In an ancient wedding ceremony, there are certain things that always happened. One of those things was that the marriage contract was always read during the ceremony. When we understand the events at Mt. Sinai as a wedding ceremony it becomes clear that Exodus 21-23 are the marriage contract. What is contained in this contract? What does it reveal about how we should live? What does it reveal about our God?
What is the Law? What is the Torah? How are we to view the instructions that are presented in the Bible? How did Ancient people view the instructions of the Bible? The Torah is not what most of us think it to be. That is a bold claim, but the Bible backs this claim. For many of us, the Torah is a Law. A legal code that defines life. For others the Torah is wisdom literature. Simply a list of wise principles but in no way binding. But if we read scripture neither claim can be the whole truth. And so, just as always, we must consider what the Bible has to say about itself before we can arrive at some semblance of the truth.
The word covenant is thrown around a lot in relation to the Bible. But in the Torah there are two primary types of covenant used to describe the relationship between YHVH and His people. One is a covenant that existed between kings. That is not this covenant. The other is a covenant of shared intimacy. A covenant of marriage that bound two parties together, and put then in a mutually supportive roles towards each other. Beginning in Exodus 19, the language of Exodus takes becomes saturated with this type of language. A covenant of marriage. Between God and man. What can this possibly mean for us?
At the base of Mt. Sinai Moses receives a gift. His bride and children return to him from their place in Midian. Along with them comes his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. But Moses is not able to enjoy time with his newly returned family because he is occupied with responsibility. And so counsel is given on how to address this situation. But, who is Jethro? What do we know about him? Where does his advice originate from? And the most important question, what is the point of this story? Is it just a story about how to organize a community, or is there something more happening just beneath the surface?
Throughout Scripture the events at Massah and Meribah are used as a byword to describe a faithless people. But as we examine this story in the context of those around it, we find that this story does not stand on its own. Faithless Israel is a repeated theme throughout the pages of the Bible. But these stories are told for a purpose. They are told to increase our own faith. These stories become pointers to something greater. Something that we can each discover in our own lives if we look hard enough. And as we will discover, it is these stories that provide our greatest weapon in times of uncertainty.