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Exodus 19:16-25; The Awesome Presence of God – Not Without a Mediator

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110626_exodus19_16-25.mp3

06/26 Exodus 19:16-25 The Awesome Presence of God; Not Without a Mediator

Saved to Worship

As we’ve seen so far in the book of Exodus, we are saved to worship.

Exodus 8:1 … ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.

God promised Moses:

Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Serving is synonymous with worship. When Pharaoh was trying to set the terms of the Exodus, he wanted them to leave their cattle behind as collateral so that they would return.

Exodus 10:25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.”

The service to God that they were preparing for, the service to the LORD, was the service of sacrifice and offerings, service of worship.

Any act of service to the Lord is ultimately an act of worship, because any service we perform for the Lord that is pleasing to him is done, not because we have something of value to offer to God, but because he has been so undeservedly gracious to us that what he has given to us we can reflect back to him in worship.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

This same language of service or worship is used in the next chapter in the context of not bowing down to false gods:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

We are saved to worship. God in this chapter will put his own glory on display in such a way that we will see that he is worthy of all our worship. He is worthy of our service of worship. He is worthy of all our affection, all our devotion. He is worthy of all that we are. To him alone be glory forever.

Prepare for Worship

We are saved to worship. But we must prepare for worship. Meeting with the living God is no light matter. God is dangerous. Proper precautions must be taken. Boundaries must be set. Those who attempt to force themselves uninvited into the presence of God must be put to death. God is to be taken seriously. In verses 10-15, God demands that Moses take two days to consecrate the people, and prepare them for this encounter with the Most High. God says:

Exodus19:11 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.

God is going to formally introduce himself to his people. Remember, God has already poured out his undeserved grace on them. He delivered them from bondage. He has been caring for their every need. He has been their protection, and their source of all good things. Now, God is entering into a covenant relationship with his people. He is going to manifest himself in a visible way unlike any other.

Remember, this is a visible manifestation of the invisible God. God is putting his glory on display in a way that will communicate something of the truth of the awesomeness of his limitless being, just a glimpse of who he really is.

The Fear of the LORD

Exodus 19:16 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. …

This is an awesome display of God’s glory. Trembling is the appropriate response to God’s presence. Remember, this is the God who makes something out of nothing. He created all things visible and invisible (Col.1:16) He holds up the universe by the word of his power (Heb.1:3). He spoke galaxies into existence. He breathes out life. This is the God who will cause the sky to be rolled up like a scroll (Rev.6:14). Trembling is the appropriate response to this great God. In this passage, both the people and the mountain itself tremble at the presence of the most high God.

Isaiah 66:2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

When Moses recounts this event in Deuteronomy 4, he reminds the people:

Deuteronomy 4:10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

God showed up in fire so that his people would learn to fear him, so they would have a proper awe, a holy terror, a deep reverence. Then in Deuteronomy chapter 6 he says:

Deuteronomy 6:24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.

Fear God for your good! The Psalmist calls us to worship this way:

Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

See how fear of the Lord is linked to worship? An essential part of worship is the fear of the Lord.

The New Covenant is Better!

Turn over to Hebrews 12, where the author contrasts this event at Sinai with the experience of the New Testament believer in Jesus:

Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken––that is, things that have been made––in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

As New Covenant believers, we have something better, something greater, something more. But even now as New Testament believers, we are still called to ‘offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.’ Let’s look back to our passage in Exodus, and then we will see one of the major contrasting differences that makes the New Covenant better than the old.

Moses the Mediator

20 …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.

Up – down – up – down. God calls Moses up. God sends Moses back down. God calls Moses up. God sends Moses back down. Moses is acting as the mediator of this covenant. He is the go-between, the one who represents God to the people and the people to God. But in the following chapter, God speaks directly to his people. At the end of this encounter with God, the people cry out for a mediator. The people need a mediator.

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

The holiness of God brings to light the sinfulness of the human heart. For sinful man to be in the presence of God means death. The people needed someone to go between and represent them to God. This is what Job longed for when he said about the Almighty:

Job 9:32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. 33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

An arbiter who would lay his hand on us both. Someone to represent sinful man before a holy God. So terrifying was the sight that even Moses trembled with fear.

Come to Jesus!

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

They came to the mountain smoking with fire, but we have come to the city of the living God. We come into the presence of innumerable angelic beings that are so awesomely terrifying that we feel almost compelled to worship them. We come into the assembly of those enrolled in heaven, all the saints who believed throughout all history and around the globe. We come to God the judge of all. This is a more terrifying scene than Mount Sinai – saints and angels and God the judge. But we come to Jesus. We come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. We have a mediator!

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

We come to Jesus, the only mediator between God and men. We have a better mediator than Moses. We come to Jesus, infinite God, who became flesh so that he could bear in his body all our sins on the tree. We come to Jesus, our sinless substitute, who was crucified for us. We come to Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation, who cried out ‘it is finished!’ as he hung there in our place. Because of Jesus, we do not stand far off.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We have been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of Christ. God has entered into relationship with his people.

Colossians 2:13 …God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

We come:

Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground (Gen.4:10) guilty, guilty, guilty – you are under a curse. The blood of Jesus speaks a better word. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Lk.23:34). Forgiveness for undeserving sinners. The price has been paid. ‘It is finished!’ (Jn.19:30)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 19:9-15; Prepare to Meet Your God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110619_exodus19_9-15.mp3

06/19 Exodus 19:9-15 Prepare to Meet Your God

Saved to Worship

God has saved his people. With a strong hand he brought them out from under their bondage to the Egyptians. His purpose was ‘Let my people go that they may serve me’ or ‘worship me.’ God’s people were saved to worship. God has brought them now to Mount Sinai, and he is about to formally introduce himself to his people. This is a hugely significant event and sets the stage for the giving of his law in the following chapters. The LORD instructs Moses to remind his people first of his grace toward them, and then of his purposes for them.

19:3 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.

Remind the people what I did. God is saying ‘Remember, I saved you all by myself. You didn’t deserve this. You were panicking – fearful and unbelieving. You stood by and watched. You saw what I did to your enemies. Remember I carried you when you were helpless. I brought you to myself. This is all God’s actions to save his undeserving people. Now that they have been saved, he reminds them of his purposes for them.

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.”

God’s people have been delivered for a purpose. They were set free from bondage in order to worship and serve the one true God. They are God’s most prized possession among all that he owns. The whole nation is to be a kingdom, those who are under the authority of the King. And the whole nation is to be a kingdom of priests among the nations – they are to serve the nations by proclaiming the truth about God to them and bringing them into relationship with God. That is the role of a priest. They are to facilitate worship of the one true God. Through this one chosen nation, God intends to bless all the nations of the earth. They are to be set apart, distinct, different from all other nations, to serve as an example to the nations of what it looks like to obey God’s voice and keep his covenant.

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.

The people embraced God’s purposes for them. They formally agreed to his terms. Now God announces that the people are to prepare themselves to meet their God.

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.” 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.”

Part of God’s purpose in this was to establish Moses’ leadership over his people. They had grumbled and complained against Moses, and this event is designed to remove any reason to question whether Moses is indeed called by God. But the language is much bigger than just to the Israelites way back then. Moses is to be believed forever. Moses has something to say to us today too.

Prepare to Meet Your God

God instructs Moses to prepare the people to meet their God. The LORD will come down in the sight of all the people. This is a visible manifestation of the invisible God, as we will see. Meeting with God is no light matter. God takes himself very seriously. The Hebrew word for the glory of God is a word that means weighty or heavy. This is serious. For a sinful human being to come into the presence of the all-holy God means death. When we are confronted with the holiness of God, we are made painfully aware of our own sinfulness. God in his justice must punish all sin. God cannot let any sin slide or he would cease to be just and righteous. The wages of sin is death. This is why when God makes his presence known to mortals, they say things like “Alas, O LORD God! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD” (Jud.6:22); and “Woe to me! For I am lost …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa.6:5); or “The glory of the LORD stood there… and I fell on my face” (Eze.3:23). Deuteronomy 5 looks back on this event in amazement and says:

Deuteronomy 5:24 And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live.

Boundaries are to be established around the mountain for the protection of the people. When God called to Moses on this same mountain from the burning bush, he said:

Exodus 3:5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

The people are to be kept from approaching God uninvited on pain of death. God is dangerous. This is important for us to hear. We do not come to God on our own terms. If we are to come before God and survive the experience, we must come on his terms and his terms alone. We must be invited. God is to be feared and respected. He is not to be treated casually. Two young men in Leviticus chapter 10 learned this the hard way.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.

Our God is not safe. He is not to be trifled with. Our God is a consuming fire, awesome and terrible. He is King of kings. Over and over the scriptures tell us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. He is just and will by no means let the guilty go unpunished. This is not just an Old Testament thing. Jesus taught:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus is teaching his followers to fear his Father. Fear God and God alone, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God is to be taken seriously. It is a weighty thing to come into the presence of the living God.

Consecration

Even for those who are to be kept at a safe distance, they must prepare. God sent Moses down to consecrate the people. This is a two day process. They are to be set apart to the LORD. As part of this preparation, they were to abstain from normal sexual relations. Intimacy with your spouse was to be postponed for a short time in order to focus attention on intimacy with God. This is also taught in the New Testament:

1Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self–control.

Did you know that God is pro-sex? He is for it! He came up with the idea. He intends it to be a beautiful, pleasurable expression of intimacy within the context of the covenant faithfulness of marriage. Marital abstinence is to be the exception, not the rule, and only for a very specific purpose.

His people are also instructed to wash their clothes. Remember, again, they are not being told to clean themselves up in order to make themselves acceptable to God. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

We are all lawbreakers, and stand condemned before God. Nothing we do can cover our guilt before God.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Our only hope is mercy – not getting what we so justly deserve. Our only hope is a generous gift freely given to undeserving sinners. God has already taken decisive action to save his people. Now he is commanding that they prepare to meet him.

They are told to wash their clothes. They are not told to take a bath. According to 1 Corinthians 10:2, they had already been baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Now they are being told simply to wash their clothes. We are not told how or where they do this, but if we have been following the story, when the people came to the mountain, there was no water, and God provided water by commanding that the rock be struck with his staff. This is the last water mentioned. If this is the case, then this scene is rich with symbolism. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the Rock was Christ. In preparation to meet God, his people are to wash their clothes in the water which flows from the Rock who was smitten for them.

What a beautiful picture. Although God is to be feared, man’s greatest good is to be in the presence of this fearsome God. To be separated from God forever is quite literally hell. And yet for a sinner to be in the presence of a holy God means justice and punishment and death. What are we to do with this dilemma? There is nothing we can do.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated … strangers…, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hopeless sinners brought near to a holy God – how? By the blood of Christ.

1John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. …14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

When we were not loving God, God sent his only Son to satisfy his own wrath against our hatred of him. O what love! Amazing love!

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

Brought into the presence of absolute purity by the sacrifice of the perfect substitute, Jesus Christ the Righteous, suffering for the sins of the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.

Jude :24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 19, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 19:1-8; God’s Initiative; Our Response

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110612_exodus19_1-8.mp3

06/12 Exodus 19:1-8 God’s Initiative; Our Response

We are at a pivotal point in the history of Israel. The Hebrew people were in a helpless situation as slaves in Egypt. They cried out. God heard their cry, he remembered his covenant with his people, he took notice, and he took action. He brought them out of Egypt and conquered their enemies while they stood by and watched. He led them through the wilderness and provided for their every need, in spite of their grumbling and complaining. Now they are encamped at the base of Horeb, the mountain of God, Mount Sinai. This itself is fulfillment of God’s promise. When Moses was wrestling before God with his call to bring them out of Egypt, God said:

Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Moses. He has led the people out of Egypt. They have successfully made it back to the mountain where God initially interrupted Moses and called him into his service. You shall serve or worship God on this mountain. Let’s keep in mind, as we go forward, the purpose for which they have come – worship or service. God is about to enter into a covenant with his people, to introduce himself to his people, and to lay out for them what it means to be in a relationship with him. They had been in the service of Pharaoh. God had demanded of Pharaoh ‘Let my people go that they may serve (or worship) me.’ God had saved his people to bring them into relationship with himself. Now they are here.

Israel will be camped here for almost a year. This is the setting for the next 59 chapters. Mount Sinai is the setting of the remainder of Exodus, Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of Numbers. This is extremely important. Exodus chapter 19 is the introduction to this most extensive section. If we miss the significance of this passage, we will be in danger of misconstruing a substantial part of God’s Torah. Let’s look at the first 8 verses of this chapter together.

19:1 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.” 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.

We are given the setting both by the time and the geography. This is the third new moon after the Exodus. This verse, by the way, is where the book gets its English name. The Greek version translates ‘had gone out of’ with the Greek word ‘exodos’ which means ‘the way out.’ The geographical note reminds us of Rephidim, also named Massah and Meribah because of their quarreling and grumbling, where God provided his people with water from the smitten Rock. Israel has come to the wilderness of Sinai, and they are camped before the mountain.

Moses went up to God and YHWH spoke to him. God gave Moses a message to communicate with his people. He addresses them as ‘the house of Jacob’ and ‘the people of Israel.’ Jacob, the deceitful, conniving heel-grabber, whom God renamed Israel, the one who prevails with God. God made covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – not because of any good in them, but in spite of who they were. God gives Moses a word for his people, the descendants of Jacob or 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.”

God reminds his people of three things. He reminds them of things they have personally witnessed. This isn’t hand-me-down faith. Just over three months earlier, these same people were slaves in Egypt. They had no choice but to serve Pharaoh. Now they are at the foot of the mountain of God. They are here to worship or serve him. Three things God wants them to remember.

God’s Gracious Initiative

1. You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians. God wants his people to remember his ten mighty acts of catastrophic judgment on the Egyptians and their gods. He wants them to remember the Red Sea, where they were trapped between the Egyptian special forces and the water, where they cried out in unbelief and fear, where they were commanded to be quiet and watch and God would fight for them, where God protected them with his presence in the pillar of cloud/fire, where God opened up a way through the great deep, where God lured their enemies to follow, where God decisively crushed them once and for all. Remember what I did to the Egyptians. They mistreated my people. They refused to acknowledge me. They were hardened against me. They were filled with cruel pride and persistent defiance and repeatedly refused to believe my words or heed my warnings. God wants his people to remember his judgment unleashed on his enemies. Remember that you did nothing. Remember, you yourselves have seen what I alone did to the Egyptians.

2. Remember how I bore you on eagles’ wings. God wants his people to remember his tender care for his own people. Remember, again, you did nothing. I carried you. This is a picture of helpless inability dependent on the care of another. I swooped in when you had no hope and I brought you to safety.

3. Remember that I brought you to myself. God wants his people to remember that their being in his awesome presence is not of their own initiative. The Hebrew people did not get together and say ‘let’s make a pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai. They were brought. They were led. They were carried. Often reluctantly so, almost against their wills. ‘What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?’ (14:11). ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians’ (14:12). ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ (17:3). God patiently, graciously, persistently brought them to himself.

God commanded Moses to remind the people of these three things that they had personally experienced. I acted against your enemies; I carried you to safety; I brought you to myself. Remember where you came from. Look at where you are. Remember how you got here. It was not your own doing, it was the gift of God. It was completely by undeserved grace. Remember that this is the foundation of God’s relationship with his people. Their part was to be quiet and watch as God saved them. Now their part is to be reminded of how God saved them and respond in worship.

Our Grateful Response

This is what God outlines in the rest of his message through Moses to his people. Now, therefore. In response to what I have done for you, an appropriate response is expected of you. Obedience to my voice and keeping my covenant. Because I have demonstrated to you that I will do you good and not harm, that I know best, and am fully capable of doing everything necessary to care for you, you must listen listeningly to my voice. You must guard or watch or keep my covenant. With privilege comes responsibility. If, in response to my gracious action in saving you, you will obediently listen and respond to my promises, then you will hold three privileged places of responsibility before me.

First, you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine. Here, God’s ownership of everything is declared. YHWH is not some territorial deity whose jurisdiction is limited. He claims ownership of the whole earth and everyone on it. All the peoples of the earth belong to God, and he can do with them whatever he wants. He can execute judgment on the Egyptians, because they belong to him. But out of all the peoples of the earth who belong to God, these people are precious to him. They are treasured by him. If you will listen to me, you will be treasured by me. ‘You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples.’

Second, you will be a kingdom of priests to me. This language is found nowhere else all the Old Testament. The whole people, not just one tribe, will be priests to God. A priest is one who represents God to others, and brings others into the presence of God. Their privileged position as God’s treasured possession among all peoples is not a place for boasting. God declares to them that he chose them not because of any deserving characteristic in them (Deut.7:6-8), but simply because he loves them. Being his treasured possession among all peoples means bringing his truth to all peoples and bringing all peoples into relationship with the only true God. This privilege is also a responsibility. This is exactly what God promised to Abram when he called him to follow.

Genesis 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God’s intent in choosing Abraham and his descendants out of all other nations is that they would serve all other nations for their good. They would serve as priests in bringing God’s word to the nations, and in bringing the nations into worship of the one true God. The whole nation was to be a kingdom of priests to God. A kingdom is made up of those over whom the King reigns. Refusing to obey the King places you outside of the kingdom. If you will obey, you will be priests to me among all peoples.

Third, you will be a holy nation. To be holy is to be distinct, set apart, different, designated for a specific function. As God’s priests, as his treasured possession, they are to be different from all other nations, precisely in the fact that they listen obediently and keep God’s gracious covenant with his people, and invite others to join them in that relationship with God.

A Conditional Promise?

When we understand what God is promising, we can better understand the conditional nature of the promise. This is not an if/then of reward for good behavior; ‘if you jump through all the proper hoops, then I will save you.’ No, God has already graciously saved them. The if/then is an if/then of the inherent nature of the position. In order to fulfill the role of God’s treasured possession, missionary intermediaries between God and the nations, yet uniquely distinct from the nations, you must be listening to God’s voice and remaining in proper relationship with him. You cannot be rebelling against God and treasured by him; you cannot be his ambassador and disregard what he says; you cannot invite outsiders into a relationship you do not have; you cannot be part of his kingdom and rejecting his authority; you cannot be set apart to him and while violating his commands.

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.” 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.

Moses faithfully takes God’s words to the people, all the people agree to God’s terms, and Moses faithfully conveys the answer of the people to the LORD. The people are entering into a covenant relationship with the LORD. The rest of the chapter recounts the most awesomely terrifying revelation of God to his people in the whole bible.

Our Goal as Followers of Jesus

The language of Exodus 19 is clearly in Peter’s mind when he writes to encourage the suffering believers in his first letter.

1 Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … 7 So the honor is for you who believe, …. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Peter is addressing those who believe in Jesus, those who come to Jesus as their Lord and King, those who, according to his first chapter, have been given new life by God. We are being built up to be a holy priesthood, to offer acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. He calls us who believe in Jesus a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. We who believe in Jesus are privileged with a purpose. He calls us precious, but that comes with great responsibility. Not for pride in our position. We are chosen to serve. We are ambassadors for Christ. We are called to be holy, separate, distinct. We are his. We are to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands.

Peter describes our responsibility this way:

1Peter 2:9 …, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

By our words, with our attitudes, through our actions, flowing out of our transformed desires, we are to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. All glory goes to him and him alone.

How do we do this?

First, we must acknowledge that God alone saves. God keeps his promises. God is the one who takes the initiative. God sent his only Son. Jesus has conquered sin and death and hell for us. Jesus has satisfied the just demands of a holy God in our place. He carries us on eagles’ wings. He reconciles us to God through his cross and brings us to himself. And God does all this not because we somehow deserve it, but while we were his enemies.

Then we can respondto him in humble, grateful obedience, not in order to get anything, but because he has already given us everything. We have been called to a great privilege. We are treasured by him. We are set apart. We are priests to the nations. So we must listen to his voice. We must submit to him as King. We must respond to his grace with glad-hearted obedience. In this way we proclaim the excellencies of him. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment