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Now in the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, in the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and they were come to the desert of Sinai and they had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; You have see what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself ( Exodus 19:1-4 ).
First of all God said to Moses, "Now you tell them and point out to them what I have already done for them. I have delivered them from the Egyptians. I carried them on eagles' wings to bring them to Myself."
Now therefore, [That's the past, now the present, "Now therefore",] if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then [as far as the future] ye shall be a special treasure unto me above all of the people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation ( Exodus 19:5-6 ).
Now a priest was a man who stood before God representing the people, but he also stood before the people representing God. And so being a kingdom of priests, they were to be a special people who would represent God before the world. God is looking for people to represent Him. So in a priestly kind of a ministry, in representing God before the world, Israel was to be God's representative to the world. That was God's desire and intention for these people that they might represent Him to the world. "A kingdom of priests, a holy nation."
Now these are the words [God said] which you shall speak to the children of Israel. So Moses came and he called for the elders of the people, and he laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. [What a rash promise.] And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord ( Exodus 19:6-8 ).
Now at this point Moses was a priest; that is, he was going before God speaking for the people, and then he was coming to the people and speaking for God. Christ has become our great High Priest. He represents us to the Father, and He represents the Father to us. He's our great High Priest. "So there is one mediator between God and man. The man Christ Jesus our great High Priest" ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ).
But Moses was the priest, and in the Old Testament this was always the purpose of the priest, to represent the people to God. To go unto God, speak for the people, and then come for the people, and speak for God. So here's Moses operating in that whole concept of priesthood. So he goes back to God and he says, "Hey, they said they'll buy it, everything you say, they'll do." "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."
And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come to thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I spake with you, and believe you for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes ( Exodus 19:9-10 ),
Now the washing of their clothes was actually just a symbolic action. The people were to really cleanse themselves before God. The washing of their clothes being a symbolic action that spoke of just the setting of themselves, or the washing of themselves of their hearts, their minds, their lives. It means to sanctify, means to set apart for, for use. So here I'm called to people to sanctify themselves, and to wash their clothes.
And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all of the people on mount Sinai ( Exodus 19:11 ).
"So let the people sanctify themselves, really wash themselves, get themselves pure and all, because the third day's gonna be a big day. I'm gonna come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of the people. Gonna be an awesome day."
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that you go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever touches the mount shall surely be put to death: And there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet sounds long, they shall come up to the mount. And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and he sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day; and come not at your wives. [In other words they were to refrain from sexual relations. They were just really, set themselves aside for God, for these three days.] And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that were in the camp trembled ( Exodus 19:12-16 ).
Can you imagine what that must have been when, when God began to demonstrate Himself to these people in this way? That there came down there on Mount Sinai, this smoke, there was this blasting trumpet sound, and the fire rolling around, and the lightnings and the thunders and the thick clouds.
And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. [Or away from the mountain.] And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, while the mount shook greatly ( Exodus 19:17-18 ).
So the mount was shaking violently, the smoke was ascending like a furnace, and there was this great blast like a trumpet.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. The Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, and charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them ( Exodus 19:19-22 ).
Now verse twenty-two indicates that perhaps some of the priests thought, "Well we don't have to sanctify ourselves. That's the common people." Some of the priests apparently didn't sanctify themselves. And in the book of Hebrews we read where some of the priests on this day died. So Moses is told to tell the priests that they're not excluded from this.
A lot of times people think, "Well I'm so holy, you know, and I'm above the general rules. I'm some kind of-God makes some kind of a special concession for me." But such is not the case. Verse twenty-five of Hebrews twelve, "See that you reprove not him that speaks, for if they escape not Him who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaks from heaven whose voice then shook the earth."
But now he is promising yet once more, "I'll shake not the earth only, but heaven." So in Hebrews referring to this, speaks of some who perished, so evidently some of the priests. "The priests also which come near to the Lord, let them sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth on them."
And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to the mount Sinai: for the people charged us saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said unto him, Away, get down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you: but let not the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto them, and the people, and he spake unto them ( Exodus 19:23-25 ).
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 19". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany