The Blessing and the Fire – Exodus 19 and 20
It’s a fair comment to say that the Bible can be divided into two halves – Genesis 1-3 (how we ruined the world) and the rest of the Bible (how God puts it right). Certainly, Genesis and Exodus have been an extended response to the curses given to Adam and Eve, as God has begun to show grace to his fallen people.
It’s noticeable that in his response, we have seen both the blessing of God and the fire of God increase. The blessing of God began as early as Genesis 3, when God promises to crush the serpent (Gen 3:15). It increased to Abraham (Gen 12:2-3), and increased again to God’s people, as he rescues and redeems his people and ‘carries them on eagle’s wings’ (Exodus 19:4). At the same time, the fire of God increases – beginning with a burning torch (Genesis 15:7), it emerges at the burning bush (Exodus 3:2), and by the time that God reappears to Moses again in the same location, the whole mountain is on fire (Exodus 19:18) with God’s holiness.
Something similar is going on in the covenant that God is making in his people. There is the blessing of the covenant (Genesis 12, 15, Exodus 19:1-8) – in this sense, the covenants appear to be unconditional. But then each covenant also contains commands to be obedient (Gen 17:1-2, Exodus 20:1-21) – in that sense, the covenants are conditional. In other words, although the covenants that God forms grow and fit inside each other like Russian dolls, there is an apparent contradiction at their heart. God has promised to bless his people, but he must reject his people because of their sin.
The way in which that apparent contradiction will be resolved will take us all the way to the cross.
Read Exodus 19:1-20:21 and think about the following questions.
- At the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are faced with a dreadful curse. Have the events of Genesis 12-15, and Exodus 3-6, brought any resolution?
- In Exodus 19, what does God promise? What does it mean to be a treasured possession, or a kingdom of priests, or a holy nation?
- In Exodus 19:9-19, why must the people not approach God? Why is his presence so terrifying?
- From Exodus 20:20, what effect can God’s character have on us, even as believers trusting in the death of Jesus Christ? How specifically, will the fear of God help you battle sin this week?
- Reading Hebrews 12:18-24, how are we as Christians given something more majestic than what happened at Mount Sinai?