Monday in the Third Week of Lent


Exodus 24:1-18

Ratifying the Covenant

Although it is God who has chosen us, He demands that we respond, He demands that we affirm the covenant with Him.  Here, God descends upon Mount Sinai and speaks with Moses.  Moses then returns to the people to tell them what the Lord has said.  The response of the people is clear: “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”  Indeed, they even say it twice (verses three and seven).  These words will testify against them in the near future.

Still, we must affirm the covenant.  We must say “Yes” to God’s divine “Yes” to us.  It is a yes that He draws us to say, but it must be said, nonetheless.  And in saying it, we recognize God’s choosing of us, His love for us, His deliverance of us from sin and death.  And we say with the Israelites, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”  Affirmation means obedience.

As Christians we tend to trivialize this.  We too easily let ourselves off the hook.  We say things like, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”  True enough.  But we cannot lower the standard over some mistaken understanding of grace.  Mistaken, I say, because Christians are often masters of dispensing “cheap grace” to themselves.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that cheap grace is grace without obedience, grace without the cross, grace without sacrifice, grace without holiness.  God does not allow us this.  His grace is costly; it cost God His only-begotten Son.  “Costly grace” is obedient, cross-bearing, sacrificial, and consecrating.  It does not allow us to take our commitment to Christ lightly.  It mourns over sin, weeps over injustice, and thirsts for righteousness (The Cost of Discipleship, ch. 1).  It strives with the Apostle Paul “[pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).  It hears the warning, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

We are not saved by our obedience, but those who are saved are obedient.  There is no divorce between faith and works, between belief and obedience.  Good works are not optional.  Obedience is not a choice.  What the Lord says, we must do.  But what He says is for our good, is our freedom, brings our salvation.  Obedience is no dirty word as it has come to be in our day.  Obedience in the Kingdom is liberty.  Obedience is the measure of our love.  So let us affirm the covenant God has made with us through the precious blood of His dear Son and say joyfully, “All the words that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”

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