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Notes & Transcripts

Superior Mediation

Exodus 20:18-21

April 19, 2009

Introduction:  Paul Harvey told the story of Alexandra Flynn of Fremont, Nebraska.  Alexandra was looking forward to attending the homecoming celebration at her public high school. She left home in high spirits, but she did not have her high school ID with her. When the man at the door refused her admission without her ID, she went home to get it.

Unable to find it, her mother went with her back to the school to identify her and to explain. Again, the daughter was refused admission without the ID. Alex had the tickets in her hand but still was not admitted. Even though Alexandra Flynn of Freemont High is Student Body President, plays cello in the Allstate orchestra, is on the Honor Roll, is the school's number one cheerleader, and she spent hours decorating the gym for Homecoming, she was still not admitted.

Did you also happen to know that she was homecoming queen?

But, she never did get in.

Ronald Erb, Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania; source: Paul Harvey News and Comment (12-3-02)

The Mediation of Moses

Moses went down to the people and spoke to them (19.25), but it was God who specifically spoke “all these words” (20.1), a reference to the Ten Commandments (cf. Deut 5.22).  Before and after the Ten Commandments are given, the Scripture indicates that the people feared.  This is why Moses becomes their mediator.   Two types of fear are in verse 20:

1.       Tormenting Fear - paralyzing people and keeping them in the bondage of guilt

2.       Reverential Fear - awareness of God’s presence which keeps people from sinning

The Human and Divine Perspectives of Fear:

1.       God’s Perspective (19.16-24)

2.       Man’s Perspective (20.18-21) - fear of God’s presence; keeping them ‘afar off’ (20.18)

It seems that terror and all of its accompanying sights and sounds preceded the giving of the Ten Commandments, persisted through God speaking them, and remained after His voice ceased.  The priests and the people trembled at the manifestations of God’s power.  They must not “break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them” (19.24).  This warning was hardly needed when God finished the giving of the Ten Commandments. 

Israel had said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (19.8).  However, after hearing the Ten Commandments, Israel feared the demands that the Law placed upon them.  It kept them distant:

Exodus 20:18

“Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.”

They feared any kind of direct communication from God:

Exodus 20:19

“Then they said to Moses, ‘You (emphatic) speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

It makes one wonder what would happen if the Lord did speak to them directly.  Do you really want a direct Word from God?  Some groups of Christians are rather flippant about their casual approaches to God.  I’m not so sure we want this.

Daniel 10:7-11

7And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. 8Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. 9Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. 10Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. 11And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.

Revelation 1:17

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.”

Back in Exodus, Moses became a mediator because the people were terrified at the notion of God speaking directly to them or they to God.  Moses represented the people before God and God before the people.  That’s what a mediator does.  Moses would later reflect on this day:

Deuteronomy 5:5

“I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain.”

Moses encouraged Israel to not fear:

Exodus 20:20

…“Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 

Why shouldn’t they fear?

1.       God came to test Israel.

2.       Reverential fear kept them from sin.

Israel doesn’t pass the test.  They sin against God; therefore, Israel’s sin is revealed through the giving of the commandments.  The Law simply intensifies fear.  God’s desire then and now is to save not condemn the sinner. 

Moses went to God for the people.

Exodus 20:21

“So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.”

·         Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

·         He would not dare to draw near such a fearsome sight unless he was the mediator. 

·         A mediator enters the presence of God on the behalf of God’s people.  He speaks to God for the people and to the people for God. 

We looked carefully at each of the Ten Commandments.  We studied how these commands are reiterated in the NT.  We indicated that this moral code is still something that applies to our lives.  While we break these commands, perfection is demanded.

Matthew 5:48

Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

But we are not perfect.  The laws of the OT make us understand that we are sinners. 

Romans 3:20

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” 

James 2:10

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

The Law shows us our sin, but it cannot save us.  We’ve spent several weeks studying each of the Ten Commandments.  We know what to do; we just aren’t able to do it.  The Law teaches and condemns you and I.  Just as Israel trembled; we ought to tremble.  We need mediation, but the mediation of Moses cannot save us.  We need superior mediation…



The Mediation of Jesus

All of us are naturally-born law-breakers.  Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Paul went on to write in the same letter, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son” (Rom 8.3a).  Jesus became our superior mediator:

1 Timothy 2:5-6

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time…”

Jesus is the superior mediator:

Hebrews 3:3

“For [Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.”  Later, Hebrews 8:6 states, “But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” 

A better covenant …better promises …all from One counted more worthy of more glory than Moses!

Hebrews 12:18-19

18For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  Hebrews 12:24 states that Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant.  His blood speaks better things than that of Abel. 

Four Great Characteristics of Superior Mediation

1.       He enters the presence of God for us.  He is better able as the infinite God-Man!

2.       He offers His perfect work of obedience for us.  Moses could never do that because he himself was a law-breaker.

3.       He kept God’s Law perfectly.  He filled out the Law of God!

4.       His complete obedience and righteousness is credited to our account!

You can try to approach God on your own.  I wouldn’t suggest you do so.  The Bible says that Jesus is the only acceptable advocate before God the Father:  “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2.1-2).  Complete satisfaction before the Father comes through the Son.  There is no other way.

Conclusion:  Author Ron Mehl writes that on the upper deck of the Marquam Bridge spanning the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, you can catch a glimpse of an exit that drops off into empty space. 

When the bridge was built back in the mid-1960s, it was designed to accommodate an east-running freeway still on the drawing boards, which was to be known as the Mount Hood Freeway. But the freeway was never built. Oregon voters opted for a light rail line instead, and plans for the highway were scrapped.

Even though there is no Mount Hood Freeway, you can certainly see Mount Hood from the top deck of the Marquam Bridge. On a clear days it looms on the eastern horizon—a symmetrical, snow-capped beauty. And if you look carefully, you can see how the bridge was built to accommodate a freeway lane veering off to the southeast. It juts out just a bit from the bridge structure, then is cut off as though sliced by a giant knife.

The "exit," permanently blocked, now goes nowhere—except into the waters of the Willamette far below. You can see Mount Hood in all its beauty, glistening like a jewel in the distance…. But you could never, never reach the high slopes of that mighty peak via the Mount Hood Freeway, because the freeway doesn't exist.

That's a picture of man's relationship with God. We might understand there is a God and even yearn to reach him across an impossible distance. We might recognize his power and glory, his majesty and goodness, and desire with all our hearts to know him and be with him. But the distance is too great. The gulf is too wide.  All that is really left is fear …or we could approach through Jesus Christ our advocate with the Father.

Ron Mehl, Love Found a Way (Waterbrook, 1999)

1.       There is no reason for fear.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  God did not come to condemn but to save. 

2.       Matthew 5:17-18 teaches that Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; He came to fulfill them.  He affirmed with great certainty:  “I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  The Spirit of Christ enables our obedience.  There is no other way.

3.       We don’t keep the commands of Scripture in order to get to Heaven; we are privileged to keep than more and more every day because we are already going to Heaven!  John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” 

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