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Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20
Review – Three Months Out of Egypt (19:1)
Much had happened since Moses shepherded Israel out of Egypt. Leading a people who had suffered the oppression of slavery for four centuries was daunting and exhausting. Only three months had passed (19:1), but already the tribes of Israel had experienced the joys of victory and the despair of hardships that included thirst and hunger. However, above and beyond the physical stress of the journey, Moses faced the constant threat of murmuring and insurrection, to the point that he feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4). Having followed the counsel 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).
Encampment at Sinai (19:1-2)
“In 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” (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 encamped at Mount Sinai for the next eleven months, during which time God gave Moses His Law and Commandments. At this time, Israel was transformed from twelve tribes of enslaved people to a mighty nation with one God and one Law.
God’s Charge to Moses (19:3-6)
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 He had done for them. Then, in a statement that evidenced His loving grace and mercy, the LORD described how He had thrust His people out of Egypt, carrying them along with the tenderness and speed of an eagle that shadows her eaglets (19:4).
Moses was charged with reminding the people that if they would obey God’s voice and keep His covenant, He would “treasure” them “above all people” (19:5). The LORD promised Israel would be “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, He desired that Israel would be a holy nation and “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).
Israel’s Affirmation of God’s Covenant (19:7-8)
As God’s mediator, Moses called “the elders of the people” together and presented the LORD’s proposition (19:7). We read, 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).
Israel’s Preparation to Meet the LORD (19:9-15)
To fulfill the institution of the covenant, Moses commanded the people to personally and ceremonially “sanctify” themselves and “wash their clothes” (19:10). Moses revealed that on the third day, the LORD would descend upon Mount Sinai and make His voice and presence known to the nation (19:11). Israel was commanded to set a boundary about the base of the mount, and warned if any approached they would be put to death (19:12-13).
The Appearance of the LORD (19:16-25)
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 then led the nation to the base of Mount Sinai (19:17). The whole mount was engulfed in smoke, as “the Lorddescended 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). As commanded, Moses warned the people not to approach Mount Sinai (19:21-25).
Today’s second devotional will focus on God’s Laws and Commandments and the nature of His covenant with Israel (Exodus 20).
Imagine seeing Mount Sinai engulfed in fire and smoke and feeling the foundations of the mountain moving at the sound of God’s voice. What a dreadful, frightening display of God’s power and presence! To receive His Law and Commandments, the people were required to be sanctified, holy, and set apart unto Him (19:10). God required of His people what was true of Himself – “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (19:10; Leviticus 11:44-45).
Tragically, you would not know it to look at 21st-century churches, but what was essential for Israel is requisite for all believers. The apostle Peter wrote: “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).
Questions to consider:
1) What did the LORD promise Israel if the people kept His Covenant? (Exodus 19:5)
2) To bind God’s Covenant, what did the people promise? (Exodus 19:8)
3) What was the penalty if a man, woman, or beast violated the boundary about the mountain where God appeared to Moses? (Exodus 19:12-13)
4) What was the visible sign that God had descended upon Mount Sinai? (Exodus 19:18-19)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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