Disciple Hour: Exodus 19:7–25

There are two words that depict God here in Chapter 19 of Exodus that I’d like to highlight. 

Transcendence and Immanence

Transcendence- God’s greatness and holiness and His distance from His creatures.  It is His otherness how He is infinitely glorious and set apart from His creation.  To transcend is to literally, go beyond.  God in every way is infinitely beyond us.

The other word, Immanence means to be near to or to relate to.  This when used of God means to be in a close relationship with or close personal involvement.  

So, one is the great distance God is far and above us and the other is how close God desires to be with His people.

Over the centuries, the Church seems to have highlighted one of these aspects of God over the other.  In times past God’s transcendence had been emphasized at the expense of His Immanence.  Today, however, it seems in Christian circles that God’s Immanence is emphasized at the expense of His Transcendence.  God is viewed as a friend more so than the Most High God.  

This attitude toward God can greatly affect our worship of Him.  We can get too comfortable with God.  We can approach worship with a lack of awe and wonder if we focus too much on God with us.  It’s important that we keep these both in balance if we are to have a correct view of God.  He is high and lifted up and He is God with us.

The Israelites had already seen God’s power and protection.  Now they are going to be exposed to His Transcendence.  Because God is awesome in glory and power, He is going to warn them to stay back, to not get too close to the base of the Mountain once He descends.  To touch it or get too close means certain death.  

Let’s look at the first section…

1.  The Transcendent God is Also Immanent Toward His People (19:7-15)

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 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. 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, 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. 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.” 

Because of Israel’s sin they cannot approach God the King.  Even to come somewhat near at the base of the Mountain they have to be purified and cannot approach Him any way they please. 
Moses comes down the mountain and summons the Elders of Israel.  Moses then tells them what God said.  The people respond…All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Their immediate and corporate response leads us to wonder just how truly committed they were.  One theologian comments, How can the people agree to accept the grounds of the covenant when God’s will has not yet been revealed to them?

God is going to descend in a great cloud which will cover Him.  The people will hear Him speak to Moses.  This is intended to validate Moses as God’s mediator.  It is to serve to give Moses’ authority as God’s spokesman.  When the people actually hear God speak to Moses there will be no mistaking that Moses is who he claims to be.  

God tells Moses to go.  He is to serve as a prophet and he is to prepare the people to be pure and sanctified because on day three, they will see God descend in a dark cloud and hear God speak to Moses.  Israel is about to have a very serious encounter with God.

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.

Here we see the Transcendent God will stoop down and become Immanent.  God who is separate from His creation will enter into it and speak to Moses in the hearing of the Israelites.  

Moses is also commanded by God to set boundaries for the people and even for their animals.  They were to set up rocks or some other markers to make sure the people did not get too close to the Mountain because the presence of God will make this Mountain holy.

It’s almost like Moses is to place caution tape around the Mountain so the people will not go past and be killed.  Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.

The way the trespasser was to be put to death was a little different.  Those carrying out the death sentence must not touch the person.  

13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.

On the third day they would hear a long blast of a trumpet and then they were to approach the Mountain with care and great fear.  Not too close but close enough to see and hear.

Part of their preparation for the men to abstain from normal physical pleasure with one’s wife.  They were to be completely focused on God and what was about to take place.

This was a frightening experience for the Israelites to be that close to God.

How do we prepare to meet with God?  Do we sense His Transcendence or are we too familiar with God?

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that in Christ we don’t go to Mount Sinai but Mount Zion…

Hebrews 12:18–24 (ESV) 

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 

The third day arrives and the trumpet blasts…

2.  The Transcendent God Descends on Mount Sinai (19:16-25)

16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them. 

There is thunder and lightning but no rain.  There is a thick dark cloud on top of the Mountain and a very loud blast of the trumpet.  These flashes of lightning and clapping thunder continue to repeat over and over the people see the flashes and hear the thunder.  

Then the dark cloud that envelops the shekinah glory of God descends to the very top of the mountain.  After that, the Hebrew Shofar blasts perhaps blown by an angel we are really not told to announce that Yahweh is descending and is present with His people.  

all the people in the camp trembled.

Moses too had great fear but also knew God had commanded him to bring the people out to witness this great event.  

The Mountain was filled with smoke because God had descended.  The smoke was swirling as it rose like the smoke from a great furnace.  Not only were the people trembling but the Mountain too was trembling.  Earthquakes were happening because God had descended. 

This, in part, was to show the people God’s awesome presence and power.  They must realize that this awesome scene is a sign of judgement for all who are not God’s people.  All who are lost will face God in His awesome power as their judge.  

19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

God and Moses carried on a conversation while the people listened and trembled and watched their step.  

Deuteronomy 4:9–14 (ESV) 

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. 

Verse 20, God summons Moses to ascend the Mountain while God descends to the top and there they meet together.  

Did you catch the continual warning from God to not let the people get too close.  Over and over He tells Moses this warning. 

3.  The Transcendent God Took on Flesh

God is Transcendent in glory and greatness.  However, to be Immanent God with us carries a stern warning for the people not to get too close and God also had to take precautions, He had to wrap Himself with a dark cloud.  So, there is a limit to how close God could be and how close the people could be to Him.

Hebrews 12:18-24 shows us the advantage we have over the Israelites.  They met God at Mount Sinai but we who are in the New Covenant meet God at Mount Zion or Mount Calvary. 

What a great advantage Jesus Christ has brought to us…

The Transcendent God took on flesh.  He could meet with His people.  Jesus is God with us.  What advantage the coming of Jesus brought to us!!

1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) 

16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 

John 1:14 (ESV) 

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

Colossians 1:19–20 (ESV) 

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 

I pray we see the great advantage Christ brings. 

I pray we also see the danger that while in Christ we have peace with God, He is still the same God that descended and caused the Mountain to tremble.

Praise God for Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior who brings us to the throne of grace by His blood.

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