When was the last time you signed a contract? Any kind of contract – a mortgage, a car loan, a new job, a marriage license, a school admissions agreement. Now consider this: How many pages was the contract? More importantly, did you make sure you read every page before you signed it?
I’ve been thinking about these questions since last week when I took a class at Columbia Theological Seminary. Part of the Certificate in Spiritual Formation program, the class was called “Exodus: Freedom and Formation.” After exploring the opening chapters of Exodus – the Hebrew slaves’ oppression in Egypt, their crying out to God, and God’s hearing their cry, delivering them, and setting them free to worship – we, along with the Israelites, arrived at Sinai and the establishment of God’s covenant with his people. The stipulations of the covenant would be outlined over the course of the next several chapters and books (Exodus 20-Numbers 10). But before the first word of this contract was spoken, “the people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do’” (Exodus 19:8).
In our class discussion about present-day contracts, one colleague shared how in his career he travels around the world negotiating building contracts and how people of other cultures sign multimillion dollar contracts that are just a few pages in length with very little detail. How often have you and I demanded a lot more pages and a lot more detail – for a lot less money? Yet for others around the world, it seems the content of the contract is not as important as the character of the contractor.
Every relationship has a contract of sorts. The relationship between an employer and employee, a husband and wife, even friend to friend. While some of these relationships have agreements in the form of a written contract or spoken vows, as the relationship continues we discover that many of the “terms” go unwritten and unspoken, relying less on words and more on the worth of the relationship, less on treatise and more on trust.
The Israelites had seen God display his worth and trustworthiness, not only through their deliverance from slavery, but also through God’s providing for their needs on their journey to Sinai (Exodus 15:22-18:27). Now at Sinai, with those experiences of God’s faithfulness fresh in their memories, they are faced with a question: Will they sign their name on the dotted line?
“The people all answered as one:” Yes.
Would you and I have done the same?
No matter where you and I are in our faith journeys, we all are faced with that question every day – indeed, every moment of every day. When we woke up this morning, how many of us knew every detail the day would hold? How many of us have ever wondered why something happened or what next step we should take? Like Israel, we aren’t always given a reason, but we are given a relationship – a relationship with our God who is for us and with us. We might not know the way, but we can know the Way. Like Israel, we, too, are faced with a question: Will we trust more in what we know or Who we know?
An age-old question. A present-moment opportunity.
Will you sign your name on the dotted line?