If You Will…
Was anyone here at the giving of the law at Mount Sinai? No? I didn’t think so. And yet, in today’s passage, God speaks of His voice as something that is to be obeyed by the people at all times. How can His voice be obeyed if it was only that one time in history that He spoke to the people in this way? How is that possible?
It’s because even though there is no audible voice issuing forth, there is still the written account of His voice – at Sinai, through the prophets, through the mouth of Christ Jesus, and through the hand of the apostles. The word is the voice, merely in written form.
And so it is incumbent on us to pay heed to that voice as it slowly reveals the plan of redemption found in the pages of the Bible. As we read it, we should tremble, knowing with all certainty that it is the voice of our Creator.
Text Verse: “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.” Ezra 9:4
In Ezra’s time, there were those who had transgressed the law of the Lord. This distressed the people because they had already been punished once for having rejected the word of the Lord. They were hardly back in the land from that exile and the people had started down the wrong path once again.
Those who trembled at the words of God gathered together in hopes of withholding His wrath from coming upon them once again. It is people like this that are rewarded for their faithfulness before God. Do you tremble at the words of God? Do you feel fear and remorse when you sin against Him?
He is a loving Father, but He is also a just Judge. Let us tremble at the words of God and do our utmost to be obedient and faithful to them. This is what He will tell the people that He expects of them in today’s passage. So let’s look into this word and let us accept it for what it is, the very words of our Creator revealed to us. It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Israel Camped before the Mountain (verses 1-3)
In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt,
The words ba’khodesh ha’shelishi or, “In (the) new moon the third…,” indicate that this is the first day of the third month. The new moon sets the timing of the new month in the Hebrew calendar. It is commonly accepted that unless the day of the month is given, then the first day of the month is the default day to be considered. The Bible provides specificity, but it also requires study and understanding to grasp its nuances.
This then would be the month of Sivan. It corresponds with around the end of May to early June. It is now the 47th day after departing from Egypt. The Passover was on the 14th of the first month and Israel departed in the night on the 15th day of the first month.
Counting 15 to 30 equals a total of 16 days. Then the second month would be 30 days long. This then would equal day 46. Now it is the first day of the third month, or day 47. Why should we care about this? Stay tuned to this same channel and you will soon see.
1 (cont) on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.
Three names are given in this first verse – Israel, Egypt, and Sinai. Israel means, “He strives with God.” It is a double entendre. He strives with God – either on His behalf or against His will, but either way Israel strives with God. Egypt means “Double Distress.” Sinai means “Bush of the Lord.”
A picture is being formed already in verse 1 for us to think about and contemplate. If, as traditional scholars believe, Mount Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula, then the Wilderness of Sinai is a spacious plain around it known as Er Rahah.
The mountain itself, there in Sinai, is actually a collection of three peaks which consist of Jebel Musa, Mount Catherine, and Ras Sufsafeh. This corresponds with the writings of Josephus and many other ancient witnesses.
Other scholars disagree and place Sinai in various other locations, but the trek so far, the meticulous recording of the trek, and the timing involved in that trek seems to lead to this area of the Sinai Peninsula. It is where St. Catherine’s Monastery is. Ellicott eloquently describes the choice of Mount Sinai for the giving of the law –
“Mount Sinai was a place which nature, not art, had made conspicuous, for it was the highest in all that range of mountains. Thus God put contempt upon cities and palaces, setting up his pavilion on the top of a mountain, in a barren desert.” Charles Ellicott
2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness.
The last time Rephidim was mentioned was in Exodus 17:8 in the war with Amalek. After that came the insert account of Jethro and his advice to Moses which was placed there prior to the giving of the law even though it chronologically came almost a year later. That encompassed all of chapter 18.
Now we are told they have departed Rephidim for the Wilderness of Sinai without any intervening stops. This then corresponds with Numbers 33:15. It agrees that there were no stops between the two. Rephidim today is accepted to be a place called Wady Feiran.
To get to the wilderness of Sinai, or Er Rahah required one of two treks. One would be about 18 miles and the other about 25 miles. Both distances are attainable in a single long day of walking and so the account of the past matches what is acknowledged today.
2 (con’t) So Israel camped there before the mountain.
This area of Er Rahah is described as a plain which is about two miles long and about a half-mile wide which is “enclosed between two precipitous mountain ranges of black and yellow granite, and having at its end the prodigious mountain block of Ras Sufsafeh” (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 74).
It is rather flat and stunted tamarisk bushes cover the ground. According to writings about it, of all of the places in the Sinai Peninsula, it has the most abundant supply of water to be found.
3 And Moses went up to God,
What is implicit, but unstated, is that the pillar of cloud and fire moved to the mountain and rested there. Moses having been to this spot before now returns to it and ascends the mountain in order to determine God’s will for the people after their long, arduous trek.
Unfortunately, unless you are reading this in Hebrew, it is pretty certain your Bible doesn’t translate these words properly. Again, as has occurred at important points throughout the Exodus account, there is a definite article in front of “God.” It says u’mosheh alah el ha’elohim – “And Moses went up to the God.”
What is happening here is what was spoken about in Exodus 3 when Moses first met the Lord in the burning bush. The term God was used many times in that chapter, but the term ha’elohim, or “the God,” was used just five times at key points in the narrative.
In verse 3:12, using the definite article it said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve the God on this mountain.” The term “the God” or ha’elohim, will be used three times in this chapter.
3 (con’t) and the Lord called to him from the mountain,
Suddenly, after going up to “the God,” it says that the Lord, meaning Yehovah, called to him from the mountain. This is the same idea, but in reverse, as what occurred in Exodus 3:4 –
“So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!'” Exodus 3:4
The same Lord who called from the bush is the God who now calls to Moses from the mountain. The promise of Exodus 3:12 is now coming to its fulfillment. The God, who is the Lord, will be worshipped on this mountain. Moses has accomplished the mission he so reluctantly accepted and he has led Israel to their anticipated meeting with the God, who is Yehovah. The name Lord, or Yehovah will be used 18 times in this chapter.
As a side note, Stephen refers to this account in Acts 7:30 where he says Moses met an Angel of the Lord. What is implied there is that it is the Lord Jesus, the Messenger of God, with whom Moses met.
3 (con’t) saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
This is a unique and interesting set of words. The name Jacob has not been mentioned since Exodus 3:6 when we read this –
Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. Exodus 3:6
However, the name “Israel” or “Israelite” has been used 104 times. And further, the term “house of Jacob” is rare in Scripture. This is the second of only 18 times it is used. The book of Isaiah uses it the most, nine times. The first time it was used was in Genesis 46:27 during the record of those who went to Egypt with Jacob.
Here, both terms, the house of Jacob and the children of Israel, are named in the same verse. This group of people who once was lowly and humbled when they entered Egypt, just as Jacob was when he fled to Padan Aram, had increased to become great just as their father when he returned home.
Thus the term “the children of Israel” is the increase of Jacob. Both terms are used here to reflect their humble origins as well as their national status. The only time the term is used in the Psalms, the same general thought is recorded –
“When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion.” Psalm 114:1, 2
It is to this house of Jacob, who are the children of Israel, that he now very precisely and succinctly states three things which He has accomplished for them…
I have borne you on eagle’s wings, tenderly caring for you
Raising you out of the nest, you are ready for a new way
I will show you marvelous things, in all that I do
In obedience you I will test, and in you marvels I will display
How I love you O Israel
But do you love Me? Will you follow and pay heed?
In advance to you I will tell
That you will fall away, and do so with speed
But after My anger subsides, I will gather you again to Me
And once more I will place you high among the nations
My word is My oath and surely you will see
So believe My word and rejoice in those expectations
II. If… (verses 4-6)
4 ‘You have seen
atem reitem – The words in this verse are plural. The Lord is speaking to all Israel when He says “you.”
4 (con’t) what I did to the Egyptians,
asher asiti l’mitsraim – “What I did to Egypt.” Most translations say “the Egyptians,” but what occurred happened to people, animals, and land. The words are surely speaking in an all-inclusive manner concerning the great deeds of the Lord.
In only a few words, a recap is made concerning the marvelous miracles and wonders which He brought upon them, from the first plague of blood all the way until the waters of the Red Sea closed over Egypt’s armies.
4 (con’t) and how I bore you on eagles’ wings
wa’essa etkem al kanpe nesharim. Secondly, He notes how He bore them on eagle’s wings. The word translated as “eagle” is nesher and is used for the first of 26 times in the Bible. It doesn’t necessarily mean an eagle though. The HAW notes that “…the Semitic languages actually tend to lump the large soaring birds into one family.”
Therefore it can include the eagle, hawk, harrier, vulture, and so on. In the case of this verse, the eagle more naturally brings out the sense for our imagination. It is a powerful and beautiful bird of prey. The theme here concerning being borne on the eagle’s wings is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. It is highly refined in Deuteronomy 32 –
“As an eagle stirs up its nest,
Hovers over its young,
Spreading out its wings, taking them up,
Carrying them on its wings,
12 So the Lord alone led him,
And there was no foreign god with him.” Deuteronomy 32:11, 12
The eagle will hover over its young, protecting them from the sun, from the cold, and from other potentially harmful elements which arise. During the entire time of their growth in the nest, the mother feeds them and prepares them for the moment when they will first take to flight.
Eventually, when the young eagle has developed enough, the parent will stir up the nest in order to lure the now-ready fledgling for that precious moment. As they take to flight, the parent will hover around them, fluttering in an encouraging manner.
The idea of being lifted up on its wings comes from the parent flying beneath the young one, probably to provide lift for the tired bird and to ensure it wouldn’t fall to the earth. However, there are no reliable reports of a bird actually flying on its parent’s wings and thus this is speaking in a phenomenological sense. Probably the most famous of such passages in Scripture is that of Isaiah 40 –
“Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God’?
28 Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:27-31
In looking at these passages, we can see that like the eagle developing in a nest, Israel developed as it were in Egypt. When the time was right and she was ready for her flight, the Lord aroused like the parent and fluttered in order to prompt Israel to depart the nest. The symbolism is both highly tender and exceedingly beautiful.
They went from embryo to fully developed, and at that time, the Lord carried them upon Himself, even to Himself…
4 (con’t) and brought you to Myself.
va’avi etkem alai – This is the third thing which the Lord claims to have done thus far for Israel. He brought them to Himself. There are two major ways in which these words are viewed. The first is that He brought them to Himself at Sinai where they could fellowship with Him. This is the prominent view.
But this then neglects the fact that the Lord was there with them in Egypt as an eagle is there with the young, protecting them and watching over them until they are ready for flight. It also neglects the fact that the Lord has been with them throughout all of the plagues and throughout the past 47 days of wilderness wanderings.
Instead, He is certainly saying that “I have brought you out of where you were. You were in a land of corrupting influences, you were living in a manner contrary to My glory and My righteous standards, and You have been brought to the place where I will reveal these to You. I will show You what is right, proper, and acceptable concerning worship of Me, your Creator and now your Redeemer.”
This is certainly what is intended by the words va’avi etkem alai. He is speaking in a manner as if the matter is accomplished because He is God and He will complete what He has begun.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice
v’attah im shamoa tishmeu – “and you, if listening you will listen.” It is asking for obedience. The Hebrew word im, or if, is a conditional word. “If you hear the words, it doesn’t mean that you will truly listen to them. But if you do, if you hear them when they are proclaimed and then act on them as intended, then there will be a relationship between us which is unique in all the world.”
It needs to be noted that the word qoli or “My voice” is equated directly with the word of God. In other words, it is true that the people at Sinai will hear the word of God spoken, but those after this time will not. And yet, they are asked to continue to hearken to qoli, or “My voice.”
Thus, the written word of God carries the same weight and authority as the spoken word of God, because it is, in fact, the spoken word of God. If this isn’t a terrifying thought for those who would misuse Scripture, then that heart is hardened even to foolishness. The Lord is asking them to hear and to apply the words of His voice to their lives
5 (con’t) and keep My covenant,
Adam Clarke very well sums up these words and their significance for us. These words mean that they were to…
“…not only copy in their lives the ten commandments, but they must receive and preserve the grand agreement made between God and man by sacrifice, in reference to the incarnation and death of Christ; for from the foundation of the world the covenant of God ratified by sacrifices referred to this, and now the sacrificial system was to be more fully opened by the giving of the law.” Adam Clarke
Clarke is right in that the covenant which will be presented to Israel is in reference to the death of Christ. The sacrificial system which they will be introduced to is explicitly explained in the book of Hebrews, particularly chapters 9 and 10. At this time, the Lord is asking them to do these things. And if they do, there will be an honor bestowed upon the people which is unmatched and without parallel in all of human history…
5 (con’t) then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people;
The words here are about as important to understand as any to be found in Scripture. Israel is promised that if they are obedient to the word of the Lord and faithful to His covenant, they will be a “special treasure” to Him. The word for “special treasure” is segullah. This is the first of eight times it will be used in Scripture. The last being Malachi 3:17.
What the Lord means by this term will be explained in the next verse, but to the people, it was a word that held meaning in and of itself, and so they would understand it immediately. It comes from an unused root meaning “to shut up.”
The idea is that something precious like a jewel or a peculiar treasure would be shut up because it was special. This word, though only used a limited number of times, is filled with both spiritual and theological treasure. Solomon uses the term in Ecclesiastes 2 –
“I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.” Ecclesiastes 2:8
However, after only a few more verses, Solomon will note that it, along with all of his other riches, were mere vanity. In Solomon’s words, we can see that special treasure, apart from God, has no meaning at all. This is all implied in the Lord’s words to the people here. The conditional word “if” was given to show them this.
And this word of warning, “if,” can be summed up perfectly in the last use of the word segullah in the Old Testament. In Malachi 3, we read this –
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
17 ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.’
18 Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.” Malachi 3:16-18
Those who feared the Lord are those included in the “if” of His promises. The grace of the promise to Israel is given in advance of the giving of the law, but it carries a very large and consequential word within it… “if.”
Only those who hold the Lord in such high esteem as to hearken to His voice and be obedient to His covenant will likewise be esteemed by the Lord. How sad that so many missed this and how many still miss it today.
5 (con’t) for all the earth is Mine.
The previous words said that they would be the Lord’s special treasure above all people, not “out of” all people. These words now explain that – “for all the earth is Mine.” The words, however, have to be taken in light of what is later said in Luke 4 –
“Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.'” Luke 4:5-7
The earth is the Lord’s but the control of it was delivered to the devil when Adam fell in the Garden of Eden. In order for Israel to be the Lord’s special treasure, He redeemed them. In the act of redemption, they again belonged to Him. But does this mean that all of Israel is, by default, the Lord’s? The answer is, “No.” This is seen from Jesus’ own words in John 8 –
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” John 8:44, 45
In this, we see that physical redemption does not automatically follow through to spiritual redemption. Man remains in sin and sin must be atoned for. The Lord will provide a means for the atonement of sin within the covenant which He will make with Israel. But even that only points to the true atonement which is found in Christ Jesus alone.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests
The word “kingdom” implies a king. Israel was intended to be a theocracy. It was a nation with the Lord as its King. In this position as a people, they were to be priests. The word “you” is emphatic and thus it is making a distinction between them and all the other nations. This should be taken in two ways. First, all Israelites were entitled to come near before God without an intermediary.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah came before the Lord and prayed to Him directly. The Lord heard her prayer and responded to it, giving her a son, Samuel. In 1 Chronicles 4, Jabez called out to the God of Israel and He heard and granted his request. These are just two of countless times the Bible records the prayers of the people, performing the priestly role of speaking directly to God.
The people also brought their offerings to Him directly, they paid Him their vows, and they communed intimately with Him at feasts and even in the common days of the year.
The second way they can be considered as a kingdom of priests is that they had priests, the sons of Levi and Aaron, to conduct specific priestly duties on behalf of the people before the Lord, their King. No other nation had such a system and no other nations had priests who were considered acceptable to conduct these priestly functions in connection with His law.
6 (con’t) and a holy nation.’
The idea of “holy” is that it is set apart. Israel was to be a holy nation because they were to be set apart from the world, living in a manner acceptable to the Lord based on the laws He would give them. They were to be consecrated to His service and then conduct themselves according to that consecration.
This holiness wasn’t something conferred and which then carried on all by itself. This is shown throughout the entire law. When someone did something wrong or had a certain type of defect, such as leprosy, they were to be cut off or kept separate from the congregation. Probably the most explicit example of something defiling that which is holy is found in the book of Haggai –
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?”’”
Then the priests answered and said, “No.”
13 And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
14 Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. Haggai 2:11, 12
Where holiness does not transfer to that which is defiled, that which is defiled does corrupt that which is holy. Being a holy nation implied first being purified and then being separate in order to maintain that holiness through adherence to the law of the Lord.
The holiness of Yehovah is the origination and cause of the holiness of the people. The giving of the law is how that holiness will come about. Without that, they would have remained defiled. Adherence to that law is how it is maintained. From this process they became acceptable to Him as a people to dwell among and receive their praise and worship.
6 (con’t) These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Out of curiosity, I counted the total number of words in the Hebrew which comprise the Lord’s words to Moses for him to repeat to Israel. This is from verse 4 through the first part of verse 6. It is just 37 words. The conditions were laid down and the promises were made in a mere 37 words. As the Pulpit Commentary notes –
“The question was a very simple one. Would they accept the covenant or no, upon the conditions offered? It was not likely that they would reject such gracious proposals.” Pulpit Commentary
The decision of the people, based on these 37 words, has carried them through much blessing and many, many curses for the last 3500 years. But through it all, Israel has survived. The Lord has remained faithful to His end of the deal, despite their chronic faithlessness.
A kingdom of priests, holy to the Lord
Those whose prayers and offerings are acceptable to Me
This is what you will be if you heed My word
I tell you this now, speaking plainly
I shall purify you and you shall be holy
And you shall continue to observe as I command you to do
If you continue in obedience it will go well, you see
I have a wonderful plan of the ages which includes you
And someday a New Covenant I will make
It will be between you and Me, yes between us
The covenant will be made for your sake
And it will come through the shed blood of My Son, Jesus
III. All that the Lord has Spoken We Will Do (verses 7-9)
7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him.
In order to transmit the message to the congregation, Moses called for the elders and relayed the words to them. Several translations use the literal words of the Hebrew, translating them directly by saying that Moses “laid before their faces” all the words of the Lord. “Before their faces” is an idiomatic Hebraism that simply means “before,” or “in the presence of.”
After speaking to the elders of the tribes, the words would go from tribe to family to household to individual. Very quickly the message would have been distributed to the ears of the congregation.
8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
Without even hearing the words of the covenant, the people as a united whole agreed to its terms. The word for “together” is yachad. It signifies that they were as one, wholly united in their approval. The 37 words were agreed to, including its conditional nature concerning obedience, as well as the benefits which will stem from a positive discharge of those expectations.
8 (con’t) So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.
Although not explicit, to communicate the message to the people and then to carry it back to the Lord would have made it the next day. Therefore, this is now the 48th day since the exodus.
Moses’ carrying back the words of the Lord was not a necessary thing for His information. The Lord is fully aware of all things. Rather, it is necessary as a part of the people’s instruction. Moses is shown to the people to be the messenger and the mediator of the coming covenant.
9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.”
In response to the affirmation of the people to accept the stipulations they had been presented, the Lord tells Moses what to expect. “I will come to you in the thick cloud.” The word “thick” is av and is introduced into the Bible at this time. The Hebrew reads, “I will come to you in the thickness of a cloud.”
This thickness will be explained in verse 18 as the smoke of a furnace. The cloud is not the glory of the Lord, but that which veils the glory of the Lord. God is Light and in Him there is no darkness. But in order to conceal His majesty and save the people from perishing, the cloud was given to obscure His radiance.
Even the shining countenance of Moses which merely reflected His glory had to be veiled from the people. In giving this marvelous manifestation of Himself, two purposes would be made known. The first is the absolute Divine majesty of the Lord which they were to remember and fear, understanding that He wasn’t just a magician’s trick conjured up by Moses.
Secondly, it was to validate that Moses had, in fact, been chosen as the Lord’s representative before the people and the people’s representative before the Lord. The “you” in “and believe you” is emphatic. They were expected to accept and believe Moses for all time. In part at least, this has been realized.
Moses is revered among the people and is considered their great lawgiver. Unfortunately, the actual significance of both who the Lord is and what was Moses’ role was for the people has been warped and twisted in a million ways over the centuries. But there is a germ of understanding at least in most Jewish people.
What the people will be prepared for is to be an eternal obligation on all men. Jesus, speaking of the very law that the people are about to receive, says this about it –
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18
*9 (fin) So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.
Doesn’t it seem odd that this is an almost identical repeat of the statement made in verse 8? It seems both out of place and unnecessary in the extreme, unless one considers the significance of the words. “So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.”
This isn’t a repeat of information that transpired between the two parties, Moses and the Lord. Rather, it is a statement concerning the two parties, Israel and the Lord. The repetition is given to show that the words of Israel had been transmitted to the Lord.
In essence, it is the sealing of the agreement. Israel has obligated itself to its future with these words. The words of the Lord through Ezekiel sum up this statement which is given here in verse 9 –
“What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'” Ezekiel 20:32
Israel as a people committed itself to the Lord and the Lord committed Himself to them. But we cannot forget that conditional word concerning this coming covenant – “if.” Israel will be holy if they maintain holiness. Israel will be secure if they rest in the Lord, but when they fail to meet the conditions, it would be different.
Within the covenant are promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Israel could not claim to be the Lord’s special treasure if they were disobedient to His word and to His covenant. Instead, they could only expect His wrath.
The rest of the Old Testament will reveal Israel’s complete inability to either heed His word or keep His covenant. In the New Testament, Paul gives several reasons for the giving of the law. The first is to show us God’s perfect standard.
The second is to show us the impossibility of any person meeting that standard. The third is to show us how utterly sinful sin is to God. And the fourth is to show us our desperate need for something else; it is to show us our need for Christ Jesus. The law was intended to lead Israel directly to their need for their Messiah. And so in Jeremiah 31we read this –
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31
The New Covenant was not given to the Gentile people of the world; it was given to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. However, as a nation, they rejected it and as Paul explains, took another path –
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:3, 4
Therefore, God set Israel aside and did something rather unexpected, He allowed Gentiles to partake of the commonwealth of Israel until Israel was ready to receive God’s righteousness instead of their own futile attempts at doing so.
During Israel’s time of being set aside, which Paul explains in detail in Romans, the terms of the New Covenant were offered even to Gentiles who heard and gladly received it. The kingdom of priests moved from Israel to the church, regardless of national heritage.
We are now His segullah, his special people. Paul, writing to Titus, the church planter of Gentile-led churches, writes this for us to see who we are because of our faith in Christ –
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:12-14
And we are now His nation of kings and priests, called out from the world – both Jew and Gentile. John informs us of this in the last book of the Bible when writing to the seven Gentile-led churches in Asia –
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:6
However, and to the shame of replacement theologians everywhere, God is not done with Israel. The structure of the Bible itself shows us the pattern of redemptive history. Paul’s letters come after the book of Acts to indicate the time of the Gentile-led church age, but immediately following that come the books addressed once again to the Hebrew people; the nation of Israel.
Peter, whose letter is not addressed to Gentiles, but to Jews – and which is placed after the Gentile-led church-age epistles, says this to his audience –
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9, 10
In these verses, Peter quotes the same words from Hosea that Paul used in Romans 9 to show that the Gentiles who were once not a people had now become the people of God. Peter, using those same verses, now shows that the Jews, who were not a people, are once again the people of God.
It is the restoration of Israel which is based on the words of the Lord found in today’s verse, specifically, that humongous word “if!” The New Covenant was given in place of the Old. The Old is obsolete, but the promise to Israel is not. The New Covenant was promised while the Old was in effect and therefore it pertains to those who are coming out of the Old Covenant.
This is the very purpose of the last 7 years of Daniel’s 70 7s, a 490-year period given to Israel to do exactly this, receive their Messiah and be reconciled to God through His shed blood. Has God abandoned His people Israel? Perish the thought! They abandoned Him, but He not only will not… He cannot abandon them.
The God of the Bible is unswervingly faithful to His word. It is the most reliable word of all. If He says He will accept you, then believe it. Trust that all of your mistakes can and will be washed if you just believe what He has accomplished for you. If you would like to receive Jesus today, let me explain to you how you can…
Closing Verse: “Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:1, 2
Next Week: Exodus 19:10-25 (A Law of Death and Condemnation) (53rd Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
“If” is a Conditional Word
In the third month after the children of Israel
Had gone out of the land of Egypt, by and by
On the same day, as the record does tell
They came to the Wilderness of Sinai
For they had departed from Rephidim
Had come to the Wilderness of Sinai by God’s care
And camped in the wilderness
So Israel before the mountain camped there
And Moses went up to God
And the Lord called to him from the mountain, He did tell
“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob
And tell the children of Israel:
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians
And how I bore you on eagles’ wings
And brought you to Myself
I have done all of these things
Now therefore, if you will indeed
Obey My voice and keep My covenant so divine
Then you shall be a special treasure to Me
Above all people; for all the earth is Mine
And you shall be to Me a kingdom
Of priests and a holy nation
These are the words which you shall speak
To the children of Israel, the congregation
So Moses came and called
For the elders of the people as the Lord demanded
And laid before them all these words
Which to him the Lord commanded
Then all the people answered together and said
“We will do all that the Lord has spoken
So Moses brought back the words
Of the people to the Lord, as a humble token
And the Lord said to Moses
“Behold, I will in the thick cloud come to you
That when I speak with you the people may hear
And believe you forever: this they will do
So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord
He told them this, according to the holy word
O God, “if” is such a big and difficult word
When we face daily trials, we usually fail
But Hallelujah to Jesus our Lord
Who over the law did prevail
In Him we have a greater hope, one solid and sure
Because of Him we too can stand in victory
And praise You all with lips cleansed and pure
And praise You eternally there at the glassy sea
Thank You, O God for our Lord Jesus!
Thank You, O God for all You have done for us!
Hallelujah and Amen…