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  • Rick LoPresti

The blank tables

One of the most famous passages in the Bible is the ten commandments (Ex 20:1-17, Deut 5:1-21). The ten commandments are foundational to Western civilization, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution. Representations of the ten commandments can be found in several places in Washington D.C. including three places at the Supreme Court and at the Library of Congress. Parts of this passage are even quoted in secular situations. When people want to express that something is not permanently settled, they say that it’s not written in stone. Many secular systems are “the ten commandments of…”

Moses made eight trips up Mount Sinai. Two of them directly involved him receiving the ten commandments written on two tables of stone by the finger of God Himself. God first spoke them to Moses (Ex 20:1-17), and then later made the two tables (or tablets) and wrote the commandments on the front and back (Ex 32:19). While Moses was on the mount for forty days, the Israelites made a golden calf and worshipped it. When Moses came down, he was so angry at their sin that he broke the tablets (Ex 32:19). God was going to destroy the Israelites, but Moses fasted and interceded for them twice (Ex 32:30-35, Ex 33:12-17). Then God told Moses to make two new tablets but not to write on them because God would rewrite the ten commandments on them (Ex 34:1-4 & 28).

While it was only a short period, there was a moment when the tablets were blank. It was after Moses broke the first set that God made and after he made the new set, and when the Lord wrote on the second set. There is no specific scriptural reference to a spiritual meaning behind that, but it can be inferred by application. When we break God’s commandments, our sin causes a breach in our communion with Him (Is 59:1-2). It makes it hard for us to hear God’s voice and hinders our prayers (Ps 66:18). When we continually ignore God’s voice, we should not be surprised when He returns the favor (1Sam 8:18, Prov 1:28, Is 1:15, Jer 7:16, Jer 11:14, Jer 14:12, Eze 8:18, Mic 3:4, Zech 7:13). Moses broke the tablets, but Israel broke the commandments. When Moses went up to present the second set of tablets, God first promised His presence (Ex 34:5) and His power (Ex 34:10) before spending 17 verses on reminding Israel of His commandments (Ex 34:11-27). When we keep His commandments, we are fulfilling His top priority (1Jn 5:3), and we can expect His presence and power (Jn 14:12-21, 1Jn 5:14-15).

Obviously, none of us is sinless and in perfect obedience to God, so He gives us grace. However, grace is not an excuse for continual and especially intentional sin (Jude 4). The only covering for sin is the blood of Jesus which is applied in repentance and water baptism (Mt 26:28, Acts 2:38). Then, God can impart the gift of the Holy Ghost inside of us to work change from there (Mt 23:26). His Spirit can apply a new covenant with us and write His commandments on our hearts within, not just on stones without (Jer 31:31-34 Heb 8:8-13, 2Cor 3:3). If your prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling and coming back down, ask God to give you repentance and a renewing of love for His commandments. Sanctification brings us close to Him, but God cannot fellowship with sin because He is holy.

God sends us through wilderness journeys to test us and prepare us for the future. He did that with His men in the Bible, even the humanity He manifested Himself in (Mt 4:1). Sometimes it is not necessarily that our life is displeasing to Him. It is because His apparent silence is strengthening our faith. In those times we must trust that God knows what He is doing and only wants what is best in the big picture that we cannot see.


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