Exodus 19-21 You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation

From Exodus 19-21

02 ExodusIsrael has arrived at Mount Sinai and Moses goes up the mountain as God’s representative. There the LORD identifies his people as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. They are to prepare themselves for the LORD’s coming. He will come on the third day. Jesus likewise went up on the mountain.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The LORD has rescued Israel his people and now they have completed the first leg of their journey. They have arrived at Mount Sinai.

19 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain,

3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “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.” (Ex 19.1-6)

‘Mountain’. The LORD will show himself to be like the mountain. Immense and unmovable.

‘Moses went up’. Moses goes up to see the LORD and he is reminded of how the LORD has just rescued them from slavery. He is consequently worthy of their obedience.

Do you think of yourself as a royal priest?

‘Covenant’, ‘Kingdom’. God as king makes a covenant with his people, and no other. They are thus privileged above all nations. In serving the LORD they will represent him before the nations. They will be His priests. Set apart for his service.

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 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. 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” (Ex 19.7-9)

‘Elders’. Moses goes back down again to the elders and tells them of the LORD’s covenant. They agree to his terms.

‘Reported’. Moses goes back up again and tells the LORD what they said. The LORD then prepares Moses for what he will do.

The people are intended to believe God’s chosen representative.

When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

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12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” (Ex 19.9-15)

‘Consecrate’. The LORD instructs the people through Moses to prepare themselves for his coming. They are to consecrate themselves and wash. They are given two days.

‘Third day’. On the third day the LORD will come and they are warned to stay away from the mountain. They are to enforce the command, killing anything with touches the mountain.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

In God’s first official encounter with his redeemed people, he refers to them as a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. Although these terms are unique to this passage, the ideas they entail are not. God has chosen a people to be separate from the rest of the world, not just so that they can “belong” to him in some private sense, but in order that they be used by him for a special purpose. (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

Story of Jesus

In the gospel Jesus also went up on a mountain.

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Mt 5.1-5)

The reference to Jesus going up on the mountain and then laying down his kingdom blessings deliberately echos the exodus narrative with Jesus himself as God’s representative for the world. The blessed he describes are his royal priests, his holy nation and he gives a picture of what they are like.

The intention of God to reconcile the world to himself through a blessed and holy people has come to a climax in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the third day. This plan is still unfolding. As instruments of God’s plan, we are to live holy lives before God and the world around us.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.