Summary: God's commandments reveal his kindness.
Setting the Table
Rev. Brian Bill
[Thunder, Lightning and Trumpet]
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain.
So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.’ Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’ The Lord replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them.
And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’” (Exodus 19:16-20:20)
I wanted to begin our series called, “Stone Tablets in a Wireless World” with some visual and auditory help in order to help us capture in a small way what it must have been like for God’s people to be at the foot of Mount Sinai. After being enslaved for 400 years in Egypt, the Israelites were set free and traveled in the desert for three months. After three days of preparation where they were told to wash and keep away from the mountain and abstain from intimacy, everyone in the camp “trembled.” I looked this word up. It means to shudder with terror and to quake. The next time it’s used it says that the whole mountain “trembled violently.” After the commandments are given, the people “trembled with fear.”
The trumpet blast, which was the sound of a shofar, was “exceedingly loud” and it grew “louder and louder.” Along with thunder and lightning and a thick cloud representing God’s Shekinah glory, there was smoke rising up as if from a bellowing furnace. We read twice that if the people don’t follow what God says, He will “break out against them.” The people were petrified. The last time God had manifested himself like that was in Genesis 19:28 when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.