Summary: God asks the Hebrews for a blind commitment upfront, before He gives the Ten Commandments. God does this without apology. God does this with us as well, a commitment before we know the future.
It is 3:00 in the morning and we are waiting with other pilgrims on the back side of Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the base of mount Sinai. It is a moonless night - pitch black beyond the small light we huddle around. I wonder if I dressed warm enough, I am surprised it can be so cold in the desert, but what can I do I only packed a light coat?
Then out of the darkness appear a group of men leading the camels we will ride up the mountain. Mount Sinai is about 7500 feet high and the plan is to get to the peak just at sunrise. After some minimal introductions, each of us is lead out on our camel with a Bedouin guide holding the reins and leading the way. As we slip into the darkness, I realize I am heading out into the desert, hundreds of miles from nowhere with an armed man whom I just met who speaks a total of seven English words – it is so dark I can barely see past my camel’s head.
We quietly move up the mountain and gradually a series of fire lit huts come into view far off in the distance. People have been walking up this mountain for thousands of years, traveling to the peak where Moses met with God and was given the ten commandments. Now, no one is sure that this is the exact place where Moses met with God, but it was somewhere in this area in the desert of Egypt.
Slowly we ascend the mountain, winding back and forth past the fire lit huts. I am alone in the dark, riding a one eyed camel hundreds of miles from any sense of civilization and as I pass each hut the occupants cry out – “Kit Kat, Baby Ruth, Coca Cola”. In the desert the Hebrews were offered manna and cool water from a rock….we are offered highly processed sugar and caffeine.
The Hebrews have packed up camp and left Rephidim in the desert of Sin and have now pitched camp at the base of Mount Sinai. Here, they will meet with God, here God will speak to them, here they will vow to follow the Lord.
Let us remember, and let me emphasize, that what we see happening to the Hebrew people in the book of Exodus not only parallels the journey of our spiritual life as Christians, but additionally, what we see happening to the Hebrews instructs us in our spiritual walk with Christ, and here in chapter 19, there is no exception. Several key elements tell us not only who the Hebrew people were before God, but also who we are, as Christians before God.
We see in this chapter that God asks for our commitment to Him before He reveals what is fully required of us. We see God’s outline for the purpose of the Hebrew people, is fulfilled now in us the church, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we see that we are a people who are set apart – because of our personal relationship with God.
Looking at verse 2 we see that Moses is quite eager to hike to the top of Mount Sinai, so eager, that it is the first thing Moses does is go up the mountain after the Hebrews set up camp. Moses has been here before. This is where he had his first powerful experience with God when he was confronted with God speaking from a burning bush. It was an experience that changed his life. It was through this first experience that he was given the foundation of faith to go into Egypt and be used as an instrument of God’s power. This place, Mount Sinai, holds such powerful memories and has had such a transforming impact on Moses, that Moses wants the people to have the same experience with God that he has had.
Perhaps Moses believes that if the people have an experience of God like he has had, then they will “get it” and fully commit themselves to God. But this isn’t the case. The experience Moses had may have impacted Moses greatly – but for others, the same experience may not pull them into a close relationship with God. What Moses hopes for is what many of us hope for, a powerful experience of God for our friends and family.
We who have had a life changing experience with God, may pray that our friends and family have the same experience that we have had or we may attempt to bring our friends and family to the same type of event that changed us – we hope that if they experience the event the same way we did, they will “get it” and stop fooling around with life. So we get them to go to the bible study that changed our life, a crusade that turned us around, perhaps a worship service that opened our eyes or some other Christian event that was powerful for us – and nothing happens for our friends and relatives, really. Maybe they enjoyed their time and learned a great deal, but mysteriously, they leave unchanged. Has this happened too you? You work hard sometimes for years, just to get them through the door and…nothing. Don’t you feel so disappointed, so, so mystified? Weren’t they at the same event we were? How could they not be impacted! It is so discouraging.