1. Israel At Mount Sinai (19:1-6)
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.”
Exodus 19:1-2 shows us that it has been three months since the Israelites had left Egypt. Upon leaving, they headed directly into the wilderness to be tested by God to see if they would walk in His ways…they failed. The Israelites fail to walk in God’s commands.
God brings Moses and Israel back to the mountain where Moses began. God kept His Word.
Exodus 3:12 (ESV)
12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
God has brought the Israelites to the promised mountain of God and here He will give them the Mosaic Law.
In Chapter 19 of Exodus, we are brought to see the covenant God is making with the Israelites. Moses will serve as the mediator of the covenant…He will speak to the people on God’s behalf to tell them what the stipulations are for their continued blessings and protection.
God first reminds them all He has done for them.
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.
Then gives them the stipulations of covenant blessings.
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.’
It will not be long until these Israelites will deny these words from God. They will show in the midst of the Golden Calf that it was their idol that brought them out of Egypt.
Exodus 32:2–4 (ESV)
2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
They had no true faith.
2. Old Testament Salvation
Looking to our passage I want to make sure we understand something and we will learn this even more through Galatians…
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples
We read this verse and we have seen a few others in Exodus that sound the same and we might conclude that in the OT, salvation came through works. Obey my words and you’ll be my people. What we must realize is God already had a remnant or a people before He gave the Law for them to obey. Another important point here is that the Israelites had already been saved from slavery and brought out of Egypt (A type of salvation prior to receiving the Law).
A question I’d like us to consider is, how were people saved in the Old Testament? I’m not talking about the Exodus rescue as a type of salvation but how were they actually saved?
How people were saved during the time of the Old Testament is a confusing question to some. We know that, in the New Testament era, salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ…
John 1:12–13 (ESV)
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Jesus is the Way (John 14:6). But, before Christ, what was the way?
A common misconception about the Old Testament way of salvation is that Jews were saved by keeping the Law. But we know from Scripture that that is not true. Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Some might want to dismiss this passage as only applying to the New Testament, but Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4—salvation by faith, apart from the Law was an Old Testament principle. Paul taught that the purpose of the Law was to serve as a “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Also, in Romans 3:20 Paul makes the point that keeping the Law did not save either Old or New Testament Jews because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” The Law was never intended to save anyone; the purpose of the Law was to make us “conscious of sin.”
If the Old Testament way of salvation was not keeping the Law, then how were people saved? Fortunately, the answer to that question is easily found in Scripture, so there can be no doubt as to what was the Old Testament way of salvation. In Romans 4 the apostle Paul makes it very clear that the Old Testament way of salvation was the same as the New Testament way, which is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To prove this, Paul points us to Abraham, who was saved by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Again, Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove his point—Genesis 15:6, this time. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the Law, because he lived over 400 years before the Law was given!
Paul then shows that David was also saved by faith (Romans 4:6-8, quoting Psalm 32:1-2).
Romans 4:6–8 (ESV)
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Paul continues to establish that the Old Testament way of salvation was through faith alone. In Romans 4:23-24 he writes, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” In other words, righteousness is “credited” or given to those who have faith in God—Abraham, David, and we all share the same way of salvation.
Much of Romans and Galatians addresses the fact that there is only one way of salvation and only one gospel message. Throughout history people have tried to pervert the gospel by adding human works to it, requiring certain things to be done to “earn” salvation. But the Bible’s clear message is that the way of salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, it was faith in the promise that God would send a Savior someday. Those who lived in the time of the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah and believed God’s promise of the coming Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). Those who exercised such faith were saved. Today we look back on the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins (Romans 10:9-10).
The gospel is not an exclusively New Testament message. The Old Testament contained it as well: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:8-9, quoting Genesis 12:3).
As early as Genesis 3:15,
Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
we see the promise of a coming Savior, and throughout the Old Testament there are hundreds of promises that the Messiah would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; cf. Isaiah 53:5-6). Job’s faith was in the fact that he knew that his “Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Clearly, Old Testament saints were aware of the promised Redeemer, and they were saved by faith in that Savior, the same way people are saved today. There is no other way. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12, quoting Psalm 118:22).
Salvation for the OT saint was faith in all God had revealed through the OT which included faith in a coming redeemer Messiah who would save them from their sins.
3. All that the Lord has spoken we will do
Exodus 19:6–9 (ESV)
6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
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.”
When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord,
As we conclude this passage, I want us to see that when the Israelites agreed to God’s conditions, they bound themselves to the consequences of not keeping the covenant. Almost immediately after saying these words they broke their promise.
Their faith was not in keeping these promises but that God would keep His. God is worthy and will have a people to worship and serve Him. He will have a kingdom and a people. He will have a kingdom of priests and His people will be a holy nation.
How will God do this since mankind is sinful and cannot keep their end of the covenant? How will God ever have a chosen people, royal priesthood and a holy nation when all He has ever had are sinners in rebellion against Him?
1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV)
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.
Here’s the issue: God has said He will have a people… you shall be. They were not, nor will anyone ever be able to achieve, on their own, what God has promised. So, if the promise Goes unfulfilled then God is not true to His Word.
How does God do this? Jesus Christ has said by His perfect life…All that the Lord has spoken I will do.
Jesus accomplished perfect law keeping for us. He came to do what we could never do.
God has called us out of the world and is sanctifying us for obedience and all the while extending grace and peace to us…
1 Peter 1:1–5 (ESV)
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Through Jesus, the church is all Israel was called to be but failed. This is not replacement theology but fulfillment theology. As Jesus said I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, so too does the Church fulfill what Israel was called to be. In Christ is found the Israel of God. In Christ the called of God are assembled into a holy nation and a royal priesthood.
Those who are Jews today are also coming to Christ by faith. Jews and Gentiles in Christ make up the true Israel. All glory be to God…He will have a people, a kingdom, and a royal nation…
Exodus by John Currid
Moses and the Gods of Egypt by John J Davis
Exodus in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary