Exodus 19

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 13, 2008


For a long time tradition has placed Mount Sinai in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.  But scholars have long had difficulty with this because there are some things that just don’t add up, like any evidence that this is the place.  We’ve talked about some exciting discoveries made in the last dozen years in Saudi Arabia, possibly locating the actual site of Mount Sinai, a mountain named Jabal Al Lawz.  If you want to look at the video we saw last Thursday, “Mountain of Fire”, you can order it from Amazon here.

Rock at Meribah – we saw back in Exodus 17 the story of the people complaining about a lack of water, and God telling Moses to strike the rock, cleaving it in two, and water pouring out of the rock.

Altar of Sacrifice – when we get to Ex. 24:4, we’ll read about Moses building an altar at the foot of the mountain along with twelve pillars of stone.

Golden Calf Altar – Ex. 32 will tell us the story of Israel’s rebellion while Moses was up on the mountain, how they built an altar and asked Aaron to make them a new god.

Quail, almond trees, grinding bowls, spear points – all little bits and pieces of evidence that fit into the story in Exodus, all things found at this site (and not at the traditional site at St. Katherine’s)

Elijah’s cave - 1Ki. 19:8-9 – we read that Elijah ran from Jezebel and went to the Mountain of God at Horeb, where he spent time in a cave.  St. Katherine’s has no caves.

We’ll see a few more things in our passage …

:1-2  Arriving at Sinai

:1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.

:2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.

Rephidim was the place where Moses struck the Rock and water came out.  The place some have suggested as this place is to the north of Mt. Sinai.  Watch the video as we go from Rephidim to Sinai.

SinaiCiynay – “thorny”

:3-6 Moses checks in with God

:3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:

Moses knew this place because this was where he worked for forty years…

(Exo 3:1 NKJV)  Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

HorebChoreb – “desert”; Horeb is another name for “Sinai”.

When Moses met God at the burning bush, God had told Moses to bring the people to Him, to bring them to Sinai

 (Exo 3:12 NKJV)  So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

:4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.

bore you on eagles’ wings – when young eagles are learning to fly, they get nudged out of the nest by the mother and then she swoops down and flies under them to catch them if they fall.

As Israel left Egypt, it was just a little “eaglet”. God has been carrying and protecting His people.  Even though God is about to give the people His Law, we do see a picture of God’s grace here – God lovingly carrying His people.

:5 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.

special treasure[email protected] – valued property, peculiar treasure

:6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

a kingdom of priests – God would be the king over this nation.  They would be a nation of priests, bringing each other and the world to God.

a holy nation – they were to be different from the rest of the world.  They were to live after God’s standards and not the world’s standards.

:7-15 Get cleaned up

:7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him.

:8 Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.

I appreciate what seems like willingness on the part of the people to follow God.

I’m not so sure they really have a clue as to who God is.

God is about to give them the Law, the Ten Commandments.

:9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

God would come in the thick cloud so the people could actually hear God speaking, but without seeing Him. No one in these present, flawed, sinful bodies can see God and live. God would tell Moses later:

(Exo 33:20 NKJV)  …"You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

It’s when we leave these flawed bodies and go to heaven that we will see Him face to face.

:10 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.

:11 "And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

The people need to clean up a bit before they can approach God.

When we talk about God’s grace, we like to quote the song, “Come Just As You Are” or “Just As I Am”.

Before Jesus, before God’s grace shown at the cross, before the sins of the world were paid by Jesus dying on a cross, mankind had to clean himself up before coming before God.

Even now, it’s important that though we come just as we are, we come to be forgiven and cleansed.  God will accept you as you are, but He doesn’t want to leave you that way.  He wants to cleanse and forgive you.

:12 "You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.

:13 'Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain."

set bounds – There was supposed to be some sort of boundary markers set up to help the people know just how far they could go.  At the site of Jabal Al Lawz, there are these interesting piles of rock set up at regular intervals across the foot of the mountain.  Show Boundary Markers Video.

:14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes.

:15 And he said to the people, "Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives."

Apparently part of their cleaning up involved abstaining from marital relations for three days.

Does this mean that God considers sex to be a dirty thing?  I’m not sure.  But there is a verse that seems to say differently:

(Heb 13:4 NKJV)  Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

:16-25 Fire on the mountain

:16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

trumpetshowphar (shofar) – horn, ram’s horn.  First use of word.

:17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

:18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.

fireShow Burnt Mountain video.

Forty years later, Moses will remind the people of what happened on this day and what their reaction was.  They were terrified.  The people are getting a taste of what a holy God is like.  They had said:

(Deu 5:25 NKJV) 'Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die.

Why all the pictures and video today?  Because I want to impress on you that this was a very real event.  We’re not talking fairy tales.  We’re talking real history.

:19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

:20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on 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 gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish.

:22 "Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them."

:23 But Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.'"

:24 Then the LORD said to him, "Away! Get down and then come up, you and 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 spoke to them.

Heavy stuff is happening in this chapter.  Things God wants us to be serious about.


Be Serious about Holiness

It can almost sound as if God was a bit forgetful and Moses had to remind God about the boundaries.
The point is that God is really, really serious about holiness.
I think that sometimes we don’t truly appreciate grace because we don’t truly understand holiness.
What does it cost you if you break God’s laws?

Does it cost you a nickel?  How about a dollar?  How about five hundred bucks?  How about five years in jail?

No – the price of offending a holy, pure, loving, gentle, Almighty Creator God is to spend eternity in hell.

Sound shocking?  Sound excessive?

It only sounds that way because we don’t really understand who and what we are dealing with.


There is something quite bizarre about being a pastor.  People treat you very differently.  They clean up their language around you.  They act nice around you.  It’s almost sickening at times.

Sometimes I get to spend time in places where people don’t know me.  As some of you know, I don’t usually dress like how people expect a pastor to dress.  So it’s kind of fun to go undercover and be treated like a regular person.  But sometimes when they find out that I’m a pastor, oh boy do they apologize and try to act all nice.

I imagine that it’s about a zillion times stronger when it comes to God.  We don’t even realize that He sees everything we do all the time.  And if we were to actually find ourselves face to face with the Almighty God – we’d probably begin to understand how appropriate it is to send rebellious people to hell.

One of the lessons we’ll be working on through the rest of Exodus is learning to grasp the holiness of God.

And when we begin to understand God’s holiness, we will also learn to appreciate God’s grace.

Sometimes people make God’s grace out to be kind of cheap – they think that since God is gracious that they will just do whatever they want and figure they will simply ask God for forgiveness afterwards.

I wonder if I would act that way if I realize that God’s ability to forgive me was based on God sending His own Son to pay the terrible price of hell to pay for my sin.  It didn’t just cost God a nickel to forgive me, it cost Him everything.

Grace isn’t cheap


Be Serious about Serving

The writer of Hebrews is going to use the passage we’ve been in to make a point.
(Heb 12:11-29 NKJV)  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Sometimes God has to discipline us, like a parent might spank their child, in order to get us back on track.  Getting back on track is good.
{12} Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, {13} and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. {14} Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
Note the encouragement to holiness.  Pursue holiness.
{15} looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; {16} lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. {17} For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
It seems to me that falling “short of the grace of God” happens when a person doesn’t want to take God seriously and refuses to yield themselves to God, refusing to repent, to make the changes God wants them to make.
Now the writer is going to bring in our passage as a reason why we should be serious about making changes in our lives…
{18} For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, {19} and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. {20} (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow." {21} And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.")
The writer is reminding us of the awesome and terrifying encounter these people had with a holy, powerful God.
{22} But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, {23} to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, {24} to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
The point is that we haven’t come to Mount Sinai, we’ve come to Mount Zion.  We’ve come to a better mountain than Sinai.
{25} See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,
If the people at Mount Sinai took God seriously when He spoke on earth, how much more should be take God seriously when He’s spoken from heaven?
{26} whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." {27} Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. {28} Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. {29} For our God is a consuming fire.
We need to take God seriously.  We need to serve God seriously.
There’s a sense we ought to tremble when it comes to serving God.
We need grace to do it.

Grace means that we are counting on God’s help, God’s forgiveness, God’s Holy Spirit.

It is a serious grace.

We understand just how much it cost God to save us.