Preparing for the big day
Today we arrive at Exodus chapter 19, the chapter before chapter 20 ie. the chapter before the Ten Commandments.
When Moses tells the people of God’s promise to make them ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’, they respond with –
We will do everything the Lord has said. Exodus 19:8
Little do they know what is coming next!
God instructs Moses that He will come to Him in a dark cloud –
so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. Exodus 19:9
It’s all about trust again. It’s important that the people trust Moses. There is still a long way to go. Moses is about to say some really tough stuff and the people need to be sure that these words are from God if they are to stand any chance of putting them into practice.
A big event is about to take place and it is all about the preparation. I think this is all for the benefit of the Israelites, not God. They need to know that what is coming is really important, that it is God that is speaking and that God is not to be messed with –
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.” Exodus 19:10-13
Get yourselves ready….get your outfit sorted (the time we spend choosing what to wear is directly proportional to how important we feel an event or the person we are going to meet is)……..be ready…….respect the limits/boundaries…….be careful…..do not approach……do as you’re told.
Sometimes we want to make God seem so approachable and make services so inviting and informal, that we lose any sense of awe and respect for this all-powerful God.
I’m not great at doing as I’m told. I think it’s human nature. Tell a young child not to do something and that then becomes the thing they want to do most in the whole world. When we see a DO NOT TOUCH sign, the urge to touch becomes overwhelming. And God lays out the consequences just as we do as parents…….and yet, if the other children of the world are anything like my daughter, they don’t believe we will carry through – ‘You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t dare!’
And then as Moses is preparing the people, he slips in –
Abstain from sexual relations. Exodus 19:15
Just like the England World Cup team before a big match. This must be some big match that Moses is preparing the people for – no distractions; 100% focus; it’s all in the preparation.
All is prepared. Imagine the scene.
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. Exodus 19:16-19
Some scene. What a spectacle! Scenes like this would put the fear of God into anyone (literally). For the Israelites, the desire to cross the boundary and see for themselves what was going on up the mountain must have been in equal parts terrifying and overwhelmingly compelling. When Moses fetches Aaron, he reminds the people of the serious consequences of forcing their way through.
God spoke all these words…. Exodus 20:1
The Ten Commandments AND A WHOLE LOT MORE!