To Be Written on Hearts
by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
“Let's play a game of soccer with two teams, two goals posts, but without any other rules!” Colby suggested to the boys at the Christian youth camp.
“Okay, bring the ball,” the boys agreed, as they began setting up goal posts and choosing teammates.
Full of excitement, they began kicking the ball around, but it was not long until Allen tripped Gordon just as he was on the verge of kicking a goal. Gordon fell flat on his face in the dust, his knees and elbows bruised, while the ball missed the goal posts by a mile.
Gordon jumped up, yelling, “That is UNFAIR!” as he shoved Allen so hard he fell down backwards. Suddenly chaos erupted as everybody began fighting. The boys completely forgot to love each other and be nice to each other, wanting rather just to get even.
It was only when they heard the loud, shrill whistle of Mr. Davis that they stopped fighting and gathered around him, out of breath, a black eye and a swollen lip here and there.
For a moment, Mr. Davis glanced at his feet, looking quite dejected. Then he looked up at them and said, “Boys, let's learn a lesson from what happened just now. You see, your sense of fairness proves you have rules written on your hearts. What YOU feel is fair, may not be fair to someone else, so we need a referee, a judge to determine what is fair for both. Just as a soccer game has rules and a referee who applies those rules, in real life, we need God's rules to live by in order to get along with each other.”
Then Mr. Davis had them sit down on the grass and continued, “Come, let us get to know how the Lord gave the Israelites his set of rules. We call it the Ten Commandments and the Law.”
Moses was so glad the Lord gave him good counsel through Jethro to appoint wise men to help him. The men acted as judges, dealing with people's problems and complaints against one another. In this way, Moses had much more time available to spend alone with the Lord and learn from Him. The Lord's wisdom and direction was so crucial for a leader of his caliber, having to lead so many people with all their animals through the desert land.
The all-knowing Lord knew that the Israelites needed rules to live by that would teach them how to show love to the Lord and to other people. The judges would need those same rules to judge fairly between the people. The Lord, righteous in all his ways, did not want these judges to be accused of being unfair, because then chaos and discontentment might erupt in the Israelite camp. He wanted to give these rules or Commandments to them at a special place. That special place was his holy mountain, Mount Sinai, where He would display his awesome power, showing them that He is the real God.
So, at Rephidim, where the Israelites were camping, the pillar of cloud lifted as a sign for the people to get ready and pack up their belongings. When everybody was ready with their camels and donkeys loaded and all the cattle and sheep and goats gathered, the pillar of cloud moved and showed the people the way to Mount Sinai.
It was three months since they had left Egypt by the time they reached Mount Sinai. The people unpacked and set up camp while Moses slowly climbed the steep, rugged mountain to talk with the Lord.
The Lord told Moses, “Go and tell the people: ‘You saw how much I care about you and what I did to the Egyptians. It was as if I brought you to myself on eagle's wings. Now, if you will listen to Me and obey Me, and keep your Covenant with Me, you will be my special people among all the nations of the earth, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.’”
Moses was eager to tell the people this endearing message of love from the Lord. He could barely contain his excitement as he climbed carefully down mountain so he would not slip on the steep slopes. Reaching the camp, he urgently called together all the elders, the leaders of the people, and told them all about the Covenant the Lord wanted to make with them.
When the elders heard the Lord's message, they really wanted to be the special people of the Lord and they responded as one: “We agree and we'll definitely do as the Lord wants us to do!”
Moses went up Mount Sinai again and told the Lord what the people had said. Pleased, the Lord said, “I am coming to visit my people in a dark cloud and to speak with you from the cloud so that they can hear my voice when I talk with you. Then they will always believe you. Now you must go down again and tell the people to cleanse themselves tomorrow. They must take a bath and wash their clothes, because the day after tomorrow, I will come down Mount Sinai before their very eyes. But they must stay away from the mountain and only come up to the foot of it when they hear the trumpet sound. Otherwise, if they come too close, they will die, even the animals.”
Moses obeyed, climbed down the mountain again, reaching the camp as it was beginning to get dark. In the flickering light of a couple of torches held by the elders, Moses told the people what the Lord had said. The next day, he set up boundaries the people should not cross at the foot of the mountain, while the people cleansed themselves, rinsing off the desert dust, washing their clothes and hanging them on the ropes of their tents to dry. It was quite a cheerful sight across the whole camp — colorful garments flapping in the desert breeze.
On the third day, early the morning, the people were awakened by a great storm of roaring thunder and flashing lightning, lighting up the sky. They wasted no time putting on their freshly washed, dry, clean clothes and quickly gathered around Moses' tent. A huge, thick cloud came down from the mountain and there was a L-O-O-O-NG, LOUD blast, sounding like the blast of a ram's horn. Moses led the astonished, fearful people to the foot of the mountain to meet the Lord, warning them not to cross the boundaries. The whole of Mount Sion was filled with billowing smoke, because the Lord descended from the sky in the form of fire. Suddenly, the terrified Israelites felt the earth trembling beneath their feet, while the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake.
As the trumpet blast became louder and louder, Moses spoke and the Lord thundered his reply as He came down on top of Mount Sinai. He called Moses to climb up the mountain to Him. There He said to Moses, “Go down again and warn the people and the priest not to cross the boundaries. Otherwise, they will die.” Moses hesitated because the people knew about not crossing the boundaries, but, obedient to the Lord, he went down anyway and warned the people again. The people's bodies and their clothes were clean, but their hearts were still riddled with sin so that they could not come close to God and live. Sin is like a stain on the heart that cannot be hidden from the Lord, because He knows everything that is in the heart and even knows the thoughts of every man, woman and child.
As the Israelites kept their distance, the Lord spoke directly to Moses and the people. He gave them two sets of Commandments: A set of four for loving and not hurting God, and then a set of six for loving and not hurting people. First, the Lord told them precisely who He was and what He did for them. The Lord said, “I am the Lord your God Who delivered you out of slavery in Egypt.”
In Egypt, the Israelites were used to the many gods the Egyptians worshipped. But the Lord wanted them to put Him first in their lives, loving and worshipping only Him, forsaking all those useless idols. No other god loved them as much as He did, or did wonders for them as He did. So He gave them the First Commandment and said, “You may worship no other gods but Me.”
The Lord did not want them to foolishly worship or put their hopes in man-made images of things in the sky or on the earth, or something like money or work, or fame or pleasure, or even a lucky charm. So He gave them the Second Commandment and said, “You shall not make or have any idols and worship them.”
The Lord wanted the Israelites to realize how HOLY his Name was and that it was not to be used as a swear word or curse, or in making rash vows. So He gave the Third Commandment and said, “You shall not use the Name of the Lord disrespectfully.”
In the beginning, the Lord made the heavens and earth in six days and He rested on the seventh day. He wanted the Israelites to follow in his footsteps. So He gave the Fourth Commandment and said, "Observe the Sabbath as a holy day, a day set apart for Me. Six days you must work, but on the seventh day, you must rest and worship Me."
The Lord knew the great sacrifices parents make selflessly to raise good kids, and He wanted kids to respect and show love to their parents for their efforts and treat them well. So He gave the Fifth Commandment with a promise and said, "Honor your father and mother. If you obey Me in this, you will live long.”
The Lord loves life and He loves people and wanted the Israelites to respect human life, great and small, and not let bitterness, hatred and revenge rule our lives. So He gave the Sixth Commandment and said, “You may not commit murder.”
The Lord hates the pain caused by divorce and knew it was important for family life that couples must be true to each other. So He gave the Seventh Commandment and said, “You may not be unfaithful to your spouse and commit adultery.”
The Lord wants us to obtain our possessions in an honorable way, and not by cheating others. So He gave the Eighth Commandment and said, “You must not steal.”
The Lord hates lies and deceit, because that is what the devil does. God wants us to live truthfully with clear consciences before Him and people. So He gave the Ninth Commandment and said, “You must not lie or falsely accuse anyone.”
The Lord also wants us to be thankful in everything and not always wish for things we do not have. So He gave the Tenth Commandment and said, “You must not be envious of your neighbor, wishing you had his wife or his animals, or any of his possessions.”
Suddenly, the Lord stopped speaking. With terror-stricken, ashen faces, the people pleaded, “Moses, you go speak to the Lord. Don't let Him speak to us anymore for we are terrified and cannot bear it. We are afraid that hearing his voice may kill us.”
The Lord was saddened to hear this, because He wanted so much for every one of his children to hear his voice every day and teach them his ways. Moses knew they greatly feared because their consciences were accusing them, so He said, “Don't be scared of God! He just wants to show you his awesome power so that you will be afraid to sin against Him.”
But the people would not listen to Moses and, as they kept their distance, he climbed the mountain again, disappearing into the deep, dark cloud where God was. There, the Lord would speak some more with Moses, giving him many other rules, called the Law, and also giving him the Ten Commandments written by his own hand on two tablets of stone so that the people could always remember them.
The boys were listening intently while Mr. Davis continued, “Boys, the Ten Commandments God gave Moses are a measure of how much we love God and people. Jesus said the essence of the Law, including the Ten Commandments, is to love God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our mind and all our might, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
"The Israelites found it impossible to keep the Lord's Commandments perfectly, breaking their Covenant with God. We cannot keep his Commandments perfectly either. For example, have you ever lied just a little bit, or wished you had a toy your sibling or friend had? The Word of God says that if you say you have not sinned, you are a liar. Just like the boundaries on the mountain kept the Israelites away from God, sin causes a gap between us and God. Because of our wrongdoing, our sin, we are doomed to be separated from God in this life and for all eternity.
“BUT even before the earth and skies were made, God had a plan to help us be reunited with Him. That plan was fulfilled when He sent Jesus Christ, his anointed Son, to earth. Jesus did not sin at all, not even once. But for our sakes, because He loved us so much, He took all our sins and punishment upon Himself, dying on the cross, so that we could become God's children. That was the New Covenant He made with us that was much better than the Old Covenant.
“In this New Covenant, God promised that He will write his law on our hearts. That means that we will have a personal relationship with Him, knowing what He wants us to do. We will love Him and have faith to obey Him. We enter into this Covenant with Him when we put our faith in Him and believe that He will give us the power by his Holy Spirit to obey Him and love God and others just like He loved us. We can read all about our beloved Jesus and the glorious new teachings He brought us in the New Testament.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to write Jesus' New Covenant on your hearts while you read his Word, especially the New Testament.
1. What was the name of God's holy mountain?
2. Do you think rules are important?
3. Do you think God's commandments are fair? Why do you say so?
4. Why were the Israelites afraid to hear God speak?
5. Are you afraid to hear God speak?
6. What if He reminds you about your sins? Remember, if you ask for forgiveness, He will forgive you.
7. Do you want God's laws written on your heart?
VERSE TO LEARN:
“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33b).
ALTERNATE VERSE TO LEARN:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
Would you like to know if God’s Law is written on your heart or not? Can you remember what Jesus said is the most important thing about the Law?
[After discussion:] Very good. It is loving God with all your heart and soul, and mind and might, and your neighbor as yourself. That’s how you know that God’s Law is written on your heart — you love God and people. If you hate people, you cannot love God.
Because God is love, you need Him to teach you how to love. There are lots of clues in God's Word to help you know how to love. Turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to see what love is all about. Write these verses down on paper and paste it where you can easily see them, like on your mirror. Learn them by heart and add other verses whenever you find them in the Word.
It’s not always easy to love others, especially if they don’t show love to you, but maybe you’re the only example of God's love they will ever see. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you love God and also help you show his love to others.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us your commandments
and helping us to keep them by writing them on our hearts
by your Holy Spirit. Thank You for sending Jesus so that
we can be forgiven of our sins and become your children.
Help us love You and obey You, and love our neighbors
as You have loved us. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
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