Summary: The rest of the book of Exodus takes place at Mt Sinai, the mountain of God. This of course fulfills the sign promised to Moses at the burning bush, that “when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve the Lord on this mountain”.
It says they arrived here on the 3rd new moon which gets them here about 7 weeks after the Exodus out of Egypt. Again think about that. They are about half way to the Promised Land after 7 weeks, but the next half takes them almost 40 years.
The other thing significant about this timing is that their arrival at Sinai corresponds to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. This feast is 50 days after the feast of first fruits, we see this in detail in Leviticus 23. Now the feast of first fruits corresponds to the Passover Lamb. The feast of Weeks is about the giving of the Law just as Pentecost in the NT is the giving of the Holy Spirit, or the Law written on our hearts. So this very much parallels what we see in the NT with Jesus being the first fruits of the dead to rise, and then 50 days later, the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This is also the official beginning of the Israelite people’s formal worship system, just like in Acts it was the beginning of the formal Christian church.
The first thing we see God say to the people is in verse 4. He starts with saying, “You have seen how I delivered you from the Egyptians, how I bore you up on Eagle’s wings and brought you to myself”. Again the parallel can be how God delivered us and brought us to himself through Christ. “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; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.
Now I want to point a couple things out here. One is that this is always a two way covenant between God and his people. God cannot break a covenant once he makes it, but we certainly can. And like everywhere in the Bible, our part of the covenant is to obey God’s voice. In fact there is no such thing as a one way covenant. Promise yes, but not covenant. Covenant is an alliance, a pledge between people or even treaty.
I have heard some preachers say that it doesn’t matter what we do, God will always keep his side of the covenant. I think that is false teaching, and we see the truth over and over in the Bible. He uses the word if both in the OT and NT – if you… then I….
And you, those who keep the covenant, will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Now the other thing I want to point out is that we are not priests and a Holy nation to the world, but to God. In 1 Peter 2 where this is restated, it says that we are a people for his own possession.
Now the other thing I want to say may be a little controversial. I am not a believer in replacement theology where the NT church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. I actually believe that the nation of Israel as an actual political entity never was who God made the covenants with in the first place.
If you read very carefully through all the Scripture relating to this, it was always those Hebrew people who kept the covenant with God who were chosen and were a holy nation. The initial act of confirming this covenant was to be circumcised, and now it is to be baptised. But it didn’t end there, it continued with obeying all that God commanded. Israelites who did not obey, were not spared, they were not given any preferential treatment, and often were judged even more harshly than Gentiles.
In fact the word nation here in Exodus is actually the word used for Gentile nation. That, with the emphasis God makes about all the earth being his, leads me to the conclusion that this was a statement of inclusion. That all people who obey the commands of God, including the rabble or mixed multitude, could be part of this kingdom and nation. It was never exclusively Jewish. The other proof of this is how we see Gentile people like Rahab, and Ruth, and others who are used by God in the line of Jesus.
I fear that we have been led astray somewhat by being told that the actual nation of Israel is the center of God’s plan. The biblical facts are that anyone who believes in Jehovah God and his messiah Jesus is a true Jew, which really means a people group descended from Jacob who was renamed Israel. The word Israel literally means “God prevails” and comes from a root word, “he will rule as God”. Israel is nothing more than people who are under the rule of God who has prevailed through His son the Messiah Jesus.