Last week we started our very quick journey through Exodus. I spent most of my time looking at the life of Moses and how God developed him as the leader who would lead the Israelites out of captivity in the land of Egypt. What I did not go over was the true themes or as some call “the big theological ideas” of Exodus, and I saved sharing those for today since I believe they tie in closely with what we I will talk about. The first theme or theological idea is the most dominant idea, God and God alone is worthy of worship. This idea is summarized in the first commandment found in Exodus 20:2,“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.” There is no other God that can make this claim to the nation of Israel; thus, no other God is worthy of worship. The second theme is God’s Mountain. Mt. Sinai (sometimes called Horeb) is the place where Moses met with God. When all things are considered, the Israelites were free from captivity so they could get to God’s Mountain to worship Him. When you look at a map you can tell that Mt. Sinai was the destination at first and not the Promised Land. As you can see the route to the Promised Land was not the most direct route. So, the natural conclusion is that the Promised Land was not the original destination, Mt. Sinai was. The third theological idea is God gives a lot of commands. When reading through the latter parts of Exodus that detail the MANY commands from God, we may tend to skip over these mandates and conclude that they are boring and redundant. However, the writer of Exodus and the Israelites deemed the receiving of the law as necessary and a key moment in their story. The last theological theme is the complaining, grumbling, and rebellion of the Israelites. Israel appears to have difficulty going along with the plan and fully trusting God. Time and again God delivers them from peril, the people respond in gratitude and eventually go back to grumbling and complaining.
The Law and the Ten Commandments (I speak of these as two separate entities, but keep in mind the Ten Commandments are part of the Law) are not just a list of dos and don’ts or rules that must be followed to go to heaven, to win God’s approval or put Him in our debt. No, they are commands or mandates given by God to his people whom He just delivered, rescued, and redeemed from enslavement in Egypt. For the newly freed Israelites, receiving, observing, and keeping the commandments should be, at the minimum, the grateful response to His love, grace, and mercy. They reflect the way God’s people were called in response to be holy (set apart) and they reflect God’s nature (attributes) that shows us what He looks like and what He desires from His people.
The true purpose of the law and the ten commandments to reveal humans sin nature and rebellion: Ultimately, they reveal that people do not like God (or anyone for that matter) telling us what we can and cannot do. The truth is the Law and the Ten Commandments should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for Jesus. They show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep His commands perfectly. They reveal that we are sinful people. Now, we can either view the Law and the ten Commandments as rules constraining and restricting to keep under God’s thumb or we can view them as ways for free people, His people, to live in obedience to the God who has truly rescued, delivered, and set them free.
In our time together we are going to look at three specific areas of Exodus 19 – 40 that highlight where God is at work and how He is preparing Israel to become the nation He intends for them to become. We will look at the wilderness, Mt. Sinai, and the Tabernacle.
Wilderness – Walking with God (trust, obedience, and grumbling)
It didn’t take long after the Israelites were delivered from the hands of Egypt that they began to start complaining. What were they complaining about? Water and food! Now, one would think that as the Israelites left Egypt that they would have made sure they had provisions for survival like food and water, but alas we see that this was an oversight on their part.
Exodus 15:22 – 27: Three days after the Exodus from Egypt the Israelites were hungry and thirsty because they had not had anything to drink for three days. When they arrived at an oasis, they realized the water was bitter (so they called the place Marah which means bitter) and undrinkable. Naturally the Israelites start to complain, so Moses brings their complaint to God, and He instructs him to put some wood in the water and the water was made pure and drinkable. God provides water two more times in the wilderness.
Exodus 16:1 – 8: Many days later the people began to complain because there was no food for them. In God’s mercy, patience, and kindness he provides meat (quail) for the Israelites at night and a flakey substance (called Manna in the morning. We are not sure what manna is and neither did the Israelites because they called the food manna which means “what is it?”.
Now, let’s see how God provides the food… God says, “I am going to rain down food from heaven for you.” God literally gives them everything they need to survive in the desert even when they are complaining against Him and openly criticizing Him. But what this provision shows us is God’s grace, mercy, and patience with his chosen people. This has not changed over the centuries… We still complain, we shake our fists at God, and we call Him unjust and despite what we say or do against God, He still provides for our every need.
Exodus 13:20 – 22: God was with Israel from the moment they left Egypt. The pillar of fire by night and the cloud during the day was the manifestation of God’s presence remaining among the Israelites. These pillars of clouds and fire remained with the Israelites throughout their wilderness journey. This passage is a reminder that God’s presence is always with us. Even though we do not have physical fire and clouds to guide us and be present with us, we are assured that God presence is with us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Exodus 17:8 -16: Not too far along in the Exodus account we find the Israelites in a war with the Amalekites. Moses appoints Joshua to lead the charge while Moses sits and watches up on a hill, holding his hands and staff in the air. As you can imagine this would be hard and strenuous. The problem was that whenever Moses put down his arms the Amalekites would start to overtake the Israelites. Moses’ brother Aaron notices this and they give him a rock to sit on and Aaron and Hur hold his arms up. How is that this newly freed and wandering group of Nomads able to defeat the Amalekites? Certainly, they did not have the training and army that other nations did, but they had the one true God who went before them and fought for them.
Moses spoke the promise of protection to the Israelites in Exodus 14:13 - 14, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” This verse has been an encouragement to me throughout my life and ministry. God fights our battles for us. When we are in the midst of trials and tribulations, we need to remain calm and know that our God is interceding, protecting, and fighting for us.
Mt. Sinai – Meeting with God
The exodus is mainly the story or account of Israel getting to Mt. Sinai, and how everything that happens there is a preparation for the Israelites and their ultimate destiny. Mt. Sinai signifies…
Exodus 19: 1- 6: Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years and God through Moses liberated them from captivity. Moses and the Israelites had been wandering in the desert for three months and they set up camp at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses goes up to the mountain and God called to him from there. God instructs Moses to speak to the Israelites on His behalf and He declares that Israel will be His own possession out of all the peoples in the earth, and they will be God’s kingdom of priests and His holy nation. Ultimately, God is declaring that Israel belongs to Him. He is their God; they are His people.
Moses comes down the mountain and informs the Israelites what God has said the people respond that they will do whatever the Lord says. He then goes back up to the mountain and receives specific instructions (ceremonial consecrations) as to how the nation must prepare for God’s descent to the mountain. Once again Moses goes down and tells the people what they must do.
On the third day it began to thunder, and lightning and a thick cloud enveloped the mountain and a loud trumpet sounded. God calls Moses back to the mountain to give him the 10 commandments.
The Receiving Place
One of the main purposes of Exodus is for the Israelites to get to Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God. Theologian Pete Enns writes, “The Israelites need to learn what it means to be God’s obedient people before they can enter their new homeland, the land of Canaan.”
Exodus 20:1: Moses receives the Ten Commandments. Many of these laws or commandments were not new to the Israelites, but what made these laws so special is that Israel needed them in order to establish their society and move forward into the Promise Land.
So here is Moses up on Mt. Sinai meeting with God and the people at the foot of the mountain suddenly begin to wonder what is taking Moses so long. He has been on the mountain for 40 days and they began to grow impatient.
Exodus 32:1 – 9: The Israelites come up with this lame brain idea to have their priest, Aaron, construct an idol made from gold to represent the god who delivered them from Egypt. Now, let’s recall, before Moses gives the Law to the people, he sets up some ground rules for receiving them and the people of Israel agreed and said they would do everything they were told to do. Fast forward to chapter 32 and we see that immediately they break commandment number two and then they plan a festival to celebrate. Pete Enns writes, “It’s not a block party but a worship service, complete with a meal and perhaps sexual carousing as well. With their God far away on a high mountain in a private audience with Moses, the Israelites replace God with an image—a violation of at least the second commandment if not the first, too, which they had already heard in chapter 20. And now, rather than celebrating the festival in God’s presence as it was supposed to be (5:1), they are celebrating without God. This will not end well.” It does not end well.
Exodus 32:19 – 23: The LORD tells Moses what is happening, and he descends and sees what is going on proceeds to destroy the idol, crushes the gold into powder, puts it in water and makes the Israelites drink it. He confronts his brother Aaron, and Aaron blames the people, then he says, “I collected all the gold in camp, and I threw it in the fire and this calf just appeared!” Right Aaron! The result was 3,000 people died and God sent a great plague to the Israelites.
As we see, God does not tolerate sin, especially the sin of idolatry. We would be wise to learn a lesson here. There are no other Gods that deserve worship other than the true God of Israel. He takes the backseat to nothing… Not money, power, people, institutions, governments, politicians or etc. This is where I would challenge you all today, check your hearts… do you have things in life that you value more than God? If so, this is idolatry, and you need to destroy these idols and place God in the rightful place in your life.
Tabernacle – Worshiping God
When Moses met with God and received the Law, he also received instructions to build a tabernacle. God gave detailed instructions on how it should be built, consecrated, and where the Holy items would be placed. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to go into detail about the tabernacle, but I assure you in the weeks and months ahead we will return to the tabernacle and look at it in more detail.
Exodus 40:1 – 8, 16: The Tabernacle the place where God dwells among His people. In many ways the Tabernacle is the mobile version of Mt. Sinai. The mountain is where God’s presence dwelt as he spoke to Moses. So, when the Israelites left the foot of Mt Sinai and began their wilderness journey to Canaan they brought God with them through the Tabernacle. There are three sacred items present that represent God’s presence in the Tabernacle, the lampstand, the table, and the Ark of the Covenant.
The tabernacle was also the place of worship. Priests would offer sacrifices, enter the presence of the LORD, and make intercession for the people. Ultimately the tabernacle was a traveling Mt. Sinai. It was the meeting place with God, and it was designed to be transported with the Israelites as they traveled, so they could worship while traveling and so God’s presence would go with them.
For us the tabernacle represents worship and being in the presence of God. Jesus is the fulfilment of the tabernacle. What this means is that we no longer need a “place” to worship God because God is with us through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was crucified, the veil separating the Holy of holies and made it so we no longer need a human High Priest to enter God’s presence. Jesus is our High Priest and through Him we may enter the presence of God to worship him in spirit and in truth.
As conclude the book of Exodus today I would like to note that this will not be the last time we speak of this book. Exodus is a key book of the Old and New Testament, and we will continually go back as points of reference throughout our journey. As I conclude the message I want to summarize and highlight the applicable points of the second part of Exodus.
 Enns, Peter. Exodus for Normal People: A Guide to the Story—and History—of the Second Book of the Bible (The Bible for Normal People) (p. 107). The Bible for Normal People. Kindle Edition.
 Enns, Peter. Exodus for Normal People: A Guide to the Story—and History—of the Second Book of the Bible (The Bible for Normal People) (p. 125). The Bible for Normal People. Kindle Edition.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books