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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 19

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The Nation of Israel Comes to Mount Sinai

A. Coming to the Mountain.

1. (Exo 19:1-2) Israel camps at Mount Sinai.

In 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. 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.

a. They came to the Wilderness of Sinai: It took them three months of trusting God to get to this place, but they finally arrived. They saw God's deliverance from Egypt, received His guidance on the way to go, they saw His glorious victory at the Red Sea, they saw God provide food and water miraculously, and they saw a prayerful victory won over the Amalekites.

i. Israel will stay in the Wilderness of Sinai until Numbers 10. More than 57 chapters of Scripture are devoted to what happened to Israel in the year they camped at Mount Sinai.

b. So Israel camped there before the mountain: In one sense, all that went before was meant to bring them to this place. This was the beginning of the fulfillment of what God said in Exodus 3:12: this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.

i. Sinai was the place where Moses had his "burning bush" experience with God. The whole nation of Israel would soon experience some of what Moses had before. If the people would meet God at this mountain, it could only happen because Moses had already been there. The people could not go farther than their leader.

ii. If the traditional site of Mount Sinai looks like anything, it looks like a huge pulpit - a sudden, steep outcropping of mountain out in the wilderness. Here, God would preach the most dramatic sermon ever heard.

2. (Exo 19:3-6) God declares His great plan for the nation of Israel.

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: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 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. 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."

a. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain: Moses, led by God, went up on the mountain to meet with God as he had before - and the LORD spoke to Moses again.

b. Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob: With this title God associated the nation with the weakest and most carnal of the patriarchs. At this point they acted more like Jacob than Abraham or Isaac.

c. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians: God gave a message to Israel through Moses, a message regarding His purpose and destiny for Israel. This destiny was based on what God already did for them in the great deliverance from Egypt.

i. God's love and care was shown for Israel already, as He bore you on eagle's wings. It is said that an eagle does not carry her young in her claws like other birds; the young eagles attach themselves to the back of the mother eagle and are protected as they are carried. Any arrow from a hunter must pass through the mother eagle before it could touch the young eagle on her back.

ii. The deliverance (I bore you on eagles' wings) was for fellowship (brought you to Myself). God didn't deliver Israel so they could "do their own thing," but so they could be God's people.

d. Then you shall be a special treasure to Me: God intended for Israel to be a special treasure unto Him. He wanted them to be a people with a unique place in God's great plan, a people of great value and concern to God.

i. Paul longed for Christians to know how great a treasure they were to God; he prayed they would know what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18).

e. You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests: God intended for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, where every believer could come before God themselves, and everyone could represent God to the nations.

i. Peter reminds us we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), those who serve God as both kings and priests (and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, Revelation 1:6).

f. And a holy nation: God intended for Israel to be a holy nation, a nation and people set apart from the rest of the world, the particular possession of God, fit for His purposes.

i. Peter reminds us we are a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). As God's people, we must be set apart, thinking and doing differently than others in this world.

g. If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then: All this could only be fulfilled if Israel would stay in God's word. The word then is an important word here. Apart from knowing and doing God's word, God's destiny for the nation would never be fulfilled.

i. Keep My covenant: the covenant was greater than the law itself. The covenant God would make with Israel involved law, sacrifice, and the choice to obey and be blessed or to disobey and be cursed.

3. (Exo 19:7-9) The people agree to obey the covenant.

So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

a. Laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him: The people will later be challenged to receive the covenant again, after they heard its terms, and they received it again (Exodus 24:1-8).

b. Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD: Moses here is acting as a true priest, as an intermediary between God and the people; yet, God spoke audibly to the Moses (that the people may hear when I speak with you) so everyone would know that it was really God speaking to Moses.

4. (Exo 19:10-13) God commands that His holy presence on Sinai be respected.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 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. 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. 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."

a. Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow: God was going to appear to Israel in spectacular fashion; and before this could happen, the people had to prepare themselves.

b. You shall set bounds for the people all around: The coming of God to Mount Sinai did not mean the people were free to go to the mountain and fellowship with God. They had to keep their distance behind a barrier, and the penalty for failing to keep their distance was death.

i. Any person or animal killed for getting too close would be regarded as so unholy they could not even be touched, they had to be executed with a stones or arrows.

c. You shall set bounds for the people: If there is anything basic to human nature, it is that we need boundaries. In setting these boundaries and providing the death penalty for breaching them, God showed Israel that obedience is more important than their feelings. We don't doubt that some bold Israelites felt like going beyond the boundaries, but they were to submit their feelings to obedience.

d. When the trumpet sounds long: The people could only come near at God's invitation, and the trumpet signaled that the invitation was open.

5. (Exo 19:14-15) Commands for ceremonial purity and cleanliness.

So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, "Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives."

a. Do not come near your wives: The rest of the Scriptures do not teach that there is any inherent uncleaness in sexual relations. In this situation, God wanted the people to demonstrate their desire for purity by putting on clean clothes and restraining the flesh.

b. Be ready for the third day: The meeting with God could only come at the third day. Anyone who tried to meet with God before the third day tried to come before God opened the way.

B. God's presence on the mountain.

1. (Exo 19:16-19) God's terrifying presence on Mount Sinai.

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 tremble. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 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. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

a. Thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud: These signs of power and glory signaled the presence of God. The whole environment must have seemed terrifying to the people.

b. The sound of the trumpet was very loud: Beyond all one could see, hear, and feel, then came a long, loud blast of a trumpet, a trumpet coming not from the camp but from heaven itself - no wonderall the people who were in the camp trembled.

c. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God: Then, Moses led the people right up to the barrier at the very foot of Mount Sinai, where they could see, smell, hear, and virtually taste the fire which engulfed the mountain - as well as feel the earth shake under their feet when the whole mountain quaked greatly.

d. When the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder: In the midst of all this, the sound of the trumpet blast became longer and louder and longer and louder, until Moses spoke to God - perhaps asking Him to stop.

2. (Exo 19:20) Moses goes up on Mount Sinai to the immediate presence of God.

Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

a. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain: God came in a special presence to Mount Sinai, ready to meet with Moses as a representative of the whole nation of Israel.

b. And Moses went up: God came down, and Moses went up. As the people trembled in terror at the foot of the mountain, Moses needed courage to go to the top and meet with God. It took courage for Moses to go up in the midst of all the thunder, lightning, earthquakes, fire, and smoke. But Moses knew God not only in terms of this awesome power, but also in terms of His gracious kindness.

3. (Exo 19:21-25) God tells Moses to go back down and warn the people again about respecting the holiness of His presence on Sinai.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them." But Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.'" Then the LORD said to him, "Away! Get down and then come up, you and 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." So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

a. Go down and warn the people: Those who through rebellion, curiosity, or raw daring presumed to go up on the mountain would perish. The glory and greatness of God wasn't to be a matter subjected to scientific inquiry or a way to prove one's own manhood.

b. The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai: Just because God called Moses and Aaron up did not mean there was an open invitation for the whole nation to meet with God on Mount Sinai.

c. Do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD: The whole idea at Sinai was exclusion. Exodus 19 gives a powerful picture of the awesome fear each Israelite must have felt at Mount Sinai. It is easy to think that this would inspire them to a holy lifestyle.

i. Many today feel we need to get more of the thunder and fire and trembling of Mount Sinai into people as a way of keeping them from sin. Yet, not forty days from this, the whole nation will be practicing an orgy around a golden calf, praising it as the god that brought them out of Egypt.

ii. As Chadwick says, "Awe is one thing: the submission of the will is another." Israel had plenty of awe, but little submission of their will.

iii. Hebrews 12:18-24 tells us loud and clear that under the New Covenant we come to a different mountain, that our salvation and relationship with God is centered at Mount Zion, not Mount Sinai.

- Sinai speaks of fear and terror, but Zion speaks of love and forgiveness.
- Sinai is in a dry desert, but Zion is the city of the Living God.
- Sinai, with all its fear and power is earthly; but the Mount Zion we come to is heavenly and spiritual.
- At Sinai, only Moses could come and meet God; at Zion, there is an innumerable company, a general assembly.
- Sinai had guilty men in fear, but Zion has just men made perfect.
- At Sinai, Moses is the mediator, but at Zion, Jesus the mediator.
- Sinai put forth an Old covenant, ratified by the blood of animals; Zion has a New Covenant, ratified by the blood of God's precious Son.
- Sinai was all about barriers and exclusion; Zion is all about invitation.
- Sinai is all about Law, Zion is all about grace.

iv. Therefore, we shouldn't come to Zion as if we were coming to Sinai. We must put away our hesitation and get bold in coming to God. Nevertheless there is much for us to learn at Mount Sinai. We learn of God's holy requirements and what we have to do before we can come to Him. In a similar manner to those at Mount Sinai, there are things we must to do meet with God.

- We must be receive God's word.
- We must be set apart.
- We must be cleansed.
- We can only come after the third day.
- We must respect God's boundary.
- We must restrain the flesh
- We must know we come to a holy God.

v. "Reader, art thou still under the influence and condemning power of that fiery law which proceeded from his right hand? Art though yet afar off? Remember, thou canst only come nigh by the blood of sprinkling; and till justified by his blood, thou are under the curse. Consider the terrible majesty of God. If thou have his favour thou hast life; if his frown, death. Be instantly reconciled to God, for though thou hast deeply sinned, and he is just, yet he is the justifier of him that believeth in Christ Jesus. Believe on him, receive his salvation OBEY his voice indeed, and KEEP his covenant, and THEN shalt thou be a king and a priest unto God and the Lamb, and be finally saved with all the power of an endless life. Amen." (Clarke)

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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