International Sunday School Lesson for October 8. 2017
To eagerly anticipate meeting God in many ways and many places
Background: Exodus 19; Isaiah 60:3
Exodus 19:16-25 (CEB)
16 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. 17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord had come down on it with lightning. The smoke went up like the smoke of a hot furnace, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19 The blasts of the horn grew louder and louder. Moses would speak, and God would answer him with thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai to the top of the mountain. The Lord called Moses to come up to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21The Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to try to see the Lord, or many of them will fall dead. 22 Even the priests who come near to the Lord must keep themselves holy, or the Lord will break loose against them.”
23 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.’”
24 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.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 19:17)
This passage might be easier to understand if is divided into the individual scenes that make up the chapter: Scene One (verses 3-6); Scene Two (verses 7-8); Scene Three (verses 8-13); Scene Four (verses 14-15); Scene Five (verses 16-20); Scene Six (verses 20-24); and Scene Seven (verse 25).
As you read these different scenes you will notice a couple of things. You will notice that Moses made a total of three trips up and down the mountain. You may also notice alternate names being used for the divine, between God and Lord; however, the names are used synonymously in the same way that we name the one God in different ways. Both “God” and “Lord” are used in the English translations of Chapter 19. They distinguish the two Hebrew words Elohim [God] and Yahweh [Lord]. They may suggest different sources for the narrative, but they are essentially synonymous in this context.)
Another observation may be the Exodus 19:16. The fifth scene (19:16-20) begins with a bang. Theophanies (appearances of God) are reported throughout the Bible: Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:10-17), Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1– 4:17), Isaiah’s vision in the Temple (Isaiah 6), Ezekiel’s throne chariot vision (Ezekiel 1), and Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). Each of these appearances played an important role in the transformation of those who beheld them and the life of their community. God’s theophany in this week’s passage recast the lives and destiny of the whole people of Israel.
If you go back to Abraham, God had prophesied to Abraham that his descendants would be oppressed for four centuries in a foreign land. The prophecy came true, and the Israelites suffered in bondage year after year in Egypt. The Egyptians “made their lives miserable with hard labor, making mortar and bricks, doing field work, and by forcing them to do all kinds of other cruel work” (Exodus 1:14). Yet “God heard their cry of grief, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (2:24) and came to Moses at the burning bush (3:7-8; also 6:2-8). When Moses questioned his own ability to lead his people, God responded, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you” (3:12). Then God added, “After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.”
As you study this lesson I think there are a few things to contemplate. How eager are you to encounter God? And how can you sanctify yourself for that meeting? God calls His people in Exodus 19:6 “You will be a kingdom of priests for me and a holy nation. These are the words you should say to the Israelites.” What does that mean to you?
Our hymn for this week is “Holy, Holy Holy.