And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. — Exodus 19:10-11
Imagine for a moment that you have been given an opportunity for a private meeting with the President of the United States, Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom, or some other notable world leader. Once the first excitement of receiving the invitation subsided, how would you go about preparing for the upcoming meeting?
Perhaps you would start by researching the appropriate protocol. For example, is it proper to stand when the president enters the room? How do you address him? Do you offer your hand, or wait for him to make the first move? Likely, you would consider what you should wear for such a significant event. Should it be something formal, like a black suit? Is your Sunday best good enough, or should you purchase something new? You might spend time considering possible subjects to discuss, and comments to make. You would arrange for transportation, wanting to be absolutely certain you arrived on time. Meeting with a national dignitary would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for most of us, and we would not approach the opportunity casually. Rather, we likely would prepare for the occasion with utmost care.
In today’s text, we find the Children of Israel getting ready for a meeting with God himself. God had made the awesome statement that on the third day He would come down in the midst of His people. The great privilege of meeting God came with a great responsibility. The people were actually entering into a covenant with God: if they did their part, God would do His. They had agreed to set themselves apart for God, saying, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do,” but now it was time to prepare for the meeting with Him.
God outlined specific instructions for Moses to deliver to the people. The people were to set themselves apart from sin and even from ordinary daily routines in order to dedicate themselves solely to God. The actions of washing and preparing were part of getting their minds and hearts ready. These steps underscored that this meeting was a very serious matter; the people were not to take the event lightly.
As Christians, we have the tremendous privilege of meeting with Almighty God — the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of mankind. We must remember that He is a holy God, and our interaction with Him should not be regarded casually but as an opportunity of the highest privilege. God is worthy of our utmost respect and honor!
Just as we would carefully prepare for meeting a national dignitary, we must make sure our hearts are ready when we meet God for worship. We should endeavor to separate ourselves from the duties and distractions of everyday life and focus entirely upon Him. When we have done this, we can expect to meet God in prayer and be ushered into His very presence.
Exodus 19 records a memorable point in the account of the travels of the Children of Israel. In this chapter, the people arrived at Mount Sinai, and God called them into a covenant with Him.
The Children of Israel had been gone from Egypt for almost three months when they came to the wilderness of Sinai. This was an uninhabited area at the base of Mount Sinai, the mountain where God had appeared in the burning bush to Moses. Many scholars believe Mount Sinai is the mountain named Jebel Musa, which is located in the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula. Other scholars suggest it is the nearby peak Ras es-Safsafeh. At the base of the northwest side of this peak, there is a plain about two miles long where the Israelites could have camped. Other mountains have also been proposed as the site of God’s interaction with the Hebrews.
God intended to establish a covenant with the Children of Israel. In His opening statement, God declared that He had brought judgment upon the Egyptians and miraculously delivered the Israelites. In showing His care of the people, He said, “I bare you on eagles’ wings” (verse 4), referring to imposing birds of that area which were known for carrying their young on their backs. At that time, a covenant could be an agreement between those of the same social standing, or it could be between those who were unequal, such as a sovereign and his subjects. In a covenant between those who were not equals, the stronger gave promises to the weaker, but those promises were accompanied by conditions. God’s promises to the Israelites were conditional on their obedience.
God said He would come “in a thick cloud” (verse 9) so the people would hear and understand that God had sent Moses. In verses 10-15, the Lord detailed to Moses how the people were to prepare to meet with Him. This included personal cleansing and also setting boundaries to keep the people and animals back from the mountain. God wanted the people to understand the need to respect Him and His holiness, as well as the necessity of carefully following His commands.
The Lord’s descent on Mount Sinai was accompanied by dramatic evidence in the elements (verses 16-25). All the people trembled. This occasion is referenced in Hebrews 12:18-21, which states, “Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” Yet Moses went up into the mountain at God’s instruction, and returned to the people with God’s message.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The migration of Israel to Sinai
F. The arrival at Sinai (19:1-2)
IV. The revelation of the Law to Israel
A. The setting (19:3-25)
1. The commitment of the people (19:3-9)
2. The preparation of the people (19:10-15)
3. The warning of the people (19:16-25)
God had good things in mind for the Children of Israel as they prepared themselves for meeting with Him. He has many promises for us as well if we also purpose to have a prepared heart to listen and follow His instructions.