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Moses 19 – Arriving At Sinai


Just to recap where we left off last time.

Jethro’s counsel was accepted, and it not only brought relief to Moses, but resulted in establishing more perfect order among the people.

The Lord had greatly honored Moses, and had wrought wonders by his hand; but the fact that he had been chosen to instruct others did not lead him to conclude that he himself needed no instruction.

The chosen leader of Israel listened gladly to the suggestions of the godly priest of Midian, and adopted his plan as a wise arrangement. Only fools reject good counsel. May God help us to be humble and wise and to consider the well-meant counsel of others.

If you have visited Mount Sinai, you would agree with me concerning the majesty of the place. It was one of the most impressive places I have ever visited with its awesome surroundings. I times I slept here, and a few times I climb the majestic mountain.

While doing it I meditated on that special occasion when God came down to speak to His children. Listen to the following description of the place:

From Rephidim the people continued their journey, following the movement of the cloudy pillar. Can you visualize this huge pillar towering in up the sky. I wonder how many kilometers did it go up.

Their route had led across barren plains, over steep ascents, and through rocky defiles.

Often as they had traversed the sandy wastes, they had seen before them rugged mountains, like huge bulwarks, piled up directly across their course, and seeming to forbid all further progress.

But as they approached, openings here and there appeared in the mountain wall, and beyond, another plain opened to view. Through one of the deep, gravelly passes they were now led.

It was a grand and impressive scene. Between the rocky cliffs rising hundreds of feet on either side, flowed in a living tide, far as the eye could reach, the hosts of Israel with their flocks and herds.

And now before them in solemn majesty Mount Sinai lifted its massive front. The cloudy pillar rested upon its summit, and the people spread their tents upon the plain beneath. Here was to be their home for nearly a year.

At night the pillar of fire assured them of the divine protection, and while they were locked in slumber, the bread of heaven fell gently upon the encampment.

The dawn gilded the dark ridges of the mountains, and the sun’s golden rays pierced the deep gorges, seeming to these weary travelers like beams of mercy from the throne of God.

On every hand vast, rugged heights seemed in their solitary grandeur to speak of eternal endurance and majesty.

Here the mind was impressed with solemnity and awe. Man was made to feel his ignorance and weakness in the presence of Him

who “weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.” Isaiah 40:12.

Here Israel was to receive the most wonderful revelation ever made by God to men. Here the Lord had gathered His people that He might impress upon them the sacredness of His requirements by declaring with His own voice His holy law.

Great and radical changes were to be wrought in them; for the degrading influences of servitude and a long-continued association with idolatry had left their mark upon habits and character. God was working to lift them to a higher moral level by giving them a knowledge of Himself.

We serve such an incredible kind, loving and saving Redeemer. He will go to the utmost to save us at last in His kingdom of joy and peace.

Exodus 19:1 In the third month after the Israelites went out from the land of Egypt, on this day they came to the Sinai desert.

In the third month.

That is, Sivan, comparable to our late May or early June. Verses 1 and 2 deal with the last stage of the journey of the Israelites to Mt. Sinai.

At Mt. Sinai there occurred one of the great events of Jewish history, the incorporation of Israel as a church and a nation under the theocracy.

This form of government continued until, with the words, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), the Jews withdrew from it.

The process of organization at Sinai included the proclamation of the Ten Commandments, the ratification of the covenant, the construction of the tabernacle, the giving of ceremonial and civil laws, and the perfection of various civil and military procedures.

A unique relationship was effected between the Lord and the descendants of Abraham, one into which no other nation would ever enter. Its purpose was to prepare the way for the coming of Christ as man’s Saviour.

The same day.

Literally, “on this very day,” perhaps the first day of Sivan, possibly the 15th. Jewish tradition placed this event on the first day of the third month of the Jewish year.

If so, the journey from Rameses to Sinai probably took 45 days.

The wilderness of Sinai.

This is generally regarded as being the plain er–Raha, a nearly flat, bush-studded plain or desert; approximately 2 miles long and 1/2 mile wide (see 3:1). It was a suitable place for the Hebrews to gather to receive the law God was soon to proclaim, surrounded as it was by mountains which formed a natural amphitheater.

At its southeastern end rose an almost perpendicular cliff of granite, which provided a high pulpit, or altar, from which the voice of the Lord might be heard.
At the foot of this cliff was a series of low mounds that may have helped determine the “bounds” (v. 12) designed to keep the people from touching the mountain.

It was in such a majestic, inspiring environment that the law was given to Israel. It has been well observed that no spot in the world can be pointed out that combines in a more remarkable manner the conditions of a commanding height and of a plain, in every part of which the sights and sounds described in Exodus would reach an assembled multitude.

It was a location of solitude, where the people could be entirely alone with God, away from everything that would draw their thought and attention from things divine.

For more than 11 months Israel was to remain at Sinai. Here, besides receiving the law and ratifying the covenant, they would have time for the construction of the sanctuary and for the further development of their organization.

It would afford them an opportunity for quiet reflection upon their responsibility toward the Lord.

God’s people need such periods of rest, as Christ advised the disciples (see Mark 6:31).

We have the example of Paul, who himself “went into Arabia,” possibly to this very place (see Gal. 1:17).

Any lessons that we can learn from visiting the desert?

All of us need our Sinais, where, in quietness and solitude, God can do for us what He did for Israel. Revealing His will, instructing us in it, and impressing us anew with His majesty.

Sinai was a place of such solemnity that the minds of the people would irresistibly be elevated to communion with the Infinite.

The very sternness and grandeur of the surroundings were a fit commentary on the sanctity of the law. As a fruitless, barren desert, Sinai is also a sharp reminder that of ourselves we can bear no spiritual fruit to the glory of God and cannot work out our own salvation. Did not Christ Himself say, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5)?

Verse 2. They set out from Rephidim, and they came to the desert of Sinai, and they camped in the desert, and Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

From Rephidim the Hebrews moved in a southeasterly direction toward Mt. Sinai. It is probable that most of the people pitched their tents in the afore-mentioned plain, but some may have encamped in adjacent valleys to the northeast and west, from which Mt. Sinai itself could be seen.

Verse 3 And Moses went up to God, and Yahweh called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you will say to the house of Jacob and you will tell the Israelites,

Verses 3–9 introduce the first covenant between God and Israel. Moses was familiar with this region, because it was here that God had revealed Himself in the burning bush.

In the same locality God was again to reveal Himself to His servant, now no longer a lonely fugitive but exalted to be the leader of God’s own people.

A flood of memories must have coursed through Moses’ mind as he ascended the mount. His faith must have been greatly strengthened for the difficult task of leadership ahead, for the Lord’s promise that he and his fellow Israelites would worship God in this place was about to be fulfilled (see Ex. 3:12). We may be sure that Moses ascended the mountain with a confident though reverent step.

The house of Jacob.

Why this reference?

This reference to their ancestor was a reminder of the promises vouchsafed to him (see Gen. 28:13, 14; 35:11). The mention of his name would recall the blessings graciously bestowed upon him, and these were a pledge of the blessings the Lord now offered them.

That God should take the initiative in proposing a covenant was inevitable, for man is not in a position to exact terms from Heaven.

Yet the covenant is an expression not only of God’s sovereignty but of His grace and mercy as well. He it is who first seeks man—not man, God (see 1 John 4:10, 19).

Verse 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and I brought you to me.

That God should call attention to past evidences of His love before revealing His law, is worthy of note.

Thus He would win their confidence; thus He would strengthen their faith in Him and encourage them to do His will. He would certify the blessings of the future by blessings enjoyed in the past.

What God had done for Israel in delivering them from Egypt, in leading them safely through the Red Sea, and in giving them the manna, was a guarantee of what He would yet do for them should they remain true to Him.

Without this assurance the terrors of Sinai could scarcely have been endured.

Eagles’ wings.

As the parent bird takes the eaglet from its nest, teaches it to fly, and protects the young with its own life, so the Lord took His people from the captivity of Egypt that He might lead them to the land of Canaan.

He would bear them up with His “wings,” and protect them from danger. As the weak and helpless eaglet, while fearful of danger, had confidence in the strength and protection of its parent, so Israel, weak, helpless, and fearful of what might lie ahead, could have faith in divine power (Deut. 32:11, 12).

Deuteronomy 32:11,12 As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:
So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

Verse 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

If you will obey.

Rather than command the Hebrews to keep His covenant, as was His sovereign right, God graciously invited His people to do that which would be for their own benefit.

The only avenue upon which we can walk with God is that of obedience. On no other terms but obedience could God consent to be their God or to have them for His chosen people.

The grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings salvation to all men (Titus 2:11) does not release them from their obligation to obey the divine law (Rom. 3:31).

Faith in the redeeming Christ is inseparably joined to the power of the indwelling Christ, which enables one to keep the Ten Commandments (Rom. 8:1–4). Jesus and the apostles most emphatically affirmed the principle of obedience to divine law (Matt. 5:17, 18; 19:16, 17; 1 Cor. 7:19; James 1:25; 2:10–12; 1 John 2:3, 4).

My covenant.

The covenant God made with Israel at Sinai is generally called the “old covenant” (Heb. 8:13). Owing to the failure of the people to appreciate fully the purpose of God and to enter into the true spirit of the covenant, it stood forth in contrast to the new, or gospel, covenant as follows:

(1) It was more elementary (Gal. 4:1–5).
(2) It was more closely related to outward rites and ceremonies (Heb. 9:1).
(3) Its motives were largely penalties and rewards, for, as “children,” these were the only incentives Israel was yet prepared to understand (Gal. 4:3; PP 371).
(4) Its blessings were largely temporal.
(5) It trusted in human accomplishment and good works rather than in divine grace and a Saviour from sin (see on Ex. 19:8). The signal blessing of the new covenant is that through faith in Christ, power is imparted to the believer to fulfill “the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:1–4; cf. Acts 13:37–39).

God permitted Israel to attempt to keep the law, so they might become aware of their inability to do what they mistakenly felt able to do.

They would thus be led from trust in self to trust in God, from confidence in their own endeavors to faith in divine accomplishment.

Thus, the law would become the means of leading them to Christ as their only Saviour from sin (Gal. 3:23–26).

Thus, the way was prepared for the new covenant relationship, the gospel of divine grace, the law kept in and through Christ (Jer. 31:31–34; Rom. 3:21–31; 8:1–4; Heb. 8:7–11).

As Paul declares, this new covenant relationship does not “make void the law through faith” (Rom. 3:31). The law remains the standard of duty, the norm of holy practice.

The new covenant establishes the law as the eternal code of righteousness, without which there can be no holy conduct.

Verse 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

A peculiar treasure.

Rather, “my own possession” (RSV; see also Ps. 135:4; Isa. 43:1–4). In the sight of God no other nation was equal to Israel.

Every child of God, every consecrated Christian, is a jewel in the crown of our Lord, and is so considered by Him (Mal. 3:17; see on 1 Peter 2:9).

You are so very special to God. He wants to bestow an eternity of divine happiness on you. He is inviting you to come and enjoy the fullness of His companionship with Him forever.

After the break we will continue to learn more about God’s great love and ideal for us.

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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