In addition to the promise to be with Moses, God established a covenant with the Israelites through Moses. This is sometimes called the Mosaic covenant even though it is a covenant with all the people of Israel.
In Exodus 19:2b–6 we read, “There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.’”
The way Israel was to keep God’s covenant was to follow the rules and laws set up for them. These rules and laws were to show them the requirements for nearness to God and help them to be a blessing to others.
The Israelites made a promise to God: “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do’” (Exodus 24:3).
Whereas the Abrahamic covenant was unilateral, the Mosaic covenant was bilateral. By using an if/then statement, there was an expectation of both parties to keep the covenant. If one broke the covenant, then the other party was not responsible to hold up their end of the covenant.
God spelled out the covenant generally through the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–21) and in detail in the rest of Exodus as well as Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (the Pentateuch or Torah). Anyone who reads these rules might think, Okay, I’ve got my marching order; all I have to do is stick to them. The problem with that thinking is, well, we’re human. And that means we are not perfect. And neither were the Israelites.
These commandments were a way forward in life, in nearness to God, and toward being a nation that carried out the love, mercy, and goodness of God. God always leads toward life, and just because we are not perfect doesn’t mean that God is not at work in and through us.
Even as God’s goodness and mercy shows up no matter our performance or perfection, we are still hard on ourselves when we see our own mistakes.
It was painful for Moses to have his sin brought before him when he killed an Egyptian. It is also painful for us when we have our sin brought before us. Yet we have a choice when we see ourselves. We can run and hide, or we can turn to God.
And even if we run and hide, God still comes running after us. He came after Moses. He’ll come after you. The question is, will we hear and receive his voice when he calls?