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Moses 20 – What Happened At Sinai


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.

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.

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,

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.

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:

Please visualise what is happening here.

Soon after the encampment at Sinai, Moses was called up into the mountain to meet with God.

Alone he climbed the steep and rugged path, and drew near to the cloud that marked the place of Jehovah’s presence.

Every time I climb this mountain my thought go out to Moses who walked up here.

Israel was now to be taken into a close and peculiar relation to the Most High–to be incorporated as a church and a nation under the government of God. The message to Moses for the people was:

“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”

Do you want to be His peculiar treasure? Please obey His voice.

Verse 6 And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.

According to the divine plan and purpose the Israelites were to be both a royal and a priestly race. In an evil world they were to be moral and spiritual kings. As priests, they were to draw near to the Lord in prayer, in praise, and in sacrifice.

As intermediaries between God and the heathen, they were to serve as instructors, preachers, and prophets, and were to be examples of holy living—Heaven’s exponents of true religion.

In His coming kingdom God has a royal place for His royal children

Revelation 1:6 And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

An holy nation.

As a people consecrated to God’s service, they were to be unlike other nations. This was to be manifested outwardly by circumcision (Gen. 17:9–14) and inwardly by godliness (2 Cor. 7:1; A holy God demands a holy people

What is God’s plan for your life and mine today?

1 Peter 2:9,10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Verse 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

What would be their response?

Verse 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD has spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people to the LORD.

Convinced and assured in their hearts that the terms of the covenant would be just and good, and desirous of securing for themselves and their posterity the blessings the Lord had promised, the elders readily accepted the covenant before knowing what its exact provisions would be.

It was desirable that the people should express willingness to enter into such a covenant as God proposed, and to have time to think the matter through before being called to make formal ratification of it.

If they were willing to obey God, the details of the covenant would follow. It was a noble desire on the part of the Israelites to respond to God’s call for obedience. But they entered into the covenant relationship with but little knowledge of themselves.

Like so many deceived souls, they thought they had but to try in order to do. God permitted the attempt in order that they might discover their inability and so be led to rely upon God.

The spontaneous cry, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do,” was without question a superficial demonstration of religious enthusiasm, a momentary reaction to a glorious and sublime truth. There was lacking the spirit of deep, true conversion, the “heart” to do what God demanded

Deuteronomy 5:29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!

It is small wonder the people soon apostatized, and worshiped the golden calf (Ex. 32).

Verse 9 And the LORD said to Moses, See, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you for ever. And Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

When God speaks to men He must always veil His glory, for sinful men cannot bear it (Ex. 33:20; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). If God clothes Himself with humanity, the human form is the veil. If He appears in a burning bush, the fire itself is a shroud.

Here at Sinai, since many of the people were ungodly and impenitent, it was the more necessary that He should cover Himself. The cloud out of which God spoke was the pillar of cloud that accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt and directed their march

Verse 10 And the LORD said to Moses, Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes,

Though to the Egyptians purification meant washing the body, including also shaving the hair from the head, and sometimes from the entire body, the Israelites seem to have purified themselves by washing only.

Do you think God expected more than just an outward cleasing?

The outward acts of preparation were designed to impress upon the people the need of preparing their hearts to meet God (1 Thess. 5:23; 1 John 3:3).

How should we approach God? Since the law that was soon to be given is an expression of God’s holiness, it was only fitting that the people prepare to receive it by sanctifying themselves.

If the Israelites were to be the people of God, it was imperative that they appreciate the sacredness of this relationship.

Therefore we can understand why God made the giving of His holy law an occasion to impress the people, deeply and dramatically, with the conviction of its sanctity and importance.

This was particularly necessary since the Hebrews, oppressed by their Egyptian masters, had to a great extent lost a knowledge of the character and majesty of God.

To day and to morrow.

According to Jewish tradition this would be the fourth and fifth of the month Sivan, the Decalogue being given on the sixth. The two days’ preparation was to lend emphasis to the sanctity of the event.

Verse 10,11 And the LORD said to Moses, Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people on mount Sinai.

What a thought! God was willing to come down from heaven to announce His holy law.

Verse 12 And you shall set bounds to the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that you go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whoever touches the mount shall be surely put to death:

So long as the people refrained from crossing these “bounds” they were safe. What about you and I? The Lord was simply to manifest the reality, extent, and proximity of His destroying power.

Be surely put to death

This severe punishment was specifically announced by God to impress upon the people in no uncertain terms what it meant to be in the presence of a holy God.

There can be no true religious feeling without a profound sense of reverence.

How should we approach God in prayer and worship?

Verse 13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet sounds long, they shall come up to the mount.

Why should the transgressor not be arrested but shot? The one making the arrest would have to pass the “bounds” in order to do so.

Everything was done to impress the Israelites with the awful majesty of God, and the spirit of solemnity that should fill one’s heart upon approaching the divine presence.

God is ever present (Ps. 139:1–12), but He veils His presence. Though He is with us we do not perceive Him (Job 23:8, 9)

But when He does reveal His presence, all tremble before Him Weakness quakes before strength, littleness shrinks before greatness, finite man becomes insignificant in the presence of the Infinite.

It is consciousness of sin that makes a man tremble before a holy God (Gen. 3:10). Corruption quails before incorruption, moral depravity before absolute purity.

When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come up to the mount.

Who were they?

Exodus 24:1 And he said to Moses, Come up to the LORD, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship you afar off.

Verse 14 And Moses went down from the mount to the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.

Returning to the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses, in obedience to the command of v. 10, instructed the people in regard to preparations for the giving of the law.

Verses 15,16 And he said to the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning, and a thick cloud on the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

Verses 16–20 deal with the manifestations of the divine presence upon Sinai. In revealing Himself to man the Lord employs various methods.

To Elijah He came as “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), to the prophet Daniel and the apostle John He used visions, to the disciples He spoke directly through His Son.

To Paul, God appeared in ecstatic vision, the apostle hearing “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:1–5).

Here, when God would impress all with the importance and majesty of His law as the constitution of His spiritual kingdom, He appears with terrifying grandeur (Heb. 12:18–21).

Verse 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.

It is evident that the camp itself must have been back some distance from the foot of the mount, with an open space between the first tents and the barrier that Moses had erected close to the mount.

Into this vacant space Moses now led the people, thus bringing them as near as they dared approach the divine presence.

Verses 18,19 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.

So awful was the sight, the mount being covered with smoke (v. 18), and so fearful the sound of the trumpet (v. 16), that Moses could not remain silent.

We read the following thoughts in Hebrews:

Hebrews 14:21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake

The words “Moses spoke, and God answered,” which offer a striking definition of the nature of divine law.

All God’s commands are responses to our deep soul needs. They issue forth from the reciprocal action of God and the human heart.

The Decalogue is not simply a code expressing the will and the sovereignty of God; it is also an instrument of spiritual instruction to help us live as God intends that we should (Ps. 19:7, 8; 119:97, 98; Matt. 19:16, 17).

Verse 20 And the LORD came down on mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.

Verse 21 And the LORD said to Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.

In the closing verses of this chapter the people and the priests are again warned not to pass the “bounds.”

Verse 22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth on them.

Special mention of the “priests” would indicate that the urge to trespass was particularly strong among them. Trained as they were to exercise sacred functions, they may have considered themselves practically equal to Moses and Aaron.
They may have resented their exclusion from the divine presence. Were they not the appointed intermediaries between God and man?

Hence the charge to do so was directed specially to them. Holiness of office does not necessarily mean holiness in the individual who holds it.

Ministers of God are not given any special immunity from iniquity, as the Scriptures often demonstrate (see Lev. 10:1, 2; 1 Sam. 2:12–17; 4:17).

Verse 23 And Moses said to the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for you charged us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.

Inasmuch as God’s command in v. 12 had been carried out, Moses assures God that the people could not unwittingly trespass upon the precincts of the sacred mount.

Verse 24 And the LORD said to him, Away, get you down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break forth on them.

God rejects Moses’ plea that there was no need of warning the people further. God knew what His servant did not know, and to prevent trouble insisted upon a renewed warning.

Verse 25 So Moses went down to the people, and spoke to them.

Subdued by the divine rebuke, Moses returned to the camp to warn both priests and people.

What a loving caring God. He keeps on warning us not to transgress. Why?. He wants to save us and enjoy our company throughout eternity.

After the break we are going to look at the greatest display of God’s love and glory

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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