Concerning sacred seasons (23:10-19)
a. The years of rest for the land (23:10-13)
b. The three feasts (23:14-19)
6. Concerning possession of the land (23:20-33)
D. The covenant ratified (24:1-11)
1. The assent of the people (24:1-7)
2. The binding of the people (24:8-11)
V. The construction of the Tabernacle
A. The setting (24:12-18)
Society may pressure us to conform to its way of life and thought, but yielding to that pressure will have eternal consequences. Follow God, and don’t let the culture around you mold your thoughts or actions!