Exodus 19 Sermon Notes


Pastor Joe Valenti

Are you prepared to meet God?

‌We know that nothing in God’s Word is unimportant, so even scene changes have important information in them. Let’s read with a careful eye.

Exodus 19:1-2

‌‌What is important here? → WILDERNESS. Recall what God had told Moses in Exodus 3:8 – ‌”and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

And this is what Moses says to the elders when he arrives back in Egypt. So, the promises have been made  – good land, broad land, fertile land, good farming land, abundant land. And where are we?! WILDERNESS!

Exodus 3:11–12

‌Sinai is was not the result of a wrong turn – Sinai was a primary destination on the way to the Promised Land. In fact, they stay there for about a year before moving on. What’s more, throughout the rest of our study of Exodus, the people don’t move from Sinai. It is here where God’s chosen people will get to know him – to work out the relationship.

‌Our walk with God is not measured by how quickly we attain his blessings, but by how deeply we love and obey him. Knowing him intimately and walking in his ways are the only way to receive the blessing. Or – put more simply – you’re not getting to the Promised Land until God reveals himself in the wilderness!

Being prepared to meet God requires three things:

  1. A Covenant Offer

‌‌One of the most humbling realities of the relationship between humanity and God is that there is nothing that we can due to earn God’s love and favor. No level of good behavior is good enough. But, in his kindness – God acts and chooses to bestow is love on those who do not deserve it.

‌‌Exodus 19:2-8

‌‌The people of Israel are away from the base of the mountain camped in the wilderness. Moses goes to the mountain and ascends it to talk with God. And God shares their covenant status and how to have covenant satisfaction. Do not read a western contractual view into this passage. God is NOT saying – if you obey me, THEN I’ll love you. Nothing could be further from the truth. The foundation is I LOVE YOU and therefore I have saved you and brought you to myself.

‌Obedience NEVER earns God’s love. Obedience is a response to God’s love in trust that he knows the best possible way to live in covenant relationship. So, God bestows his love, saves, and brings them to himself. 

You will be my treasured possession even though all of the earth belongs to him. The Hebrew is a common word segulla and it means personal treasure.

You will be a kingdom of priests – each of you will have access to my presence.

Holy Nation – you will be set apart for a special purpose – a unique people who – in all the world – will have the opportunity to display my love and character.

‌Obedience is the way to NOT to EARN your way into covenant, but it is a way to keep the covenant and enjoy the benefits.

Being prepared to meet God requires three things:

  1. A Covenant Offer – He must go first and extend this opportunity for us.
  2. A Holy People

‌‌Exodus 19:7–17 

So, Moses goes back down the mountain and tells the people. They respond – YES – we’re in! Now, they have no idea what the details are yet. We’ll see those specifics in the chapters to come, but the offer is too good to be true. So, they do and Moses goes back up the mountain to tell God what they’ve said. God responds by leaning in with his presence – I’m going to allow them to experience my presence. But, they need to consecrate themselves and wash their garments. The people were to prepare their hearts and their washed clothes were to be a symbol of the preparedness of their hearts before a Holy God.

‌‌‌Exodus 19:18–25

Yahweh’s presence must have been a feast for the senses. We probably can’t take this literally. Moses is attempting to use words and things that we might understand to explain the unexplainable – to put into words what it was like when the presence of Yahweh descended onto the mountain

‌Thunder – all sorts of sounds

Lightening – flashing, dazzling light.

‌The entire mountain is wrapped in smoke because “Yahweh had descended on it in fire”, and the entire mountain is quaking. Even Hollywood special effects can’t do this justice.

‌The experience is so overwhelming that verse 16 tells us that all of the people in the camp trembled. The glory of God – his very presence is being manifest.

‌And the people have been warned not to get too close. Well, right in the middle of this spectacle, God summons Moses to come back up the mountain and he shares additional warnings. I think biblical scholar Alec Motyer summarizes the issue at hand well:

‌“When the events of Exodus 19 reach their climax, to the human eye, everything is in order. The days of preparation were over, the trumpet had sounded, and the Lord was doing what he had promised, conversing with Moses in the hearing of Israel, and in this way establishing authorized lines of communication and revelation. to the divine eye, however, all was not well, and Moses, notwithstanding his protests, was sent back to put further safeguards in place.‌ The people, happy about their state following the preparation days, could so easily have become forgetful of their status; in a word, their ‘holiness’ is not God’s holiness. They needed the warning that the holiness of God is such that no human self-preparation can ever satisfy its demands.”

Alec Motyer

‌‌This is a sobering reminder of our inability to be good enough to meet God. We’re all sinners and as many good things as we might do – as much as we try to clean ourselves up – it’s just not good enough. Our “holiness” is not God’s holiness. If your answer to the question: “Are you ready to meet God” is “Yes, because I’m a good person” – you’re sorely mistaken. The Hebrews are learning an important lesson. God is holy, you are not.

Being prepared to meet God requires three things:

  1. A Covenant Offer – He must go first and extend this opportunity for us.
  2. A Holy People
  3. A Mediator

‌‌Exodus 19:24–25

‌A mediator is someone who acts as the communication between two parties that cannot or should not communicate directly. Because of the separation that sin created between a holy god and sinful people, humans need a mediator – someone to go between. Throughout this entire story we’ve seen that Moses is the mediator. Back in chapter 3 God meets Moses at this very mountain in a burning bush and gives him a special task with special access. Here again, we see God’s sovereign choice, for Moses had not done anything uniquely spectacular to earn God’s favor. He was a murderer who had become a shepherd. But God chooses Moses to be the mediator between him and his people and between himself and Pharaoh.

‌God’s promised presence to dwell amongst his people without them dying as a result of unholy people encountering a holy God. The structure is called the Tabernacle – a tent of meeting and worship. Later, the more permanent place is the the temple.‌

The problem remains – we have people that are not holy and mediators that can’t seem to do anything about it at the heart level.  Moses can’t fix the selfish, sinful, unholy hearts of the people – and neither can Aaron – and neither can the priests through the generations. All they can do is provide this stop gap of sacrifices.

When Jesus died, the curtain that separated God’s presence from his people in the temple is torn – now those who have his righteousness become a kingdom of priests because Jesus’ righteousness allows them access to a holy God.

And he mediates a new covenant – giving the Holy Spirit – who writes God law on our heart so that we live into the benefits of the covenant and are his segullah – his prized possession.

‌‌Are you ready to meet God?