Sunday, September 16, 2007

Exodus 19:1-25 -- A View from the Mountain

Contextual Notes:
Here begins the second part of the book of Exodus. Here we move to a significant transition in Exodus: the birth of a Nation. What was a gargantuan herd of freed slaves three months before is now ready to become a community, a congregation, a nation under the leadership of YHWH and Moses His servant.

After several months in the Sinai Peninsula, with unbelievable miracles behind them, the people of Israel leave the oasis at Rephidim and head into the wilderness of Sinai (“to shine”), arriving exactly three months from the day the Israelites left Egypt. Just as God promised (Exodus 3:12), Moses has returned to Mount Sinai to worship God with the freed slaves of Israel.

The traditional site for Mount Sinai is called today Jebel Musa (elev. 7486 ft), but the whole mountain block forms a wall two miles long and one mile thick against the southern end of the plain. To the north was probably the camping site for Israel, a plain called today Er-Rahah (elev. <=5000 ft), 4 miles long and over a mile wide with four streams on scattered around the plain. Between the plain and the peak of Mt. Sinai is a lower bluff called today Ras Sufsafeh (6830 ft), where Moses and the elders stood. Pray and Read: Exodus 19:1-25 Sermon Points:
God’s Purpose (Exodus 19:1-6)
God’s People (Exodus 19:7-15)
God’s Person (Exodus 19:16-25)

Exposition: Note well,

1. GOD’S PURPOSE (EXODUS 19:1-6).
a. COVENANT – God uses a covenantal form that was well known at this time, called a suzerainty treaty, a solemn agreement of relationship between a superior and his people. The first part explains what the ruler has done (here verse 4), the second part explains the responsibilities of the people (19:5). The third explains the rulers’ responsibilities to his people (19:6). This form of covenant was often used as the constitutions of nations. Here we see the birth of Israel as one nation under God, who will be their Sovereign, their Protector, their Provider, and their Lord.

b. Other covenants, such as the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant, are one-party covenants. In them, God declares what “I will” do no matter what any human being might do. Other differences: Other covenants tell what God will do at the end of history. The Mosaic covenant tells what God will do for each generation throughout history. Other covenants are permanent. The Mosaic Covenant is temporary, only in force until the Messiah/Redeemer arrives (Galatians 3:15-25). Today the Mosaic Covenant stands as a standard of God’s holiness and moral standards.

c. Unique about this Mosaic (Law) Covenant is that God says that what He will do hinges on how His people behave. If God’s people love and obey Him, the Mosaic Covenant guarantees God’s blessing and protection. If they turn away from Him and give up righteous ways, then God will discipline and punish them. In this covenant alone God acts in response to the choices made by the people of Israel.
d. Wings of Eagles (v. 1-4) With swiftness and power the Lord brought them out of Egypt. Israel may have felt like these three months were harrowing, but God saw from His perspective, and He saw the mighty power and miracles of their freedom. (Deuteronomy 32:10-11; Exodus 15:11). All this grace was but a foretaste of far richer days ahead.

e. Place of Privilege (v. 5)
i. Led by a shepherd who was trained as a prince, now Israel is set apart as a nation of princely priests serving their King who is a Priest Himself. See Deuteronomy 1:31; 14:1; 32:6; Hosea 11:1

ii. Treasured Possession: Israel is God’s property (“treasured possession”); Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Psalm 135:4; also 1 Chronicles 29:3; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Malachi 3:17).

iii. “Now if” (v. 5): Notice that God forces no one into a relationship with Him. We are all free to reject His invitation to relationship with Him, though eternally foolish!

f. Priority of Missions (v. 6)
i. Kingdom of Priests: unique phrase in OT, though cf. Isaiah 61:6. Priests stand before God and the people. Royals have special say with the King because of their relation to Him. This kingdom of priests was intended to advocate with the King on behalf of the nations!

ii. Holy Nation: God intended Israel to be a morally pure people consecrated to God. This consecration set them apart from the world.

g. Paul understood this passage: Titus 2:14; h. Peter understood this passage clearly: 1 Peter 2:9-10

j. APPLICATION: Jesus Christ has opened the door that the Law closed – eternal life. He empowers us to be on mission with Him as morally pure people. Have you taken advantage of that open door for yourself? Are you showing that open door to your family, your children, your co-workers, your friends?

2. GOD’S PEOPLE (EXODUS 19:7-15).
a. Promise of the People (v. 7-9) “We will do everything that the Lord has said.” This same line is found in Joshua 24:16-24 forty years later as these people’s children say it! That time, Joshua warned them not to enter into such a statement naively.

b. Cleansing of the Congregation (v. 10-15)
i. Purity of the People (v. 10, 14-15) cf. Numbers 8:21.
ii. Purity of the Place (v. 12-13)
iii. Three days: It took three days to be purified.

c. ILLUSTRATION: Israel took three days to be cleansed before crossing the Jordan (Joshua 1:11). It took Jonah three days in the belly of the fish to repent, be cleansed, and set on the right path to go to the nations.

d. APPLICATION: Talk is cheap. Israel had to work three days to get clean enough for God’s arrival. After three days in the ground, Jesus made provision for us all to be clean forever and be constantly in His presence. Are you clean before Him?

3. GOD’S PERSON (EXODUS 19:16-25)
a. Morning of the Third Day (Matthew 28:1-2) Points directly to Resurrection Sunday morning
b. Earthquake, Fire – Imagine this 2-mile long, 1 mile thick mountain range ablaze!; Smoke, Lightning; Trumpet – used to communicate to large distances
g. Holiness of the Lord (Isaiah 6:5;
i. This is why we need an advocate: 1 John 2:2
ii. Hebrews 10:19-22

i. APPLICATION: Don’t treat God lightly, for He is awesome in His holiness and power. There is no fear in Him, but there is an awesome holiness and awe in His Presence. Jesus has prepared the way to God. Have you taken advantage of that way?

Invitation:

Sources:
F.F. Bruce, International Bible Commentary, 169-70.
Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, 202-7.
ISBE, “Sinai.”
Abel Ndjerareou, Africa Bible Commentary, 108-110.
Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion, 62.
John Walton, et. al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 93-4.