Summary: The Israelite arrive at the mountain - but still do not have a permanent change of how they live - they want to "touch the mountain." Concludes with invitation to turn life over to God
Exodus 19:3-6, 16-19
3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 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 obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19 As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.
When we began this study of Exodus, I mentioned the fact that Exodus was the Old Testament Parallel to Easter. Today, on Pentecost Sunday, we see the encounter between the Israelites and God – and if anything, it is even more dramatic.
But as dramatic as it is, it sets up an issue that I believe we can see all the way to today. Even when God shows up in person, people don’t change. If I were to create a theme title for this lesson, I would call it, “Don’t touch the mountain!”
Do you remember the parable Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man? (Luke 16:19-31) The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers that they might be warned of the future if they did not change their ways. And Abraham told him that if they didn’t listen to the prophets, even if someone came back from the dead they would not believe. That pretty much describes us.
To recap the story since we saw the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, God has continued to provide for the Israelites.
First, they were hungry. God provided quail in the evening followed by manna in the morning. So they could now see God’s provision every single morning.
Second, they were thirsty, and God provided water for them out of a rock.
Then they encountered the Amelekites, and God helped to defeat them.
And now, they are at the mountain, and God wants to speak with them. He wants them to see that they are a holy people, set aside for him. And the first response of the Israelites (which we didn’t read this morning) was that they would do everything that God called them to do. Simple, right?
So, God gives them two simple commands. First, take a bath and wash your clothes. Second, don’t touch the mountain. Simple, right?
God descends upon the mountain and Moses goes back up. And what is the first thing God tells him? Go back down the mountain and tell the people not to touch the mountain.
Moses has been up and down the mountain several times now, so it isn’t surprising that he reminds God, “Don’t worry. We already told them not to touch the mountain.”
I can almost see Moses looking down the trail he had just climbed up, tired and thirsty. But God sends him back down, this time suggesting he bring Aaron with him.
So, if God had already told the Israelites not to touch the mountain, why did he send Moses back down?
To understand, we need to talk about kids and behaviors.
When I was a child, my parents read an article in the paper that talked about some child getting a jelly bean stuck in their nose. Since we had jelly beans for Easter that year, they told us not to stick a jelly bean in our nose. Now, until that moment in time, I had never even considered what would happen if I stuck one in my nose. But from that moment on, every time I saw a jelly bean, I couldn’t help but wonder. What would happen if I stuck it up my nose.
I am certain that God saw that temptation in the minds of the Israelites.
Our human nature is such that we often do what we are told not to, in fact sometimes we do something only because we have been told not to do it!