PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 20:18-21 Epilogue; Response to God’s Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110925_exodus20_18-21.mp3

09/25 Exodus 20:18-21 Epilogue – Response to God’s Presence; Request for a Mediator

We have for the past ten weeks studied God’s ten words to his people. God is communicating what is expected of the people he has redeemed out of slavery, people he has taken to be his own, what is expected of those who live in relationship with him. Now, at the conclusion of God’s thunderous voice from heaven, we see the response of the people to his words. This has great insight for us in how we relate to God.

We have been focusing in some detail on each of God’s ten words. To get the flow of this passage, I want to step back from examining the individual trees and take in the big picture of the forest and how it all fits together. So let’s read through chapters 19 and 20 of Exodus.

The Covenant Proposal

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.

Preparation to Meet 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.”

The Context of the Meeting

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.

God Speaks to His People

20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 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. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The People’s Response

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.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

May God bless the reading of his word, and may we, his people respond with deeper trust and heartfelt obedience and worship.

Covenant Relationship

So we see, God is entering into relationship with the people he has delivered, laying out the terms of this covenant relationship.

The word in verse 18 translated ‘flashes of lightning’ is interesting. It is a different Hebrew word from the lightnings of 19:16, and it only appears one other place in the five books of Moses.

Genesis 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

This was where God cut his covenant with Abraham. Now as he enters into covenant with the exodus generation, he uses this word to remind us that he is the God of Abraham, who graciously enters into relationship with his people and who always keeps his promises.

The Fear of God

God makes himself known in a way that terrifies the people. He requires that they make proper preparation to meet with the holy God. God manifests himself in thunder, lightning, earthquake, fire, smoke, and thick darkness, with loud trumpet blasts, so that the people trembled.

He establishes boundaries and warns the people of the danger of getting too close to a holy God uninvited. Moses spoke to God and God answered in thunder. Moses is down at the foot of the mountain with the people. God, from above the mountain, wrapped in smoke and thick darkness, with fire and earthquake and trumpet blasts, thundered out his ten commands to his people. We see the response of the people in verse 18

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

The people respond with fear and distance themselves from God. They were already kept at a distance by the boundaries that had been established. Now they wanted to flee. Certainly part of their fear came from this terror inducing display of God’s presence. But a great part of their fear would come from the content of what God said. His ten words to them would stir in their hearts the guilt of having already fallen short of God’s perfect standards, and the fear of further failing to live up to his expectations.

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.”

They recognized that the wages of sin is death. This presence of a holy God carried life and death severity, and the people were acutely aware that they fell painfully short. Throughout the bible, this is the effect God’s presence has on his people: ‘Woe to me, for I am utterly sinful and God is perfectly holy.’

Two Kinds of Fear

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.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

God reveals himself to his people. The people are terrified. Moses tells them ‘do not fear, God has come so that you will fear him; don’t be afraid – the whole purpose for God coming to you was to make you afraid.’ At first, this sounds like double talk. ‘Don’t be afraid because God came to make you afraid.’ There must be a right and proper fear of God, which is the fear God intended to produce in his people, and there must be an improper fear that Moses tells the people not to have.

The improper fear was what they were doing. They were standing far off. God had set boundaries for them, and they were distancing themselves even more from God. Their fear of God made them want to run and hide in guilty shame, to avoid God, to run from him. This is the fear that Moses rebukes. Do not fear God in such a way that you flee from him. This is the fear John is talking about when he writes:

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

John has been talking about the love of God for us in sending his own Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:10) and our Savior (4:14), and that this is our confidence for the day of judgment (4:17). Do not fear God’s punishment so that you run away from him to try to hide yourself from him

The good kind of fear is an awe-filled admiration of who God is in all his omnipotent power and all-present awareness and absolute righteousness. It is a realization of the complete other-ness of God, his holiness and perfection and hatred of all impurity and evil. It is an awareness that he is good and righteous and just and that he will punish all wrong-doers. It is a fear of doing anything that would displease this holy God. This is a fear that desires more than anything to draw near in relationship to God. This is the fear that knows it cannot hide from God, so it lays its sinful self bare to the all seeing God and throws itself at his mercy. This is a sanctifying fear. The purpose of God’s coming was ‘to test you so that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ There is a good sanctifying effect of the proper fear of God. After Paul tells us in Philippians that every knee will bow to a sovereign Jesus, he tells us to

Philippians 2:12 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This is that healthy fear of the ruling reigning Jesus that produces a passionate pursuit of holiness in thought and word and deed. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The power to pursue holiness comes from the proper fear of God. This is why the bible over and over again tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Request for a Mediator

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.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Notice what the people ask for? This is beautiful! They request a mediator! If we come face to face with a holy God, we will be undone. We need someone to go into God’s presence for us, and bring his words back to us. We will listen if God’s presence is mediated, but we are unfit and unable to survive his presence on our own. When God’s people understand who God is, when they begin to have a proper fear of him, then God’s people understand their need for a mediator. When we accurately understand who God is in his righteous majesty, we dare not approach him casually. We must have someone to go between us.

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 need a mediator. Jesus Christ is that mediator. He is the only one that can forgive sinners and bring us safely into the presence of almighty God. This is the good news!

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

Jesus took our place as sinners and suffered the righteous wrath of God. Now that our sins are paid for, he can bring us into the presence of the Father with great joy! (Jude 24). This is what the people longed for. This is what Moses pointed forward to.

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Jesus is our mediator. He mediates the new covenant, the better covenant, the contract by which he bore our sins and paid for them in full, and transfers to us his perfect righteousness, so that we can enjoy the presence of the Father forever.

Exodus 20:21 The people stood far off, while [he] drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” …38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Jesus, our mediator, went before us into the thick darkness where God was, and opened to us a way in to the very presence of the Father.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus invites us to come. Put your trust in Jesus alone and come.

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

Praise God for our mediator!

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful … and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

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

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September 25, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , ,

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