All these words

God has a lot to say at Sinai. It can feel like a speech to those of us who drop in for a few minutes. And so we have to dig in and perhaps stay a while to experience something of what was experienced in real time.

This is a third anniversary; three months, that is. “On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai (19:1).”

Three months on that new lunar calendar of theirs had come and gone. The glitter was falling off. They were free. They had been saved from the house of slavery. Toward whose house were they headed: This wasn’t exactly clear.

Some indication of what God had in mind for them would be helpful. It has been touch and go. The Hebrews have had issues with Moses and with God. God has been working six days a week to provide food and water. Moses is having a hard time. Believing in the project and the people is taxing.

So when God makes clear that there is something other than this—a point to the present predicament—it is grace. “Although God has brought them out of Egypt and performed a number or miracles, it is not until this point in the story that God tells the people about God’s intentions for them (A. Erickson).”

I suppose there have been hints along the way, but at the foot of Sinai the truth is made plain. God’s devotion to them plus their devotion to God equals the future. The law was going to help them live lives worthy of their designation.

Exodus 20 without Exodus 19 may be what we are used to and yet it is somewhat of a travesty to try and make sense of the law apart from the promise. The Ten Words are uttered on the heels of--maybe in the same breath as--you shall be my treasured shall be for me a priestly kingdom (19:6).

A kingdom of priests implies that they will become a kingdom (they are but a band of pilgrims) and be like priests (priests are esteemed). It sounds like good news to those whose sense of self has faltered.

It feels like a promise of a house after Egypt. And because it is at this moment and not any other, the giving of the law feels like the gifting of the framework; which is sweet to behold when it’s a house, a structure to really live in, that is in the making.


Rachel May

Rachel MayExodus 20, Sinai