February 17

Exodus 24:12-18

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’” vs. 12

According to the Exodus tradition, the law and the commandment came directly from the Lord, with Moses as an intermediary. Those tablets of stone became the focus of community life for the Hebrew people, and subsequently for all of Israel. They became known as the “People of the Law.” It’s what distinguished them from other nations and is the major reason for the remarkable cohesiveness and longevity of the Jewish people. Sometimes we forget how important the law is for community stability–in modern times adherence to a “rule of law” is a necessary step for any nation seeking international respect and cooperation. Anytime there is a breakdown of “law and order” on any level, the result is anxiety and fear–strong laws are essential for safety and peace. But laws can only touch the externals of life–they’re ineffective in changing the human heart. They were great for setting out the ground rules for behaviors, but they didn’t teach people the ways of love. Too often rules and commandments were used to build walls and exclude; they separated the “righteous” from the “sinners,” and often marginalized the broken and the hurting. Tablets of stone ultimately produced hearts of stone, and another word was needed. As the gospel writer John puts it, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Thought for the Day: What changes my heart?

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