Read Exodus 19:1-19
On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”
14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
What a show!
Smoke billowing “like smoke from a furnace”, thunder crashing and lightning flashing and crackling: God – on the mountain.
“Do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.”
They believe it.
Just two months ago Egyptian sons died at the hand of this God and now here He is, rumbling and burning and huge. He fills the mountain.
They will remember this.
Read verses 4-6 again. “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt.” Remember, Israel, the power of your God.
“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” He didn’t free them just for their own sakes – like letting a bird loose to fly away. No, it’s more like He ‘kidnapped’ them for Himself, except that they were His to start with.
He has a purpose for them: “You will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.”
This is the heart of the matter, what it’s all about.
A priest is someone who ‘goes between’ God and humans. The Priest brings the humans’ requests and needs to God, and then brings God’s answers back to the humans.
The Israelites would have no trouble understanding the need for such a person because this God-on-the-mountain is extremely scary. They’d much rather Moses go up and talk to Him, than have to go up themselves.
Yet, God is going to make them all “Priests”, a whole kingdom of them.
He’s doing what he said. He promised Abraham, long ago: “Through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18)
God intends to use Israel to help Him draw close to everyone on earth, and to help everyone on earth draw close to Him.
It’s an ambitious plan, but then, this is no ordinary Story.
The Hero needs to rescue the entire world from the dragon. To do it, He’ll raise up an army – of priests. He doesn’t look much like a dancer now, burning on the mountain and terrifying His people; but neither does a warrior when he’s in full battle dress.
The dance will be restored, but first the war must be won.