We have been looking at our redemption that we have in Christ through the life of Israel as God redeemed the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Exodus 19 opens with telling us that it is now two months since the people have come out of Egypt. They are about to experience a moment that will change everything in the life of these people. Notice in verses 2-3 that Israel is in the Sinai Desert and they have camp in front of the mountain. Moses has gone up on this mountain. In fact, notice how this is worded because it is amazing: “Moses went up to God.” God has come down and Moses is able to go up the mountain to God. This is a monumental moment for the people of Israel.
The Lord then calls to Moses out of the mountain and tells Moses that this is what he needs to tell the people of Israel. Look at Exodus 19:3-6.
3 “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 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; 6 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 19:3–6 ESV)
The first picture God wants Moses to tell the people is to see the redemption God has brought to them. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. Notice that it is not what you did to the Egyptians. You did not do that. You did not set yourself free. You did not send the plagues. You did not part the sea. You did not kill the Egyptians in the sea. God did this to the Egyptians. But notice the second picture. God bore the people on eagles’ wings. This is a beautiful picture of protection and deliverance. God carried his people. He lifted them up and brought them out himself. Notice the purpose of all of these mighty acts. It was not merely to set the people free from Egyptian slavery. Notice that, “I brought you to myself.” This is the purpose of the Exodus: to bring his people to himself. Israel was not supposed to focus on themselves. They were not focus on their new found freedom. They had been set free with a purpose. They had been set free and carried by God to be brought near to the Lord. He delivered them so that he could have a relationship with them. There is intimacy that God is desiring from this relationship. God says to the people, “I brought you near to me.” God delivers because he wants fellowship.
Then God gives the requirement, which is recorded in verse 5. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant….” Please notice that the foundation of the covenant is the redemption God accomplished for his people. Obedience is expected because of what God has done. Notice that this is not a covenant where Israel was able to decide if they wanted to be part of the covenant or not. God rescued and now these are the terms of the covenant. You saw what I did to the Egyptians. You saw how I bore you on eagles’ wings. You now see how I brought you to myself. Because of these things (therefore) you are to obey God’s voice and keep his covenant. Obedience is expected because of what God has already accomplished.
Listen to all that God will do if they will keep the covenant God is establishing. “You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” Further, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Notice that this reward was conditional, based on the prior requirement. IF you will truly obey God’s voice and keep the covenant, then these rewards will be experienced.
The covenantal reward is amazing. The people would become God’s treasure among all the peoples of the earth. This conditional promise makes sense. There cannot be true fellowship, truly treasuring one another, and enjoying intimacy in the relationship if one party does not desire it. It is the same as a marriage. If one person does not want true fellowship, truly treasuring one another, and desiring intimacy in the relationship, then the relationship will not exist. Both people must desire this outcome. So this is what God is expressing. God showed Israel that this is exactly what he wanted. You saw what I did to the Egyptians. You saw how I bore you on eagles’ wings. You see that I have brought you to me and I have come down to the mountain. Now you must show that this is a relationship you want. Obey my voice and keep my covenant.
You see how the reward makes sense in this context. If you will keep my covenant, then we can have this relationship. You will be my special treasure. You will have an exclusive relationship with the true and living God. A special relationship will be enjoyed. You will be distinct from the rest of the world. Further, the people of Israel would function as a kingdom of priests to God. This is particularly fascinating because the priesthood has not been established yet. The point is that God was setting all the people of Israel apart so that they could function as God’s priests to the world. They would show God to the world through the special, treasured relationship they would enjoy, which was to bring the world to God so that God was glorified. This nation will function like a priest to the other nations before God. The purpose of Israel is to serve God. Finally, the people would be made a holy nation. The primary concept of holiness is being set apart for special service. These people have been set apart from the world to be God’s people, God’s nation. They represent God. They are dedicated to God.
Accepting The Covenant (19:7-8)
So Moses functions as God’s authorized representative. He is to tell the people the terms of the covenant and the rewards of the covenant that have been enacted because God has rescued the people and brought them to himself. “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’” Notice he is functioning as the mediator, going between God and the people. Moses then return to the Lord and reports all the words of the people to the Lord. What an amazing picture of God’s covenant with his people and the blessings he gives as he desires to be in relationship with them.
New Testament Implications
Pictures of Christ
Now we have noted throughout our study that these scenes were pictures by God intending to display how God was going to save the world when Christ came. The New Testament paints these same pictures for us so that we can see that this exodus has come for us now. The Gospel of Matthew sets us this scene first in the New Testament. Think about how the Sermon on the Mount opens. Jesus goes up on the mountain, his disciples come to him at the mountain, and Jesus spoke the terms of the covenant (Matthew 5:1). Please notice this is the connection Matthew wants because Jesus had been in the wilderness beforehand. Jesus is in the wilderness, succeeds in the temptations given to him, and then goes throughout Galilee teaching, until he comes to this mountain. Then he goes up the mountain and proclaims the covenant to Israel. Jesus is constantly pictured as the new Moses. Jesus is the authorized representative for God. This is the thrust of Hebrews 1:1-2.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV)
Jesus is the exact representation of God, proclaiming the message of God to the world that we are to hear and obey. But not only this, there is an even greater picture of who Jesus is, for he is the true Israel. The New Testament pictures Jesus as the true Israel who succeeds in God’s mission where the physical nation of Israel failed. We have looked at this text many times and I want you to look at it again for it is such an important declaration made by God. Turn to Isaiah 49:1-12.
Isaiah 49:1-4 reveals that the servant God is speaking about is Israel (49:3). Yet in verses 5-6 God tells this servant that the mission is to bring Israel back. But this is too small of a task for this servant. He will also be a light to the nations so that the salvation of God reaches to the ends of the earth. Jesus is the servant of Isaiah but is described as Israel because he will do what Israel failed to do. He will be God’s Son in way where Israel as God’s son failed. He will be God’s treasured possession as the one in whom God is well-pleased always, where Israel was not. He will be a priest to the world where Israel failed. He will be a light to the nations where Israel failed. God is picturing in the book of Exodus what Jesus would accomplish when he came and what to expect Jesus to do for us.
Pictures of Disciples
God has accomplished redemption through Jesus, setting us free from sin and forgiving us for our violations of his law. But just as God did not merely set Israel free but gave them a purpose, so we are also set free for the same purpose: we have been brought near to the Lord through the sacrifice of Jesus. The apostle Paul speaks of this purpose when he writes to Titus.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)
Notice the same picture. Salvation has come for all people. What was the effect? Jesus gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession. This is exactly what God said to Moses regarding the redemption of Israel from Egyptian slavery. You have been redeemed to be a holy nation, making us to be a people for his own possession. This is why God saved us: to bring us to him as his treasured possession. Listen to the apostle Peter teach the same picture in 1 Peter 2:4-10.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4–10 ESV)
The exact same purpose language is applied to us that was applied to Israel after the Exodus. In fact, you could read 1 Peter 2:9-10 and think that he was talking to Israel after crossing the sea after coming out of Egypt. God made them to be a people who have received mercy. God’s purpose for your redemption is for us to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s possession, proclaiming the excellencies of God who called us. We belong to God with this important, special purpose. We are called to have the same response to the covenant: obey his voice and keep his covenant. We are called into a covenant because of what God has done. God tells us to look at what he has done to the enemies of Satan, sin, and death. See how God has carried us on eagles’ wings to himself so that we can have a relationship with him. We have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Now we must listen to the Lord and keep the covenant for our God loves us, saved us, brought us near, and made us to be his special, treasured people. Oh what a blessing to live in the covenant of Christ and may we so desire to be faithful to his covenant because he has brought us out of the darkness of slavery into the light of his love and grace. Serve your God, turn from sin, and long for being with this amazing God for eternity.