Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God Instructs Moses To Prepare The People For His Coming Down On Sinai -- Exodus 19:10-13


The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them 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. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”
 
Clearly we can see from the text “The Lord also said to Moses” that there was a conversation going on here.  Can you imagine how awesome it would be speaking with God in this way?  The fact is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, did make that possible for us and even today we can enjoy communion with God as we spend time with Him.
God told Moses to go back to the people and to “consecrate them” during that day and the next.  This is the first of 44 times that the specific word “consecrate” appears in the English translation of Scripture.  In its original form, it has several meanings including to be set apart, to be hallowed, consecrated, tabooed, to show oneself sacred or majestic, to be honored, to be treated as sacred, to be holy, to dedicate, to observe as holy, to keep sacred, and to be devoted.  And thus it takes on many other meanings in the English text, being employed 172 times.  God wanted this done in preparation for His coming down on Mount Sinai.  I am reminded of how often we go to our church services and ask the Holy Spirit to visit us that day, and yet we have done very little to consecrate ourselves for that occasion.  God wanted the people to take their time (two days) to prepare for His visit.
They were to “wash their garments” in preparation for the third day when He would come down on Sinai.  The people were to be ready.  They were to be waiting in anticipation.  This “washing of clothes” was a symbolic action typifying the washing of their hearts, their minds, and their lives, making themselves pure for the manifestation of God.  God was about to come down on the third day in the sight of all the people and they all had to sanctify themselves for this awesome day they were about to experience.
Matthew Henry writes on verse 11, “though they should see no manner of similitude (likeness, resemblance of God’s actual appearance), yet they should see so much as would convince them that God was among them.”  And is it also possible Henry asks, that due to the geographical nature of Mount Sinai and its height, other surrounding countries may “discern some extraordinary appearance of glory upon it, which would strike a terror upon them”?
God told Moses that people had to be restrained from moving up the mountain to God.  As David Guzik puts it, “The coming of God to Mount Sinai did not mean the people were free to go to the mountain and fellowship with God.  They had to keep their distance behind a barrier, and the penalty for failing to keep their distance was death.”  This was indeed an audience with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe and it had to be observed as that.  We would do well to remember that as we fellowship with God today.  Yes, He is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, but we are mere creations of theirs and they are parts of the Triune Godhead.  We cannot recklessly forget that.
Guzik goes on to say that “Any person or animal killed for getting too close would be regarded as so unholy they could not even be touched, they had to be executed with a stone or arrows.”  And presumably it would be up to the leaders of Israel under Moses’ direction, to do so.
The God Who created us knows us well.  He knows that it is basic to our human nature to need boundaries.  Guzik says, “In setting these boundaries and providing the death penalty for breaching them, God showed Israel (and us) that obedience is more important than their (our) feelings.  We don’t doubt that some bold Israelites felt like going beyond the boundaries [reminds me of the apostle Peter who because of his ‘feelings’ wanted to go beyond what Jesus wanted], but they were to submit their feelings to obedience.”  God said to Moses tell them not to go up the mountain or even think about it by getting close to its edge.  Matthew Henry suggests that probably Moses had a line drawn, or ditch dug, round at the foot of the hill, which none were to pass.
Moses was to warn them for God did not wish for any to perish on that mountain.  Yet the penalty for disobedience was so clear and it applied to both man and beast alike.  God wants to be with His people and He wants them to be saved from death, but He is also a God of justice.  Given Who God is, a positive outcome for man’s relationship with Him can only come from a realization of God’s authority over us and a submission to His will, His Word, and His love for us.  We have no negotiating leverage, none whatsoever, nor should we.
Finally God told Moses to tell the people that there will be a signal for them to come up to the mountain – that is, to gather together to see evidence of God’s presence.  And that signal was the sound of a long blast from a ram’s horn.  What we do not know is how exactly that sound came to be.  Robert Jamieson suggests, “This gave the scene the character of a miraculous transaction, in which other elements than those of nature were at work, and some other than [a] material trumpet was blown by other means than human breath.”  He suggests God had the trumpet blow miraculously.  It is also possible that Moses and the leaders of Israel were overseeing a great ‘national assembly’ of the people in anticipation of the visit from God and that they had the trumpet blown at an appropriate time, as discerned by the leaders, and following what God had told Moses.
I do not know about you, but even as I study this passage and write down my thoughts about it, I find myself in great anticipation of “God coming down on Sinai” to meet with His people.  And I am reminded of the promise that Jesus Christ will come back to earth again.  What a day that will be.  Are you anticipating it?  Do you believe it?  Are you ready?  Prepared?  Consecrated?
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