Scripture: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:4-6a ESV
Observation: These first eight verses of chapter 19 briefly tell of Israel arriving at the base of Mount Sanai and Moses ascending the mountain to obtain instructions from Yahweh on the conditions for Israel to receive the Ten Commandments. Verse 1 indicates that three months had passed since the Passover upon arriving at God’s holy mountain. Indeed, their arrival signaled the fulfillment of an early promise to Moses: that he would know Yahweh had sent him to lead the nation out of Egypt when he and Israel would one day serve God on this same mountain where Moses first saw the presence of the Lord in a burning bush (3:12).
So the people settle into their camp while Moses climbs the mountain to hear Yahweh’s initial condition for receiving a special covenant that would guide and guard Israel under his continued care. Accordingly, Moses is to recount to the people how their God fiercely defeated the Egyptians and carried them to safety on this mountain like an eagle aggressively wards off predators and bears its young on its wings (verse 4 above). Having established what God has done, Moses is to tell them how Israel should respond: with loving obedience to his covenant. Why? Because:
- Israel is his treasured possession among all the peoples.
- The whole earth belongs to Yahweh.
- Thus, as the Lord is like no other gods, his chosen people must uniquely set themselves apart as his “holy nation” to serve him as a “kingdom of priests.”
So, without delay, Moses beelines to the base camp to gather the elders and relay God’s words to the people. And Israel, with one voice, wholeheartedly agrees to obey Yahweh’s commands. Moses then promptly returns to the Lord and conveys their response.
Takeaway: Is God saying that Israel must work for their salvation through obedience to his commandments moving forward? Is the Mosaic Covenant in conflict with our New Covenant of Grace? Not any more than James’s argument that faith without works is dead. Here, obedience is an appropriate, loving response to what God did in saving Israel from bondage. Moreover, as Peter Enns contends, “The law he now gives is the subsequent stage in Israel’s developing relationship with God” (Exodus, NIV Application Commentary, p. 387). In other words, obedience will richly deepen Israel’s relationship with their Lord.
So what are we to take away from this passage? It is no different for us under the New Covenant of Grace. Jesus stated five times in his “final discourse” to the disciples the relationship between loving him and obeying him (John 14-16). Indeed, like Israel, our loving response to Christ laying down his life for us is obedience to his commands, leading us to a more rewarding relationship with him. But in no way is our salvation predicated on our obedience. In the words of Christ, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus has paid the price in full for our freedom from the tyranny of sin. And like Israel, when we disobey and stray, there is always room to repent and return to a flourishing life of loving obedience to our beautiful Savior because we are his treasured possession.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you first and foremost for rescuing us on the outstretched wings of your Son that we might become your treasured possession. We also thank you for your loving commandments that guide and protect us. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit in following your good, pleasing, and perfect will that we might continue to soar on the wings of our beautiful Savior and Lord? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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