Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20
Timeline – Three Months Out of Egypt (19:1)
Much had happened since Moses shepherded Israel out Egypt. The challenge of leading a people who had suffered the oppression of slavery for four centuries was daunting, as well as, exhausting. Three months had passed (19:1), and the tribes of Israel had experienced both the joys of victories, and the despair of hardships that included thirst, and hunger. However, above and beyond the physical distresses of the journey, Moses faced the threat of an insurrection, to the point that he feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).
Following the suggestion of his father-in-law, Moses had chosen, taught, and delegated to capable men the task of judging the people in “small matters” (18:20-25), and freeing him to judge “the hard causes” (18:26).
“1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai…[and] were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount [Mount Sinai]” (19:1-2). Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) had been the place God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (3:1-6). Here the LORD promised Moses, “When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).
Israel would encamp at Mount Sinai for eleven months, during which time they would be given the Law and Commandments, and be transformed from twelve tribes of slaves, to a mighty nation with one God, and one Law.
While the people pitched their tents at the base of Sinai, “Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain” (19:3). Acting as Israel’s mediator, the LORD charged Moses with the task of reminding the people all that the He had done for them, and how He had thrust the people out of Egypt, and carried them with tenderness, and the speed of an eagle that shadows her eaglets (19:4).
Moses was to remind the people, that if they would obey God’s voice, and keep His covenant, the LORD would “treasure” the people “above all people” (19:5), and they would be as a nation, “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (19:5-6). God would later ordain Aaron, and his sons to serve Israel as His priests; however, it was the LORD’s desire that Israel would be a holy nation to serve humanity as His priests, and “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).
As the mediator, Moses was to call “the elders of the people” together, and present the LORD’s proposition (19:7). With one voice, “all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord” (19:8).
To fulfill the institution of the covenant, Moses commanded the people to personally, and ceremonially “sanctify” themselves, and “wash their clothes” (19:10). On the third day God would descend upon Mount Sinai, and make His voice and presence known to the nation (19:11). Warning any who approached the mount while the LORD was present would be put to death, Moses was commanded to set a boundary around the base of the mountain (19:12-3).
On the third day, the presence of God was seen in the “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16). Moses led the nation to the base of Mount Sinai (19:17), and the whole mount was engulfed in smoke, as “the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (19:18). The sound of a trumpet, a shofar, grew louder and louder, and “Moses spake [in the hearing of the people], and “God answered him by a voice” (19:19).
Imagine the visual presence of Mount Sinai engulfed in fire and smoke, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the voice of God shaking the very foundation of the mountain. What a dreadful, frightening display of God’s power and presence!
God’s covenant with Israel required that the people were to be sanctified, holy, and set apart unto Him (19:10). The LORD required of His people, what was true of Himself – “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (19:10; Leviticus 11:44-45). What was true of Israel, is true for all believers:
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith