Israel had been a prisoner for over 400 years, they had lost some of their culture and had picked up some of the Egyptian culture. God did not want them to hold on to the Egyptian culture. So, before any of the major traveling went on, God started to set down laws. If He did not then one of two things would have happened; either Israel would not have known how to survive on their own and the nation would have perished or they would want to revert back to Egyptian ways. As you read you will notice they try to revert back many times. It's a wonder why God stayed with them.
Laws, Customs and ways of Life
- Consecration of the first born-no matter what the child was the first born of all families was to be dedicated to God. This was to remind all of Israel that the one plague that allowed them to go free was that the firstborn of all Egyptians was killed. This is also a foreshadow of the Christ. In order for us to go free the firstborn of God had to die.
- Manna ,Quail and Water-not even three months had passed and the Israelites were complaining about the outside world. Some of them cried out that they would rather have died in Egypt. But, God listened and gave them plenty of food by sending manna and quail, everyday. They were to trust in Him and not gather any more than what they needed or were told to gather. Still some of them did not trust. And since this happened maybe another major necessity of life was denied to them so they would appreciate being free. They ran out of water. So God caused water to flow from a rock.
- War- Never thought of this before but the Israelites, although had to take the land that was promised to them, were not the aggressors. The Amalekites attacked them first. And they won't be the last. Why was war necessary? Because the land was consecrated by God hundreds of years earlier with Abraham. The people living in the land now had defiled the land by their practices. What was done there in the past few hundred years had to be wiped out so the land could be worthy again. Plus the people living there would not leave voluntarily.
- The Commandments-In Greek called the Decalogue or The Ten Words. Words is a term that describes a covenant in OT times. Why were they given? They were a sign to God's people that there was a special bond between them. He chose them to be His people and if they abide by His laws then they will share in His glory and presence. Why these certain laws? First of all its what His original plan was anyway. To love God above all, to remember what He has done and all of His power, to take care of each other by not causing each other to fall by certain acts of selfishness i.e., murder, stealing, etc.. Oddly enough Jesus restated the Ten Words into two: Love God and Love your neighbor. He did not change the law keep in mind, the Ten Words are still a covenant. Jesus just simplified it. He also expanded on it with what we call the Sermon on the Mount.
These ways of life were written down due to the fact that the culture of Israel and its original purpose of existence had been watered down by life in Egypt. Before these were written down people lived by faith. Abraham was not "under the law" because he lived by faith. Through the years people had lost faith and never knew what it was like to live by faith. This is why when they got to the dessert they did not know how to trust in God and turned so easily to idols and grievances. So God wrote down these things to help them remember, but since they were a hard-headed people He gave them strict conditions to abide by as written down in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Today we are not "under the law" per se. Jesus is the law. We are back to living by faith. However, we are living in times that say faith is not valid. We are sliding back into Egypt, if you will. This next time God will not send another savior. This next time that our faith needs refining will be the end. Third time is a charm...