Book of the Covenant
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We want to refresh our memories about what we are thinking about in our study of the book of Exodus. Keep in mind that we began our study of the book of Exodus with the very first chapter, and we are going through the book chapter by chapter, verse by verse. We have come to that portion of the book where the law of God was presented.

You will remember that we noticed the people gathered at Mount Sinai for God to give to them what we commonly refer to as the “Ten Commandments.” We noticed the reasons God gave those Ten Commandments, and then we took several weeks noticing each commandment individually. The last time we met together, we noticed the relationship of the law of God to the blood of Christ. We pointed out to you that before the law was completed in its exposition, the animals were slain, the sacrifice was made, that men might remember that the law is very definitely related to the blood.

Three Divisions of God's Law

In order to do that, we had to anticipate ourselves a bit, and we went on into chapter 24. In so doing, we skipped chapters 21, 22, and 23. We want to look at those three chapters now. If you will look at chapter 24, verse 7, you will find the title of these three chapters. There we read:

Exodus 24

7And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.

So, in that one verse, if you will notice the phrase, “the book of the covenant,” you will recognize the title to these three chapters. These three chapters are referred to in the Scriptures as the “book of the covenant.” In chapter 20, there was presented to us the Ten Commandments; in chapters 21, 22, and 23 is presented the book of the covenant, which is the practical application of the Ten Commandments to everyday living, when the Spirit of God takes specific instances and illustrates how these Ten Commandments work in relation to these instances.

Now, if you are familiar with the law of God, you realize that it is divided, as some people say–I think it is an apt description–into the Ten Commandments, the civil law, and the religious law or, as some folk say, the moral law, the civil law, and the religious law. The moral law we looked at in Exodus, chapter 20. The civil law we are going to look at in Exodus, chapters 21, 22, and 23. There is a brief reference in the last portion of chapter 23 and in chapter 24 to the religious law, the religious law being amplified in the book of Leviticus. So that we might think of it in this fashion, the moral law is presented in the book of Exodus; the civil law is presented in the book of Deuteronomy, and the religious law of God is presented in the book of Leviticus. I am speaking of detail now, you understand, because in these chapters at which we are going to look, we find these laws referred to in the manner in which I am speaking now.

Also, some people see in the division of these laws the various ministries of the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I think it is a suggestion that need not be ignored; it ought to be followed through. For example, God is primarily related to the moral law. It is God Who gave it, God the Father.

We are going to see that the Holy Spirit is related to the application of this moral law in a civil, social, practical sense; and we are going to see, when we get to the various laws related to the feasts and sacrifices, that the Lord Jesus Christ is personally related to those feasts and sacrifices because they portray Him.

I mention these things to you so that you might be able to see the unity of the Word of God. It is all one complete whole; it is thoroughly, completely interwoven so that we know that it is the inspired Word of God.

I would like for you to notice with me now in chapter 21 of the book of Exodus, verses 1-6. This is the manner in which I want you to notice them: I want you to pass over them for the moment because the first six verses of Exodus, chapter 21, are verses that relate to the law of the master and the servant. There is something I want to say about that by way of spiritual application at the conclusion of our time together today, so we are going to pass over the first six verses momentarily; and we are going to notice the other divisions of this chapter as we go along.

Regulations Related to Daughters

Most of these things will need very little comment. That is, they are self-explanatory. But I think we need to be familiar with them, and I think if we point out to you in the Scriptures here the various divisions of the chapter, perhaps these facts will be clear in your minds. May I suggest that beginning with verse 7 and concluding with verse 11, we have the law of God in relation to daughters and dowries. Now, we don't have dowries today in the same sense that they did in ancient times, and so we may not be too familiar with this particular practice. But if you will notice in verse 7:

Exodus 21

7And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
8If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10If he take him another wife [ actually it is daughter ]; her food [ the first daughter's ], her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
11And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

As you can see, this needs very little comment as far as explanation is concerned. We have read the whole so you can realize that that is true. Now you may be saying, “Of what particular value is this? Why was it even included in the Bible anyway if we don't have those same things going on today? Why do we even need to consider it?”

I would like to establish a principle that some of you are familiar with and others of you need to keep in mind. It is a principle that will stand you in good stead in relation to your study of the Word of God if you will always keep it in mind. The principle is simply this: The Bible is a universal book. It is a book that is related to all ages. You will find in this book certain regulations related to a certain people who were living at a certain time. When those regulations were fulfilled in relation to that certain people, they need not be considered again except by type and example and illustration. But you see, the Lord didn't write the Bible just for those of us who are living in the twentieth century. He wrote the Word of God for the people who would be living in Moses' day, and because they were just as human as we are, there were many evils and injustices that would crop up among them, so God wrote down certain regulations to prohibit those injustices. If we were having the same practices today, this would be of great value to us.

God's Interest In Individuals

The question is often asked, “Why, then, is it even preserved for us?” I can think of a number of reasons. One of them is very fresh on my mind; that is, this regulation at which we have glanced briefly and the others that we are going to notice amaze me when they illustrate for me the tremendous concern that God has for an ordinary human individual. Now get the conception of God that most people have right at the moment–a God Who is great and marvelous and wonderful, a God Who is busy governing the whole universe and yet He is so vitally interested in a single individual that He cares what happens to a girl who is sold away from her own home. He cares what happens to her if she should get into a home that probably is not as moral and as good and as kind as it ought to be. God is concerned.

We read farther on in this chapter that God is concerned about an ox that gets out of the pasture and is injured by some thoughtless individual. Because He is concerned about that ox and the man who owned it, He laid down certain rules that would provide for his benefit. All of these should remind us that God is vitally interested in the individual.

I say this is fresh on my mind, and I hope you will pardon a personal illustration, but those are the only ones I know. As most of you know, we recently had the opportunity of being in New York, and, of course, we were impressed with many things. Incidentally, someone said to me just the other day, “Did you ever find out the reason God wanted you to go to New York?”, and I told him that there were one or two things that I believe He wanted me to go for, but this past week at BMA camp I said to someone there that I knew one of the reasons God wanted me to go to New York was that if I hadn't had those six days of relaxed rest, I don't believe I could have gotten through particularly these last two weeks that we have had. The Lord knew that ahead of time, too, you know. He answers our prayers even before we have a chance to pray them sometimes; He knows what we have need of.

But we were there, and were impressed with many things, but one thing with which we were impressed were the tremendous hordes of people–numbers upon numbers upon numbers of people. My wife said to me, and it impressed me, and I think the Lord had her to say it, “You know, the thing that has just thrilled my heart since I have been here,” and she began crying, “is to think of all of these multitudes of people, and God knows every single one of them; God is interested in every single one of them. He knows.” The Lord spoke forcefully to my heart through that statement she made about all those people. That is true! This that we are talking about now that seems perhaps inconsequential and insignificant to us because we don't have the same problems indicate the tremendous love and care that God has for His own.

Three Things Worthy of Death

Now look at that paragraph which begins with verse 12, because we are just going to go through these chapters at the moment and notice these various regulations and point out one or two things to you that we trust the Holy Spirit will use to bless your hearts when we think about the watchcare of God in our behalf. In the paragraph which begins with verse 12 and concludes with verse 17, we have the pronouncement of three death sentences–three things that God says are worthy of death. One of them is found in verse 12:

Exodus 21

12He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

That is, a deliberate murderer is worthy of death. In verse 14 the same suggestion is made with a little different flair. The individual may not do it himself, but he may trick the man into his death, and that, too, is worthy of death.

Exodus 21

14But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Murder, then, is worthy of death. But you will notice that in verse 13 we read:

Exodus 21

13And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

God's Providential Dealing With Men

Let that verse sink in. Realize the tremendous truth that is in it. Do you realize what that verse of Scripture is saying? That verse of Scripture is saying that if I am going about my ordinary business and I accidentally kill a man–maybe I run into him with my automobile, or maybe I am doing construction work and he passes by underneath and a tool I have in my hand falls and kills him. I don't intend to kill him; it just happens that way–then I have a right to flee to the altar, speaking in Old Testament terms now; and there at the altar I have the right to find security and safety. Because it was an accident? No! This is what I want you to get: Because I am not responsible for the providential dealings of God in the lives of others.

Did you notice what was said here in verse 13? “If a man lie not in wait, but God deliver…into his hand…” You see, God has a purpose and a plan for His creatures. Particularly is that true for the individual Christian who has placed His faith and His trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. If God has a plan and a purpose for His creatures, and that plan and purpose mean accidental death, then God is not going to hold the person responsible who may have been involved in the accident as though it were a deliberate thing.

Training Involves Difficulty

Let me illustrate for you what I mean. I believe that when a person is born again, He is God's child. I believe that then God begins a chastening process in his life. You will keep in mind that the word “chastening” means “child training.” We have gotten into the habit of thinking that chastening means that God takes a great big stick and begins to beat on you. Well, that isn't it. God child-trains you. Now, you know from your experience in training your own children that that child training is varied. It might be placing them in a certain place where they will be under certain influences so that they will have proper training. God does the same thing with His children. He brings us into contact with certain individuals. We may not know the particular reason He has brought us into contact with those individuals, but the basic reason is that we need something that they have to contribute to us. It is a certain amount of training.

Now, of course, training does involve that which is unpleasant. Sometimes we have to tell our children that they must eat certain foods whether they like to eat them or not because they are beneficial to them. That isn't always pleasant. Sometimes God sets before us certain things which are not particularly pleasant for us, but we have to eat them. It is part of our training as His children. We could go on with numerous illustrations, but you have children. You know all of the things that are related to child training. Now, I want to say this: Sometimes that child training is going to involve the use of the rod. There is no other way out. It is going to involve the use of the rod.

A Personal Illustration

What is true of our human children is also true of our spiritual lives. Sometimes God sees fit to chasten me physically. Let that sink in. Sometimes He sees fit to chasten me physically for reasons known to Him. Therefore, if in that chastening someone else were involved, they are not to blame. It is simply God dealing with me. Let me be more specific. I have had several automobile accidents. Thank the Lord they were nothing too serious, but I have had several of them. One of them I remember particularly. I was going through a light that was green and the person who was coming through the other way either didn't think it was green or thought something else. Anyway, that person ran right into the side of my car.

Later–not the same day–that accident was followed just about the time I was beginning to breath easy and think, “Well, I am through that.”, by another accident where an individual rammed into the back end of my car. I am not trying to justify myself, but in each of these instances, I was not to blame. I was just beginning to breathe easy over that–not but a matter of days–when someone rammed into the other side of my car, the same car. Now, I didn't get real upset with any of these people. I didn't say to them, “Why are you driving like you are? Why don't you look where you are going?” I simply got alone with the Lord and said, “Now, Lord, these things don't happen by accident. These people are not to blame. You have something You want to teach me; now what do You want to teach me? What is it You want me to learn?” Then I said, and I mean this seriously though I smile about it, “Lord, I am willing to learn. I don't want someone to hit me in the only place that is left.” The only place that was left would have been head-on collision. I said, “Lord, I don't want to make that necessary, so whatever you are trying to tell me, tell me, and I will be willing to obey.”

I am giving you that illustration to say that though literally these people who ran into me may have been responsible, as far as God is concerned, they were not responsible because God was delivering me into their hands because He had a lesson to teach me. You follow that process through the Word of God and you will find that always it is true. There is a great deal of comfort in it. Do you realize that if you are in the center of God's will, no thing, no individual, human or otherwise, can hurt you save as God delivers you into their hands for His purpose. If you realize that He does, then there is no need for bitterness.

The Law of Restitution

The paragraph which begins with verse 18 and concludes with verse 32 is a rather long one, but if you will notice the phrases as I point them out to you, you will find out what the subject matter of this particular paragraph is. Down in verse 19, you see the phrase, “pay for the loss.” In verse 22, “he shall pay as the judges determine.” In verse 30, “he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.” In verse 34, “give money unto the owner of them.” In verse 36, “he shall surely pay ox for ox and the dead shall be his own.” If we were to give one word which would describe this entire paragraph, we would refer to it as the “law of restitution.” That is part of the civil law of God. God is so interested in His creatures that He tells us if we are responsible for any loss in any way whatsoever to anybody or anything, we are obligated to compensate. There are various ways that He suggests compensation be made–the law of restitution. Now, of course, that is one of the bases of some of our laws today. That is why we have good insurance businesses everywhere. There has got to be some compensation if things are not done as they ought to be done.

I want to pass this truth along to you from a spiritual standpoint. Though we are not bound by the ceremonial law today, or the civil law today in this sense in the ceremonial law, there are principles that we need to keep in mind. I would like to suggest that the law of restitution on the part of Christians is a law sometimes ignored that needs to be observed and testimonies would be better if they were. Do you remember when the tax collector found the Lord Jesus Christ? He said, “If I have taken from any man falsely, I will restore fourfold.” The reason he could say that was that he knew what his Bible said. Of course, he was living under the old dispensation, but do you know what happened? His testimony was much more effective because he restored that which he had taken wrongfully and restitution was made.

Now, I think it is an impossibility for us to make restitution to individuals for everything that is done. We thank God today that the Psalmist says that he was glad the Lord regarded not iniquity because if the Lord regarded iniquity, none of would be able to stand. That is absolutely right. If God held you responsible for the sorry thing you are, you wouldn't be able to sit here; and if He held me responsible for all of the sorry, mean, dirty, rotten things I have done, you wouldn't even let me talk to you. God doesn't hold it against us and hold us responsible for it, but there are times when restitution can be made and the testimony is more effective when it is made, and when the Spirit of God leads, it should be made.

Restitution - a Christian Responsibility

Now I want to give you another illustration. This is personal, and I want to apologize to those of you who may have heard it before because, as I say, I don't use very many illustrations; and when I have one that illustrates a point, I may reuse it from time to time. Right after I was born again a good many years ago now, I had to make restitution. There were many things that I had done that I could have made restitution for, but the Lord singled out this particular thing and impressed me very, very definitely that I must make restitution for it. It is so ridiculous that I almost hesitate to repeat the illustration, but I have a point in mind that I want to make.

When I was in high school back in Pittsburg, we used to play hookey from school, and we would go through the stores downtown and just act silly and mean and all the rest of it. Sometimes we would just steal things to see how many things we could steal and get away with it. We didn't particularly want them, and many times we would just throw them away. Now keep in mind that I did not know the Lord; I was unsaved. We just did it for the sake of doing it is the only explanation I have. I don't even remember this particular occurrence except the details which the Lord brought to my mind. I had gone through the five and ten cent stores many times and I had picked up a handful of what we then called cleats. I think they call them tacks now. You know, you nail them on the toe of your shoe and the heel of your shoe to keep your heels from running over. Sometimes we would throw them under the tires of automobiles to see what would happen. Anyway, I picked up these cleats, and I thought no more of it.

Then several years after that I was born again, saved—genuinely saved. I began to live for the Lord and straighten up some back tracks because the Lord led me that way. I won't argue with you if He doesn't lead you that way, but He led me that way. I was forcefully reminded of this handful of cleats that I had stolen. Now, I rationalized that every way I could. I argued with the Lord every way I could. I said, “Lord, that has been years ago. Their books are closed. They won't even miss it; they don't know anything about it,” and on and on and on. It was a much greater struggle than I may be letting you know at the moment. Every time that I tried to pray, the only thing that I could see in my mind was a big old cleat, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger. “If you take unlawfully that which belong not to you, restore it fourfold.”

Restitution Becomes a Testimony

You may say, “Would you have been saved if you hadn't?” Yes, I was saved. That was settled, but the Lord had a lesson to teach me. Finally when I could stand it no longer, I went down to the G. C. Murphy five and ten cent store to where I took these things, and I thought I would just talk to the clerk about it, so I did. I told her that I had become a Christian, and I was concerned about having taken some of those things and she said, “Well, there is nothing I can do about it. I'm not allowed to take any money; I wasn't a clerk here then.” I said, “Well, it will be all right. Just let me pay you,” and on and on and on. She refused to and told me I would have to see the manager.

I went home and I said, “Lord, I feel really good about it. I tried to make that right. I tried to fix that up, and I feel really good, Lord. Everything is going to be all right.” But, you know, it wasn't all right. It wasn't all right until I made it right. Do you know what I finally had to do? I finally had to climb steps to an upstairs office, and I have climbed many, many steps since then, but that was the longest flight of steps I have ever climbed in all my experience. At the top of the steps there was a door closed. I have stood at many closed doors, but I have never trembled as I stood before that closed door. Finally, I knocked on the door.

In the room was a group of men. The air was thick with smoke. For a while, they didn't even realize I was there. I had lost my voice in the process, but finally I got their attention. I asked for the manager, and he identified himself. I told him what had happened. Of course, by that time whether I was moved by the Spirit or scared to death, I don't know. I was crying. I told him that I had found the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I was not going to let anything ever come between me and the Lord and I didn't have any peace about this thing. I wanted to pay for those cleats and as near as I could remember, the cost of them was thirty-five cents, and I wanted to give him thirty-five cents times four. I laid it down there on the desk.

He was quiet for a while, and then he let out a long string of oaths. You know, that is pretty common up in that country. He said, “Well, I will tell you one thing, Son; I never have thought there was anything to this religion business until now. But if what you say has happened to you can make you do what you have just done, I would like to hear a little more about it.” I was able to witness to him.

I am not so sure that the Lord wanted me to make the restitution for restitution's sake, because I don't think G. C. Murphy would have gone out of business on the basis of what I took from them, but I think I had a lesson to learn and a testimony to give, and I have to recognize that the rights of people were important to God. I believe that that is the reason that in this particular portion of the Word the emphasis is placed upon the matter of restitution. This matter of restitution continues in chapter 22. You will notice in verse 1 the word “restore.” Notice in verse 3, “make full restitution.” In verse 4, “restore double.” In verse 5, “he shall make restitution.” In verse 6, “he shall surely make restitution.” Down in verse 12, “he shall surely make restitution.” In verse 14, “he shall surely make it good.” All of these emphasize God's interest in the way we live. Sometimes we can get really careless about it, can't we?

Individual Matters of Conscience

In the next paragraph, which begins with verse 16 and continues on down through the next chapter to verse 9, there are a series of exhortations related to the way these Israelites should live. Many of them are related to individual matters of conscience. It would be pretty difficult for a person to know for sure they did what was suggested here in some instances. This is what I would like for you to get because it is another illustration of the grace of God, and you find the grace of God scattered throughout all the Word of God; sometimes we are prone to think that grace belongs only to the New Testament, but grace is a characteristic of God. You'll notice that these are based on the grace of God. Look at verse 21:

Exodus 22

21Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Now if you will glance down at verse 9 of chapter 23:

Exodus 23

9Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

That is an interesting phrase. These Israelites could understand a homeless man better than a lot of people could because they were homeless themselves. Do you suppose that is the reason that the Lord lets some things happen to us that happen to us? Paul said it was. Do you remember what he said to the Corinthians who were distressed and in need of comfort? He said, “I am asking God to comfort you with all the comfort and consolation there is in Christ so that when you yourself are comforted, you may be able to comfort others with that same comfort.” That is the reason the Lord lets some things happen.

You know, it is one thing to learn a certain procedure from a book; it is another thing to be able to back up what you have learned from a book with the experience of your heart. Did you notice that is what he said here in verse 9?

Exodus 23

9Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Notice the care also in this paragraph that God has for those who are in need. In verse 22 he said:

Exodus 22

22Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
23If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
24And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

Don't just dismiss this and say, “Oh, well, that belongs to the Mosaic economy.” The principle doesn't belong to the Mosaic economy. The Lord Jesus Christ says in the New Testament through the Holy Spirit by the Apostle Paul to Christians, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever you sow, that shall you also reap. If you sow to the flesh, you will to the flesh reap corruption. If you sow to the Spirit, you will of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Do you see what God is saying here? “Don't you make it difficult for a widow; don't you make it difficult for an orphan; because they are liable to talk to Me about it, and if they talk to Me about it, you can be sure I will do something about it.” Isn't it amazing that God, great as He is, is able to listen to the cry of the widow and able to listen to the cry of the fatherless?

Look down in verse 26. The reason I am pointing these things out to you is that some people have the idea that the God of the Old Testament is cold and austere and uninterested in the needs of men. I have had people who don't understand the Bible say, “The God of the Old Testament is not God. I believe in the God of the New Testament, not the God of the Old Testament.” You may be aware that a prominent bishop said that the God of the Old Testament is a dirty bully. Well, I haven't been able to find that in the Word of God.

What I notice in the Word of God is that the God of the Old Testament is a loving Father, mightily interested in the needs of individuals. Look at verse 26. He said:

Exodus 22

26If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:
27For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

Do you see what He is saying? If a man borrows something from you and he gives you his cloak [this word “raiment” refers to a cloak which was an outer garment that kept out the cold air at nights, for the cold nights in this part of the country were terrific] for a pledge, even it he doesn't have the money to redeem it, you give him that cloak back before night. He is liable to freeze to death if you don't. God says, “I don't want that to happen. If he talks me to about it, I will do something because I am gracious.”

I have often wondered if when we feel that we are persecuted and we feel we are mistreated, what would happen if we called out to God about it and asked Him to do something instead of going around pitying ourselves or criticizing those who have made it difficult for us. He is the same God, and if He will hear the cry of the fatherless, and if He will hear the cry of the widow, then He will hear your cry and mine even in this dispensation when these problems arise that seem difficult for us.

In verse 29 of chapter 22, there is a reference to the offering of firstfruits. We will pass over that because it will be presented more in detail in the book of Leviticus. In chapter 23, verse 11, there is the law of the Sabbath which was important not from the standpoint of how we think of it, but the matter of resting the land and resting the people and resting the servants. Because the Israelites broke that law, they were sent into captivity. In the rest of the chapter, there is a reference to the three basic feasts of the Hebrew economy, which we will pass over as well, which are just mentioned here and the detail of them are mentioned in relation to the worship of the Tabernacle, which we will be considering by and by.

A Representative of the Holy Spirit

Now I would like to leave with you what is found in the paragraph beginning with verse 20:

Exodus 23

20Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
21Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
22But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
23For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
24Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
25And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
26There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.
27I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
28And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
29I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
30By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
31And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
32Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
33They 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.

We have read the entire paragraph that I might call to your attention the references which God makes to the Angel introduced in verse 20. You will notice that the word “Angel” is capitalized which reminds us immediately that we are not talking about an ordinary angel; we are talking about a member of the Godhead. The Godhead is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We make no attempt to explain the Trinity because we can't. The Bible teaches it, and we believe it. But this is one member of the Godhead.

I believe, in view of the correct teaching of the Word of God, that this is an Old Testament reference to the Holy Spirit, for it is the business of the Holy Spirit today to go before us, lead the way, make the path straight. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God.”

Holy Spirit's Work as Comforter

Think with me briefly now concerning this Angel as representative of the Holy Spirit. I do trust you will begin, if you have not already, to give more place to the Holy Spirit in your lives as believers. You do realize that when you were born again the Holy Spirit came to take up residence in your life, and He came to take up a permanent residence. He will never leave you; you'll never be alone. He's always dwelling within you, and the Holy Spirit is anxious to do the thing that the Lord Jesus Christ sent Him to do, and do you know what He sent Him to do? He sent Him to be of the same help to you that the Lord Jesus Christ was to His disciples while the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth.

Do you remember in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John that they were much concerned because the Lord Jesus Christ was leaving them? He said, “Don't feel the way you feel. Let not your heart be troubled. Don't be sad. True, I am going away, but I have already asked the Father, and He is going to send you another Comforter Who will abide with you forever and will be in you.” If you were reading that in the original text, you would find that He is talking about another Comforter of the very same kind. “I have been a help to you; I am going to ask the Father, and He is going to send someone Who will be a help to you just like that.” That is the Person we are talking about here in the Old Testament–someone Who is a help to us, someone Who can aid us in all the things in which we are interested. So in verse 20 we read:

Exodus 23

20Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.

Isn't that a blessing to your heart, to know that the Holy Spirit can go before you and keep you in the way? He can make the paths of your feet straight. So often someone says, “I would like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. I really would, but I don't believe I could live a life like that.” Well, you can't. If you learn that before you are saved, you won't have to learn it after you are saved. A lot of people have to learn it after they are saved. That's when the trouble comes. You can't, but the Holy Spirit can. One of the ways of expressing it is that He can keep you in the way, and I am so grateful for the last statement. He is able to bring you into the place which God has prepared for you. Nobody ever loses out before they get home. Remember that!

Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

Notice verse 21, which is an illustration of the need for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit:

Exodus 23

21Beware of him [pay attention to him], and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon [excuse] your transgressions: for my name is in him.

The New Testament language that illustrates this very same thing is threefold. In the New Testament instead of saying, “Beware of Him, and obey His voice; provoke Him not,” it says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption.” The New Testament says, “Walk in the Spirit.” That is, walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The New Testament says, “Quench not the Spirit.” Just as certainly as these Israelites could have gotten nowhere if the Angel of the Lord had not gone before them and provided the way, you and I can get nowhere in our Christian experience if we do not stay in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in the Spirit.

Did you notice in verse 22?

Exodus 23

22But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.

He goes on to say everything that God will do for those who obey His voice and stay in fellowship with Him.

From Strength to Strength

Then, not looking at all the detail things, which I wish you would do when you have time because they are all very pregnant with meaning, in verse 29, He said:

Exodus 23

29I will not drive them out from before thee in one year;…

That statement has always intrigued me. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Lord would take care of all our problems at one time? Wouldn't it be wonderful if He could give you the joy of the Lord in one operation where you would never need it replenished? It would be wonderful. Wouldn't it be wonderful if He told you as soon as you became a Christian what He wanted you to do every single day of your Christian experience and you would have it all written down step by step and you would never have to wonder one day to the next what He wanted you to do? Wouldn't that be wonderful? Well, He doesn't do it that way. We are reminded here in the Old Testament that He doesn't because He said:

Exodus 23

29I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.

What does that mean? You just couldn't take of the whole situation in one operation, that's what. If God sat down right now and said, “I am going to tell you everything that is going to happen to you every day between now and next August 15th,” and He told you, you couldn't take it. You would find yourself saying, “Oh, Lord, not that!”

It is an amazing thing how the Lord works. Look at it. What did He say here in verse 30?

Exodus 23

30By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, [ notice now ] until thou be increased, and inherit the land.

“Little by little I will do until you are increased and strong enough to hold the land.” That is the story. That is why the Word of God tells us that we go from strength to strength, from glory to glory, little by little, because each day that we live under the direction of the Holy Spirit we have grown in grace to such an extent that we can stand with real courage today what we could not have stood six months ago, for we simply were not ready for it.

Don't question the wisdom of God. Don't question the planning of God. Rest in the fact that He is vitally interested in you, and He planned your life little by little, step by step, and He lets the Holy Spirit go before you to keep you in the way and to bring you to a prepared place.

Prayer

Grant, our Father, that everything that has been unimportant in our meditation will be forgotten, anything that is related to self or vain glory will be removed, and all that will be remembered will be the solid food of the Word of God that will nourish the hearts of those who heard. For we pray in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.


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