Bible Readings for March 8th
Exodus 19 is a pivotal chapter in the Bible. At this point, Yahweh tells his people to stop at Mount Sinai, where he will meet with them and take them to himself as his people through covenant and by giving them his law, beginning with the Ten Commandments in the next chapter.
To understand what is happening in this chapter, it’s important to keep in mind that grace came first. Yahweh is about to give his law to Israel, but it isn’t as though the law is the beginning of Yahweh’s relationship to Israel—in fact, Israel has belonged to Yahweh since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when Yahweh swore his covenantal love to those patriarchs and to their offspring after them.
Then, when Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt, he redeemed them—that is, he purchased them back to himself. So, the law is in no way the foundation of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel. On the contrary, law comes after grace.
Why the law, then? Yahweh gave the law to Israel to structure his (pre-existing) relationship with them. Through the law, they would understand the heart and the character of Yahweh, learning what he loves and what he hates. If Israel kept the law, Yahweh promised to bless them: “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; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5–6).
Yahweh set great blessings before Israel if they obeyed—they would be his treasured possession in all the earth, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation among all other nations. There would likewise be great curses for disobedience, but we will read about that later.
To inaugurate this relationship with his people, Yahweh came near to them at Mount Sinai in thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, a very loud trumpet blast, and smoke (Ex. 19:16–20). In the context of what we have read so far in the Bible, this is an incredible movement. Yahweh had become increasingly distant from his people since Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, but here Yahweh comes closer to his people than at any time since the fall.
Still, Yahweh cannot dwell perfectly with his people. Israel must take special care to consecrate themselves before Yahweh comes, and under no circumstances is any Israelite allowed to touch the mountain at all (Ex. 19:9–15). Yahweh’s goal in redemption is to dwell with his people in holiness again, but they are not yet ready for that level of consummation.
But in Exodus 19, Yahweh takes one giant step closer toward that goal. Tomorrow we will see more of what Yahweh desires from his relationship with his people as he begins to unfold his law.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.