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.
- The Israelites had finally made it to Mount Sinai, which fulfilled the promise the Lord gave Moses in Exodus 3:12 ("When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain"). Isn't it wonderful to know the Lord fulfills His promises? It was 45-days after leaving Egypt before the Israelites made it here (no more than 630 miles from Egypt, according to The Biblical Chronologist), but it was a beautiful milestone in their journey.
- My husband shared a "nugget" with me from one of his quiet times: "Are we going just far enough from the world where we can go back when convenient, or are we leaving it all behind to fully experience His grace? Run with all you have to His feet!" This is so fitting for this week’s chapter because the Israelites are now fully removed from Egypt and encamped at the foot of God's mountain. Friends, run to His mountain! Pitch your tent at the feet of your Savior because that is where you’ll experience Him.
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: 4 ‘You 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, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; 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 which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him.
- This is the first time eagles are mentioned in the Bible. There are several references hereafter, including Isaiah 40:31, which is probably one of the most common verses associated with this bird ("But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faith."). The Lord had a purpose in comparing His relationships with an eagle. Want to know how baby eagles learn to fly? You could Google the answer, but you can also find it in Deuteronomy 32:11-12: "...an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up..." Baby eagles learn to fly by observing their parents. It is called imprinting. The parent flaps its wings, while holding food in its mouth, and hovers over its young. As the eaglets stretch for the yumminess, they begin to flap their wings, mimicking the parent. The wind the parent generates actually helps the eaglet gain air, and the baby eventually raises up in the nest several inches. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Paul understood that he must continue imitating or imprinting Christ because others would follow his example. My prayer is that God imprints upon our heart His divine character and that we would fully and unabashedly imitate Him.
- Verse 5 tells us we are a special treasure to Him. I love how in Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus tells us, "Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...but store up for yourself treasures in heaven." It's reassuring to know that I am His treasure – and He treasures me so much that He will "store" me for eternity with Him in heaven. The thought of that just makes me giddy.
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. 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.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. 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.”
- God had very specific instructions as to what the Israelites should do in preparation of experiencing His divineness and the boundaries which should be in place. They couldn't even touch the mountain's base. Reading these verses pricks my heart because I do not consistently have that intense reverence or overwhelming awe of God. Think of the excitement and anticipation that stirred in their hearts those two days when millions of people were washing their clothes, getting cleaned up, and preparing their families to hear from God. The Israelites must’ve been stirring with a nervous eagerness.
- The Lord was going to actually speak to Moses and allow the Israelites to hear. Up until this point, they had not experienced the voice of the Lord directly. When I read verses such as this, I am taken back at what a phenomenal privilege it is to have the continual indwelling of the Spirit (John 20:22). I don't have to spend several days "cleaning myself up" in order to approach God's throne because Jesus removed my filth by living a perfect life and dying for my sin (Romans 6:10). I like what Wiersbe writes on this: In a dramatic way, God was teaching the people the distance between a holy God and sinful men and women, as well as the danger of presumptuously rushing into the presence of the Lord. Now God looks at me and says, "She's spotless. A beautiful treasure! Follow Me." Wow. Let that one simmer for a while.
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.”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.
- Talk about a grand entrance! Words cannot capture the greatness of this moment. Thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and a trumpet – that would definitely get my attention! As Wiersbe tells us, in Scripture, a storm is often a symbol of the awesome presence and power of God. If you read Psalm 18:1-15, it speaks of a great storm and the mighty power God has over His creation. When we encounter storms in our lives spiritually or personally, it can speak to the mighty power God has over us, if we allow Him to be in control. When you feel you the rain, thunder, and hail upon you, stand in awe of Him. Listen for the trumpet and look to the mountain because the Lord will soon speak (just read about Elijah in 1 Kings 19: “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper…”).
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. 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.
- I love how God works and how it’s completely contrary to the way our own minds process thoughts. The Lord called Moses up the mountain, just to send him back down to remind the people not to come near the mount (and to fetch Aaron). Sometimes, God asks us to climb a mountain for someone else and not for ourselves. Moses climbed the mountain to hear from God for the people. So, let’s not be selfish in only climbing mountains for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility value others above ourselves.) Yeah, that one stepped on my toes, too. Ow.
- The Lord was about to share His law with the people (the Ten Commandments, which we’ll cover in the next chapter). He required their full attention! The storm, fire, and smoke all had a purpose for setting the stage and getting people in the mindset of God’s awesome power, but He also needed His people to simmer down and focus. I would liken some days to a pinball machine. I know there are times when the Lord just says, “Tiffany! Focus!” He needs me to be single-mindedly focused (because you can focus, but also multi-task, and that’s not what God wants from us when it comes to Him). Being single-minded allows Him to instruct me, just as He was getting ready to instruct the Israelites. I was reminded last week during Bible study about the need to “be still.” Just taking five or ten minutes before I even start my prayer and study time and saying, “Here I am, Lord.” Amen.