After Moses delegated responsibilities to the chosen men around him, the whole company of Israel came to a new part of the wilderness. Just 50 days (think Pentecost) after their deliverance, God moves them from one wilderness (Sin, found on the west side of the Sinai peninsula) to another (Sinai, found on the east side of the Sinai peninsula). Lives lived in God are lives lived one wilderness after another. Ask John Bunyan.
Now, they had overcome enslavement (Exodus 12). They had overcome thirst in the desert (Exodus 15:22-24). They had overcome hunger (Exodus 16). They had overcome fatigue by working together (Exodus 17:12). They had overcome in battle against their enemies (Exodus 17:13). They had overcome a poor model of leadership (Exodus 18).
They had fought with God and rebelled throughout all of those victories which were given solely by the gracious mercy of God alone. God was faithful to these most unfaithful people. God was acting, moving, and working mightily on behalf of his people. Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Now observe, that the maker, the first mover, of the covenant, is God himself. Nothing was said nor done by this stupid unthinking people themselves towards this settlement; no motion made, not petition put up for God’s favor, but this blessed charter was granted ex mero motu – purely out of God’s own good-will. Note, in all our dealings with God, free grace anticipates us with the blessings of goodness, and all our comfort is owing, not to our knowing God, but rather to our being known of him.”
So. They’re ready to live in the shade with their umbrella drinks, right?
Wrong. Time to camp out in…the castle?…Beach house?…Vacation spot?….No. Time to camp out in a brand new wilderness. The new wilderness comes complete with instructions in preparation for the instructions. Apparently the instructions that were being given in preparation for the instructions about to be given were both profoundly important.
So what were God’s plans for this perpetually proud and imperfect people of His?
Priesthood!!! What?! Hey, guys. I know you don’t like to listen and you’ve grumbled and disobeyed me the whole way here but you’re all gonna be my priests. Either God isn’t as smart as he’s made out to be or He loves us in ways we cannot even fathom.
All of them, from the least to the greatest were to become a kingdom of highly honored, holy hallelujah nation of card-carrying tangible treasures for none other than the Almighty Father of all the world.
The way that this was about to happen was by:
1. Remembering the amazing love, protections, deliverance, and providence God had shown to them, (Exodus 19:4)
2. Obedience to Him (Exodus 19:5)
These are the profoundly important instructions which precede the profoundly important instructions, commonly known as the Ten Commandments.
Remember God’s un-stinking-believable grace. Obey Him.
Henry says this: “Obey my voice. This He is said to protest earnestly to them. Only obey in deed, not in profession and promise only, not in pretense, but in sincerity. God had shown them real favors, and therefore required real obedience. He assures them of the honor he would put upon them, and the kindness he would show them, in case they did thus keep his covenant. Then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me…he expresses it in that which was inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in covenant, and they should be to him a people.”
Plain and simple. Do this and you will be my priests; my treasure; my glory; the apples of my very eye.
What grace!!! Do you even know who these people are? How they’ve sinned? The faith they’ve lacked? The complaining they’ve done? The pain they’ve caused God’s prophet? The miserable, many, misguided mistake-makers they really are? These guys were just like us! Still, God’s words for these particular preferred people is simply this:
“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. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” ~Exodus 19:5-6
WOW! WOW! WOW!
“They were brought not only into a state of liberty and honor, but into covenant and communion with God. This, this was the glory of their deliverance, as it is of ours by Christ, that he died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (Henry)
Now that’s a God who redeems. That’s a God of unmitigated grace. That’s the God of Redeeming Grace.
So the prophet says those very words to the people and “all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that he people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.'” ~Exodus 19:8-9
They listened. They listened. Of course we all know it didn’t last too very long but I’d say this is progress for a people ever arguing with God’s providence.
God is getting ready to do something absolutely incredible. Buckle your seat belts, kids. It’s time to watch Daddy drive.