Bible Commentaries
Exodus 20

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 18-19


Exodus 20:18-19. And all the people saw the thunderings and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

THE law of God was originally written on the heart of man: but by sin it was almost obliterated, so that scarcely any traces of it remained. When therefore it pleased God to separate to himself a peculiar people, who should know his will, and enjoy his presence, and subserve his glory, it was necessary, if we may so speak, that he should republish his law, and record it in some way, which might give it a permanent establishment in the world. This he was pleased to do on Mount Sinai, after having conducted his people thither in safety, and shewn, by the wonders he had wrought, that he was indeed the only true God. What were the particulars of that law, we do not now stop to inquire [Note: See Disc. on Romans 3:20.]: that to which we would draw your attention is, the manner of its promulgation. In the preceding chapter we are informed of all those particulars which are briefly recapitulated in our text. On contemplating that tremendous scene, we are naturally led to inquire, Why did God publish his law in that manner? The answer to this question is important; and will prove highly instructive to us all. He did it,


To impress their minds with a fear of his Majesty—

[God is a great God, and greatly to be feared [Note: Deuteronomy 10:17.]. But though the Israelites had seen ample demonstrations of this in Egypt, they had a very inadequate sense of it upon their minds. Hence arose their murmurings and distrust as often as any fresh difficulty occurred. And what is at the root of all our disobedience? Is it not that “we do not fear that great and fearful name, The Lord our God [Note: Deuteronomy 28:58.] ?”— — —

To beget in the minds of those whom he was bringing into covenant with himself a just sense of his greatness, he appeared to them in a thick cloud, with thunderings, and lightnings, and the sound of a trumpet most terrific. The effect was produced, insomuch that Moses, though terrified beyond measure himself, was forced to administer comfort and encouragement to them [Note: 0.]. We find somewhat of a similar effect upon ourselves in a violent tempest: and, if we could realize the scene that was exhibited on Sinai, we should say indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”— — —]


To shew them the nature of that dispensation—

[The dispensation of the law, though suited to the Jews at that time, and even glorious, as a type or figure of the Gospel dispensation, was yet in fact “a ministration of death [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9.].” It required perfect obedience to the law, and denounced a curse for every instance of disobedience; and required all the people, not only to accept it, but to approve of it, in that particular view [Note: Compare Gal 3:10 with Deuteronomy 27:26.]. Who can contemplate such a covenant, and not tremble to have his hopes founded on it? There was indeed much of the Gospel contained in the ceremonial law; and the penitent Israelite found refuge there. But the law published on Sinai was “a fiery law,” “a ministration of condemnation:” and the terrors which were infused into the people by the thunders of Sinai, fitly represented the terrific nature of that covenant.—Happy would it be for us, if we availed ourselves of these instructive intimations, to renounce that covenant which consigns us over unto death, and to embrace that better covenant which is revealed to us in the Gospel!]


To make them feel their need of a Mediator—

[The people, who but just before had been with difficulty restrained from breaking through the bounds that had been assigned them, were now so alarmed, that they fled from their station, and entreated, that God would no more deliver his commands to them in that way, lest they should die. They desired that Moses might be appointed as a Mediator between God and them, and that all future intimations of God’s will should be given them through him. Of the full meaning of their own request they themselves were not aware: for, inasmuch as Moses was a type of Christ, it was, in fact, a desire that Christ might be their Mediator, and that all their intercourse with the Deity might be through Him. This was the construction which God himself put upon it; and in this view he approved of, and applauded it [Note: Compare Deuteronomy 5:27-28; Deuteronomy 18:15-18.] — — — To the same effect also the Apostle speaks. He tells us that the law was not designed to give us life, but to shew us our need of Christ, and to bring us unto him as our only hope [Note: Galatians 3:24.] — — —]


How thankful should we be for the Christian covenant!

[It is to this that we are come, if we have truly believed in Christ. And oh! how different is our state from those who are yet under the law [Note: Hebrews 12:18-24.] ! — — — Instead of being prohibited from drawing nigh to God, we are permitted and commanded to come unto him. Let us avail ourselves of the blessed privilege, and seek closer fellowship with our God, and brighter views of his glory — — —]


How careful should we be not to revert to the Jewish covenant!

[We do, in fact, revert to it, if we seek justification by the law of works. If we do any thing in order to be justified by it, we instantly become debtors to do the whole law.—Let it not then appear to us a light matter to indulge a self-righteous spirit; for if we do, we renounce all hope from the grace of the Gospel, and “Christ, with respect to us, is dead in vain [Note: Galatians 5:1-4.].”]


How studiously should we cultivate the fear of God!

[Terrible as the appearance and the voice of God were on that occasion, his appearance in the day of judgment will be infinitely more tremendous — — — “Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we would persuade you” to turn unto him, ere it be too late. We wish however to produce in you, not a slavish, but a filial fear: that will only drive you from God; and therefore in relation to it we say with Moses, “Fear not:” but this will make you happy in the service and enjoyment of God; and therefore we add, “Let his fear be ever before your faces, that ye sin not [Note: 0.].”]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 20". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.