1. Did you know that the Israelites practiced idolatry when they were slaves in Egypt?
On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. And I said to them, "Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (6-7, NIV)
Did you know their idolatry was so bad in Egypt God considered extensive judgment against them while they were still in Egypt?
But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in Egypt. But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations they lived among and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt. (8-9)
That certainly highlights even more God’s mercy and love in shielding the Hebrews from the plagues and in delivering them from their slavery.
It also pictures more fully our salvation. God gave his Son while we were still in rebellion against him, while we were still his active enemies (Rom 5:8).
2. The chapter highlights God’s mercy and love in two other ways. First, he highlights various times he should have just wiped out the Israelites for their rebellion, but he didn’t.
He should have wiped them out while they were still in Egypt (as mentioned above, 5-9), but he didn’t.
He should have wiped the original generation out in the wilderness, but he didn’t (10-17).
He should have wiped out the next generation in the wilderness, but he didn’t (18-26).
3. A second instance of God’s mercy: The Israelites want to be good pagans like the rest of the world? Too bad. He’s going to make them good Christians. That’s really the tone of 32-44. Let me summarize that passage:
You want to be like the other nations? Too bad!
I will forcibly separate you from the other nations.
I will judge you and purge you.
Go and ahead and serve your idols, but when you’re done, you will come to me.
I will accept you, and you will be holy.
Again a picture of our redemption (see Rom 5:8; Col 1:21-22).
4. Finally, what exactly does verse 25 mean?
I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances that did not bring them life. (HCSB)