I wonder if you have house rules? And if you do, I wonder how they came to be decided. Let me give you some examples. In our house it’s my job to load the dishwasher and put it on before I go to bed. We didn’t need this rule before we had a dishwasher, and after we got one it soon became clear that it was going to be my job, because when Liz did it, I get cross about it not being loaded correctly, and I was informed in no uncertain terms that if it mattered that much, then I could do it. So I do.
We also have house rules about bedtime for the kids, and I expect that as they get older, we will have to negotiate curfew times that we expect them to be home by. I guess the first set of house rules we ever had as a family were the ones that Liz and I agreed to when we got married. The love, honour, cherish, be faithful vows that underpin our marriage and which sum up the values that form the basis for our whole family life together.
The thing that all these house rules have in common is that they all, in some way, are in place to enable us to live together happily and in a way which allows our our relationships within the household to flourish. Not all of them were there to start with, and some of the ones that we will need in the future are not yet in place. As family life goes on, the details of our house rules might change, but the underlying principles of love, faithfulness, and integrity will remain.
In our reading from Exodus, God is laying out some house rules for the family of the people of God God has sent Moses to Egypt, to rescue the people of God from captivity, and they are now three months out from Egypt, and they have reached the base of the mountain of God, Mount Sinai. Previously God had spoken to the ancestors of the people of God, people like Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and made promises that their children would become a nation.
Now God has bought those children to the place in which God will start to forge them into a nation. That nation needed some house rules to enable the people that were part of it to live together with flourishing relationships, with each other and with God.