Exodus 19: The holy God (7 March 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The Israelites at Mount Sinai

1-2The people of Israel left Rephidim, and on the first day of the third month after they had left Egypt they came to the desert of Sinai. There they set up camp at the foot of Mount Sinai, 3and Moses went up the mountain to meet with God.

The LORD called to him from the mountain and told him to say to the Israelites, Jacob's descendants: 4“You saw what I, the LORD, did to the Egyptians and how I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me. 5 Now, if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own people. The whole earth is mine, but you will be my chosen people, 6a people dedicated to me alone, and you will serve me as priests.” 7So Moses went down and called the leaders of the people together and told them everything that the LORD had commanded him. 8Then all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said,” and Moses reported this to the LORD.

9The LORD said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will believe you from now on.”

Moses told the LORD what the people had answered, 10and the LORD said to him, “Go to the people and tell them to spend today and tomorrow purifying themselves for worship. They must wash their clothes 11and be ready the day after tomorrow. On that day I will come down on Mount Sinai, where all the people can see me. 12Mark a boundary round the mountain that the people must not cross, and tell them not to go up the mountain or even get near it. If anyone sets foot on it, he is to be put to death; 13he must either be stoned or shot with arrows, without anyone touching him. This applies to both men and animals; they must be put to death. But when the trumpet is blown, then the people are to go up to the mountain.”

14Then Moses came down the mountain and told the people to get ready for worship. So they washed their clothes, 15and Moses said to them, “Be ready by the day after tomorrow and don't have sexual intercourse in the meantime.”

16On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud appeared on the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled with fear. 17Moses led them out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18The whole of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD had come down on it in fire. The smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and all the people trembled violently. 19The sound of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder. 20The LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. Moses went up 21and the LORD said to him, “Go down and warn the people not to cross the boundary to come and look at me; if they do, many of them will die. 22Even the priests who come near me must purify themselves, or I will punish them.”

23Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up, because you commanded us to consider the mountain sacred and to mark a boundary round it.”

24The LORD replied, “Go down and bring Aaron back with you. But the priests and the people must not cross the boundary to come up to me, or I will punish them.” 25Moses then went down to the people and told them what the LORD had said.

The Plot against Jesus

1The time was near for the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover. 2The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were afraid of the people, and so they were trying to find a way of putting Jesus to death secretly.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples. 4So Judas went off and spoke with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard about how he could betray Jesus to them. 5They were pleased and offered to pay him money. 6Judas agreed to it and started looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them without the people knowing about it.

Jesus Prepares to Eat the Passover Meal

7The day came during the Festival of Unleavened Bread when the lambs for the Passover meal were to be killed. 8Jesus sent off Peter and John with these instructions: “Go and get the Passover meal ready for us to eat.”

9“Where do you want us to get it ready?” they asked him.

10He answered, “As you go into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters, 11and say to the owner of the house: ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ 12He will show you a large furnished room upstairs, where you will get everything ready.”

13They went off and found everything just as Jesus had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

The Lord's Supper

14When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. 15He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! 16For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.”

17Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.”

19Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” 20In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.

21“But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! 22The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!”

23Then they began to ask among themselves which one of them it could be who was going to do this.

The Argument about Greatness

24An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. 25Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People’. 26But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. 27Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves.

28“You have stayed with me all through my trials; 29and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. 30You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial

31“Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.”

33Peter answered, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to die with you!”

34“I tell you, Peter,” Jesus said, “the cock will not crow tonight until you have said three times that you do not know me.”

Purse, Bag, and Sword

35Then Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out that time without purse, bag, or shoes, did you lack anything?”

“Not a thing,” they answered.

36“But now,” Jesus said, “whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever has no sword must sell his coat and buy one. 37For I tell you that the scripture which says, ‘He shared the fate of criminals,’ must come true about me, because what was written about me is coming true.”

38The disciples said, “Look! Here are two swords, Lord!”

“That is enough!” he replied.

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

39Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples went with him. 40When he arrived at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

41Then he went off from them about the distance of a stone's throw and knelt down and prayed. 42“Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45Rising from his prayer, he went back to the disciples and found them asleep, worn out by their grief. 46He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

The Arrest of Jesus

47Jesus was still speaking when a crowd arrived, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. He came up to Jesus to kiss him. 48But Jesus said, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?”

49When the disciples who were with Jesus saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Shall we use our swords, Lord?” 50And one of them struck the High Priest's slave and cut off his right ear.

51But Jesus said, “Enough of this!” He touched the man's ear and healed him.

52Then Jesus said to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and the elders who had come there to get him, “Did you have to come with swords and clubs, as though I were an outlaw? 53I was with you in the Temple every day, and you did not try to arrest me. But this is your hour to act, when the power of darkness rules.”

Peter Denies Jesus

54They arrested Jesus and took him away into the house of the High Priest; and Peter followed at a distance. 55A fire had been lit in the centre of the courtyard, and Peter joined those who were sitting round it. 56When one of the servant women saw him sitting there at the fire, she looked straight at him and said, “This man too was with Jesus!”

57But Peter denied it, “Woman, I don't even know him!”

58After a little while a man noticed Peter and said, “You are one of them, too!”

But Peter answered, “Man, I am not!”

59And about an hour later another man insisted strongly, “There isn't any doubt that this man was with Jesus, because he also is a Galilean!”

60But Peter answered, “Man, I don't know what you are talking about!”

At once, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. 61The Lord turned round and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, “Before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 62Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Jesus is Mocked and Beaten

63The men who were guarding Jesus mocked him and beat him. 64They blindfolded him and asked him, “Who hit you? Guess!” 65And they said many other insulting things to him.

Jesus is Brought before the Council

66When day came, the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law met together, and Jesus was brought before the Council. 67“Tell us,” they said, “are you the Messiah?”

He answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me; 68and if I ask you a question, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated on the right of Almighty God.”

70They all said, “Are you, then, the Son of God?”

He answered them, “You say that I am.”

71And they said, “We don't need any witnesses! We ourselves have heard what he said!”

1The storm makes my heart beat wildly.

2Listen, all of you, to the voice of God,

to the thunder that comes from his mouth.

3He sends the lightning across the sky,

from one end of the earth to the other.

4Then the roar of his voice is heard,

the majestic sound of thunder,

and all the while the lightning flashes.

5At God's command amazing things happen,

wonderful things that we can't understand.

6He commands snow to fall on the earth,

and sends torrents of drenching rain.

7He brings our work to a stop;

he shows us what he can do.

8The wild animals go to their dens.

9The storm winds come from the south,

and the biting cold from the north.

10The breath of God freezes the waters,

and turns them to solid ice.

11Lightning flashes from the clouds,

12as they move at God's will.

They do all that God commands,

everywhere throughout the world.

13God sends rain to water the earth;

he may send it to punish us,

or to show us his favour.

 

14Pause a moment, Job, and listen;

consider the wonderful things God does.

15Do you know how God gives the command

and makes lightning flash from the clouds?

16Do you know how clouds float in the sky,

the work of God's amazing skill?

17No, you can only suffer in the heat

when the south wind oppresses the land.

18Can you help God stretch out the sky

and make it as hard as polished metal?

19Teach us what to say to God;

our minds are blank; we have nothing to say.

20I won't ask to speak with God;

why should I give him a chance to destroy me?

 

21And now the light in the sky is dazzling,

too bright for us to look at it;

and the sky has been swept clean by the wind.

22A golden glow is seen in the north,

and the glory of God fills us with awe.

23God's power is so great that we cannot come near him;

he is righteous and just in his dealings with us.

24No wonder, then, that everyone stands in awe of him,

and that he ignores those who claim to be wise.

1All these promises are made to us, my dear friends. So then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean, and let us be completely holy by living in awe of God.

Paul's Joy

2Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one; we have ruined no one, nor tried to take advantage of anyone. 3I do not say this to condemn you; for, as I have said before, you are so dear to us that we are always together, whether we live or die. 4I am so sure of you; I take such pride in you! In all our troubles I am still full of courage; I am running over with joy.

5Even after we arrived in Macedonia, we had no rest. There were troubles everywhere, quarrels with others, fears in our hearts. 6But God, who encourages the downhearted, encouraged us with the coming of Titus. 7It was not only his coming that cheered us, but also his report of how you encouraged him. He told us how much you want to see me, how sorry you are, how ready you are to defend me; and so I am even happier now.

8For even if that letter of mine made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. I could have been sorry when I saw that it made you sad for a while. 9But now I am happy — not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. 10For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation — and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death. 11See what God did with this sadness of yours: how earnest it has made you, how eager to prove your innocence! Such indignation, such alarm, such feelings, such devotion, such readiness to punish wrongdoing! You have shown yourselves to be without fault in the whole matter.

12So, even though I wrote that letter, it was not because of the one who did wrong or the one who was wronged. Instead, I wrote it to make plain to you, in God's sight, how deep your devotion to us really is. 13That is why we were encouraged.

Not only were we encouraged; how happy Titus made us with his happiness over the way in which all of you helped to cheer him up! 14I did boast of you to him, and you have not disappointed me. We have always spoken the truth to you, and in the same way the boast we made to Titus has proved true. 15And so his love for you grows stronger, as he remembers how all of you were ready to obey his instructions, how you welcomed him with fear and trembling. 16How happy I am that I can depend on you completely!

Reflect

Daily Reflection: Exodus 19

Exodus 19 depicts God as someone to be feared – not just in the sense of awe and respect, but in the sense of terror. The presence of God on Mount Sinai is life-threatening to all except his chosen mediators, Moses and Aaron. There is thick smoke swirling above the gathered people, the physical shock of an earthquake under their feet, and the noise of a trumpet and thunder all around them. This is sensory overload, designed to paralyse them with dread.

It’s important, though, to read the description of smoke and thunder in the context of the first verses of the chapter, and to notice the positive message. God wants his people to know without a doubt that he is the same powerful God who brought the nation of Egypt to its knees, and that they now hold a position of honour before him. No longer slaves, they are to be his treasured possession, a priestly kingdom and a holy nation of people who will represent this God to the nations round about. Yet, to fulfil that purpose, they also need to be fully convinced of his holiness – that he is utterly separate from every created being and holds the power of life and death over them.

As Christians, we tend to downplay the terrifying nature of God. We know him, quite rightly, as a loving father and friend, who walks alongside us in our everyday life. Through Jesus we have an awesome privilege that the Israelites did not have – access to the throne room of God in heaven. But we too need to remember that he is powerful and holy, and that along with privilege comes a responsibility to represent him faithfully to the people around us.

Pray

Pray

Thank you, Lord God of Israel, that we too are your treasured possession. Help us to worship you in the full knowledge of your holiness and your love. Amen

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