Summary: Exodus 19-24 Shock and Awe
Shock and Awe
On the 21st of March, 2003, the United States and its Allies began their main bombing campaign at the beginning of the Iraq War. Over 8 years later, we are still fighting in Iraq – but today’s fight in Iraq is very different to those first few days back in ‘03. Who remembers that bombing campaign? Day after day of relentless bombing of strategic targets in Iraq. There was a term that the Americans had for that type of relentless bombing, a term that the media latched onto – remember what it was? Shock and Awe. Shock and Awe. The theory was that the Americans would so shock and awe the Iraqis that they would soon surrender and welcome the Americans with open arms. And indeed – as we had the war brought to our TV screens with 24 hours new coverage- it really was an awesome display of firepower. Bombs lighting up the night sky of Baghdad. Their infrastructure taken out. It certainly was awe-inspiring. Today we are going to look at another account of shock and awe. But this one took place well over 3000 years ago. It took place on a mountain in a desert, and if you’d been there – in terms of shock and awe value - it would have made the American bombing campaign in Iraq look like someone trying to light a match in the rain.
So – where are we? Last time we looked at Exodus – a fortnight ago we looked at the actual exodus of Israel from Egypt. We looked at the Pass Over, how God had to deliver His terrible judgements on Egypt in order to force their hand so they would let Israel go, and how God gave the Israelites a sign - the blood of sacrificed lamb which they placed on their doorframes, as a sign that they were spared from that judgement. Then God led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and then through the Sinai desert - an absolutely barren desert. And as we read in Exodus 19.2-3:
Exodus 192 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God.
They camped at the foot of this mountain. Now, we don’t know exactly which mountain it was because mountains don’t have name signs on them, but tradition tells us that it was this mountain here now known as Jebel Musa – Arabic for the “mountain of Moses,” and also known to us a “Mt Sinai”. Even if it wasn’t this exact mountain, it would have been at one in this area that looked similar to it. And some very signficant things happened at the foot of this mountain an on this mountain. The Israelites camped there for almost a year and during that time, they met with God. Or better said, God met with them. God revealed to them many of His laws. And in fact, the rest of the book of Exodus, all the book of Leviticus and the first 9 chapters of Numbers were written there. It’s not till we get to Numbers chapter 10 that the Israelites leave Mt Sinai. And so it’s in Exodus 19 that they arrive at Mt Sinai and God makes a covenant with Israel. We read:
Exodus 19:3b The Lord called to him [Moses] out of the mountain, saying, Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves 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 will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.
So – God had delivered Israel from Egypt, and now He offers them a covenant – an agreement - that if they choose to keep then Israel will be God’s special people. And then we read in verse 8:
Exodus 198 All the people answered together and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do.
And then God told Moses that He would come to the Israelites on the mountain when it says:
Exodus 19:11b For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.