Exodus 19: Israel at Mount Sinai

1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

-A treasure is something highly valued and kept safe. God is promising to keep Israel as His most valuable possession among all people’s of the Earth. What’s interesting to see here is verse 6, “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests”. We know in the new earth, this is the exact role Israel will have. All of Israel will be like the Levites and serve this role but this does not happen once that nation gets established and still has not happened to this day. So God is speaking of things that are not temporary or outdated but will last forever. Israel is going to be God’s treasure FOREVER. Not until the Messiah comes or the church made up of all nations is established but FOREVER. Israel will always be special before God.

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

-This seems unbelievably harsh, doesn’t it? If anyone so much as touches the mountain before three days have passed they are to be shot or stoned to death! This is the first lesson in holiness that the people are going to receive. God is loving and merciful but cannot compromise. God cannot forgive and let things go for nothing. God forgives us because Jesus served as the sacrifice to cover over our sin. God cannot forgive from nothing because He is just “a nice guy”. That is not in His nature and would be chaotic and prove Him a liar. The people must understand that it is never “OK” to sin, even just a little bit. People are going to have to die in order for this lesson to be learned. God’s word is absolute, for one, and so if He says a person will die then a person will die. God does not lie. But also we must understand just how evil and offensive we are when compared to a perfect being. God is so good that we would drop dead instantly at the very sight of Him. Moses is later shown the back of God and His faced glowed for a time. Isaiah is shown some of the truth of God and instantly realizes that he speaks with “uncircumcised lips”. We cannot even begin to understand just how sinful and deserving of eternal death we truly are. Seeing this as cruel proves our own lack of understanding and just how far-gone we truly are to think God is unfair to punish us for not doing what our father and creator of the universe is ordering us not to do.

14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” 16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

-Moses thought that the people were already consecrated to approach God but God tells him that they will still die if they approach the mountain, whether they be ordinary people or priests. This is symbolic that even if we “wash” our own lives of sin, we are still offensive to God. Even if we live as priests, we still do not deserve to come into His presence. Moses is confused because he doesn’t understand why all that washing was necessary if they still don’t get to come and meet God. God is teaching the people another lesson that we cannot wash ourselves clean before God.

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