If you've been living under the assumption that God is a kindly old man like Santa Claus, chapters like Exodus 19 will come as a big eye opener.
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Exodus 19 (ESV)
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.
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.
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,
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.”
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,
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
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.
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Exodus 19 Summary
After months of traveling through the wilderness, God calls a meeting with His people. In calling the people to Him, God first defines their relationship in covenantal terms:
I HAVE BEEN YOUR GOD
I freed you from the Egyptians
I carried you to me on eagle's wings
YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE
obey my voice
and keep my covenant
Notice how this relationship will work: God will bring His holy presence near the people, but the people must not come near God. Even after three days of consecration - ritual washings to set them apart from the rest of humanity - the Israelites would be nowhere near holy enough to even glimpse God. Instant death would come to any creature that ventured near God as He descended upon the mountain.
Since this barrier of holiness separates God from His people, communication takes place through a mediator. God speaks to Moses, and Moses then relays the message to the people.
In the next chapter, God will speak directly to the people, giving them the ten commandments.
Most people in our communities have a massively flawed understanding of who and what God is. Each of us instinctually tries to remake God in our own image.
Many people have at least some conception of God's power & might and how He cares & provides for people. But what so often gets missed about God is His terrifying holiness.
Notice how dangerous the mere presence of God's goodness and perfection is to sinful men: even those who've spent three days attempting to make themselves holy. Coming to close to God's holiness would instantly kill them.
God came near to Israel through the mediation of Moses, who himself was far inadequate to the task. Praise God that you have been made holy through the blood of the perfect mediator, Jesus Christ.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father in heaven who dwells in unapproachable holiness;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for making you holy in Christ, and pray that you will live in that holiness.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: