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God’s Covenant with Israel
Fall Quarter: Covenants with God
Unit 2: Called Into Covenant with God
Sunday school lesson for the week of October 8, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Scripture Lesson: Exodus 19:16-25
Background: Exodus 19; Isaiah 60:3
Purpose: To eagerly anticipate meeting God in many ways and many places
Key Verse: “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain.”
Hearing the Word
The Adult Bible Studies’
writer begins this lesson with God’s prophecy to Abraham of oppression and bondage to his descendants for 400 years by Egypt. We see in Exodus 1:14 God’s words fulfilled through the Egyptians that made the Israelites’ life difficult with hard labor and other cruel works. But God always shows redemption and compassion to his people. The writer uses the texts, Exodus 2:24, 3:7-8 and 6:2-8, to express God’s hearing and response to the cry of a grieving people.
The writer explores Moses’ doubt and hesitation about his ability to lead the people out of bondage. God promises to be with Moses throughout the deliverance of the Israelites and affirms his call of leadership: “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you” (Exodus 3:12). Moses obeys God, and the power of God’s liberation leads the people out of Egypt. They are led to the base of the mountain called Horeb (Exodus 3:1), but in this lesson is called Sinai (God’s original site of pledge, Exodus 19:1-2).
Teacher: Ask class members to share an experience or act of oppression and or bondage that they have encountered. Did they find God as the liberator in the process of liberation?
The writer continues the story with the people pitching their tents and settling in, remaining at Sinai for about a year (Exodus 19:1 to Numbers 10:10), and with Moses on at least three occasions ascending and descending the mountain in contact with God. I can only imagine the closeness that Moses must have felt to God on these mountaintop experiences while waiting on Phase two of God’s plan for salvation. The writer coins the occupation of the “Promised Land” as the “third act.” Before inhabiting the promised covenant, the trials in the wilderness were difficult and, in addition to that, Moses had to endure the complaints of the people (Exodus 15:22-17:7). Even through difficult times, God reminds Moses that he is omnipotent and that the whole world belongs to him and they are to be obedient to him and keep the covenant (Exodus 19:5).
Verses 16-19: “When morning dawned on the third day, there was thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud blast of a horn. All the people in the camp shook with fear. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain.”
The writer says that this appearance by God played an important role in their transformation and community. God makes his appearance known through the power of nature, the lightning and cloud, to announce his presence and to get the people’s attention. They trembled in fear and were afraid! The writer states that this “theophany” is present in other text such as Psalm 18:13-14: “The Lord thundered in heaven; the Most High made his voice heard with hail and coals of fire. God shot his arrows, scattering the enemy; he sent the lightning and threw them into confusion.” What a great encounter to be at the place of the foot of the mountain of God’s divine holiness. I believe that we have the same opportunity today to seek him in many ways and places daily: Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near…” Apparently, Moses gains the confidence of the people and is able to lead them out of the camp to meet God just as he promised (Exodus 19:9).
Verses 20-25: “Even the priests who come near to the Lord must keep themselves holy, or the Lord will break loose against them.” Moses said to the Lord, “The people aren’t allowed to come up on Mount Sinai because you warned us and said, ‘Set up a fence around the mountain to keep it holy.’ The Lord said to him, “Go down, and bring Aaron back up with you. But the priests and the people must not break through and come up to the Lord. Otherwise, the Lord will break loose against them.”
So Moses went down to the people and told them. God continues to provide instructions to Moses separate from the people. Sometimes we must break away from others, daily routines, and distractions to hear from God. We see in the text that Aaron, Moses’ brother and the divinely appointed spokesman for Moses, was allowed to accompany him, but Moses was the only one with direct contact and communication with God. After Moses’ communication with God, he conveyed all that he said him to the people.
Moses’ difficult mission of leading the Israelites continued after their deliverance and bondage to their journey to the Promised Land. Even with all that God had done, they were still not satisfied. I wonder how often we appear to be dissatisfied with God’s grace and mercy. It reminds me of a parent-child relationship, the struggles of parenting children in this fast-paced age and teaching them to wait patiently for God’s promise. It’s challenging to do this in a “want-it-my-way-right-now” society. But, no matter what the leadership role, i.e., teaching, pastoring, parenting and on and on, the conduit must be connected with the divine Conductor, God, to be effective.
Dear Father, deliver us from oppression and bondage in whatever condition that it manifests. May we seek you through many ways and places to hear your divine mission and for the fulfillment of your promise. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Adult Bible Studies, Series Fall 2017” book is used for the content of this lesson.