Called to Holiness
Exodus 19:1-6,10-14,16-19 April 7 2013
Most believe that Mount Sinai is Jabel el Mussa, which lies near the east end of the Sinai Peninsula .
Yahweh’s words here, and later the structure of the Book of Deuteronomy , reflect a distinctive covenant form from the mid second millennium B.C. This is a covenant made between a superior—a ruler, or king—and his people. Such covenants refer to what the ruler has done for his people , and explain the responsibilities of the people to their ruler and the ruler to his people . Such covenants served as the constitution of nations. Thus what we see here is the birth of Israel as a nation under God: a nation which is to look to God as its Sovereign, Protector, Ruler, and Lord.
God forces no one into a relationship with Him. Commitment is voluntary, and we are free—though foolish!—to reject His invitation. But if we do accept God’s offer, we become responsible to obey.
Biblical covenants (brit) make statements about what God intends or is committed to do. While the Mosaic or Law Covenant shares this essential characteristic with other biblical covenants, it is also different from them. The original covenant God made with Abraham contained a number of “I will” statements made by the Lord . These promises were given formal and legal force in a “covenant of blood” . At that time God caused Abraham to fall asleep, and the Lord alone passed between the parts
1.The people come to Sinai, God’s message to them, and their answer. (Exodus 19:1-6)
Exodus 19:1In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You 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, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; 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 which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Moses was called up the mountain, and was employed as the messenger of this covenant. The Maker and first Mover of the covenant, is God himself. This blessed charter was granted out of God’s own free grace. The covenant here mentioned was the national covenant, by which the Israelites were a people under the government of Jehovah. It was a type of the new covenant made with true believers in Christ Jesus; but, like other types, it was only a shadow of good things to come. As a nation they broke this covenant; therefore the Lord declared that he would make a new covenant with Israel, writing his law, not upon tables of stone, but in their hearts, Jeremiah 31:33 ; Hebrews 8:7-10 . The covenant spoken of in these places as ready to vanish away, is the national covenant with Israel, which they forfeited by their sins. Unless we carefully attend to this, we shall fall into mistakes while reading the Old Testament. We must not suppose that the nation of the Jews were under the covenant of works, which knows nothing of repentance, faith in a Mediator, forgiveness of sins, or grace; nor yet that the whole nation of Israel bore the character, and possessed the privileges of true believers, as being actually sharers in the covenant of grace. They were all under a dispensation of mercy; they had outward privileges and advantages for salvation; but, like professing Christians, most rested therein, and went no further. Israel consented to the conditions. They answered as one man, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. Oh that there had been such a heart in them! Moses, as a mediator, returned the words of the people to God. Thus Christ, the Mediator, as a Prophet, reveals God’s will to us, his precepts and promises; and then, as a Priest, offers up to God our spiritual sacrifices, not only of prayer and praise, but of devout affections, and pious resolutions, the work of his own Spirit in us.
2.The people directed to prepare to hear the law (Exodus 19:10-14)
Exodus 19:10 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes.
The solemn manner in which the law was delivered, was to impress the people with a right sense of the Divine majesty. Also to convince them of their own guilt, and to show that they could not stand in judgment before God by their own obedience. In the law, the sinner discovers what he ought to be, what he is, and what he wants. There he learns the nature, necessity, and glory of redemption, and of being made holy. Having been taught to flee to Christ, and to love him, the law is the rule of his obedience and faith.
3. The presence of God on Sinai. (Exodus 19:16-19)
Exodus 19:16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
Never was there such a sermon preached, before or since, as this which was preached to the church in the wilderness. It might be supposed that the terrors would have checked presumption and curiosity in the people; but the hard heart of an unawakened sinner can trifle with the most terrible threatenings and judgments. In drawing near to God, we must never forget his holiness and greatness, nor our own meanness and pollution. We cannot stand in judgment before him according to his righteous law. The convinced transgressor asks, What must I do to be saved? and he hears the voice, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. The Holy Ghost, who made the law to convince of sin, now takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to us. In the gospel we read, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Through him we are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses. But the Divine law is binding as a rule of life. The Son of God came down from heaven, and suffered poverty, shame, agony, and death, not only to redeem us from its curse, but to bind us more closely to keep its commands.
After a three-month journey the Israelites camp in front of Mt. Sinai . There God offers to make a covenant with the people which offers many benefits—but which obligates them to obey . The people immediately agree . Preparations are made for the appearance of God at Sinai . When the appointed day comes, the Lord descends to the mountaintop in fire, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and a terrifying earthquake . The awesome display accentuates the holiness of God, as does the warning that no one but Moses must approach the mountain on which His presence now rests . The stage is now set for God’s revelation of the Law, those religious and moral standards which if lived by will shape Israel into a just and holy people, who reflect the character of their God.