GOD SPEAKS FROM MOUNT SINAI
Psalm 128:1, ESV
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!
EXODUS 19:1-2, NIrV
1 Exactly three months after the people of Israel left Egypt, they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they started out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai. They camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
After punishing Pharaoh with powerful plagues and parting the Red Sea, God rescued his people from slavery. At this point in Exodus, 50 days had passed since the Israelites left Egypt. A lot happened in those seven weeks. They saw God bring water out of a rock. They won a battle with the annoying Amalekites. And every morning, they ate a meal of miraculous manna bread from heaven! But as they camped around the edge of a mountain called Sinai, something even more incredible was about to happen. Soon, they would hear the powerful voice of the God who saved them!
+ What was the name of the wilderness/desert they camped at? (vs. 1)
+ How many days had passed since they left the land of Egypt?
EXODUS 19:3-8, NIrV
3 Then Moses went up to God. The Lord called out to him from the mountain. He said, “Here is what I want you to say to my people, who belong to Jacob’s family. Tell the Israelites, 4 ‘You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt. You saw how I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to myself. 5 Now obey me completely. Keep my covenant. If you do, then out of all the nations you will be my special treasure. The whole earth is mine. 6 But you will be a kingdom of priests to serve me. You will be my holy nation.’ That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
7 So Moses went back. He sent for the elders of the people. He explained to them everything the Lord had commanded him to say. 8 All the people answered together. They said, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
As his people camped down at the bottom, old Moses marched up the mountain to speak with God. When he returned, he had an exciting message to deliver to the elders of the people. “God is making a covenant (a special, unbreakable promise) with us," Moses told the leaders. "If we obey his words, God will treat us like his treasure!” As you could probably guess, the elders of Israel certainly liked the sound of being God’s #1 nation! So they sent 80-year-old Moses back up the mountain to deliver a message of their own: “God, we promise to do everything you say!"
+ What did God want Moses to remind the people of? (vs. 3-4)
+ If they obeyed his voice, what did God promise to do for his people? (vs. 5)
EXODUS 19:9-14, NIrV
9 The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “I am going to come to you in a thick cloud. The people will hear me speaking with you. They will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
10 The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people. Today and tomorrow set them apart for me. Have them wash their clothes. 11 Have the people ready by the third day. On that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai. Everyone will see it. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain. Tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go near the mountain. Do not even touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain must be put to death. 13 Do not lay a hand on any of them. Kill them with stones or shoot them with arrows. Whether they are people or animals, do not let them live.’ They may go near the mountain only when the ram’s horn gives out a long blast.”
14 Moses went down the mountain to the people. After he set them apart for the Lord, they washed their clothes.
If a king was coming over to your house for dinner, what would you do? Clean every square inch of your house? Cook a fancy meal? Put on your best clothes? When Moses marched down the mountain a second time, he told the people to prepare to be visited by God, the King of the entire universe! Moses instructed the Israelites to clean their dusty clothes and "consecrate" their bodies. That meant to stay away from sinful thoughts and actions. Washing their dirty clothes and separating from dirty deeds would remind the sin-filled Israelites they were about to meet their sin-less God!
+ When did God say he would come? What would it look like? (vs. 9, 11)
+ What would happen to anyone who touched the mountain? (vs. 12)
EXODUS 19:16-18, NIRV
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A thick cloud covered the mountain. A trumpet gave out a very loud blast. Everyone in the camp trembled with fear. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God. They stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Smoke covered Mount Sinai, because the Lord came down on it in fire. The smoke rose up from it like smoke from a furnace. The whole mountain trembled and shook.
God is a spirit. That means he doesn't have a body like we do. Normally, we can't see him with our human eyes. However, when he came down upon Mount Sinai, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that their invisible God had arrived! Now, the Israelites knew that the Lord was a good God and on their side. Still, it was a terrifying sight for their eyes to see and a scary sound for their ears to hear. God's people were shaking in their sandals as they stood before the mountain. It was covered by fire, surrounded by smoke, rumbling like a volcano, and flashing and crashing like a thunderstorm!
+ Describe what Mount Sinai looked like when God came down.
EXODUS 19:19-20:2, NIRV
19 The sound of the trumpet got louder and louder. Then Moses spoke. And the voice of God answered him.
20 The Lord came down to the top of Mount Sinai. He told Moses to come to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up. 21 The Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people. They must not force their way through to see the Lord. If they do, many of them will die. 22 The priests approach the Lord when they serve him. But even they must set themselves apart for the Lord. If they do not, his anger will break out against them.”
23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people can’t come up Mount Sinai. You yourself warned us. You said, ‘Put limits around the mountain. Set it apart as holy.’ ”
24 The Lord replied, “Go down. Bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through. They must not come up to the Lord. If they do, his anger will break out against them.”
25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
1 Here are all the words God spoke. He said, 2 “I am the Lord your God. I brought you out of Egypt. That is the land where you were slaves.
Have you ever wondered what God's voice sounds like? Since he's all-powerful, he can choose any voice he wants. As Mount Sinai rumbled and smoked, the sound of a trumpet blast could be heard. With the earth quaking around the Israelites, this sound grew louder and louder. Before it blasted out their ears, Moses called out to God. And from the mountain, the Lord answered with a voice of crashing thunder! The voice of God was booming and scary, but his first words to his terrified people were good news: "I am the Lord. I am your God. I am the one who rescued you from Egypt!"
+ After God answered with thunder, what did Moses do? (vs. 20)
+ What is the first thing God said to his people? (vs. 2)
EXODUS 20:18-21, NIRV
18 The people saw the thunder and lightning. They heard the trumpet. They saw the mountain covered with smoke. They trembled with fear and stayed a long way off. 19 They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself. Then we’ll listen. But don’t let God speak to us. If he does, we’ll die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you. He wants you to have respect for him. That will keep you from sinning.”
21 Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. But the people remained a long way off.
In a thundering voice from atop a rumbling mountain, God spoke to his people. After reminding the Israelites how he had saved them from Egypt, God gave them a command. And then another. And another. And another. And... well, you get the point! In the end, God spoke ten commandments to his people. As we continue in our study of the book of Exodus, we’ll take a closer look at what they are and what they mean.
After listening to God speak for just a couple of minutes, the people of Israel were too afraid to continue. They began to back away from the fiery mountain as they begged Moses, “Please! You listen to God for us! Then you can tell us what he said. If we keep listening to Him, we’re going to die!” Moses agreed to do what they asked. But before he did, he had something strange to say to them.
"Do not fear," Moses said. "God has come in mighty power so that you will fear him and not sin." As you look at these words, you might be thinking, "Well, which is it, Moses? Should I not be afraid or should I fear God? I can't do both, right?” Well, actually, you can! And that's because “fearing God” isn't the same as being spooked by snakes, horrified by heights, or dreadful of the dark.
To understand this idea, let’s think about dads. What would a good dad be like? He’s strong and loving. He takes care of his kids. He protects them from danger. He teaches his children about right from wrong. And when his child does something wrong, he gives them a consequence to show them the right way to live.
When a son or daughter disobeys their father, they might feel afraid: afraid of disappointing their dad or afraid of the consequence they might earn. But they aren’t scared of their dad like they might be scared of a spider or a monster under their bed. That’s because they know a good dad loves them and would never, ever hurt them!
God, our Father in heaven, is more than a billion times more loving and a billion times stronger than any human dad could ever be. He loves us and protects us. His law tells us what is right and what is wrong. And when we disobey his commands, we might feel afraid that we’ve angered someone who can shake an entire mountain!
But the same powerful God whose voice sounded like thunder is also the same loving God who sent his Son to save us. If we believe in Jesus, we don’t have to worry that God will punish our sins. Why? Because Jesus was already punished in our place. On the cross, Jesus took care of every one of our sins!
God’s fiery visit to Mount Sinai teaches us to fear God: to have a trembling respect for his power and goodness. And Jesus’ death on the cross reminds us that the powerful God of Mount Sinai is also our Father in Heaven who loves us with a perfect love!
+ What did the people ask Moses to do? Why? (vs. 19)
+ If we believe in Jesus, why don’t we have to worry that God is going to punish us?