Exodus 19:3 – 24:18. The Israelites make their first official pit stop…at Mt. Sinai.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bi...
Exodus 19:3 – 24:18. The Israelites make their first official pit stop…at Mt. Sinai.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
Last we left the Israelites, they had just arrived at a mountain called Sinai. It had been exactly 3 months since the Israelites had left Egypt. And in those three months they’d been attacked by the Egyptians, they’d escaped through the Red Sea with walls of water on either side of them, they’d run out of water twice, they’d run out of food, they’d been attacked by the Amalekites…all the while constantly moving from place to place. And while God had certainly had been taking care of them…it had also certainly been an eventful and tiring 3 months. And as they began to set up camp at the bottom of Mt. Sinai (their first official pit stop), it’s quite possible that the Israelites were looking forward to a little bit of down time.
But…that’s not exactly what God had in mind…at least not at first. When the Israelites arrived, Moses went up the mountain to talk to God. And God gave Moses a message for the Israelites, and said, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, andhowI bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. (5) Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine. (6) And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (19:4-6) God was offering something very special to the Israelites. God was saying to the Israelites, “I have saved you…and brought you out from Egypt, and I am going to take you to the Promised Land. But…I want this to be more than that. If you will obey me, I will make you into an extra special people…a people of priests who will tell the rest of the world about me.” And now we know why God was taking the the Israelites on the long route to the Promised Land…God wanted to make them this offer to become a special nation…a special people.
And Moses went down the mountain and called the elders together and put it to them…did the people just want to be free…or did they want something more…did they want to be a special nation? And the Bible says that, “all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do."” (19:8) Alright…so the Israelites were apparently in. Ok great! Well that was easy! And so Moses went back up the mountain and told God that the Israelites were in. And then God said, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” (19:9) So now that the Israelites had accepted the general idea, God had some things he needed to work out directly with all the Israelites. Not through Moses…not through Aaron…not through dreams or visions…but God directly talking to each and every one of the Israelites through the cloud.
But before that could happen, the Israelites needed to get ready. When God talks to you in person…it’s not an everyday appointment like…I don’t know…going to the dentist. The Israelites needed to prepare themselves. And so, God said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. (11) And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” (19:10-11) And until the third day, the Israelites were not supposed to come near the mountain. And God also told Moses that when the Israelites heard a trumpet on the third day, that was the signal to come near the mountain to hear what God had to say. And so the appointment was set…in 3 days God was going to come down to the mountain to say something directly to the Israelites.
And on the morning of the 3rd day, the Israelites immediately knew that it was going to be an interesting day. They could already hear thunder outside. And when they got up and opened the door to their tents to look at where the thunder was coming from, they saw that the mountain was covered with a dark cloud and they could see lighting coming from the cloud. And then the Israelites heard the sound of a trumpet. The Bible says that the trumpet was “very loud, so that all the people whowerein the camp trembled.” (19:16) And that was the signal…and so Moses gently led the Israelites to the bottom of the mountain. And as the Israelites approached the mountain, the Bible says that Mt. Sinai became, “completely covered in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire.” (19:18) So out of the sky came a huge fireball that landed right on top of the mountain. And then it seemed like the whole mountain was continually in the process of exploding. There was a thick black smoke almost like the mountain had become a volcano…complete with earthquakes and lightning. And then the sound of the trumpet came back, and the trump sound got louder and louder and louder…and the sound just kept going on forever.
And right in the middle of this incredible scene, God began to talk to the whole nation. And He said, “Iamthe LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (20:1). Now, the Bible doesn’t say what God’s voice sounded like, but it does say that all the Israelites were pretty scared. So in addition to everything else that was going on, God’s voice was definitely making an impression here. And what is God saying to them? Well…He’s introducing Himself. This voice that was talking to them from the billowing smoke was indeed the Lord their God…the One who had saved them from the Egyptians. And then God went on…with the billowing smoke, and the earthquakes, and the lightning, and the thunder…to give the Israelites what we call the 10 commandments. 10 very basic ground rules which any follower of God must obey.
And God started with the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”Then the 2nd commandment, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likenessof anythingthatisin heaven above, or thatisin the earth beneath, or thatisin the water under the earth; (5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God,ama jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourthgenerationsof those who hate Me, (6) but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”The 3rd commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not holdhimguiltless who takes His name in vain.”The 4th commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh dayisthe Sabbath of the LORD your God.In ityou shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger whoiswithin your gates. (11) Forinsix days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all thatisin them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (20:3-11)
The 5th commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”The 6th commandment,“You shall not murder.”The 7th commandment,“You shall not commit adultery.”The 8th commandment,“You shall not steal.” The 9th commandment,“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”And the 10th and final commandment,“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.” (20:12-17)
And there you have it…the 10 commandments…the basic rules that the Israelites needed to obey if they were going to be God’s special people. They sound pretty simple right? Don’t worship other gods, don’t worship idols, don’t use God’s name needlessly, keep the Sabbath, honour your parents, don’t kill, don’t…uh…sleep in the same bed as someone you aren’t married to, don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t think about other people’s stuff all the time. Pretty basic…right? Well, you’d think so, but the Israelites had just spent a ton of time in Egypt where those kinds of things happened all the time. And the Israelites were now in the habit of doing those things all the time. And I’d imagine that many of the Israelites started thinking to themselves…woh…I do bad things all the time…and maybe they started to realize that they weren’t as good of a people as maybe they thought.
And that combined with everything going on on the mountain (the smoke, the lightning, the thunder, the earthquakes, the super loud trumpet sound)…was just too much for the Israelites…and they just couldn’t take it anymore. And so, when God was finished with the 10 commandments, the Israelites said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (20:19) The Israelites were scared out of their minds, and were like…please Moses…you go up there and talk to God…and then tell us later what He said…we’ll believe whatever you say…just please make God stop talking to us. And Moses replied to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (20:20) Moses was basically saying…don’t be scared guys…God is just trying to make a big impression on you so you take this seriously. But even still…the Israelites still didn’t want God talking directly to them anymore. And so, a reluctant Moses walked back up the mountain and into the thick black cloud to hear the rest of what God had to say.
And it turns out that God had a lot more to say to the Israelites. Building off of the 10 commandments, God gave the Israelites (through Moses) a bunch of other laws. This set of laws was called the judgements, because these were laws which judges were supposed to ensure were being followed (just kinda like what judges do today). There were all kinds of laws…laws against hurting or killing each other, against abusing slaves, laws for taking responsibility for what your animals did, laws against damaging other people’s property, laws against taking advantage of widows, orphans, the poor, and non-Israelites, laws on lending money, laws that judges were not to favour the poor over the rich or the rich over the poor, laws against bribes, laws against violent mobs. And when God was done with the judgements, He the reemphasized the Sabbath, and even gave farm land a special sabbath where the every 7th year farmers weren’t supposed to plant anything to let the land rest. God also put 3 annual feasts in place – the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the one that had started in Egypt when the angel passed over the first born), the Feast of Harvest (at the beginning of the harvest), and the Feast of Ingathering (at the end of the year). And after all that, God promised that He would go ahead of the Israelites to fight against the Canaanites (who were at that moment living in the Promised Land), though the Israelites would also have to fight the Canaanites and make sure that they were all driven out of the Promised Land.
And after God said all that to Moses, Moses went down the mountain, and the Bible says that Moses, “came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgements.” (24:3) And what did the Israelites think about the 10 commandments and the judgements? Well the Bible says that all the people responded together with one voice, and said, “All that the Lord has said we will do.” (24:4) Ok…so the Israelites were still in.
And now that everyone was in agreement, there was only one more thing to do…to make it official. And the Bible says that Moses, “wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an alter at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” (24:4) On the alter, Moses sacrificed oxen. And he took the blood of the oxen and sprinkled it on the alter…and then sprinkled the rest on the people. And Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.” (24:8) And with that, the Israelites had officially made a covenant with God…and agreement with God. The Israelites would follow the 10 commandments and the judgements, and God in tern would make the Israelites into a special people…a people who would be God’s special treasure…a people through whom God would save the world.
Ok…so now that they’d made the covenant with God…I guess the pit stop was over and it was time to get to the Promised Land right? I mean…it had already been a long long detour…so it was time to get going…right? Well…no. No, God wasn’t done talking to the Israelites quite yet. And God called Moses back up the mountain. And actually, Moses was going to be up there for quite a while longer…more than a month. What could Moses possibly be talking about up there with God for more than a month? Well…that’s a good question…and we’ll talk all about it…next time.