The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the second book of the Torah, Exodus. The text is Exodus 19:2-8 and has the Israelites arriving at Mount Sinai three months after their exit from the land of Egypt. Moses has promised to return with the people of God to the Mountain of God where he was called to service through the burning bush, and now they have arrived. Remember, Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are the same mountain.
Due to the shortness of this text we have the opportunity to talk about ascending and descending and its relationship to Hebrew worship. The Hebrew’s cosmology of the universe understands that God/Heaven is up, Sheol/Hell is down and the earth and its people are in the middle. We also have the same basic idea. This understanding is played out in how the Hebrews approached God and how they worship. In our pericope, Moses goes up to God on the mountain. God’s presence is also “up” and looking at verse 9 the LORD tells Moses He is coming down to him on the mountain in a thick cloud. This should be recognized as the “Glory Cloud” which always reveals the presence of the LORD but at the same time hides His face so the people will not be consumed by His holiness. So, we see the consistent pattern of the LORD God who comes down to His people because they cannot go up to Him. Think of the incarnation as well. God/Christ comes down to be with His people because we are unable to ascend and approach Him.
God/Christ comes down to be with His people because we are unable to ascend and approach Him.
In worship there is always the movement up which brings one closer to the holiness. The higher up you go, the closer to the presence of God and the closer to holiness. Thus, the language of Scripture: The people go up to the Holy Land and they go up to the Holy City and then they go up to the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah/Mount Zion. When one enters the Holy Temple there are steps up for each division with the final steps leading to the Holy of Holies. This is still reflected in most church architecture. The sanctuary is at one level but there are steps up to the next level were the Pastor preaches, etc. There are then a final set of steps leading up to the altar where the “Real Presence” of the LORD is located in the body and blood of Jesus. This is as close to holiness that we, as sinners, can come without consequences. Notice how Moses is the mediator between the LORD and the people, just as Pastors stand in the stead and by the command of their LORD Jesus Christ.
In verses 5-6 we make note of how the LORD speaks of His people with whom He has covenanted. “…you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This is the same language used by Peter. I Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The language is too close to be accidental! Thus, Peter uses the Exodus to show God’s faithfulness in calling His people out of the land of darkness (Egypt) in His marvelous light (The Promised Land) and equates it with what the New Moses/Jesus has done for us.
19:2 וַיִּסְעוּ (vai-yis-U) root: נסע (naw-sah) Qal: “to set out; to journey”
וַיָּבֹאוּ (vai-ya-Vo-u) root: בוא (bo) Qal: “to come; to arrive”
וַיַּחֲנוּ (vai-ya-cha-Nu) root: חנה (khaw-naw) Qal: “to encamp; to camp out; to set up camp”
19:3 עָלָה (a-Lah) Qal: “to go up; to ascend”
וַיִּקְרָא (vai-yik-Ra) Qal: “to call; to call out”
19:4 רְאִיתֶם> (re-i-Tem) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal: “to see”
נְשָׁרִים (ne-sha-Rim) from: נשׁר (neh-sher) “eagle; vulture”
19:5 שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ (sha-Mo-a tish-me-U) root: שׁמע (shaw-mah) “to hear with the understanding of obeying”
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם (u-she-mar-Tem) root: שׁמר (shaw-mar) Qal: “to keep” Note the similarity to the language Moses later uses in Deuteronomy 6.
סְגֻלָּה. (se-gul-Lah) “treasured possession; valued property; peculiar treasure” You belong to me, you are special to me!
19:6 תִּהְיוּ (tih-yu) root: היה (haw-yaw) “to be”
תְּדַבֵּר (te-dab-Ber) root: דבר (daw-bar) Piel: “to speak”
19:7 לְזִקְנֵי (le-zik-Nei) from: זקנים (zaw-kane) “elders”
וַיָּשֶׂם (vai-Ya-sem) root: שׂום (soom) Qal: “to set; to place”
צִוָּהוּi (tziv-Va-hu) root: צוה (tsaw-vaw) “to command”
19:8 וַיַּעֲנוּ (vai-ya-a-Nu) root: עֲנן (aw-nan) Qal: “to answer”
יַחְדָּו: (yach-Dav) “together; all together; all at once”
נַעֲשֶׂה: (na-a-Seh) root: עשׂה (aw-saw) Qal: “to do”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Exodus 19:2-8.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Exodus 19:2-8.