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MOSES’ MESSAGE TO THE ISRAELITES
Exodus 19:3-6. And Moses went up unto God: and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shall thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye mitt obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
WE cannot but admire God’s condescension in noticing our fallen race. When we see him renewing to them his acts of kindness after repeated instances of ingratitude, we are yet more amazed: but when we behold him entering into covenant with the most rebellious of his creatures, and binding himself by promises and oaths to load them with his richest benefits, we are altogether lost in wonder. Since the time that Israel were liberated from their bondage in Egypt, about six weeks had now elapsed; during which time every successive trial had evinced, that they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people. But, instead of casting them off, God commissioned Moses to propose to them a covenant, wherein they should engage to be obedient to his will, and he would engage to make them truly prosperous and happy. The same condescension does God manifest to us; as will appear if we consider,
The mercies God has already vouchsafed us—
Those enumerated in the text were distinguishing mercies—
[God had inflicted the heaviest judgments on the Egyptians; but had brought out his people safely and triumphantly [Note: The eagle, to rescue her young from impending danger, will bear them upon her pinions to a place of safety. Compare Deuteronomy 32:11.] to the mountain, which he had long before marked as the place where they should worship him and enjoy his presence [Note: Exodus 3:12.]. This “they saw;” and therefore could not question the goodness of God towards them — — —]
And have we no distinguishing mercies to call forth our gratitude?
[What though we have never experienced such miraculous interpositions; have we not, both individually and collectively, unbounded reason for thankfulness on account of the peculiar favours conferred on us?
Think how many millions of the human race are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, without the smallest knowledge of a Saviour, or even of the one true God! But we are favoured with the light of revelation, and, we hope we may say too, a faithful ministration of the word of life — — — Reflect further, how many, under distress of mind, or body, or estate, are sinking under the insupportable load of their afflictions, whilst we have experienced but little trouble, perhaps so much only as to display more clearly the goodness of God in our repeated deliverances — — — Consider also, how many have within a few months or years been summoned into the presence of their God, whilst we have yet our lives prolonged, and further space given us for repentance — — — Could we but realize these thoughts, we should see that not even the Israelites themselves had more reason for gratitude than we.]
Let us from the consideration of God’s past mercies extend our views to,
Those which he has yet in reserve for us—
Those which he promised to the Israelites were exceeding great—
[”All the earth was the Lord’s;” and therefore he might have taken any other people in preference to them [Note: This is evidently the meaning of the text; and it should not be overlooked.]: but he had chosen them in preference to all others [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6-8.] ; and promised to exalt them above all others in national honour, and individual happiness.
What an unspeakable honour was it to them to be made “an holy nation,” consecrated in a peculiar manner to the service of their God! to be “a kingdom of priests,” all having access to God, to offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise! and to be regarded by God as “his peculiar treasure,” which he prized above all, and would secure to himself for ever!
What an happiness too to all of them, as far as worldly prosperity could make them happy; and, to those who could discern the spiritual import of these promises, what a source it was of unutterable peace and joy! — — —]
But the mercies promised to them were only shadows of those which are reserved for us—
[These promises have their chief accomplishment under the Gospel dispensation [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]. And O! how inconceivably “great and precious” are they! Believers are at this time amidst the ungodly world, what the Israelites were in Egypt, “a chosen generation,” objects of God’s sovereign and eternal choice. They are “a royal priesthood,” even “kings and priests unto their God [Note: Revelation 1:6.],” having dominion over sin and Satan, and “yielding up themselves to him a living sacrifice, acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.” As embodied under one head (the Lord Jesus), and living under the same laws, and enjoying the same privileges, they are also “an holy nation;” and as differing from all others in their views and principles, their spirit and conduct, they are “a peculiar people,” “a peculiar people zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14.].”
These are the blessings promised to men under the Gospel; and it will be utterly our own fault if we be not partakers of them.]
But these blessings must be sought for in God’s appointed way. Let us therefore consider,
The terms upon which he will bestow them upon us—
The promises of God to Israel were altogether conditional—
[We have seen what he engaged to do for them: but it was upon the express condition, that they “obeyed his voice, and kept his covenant.” They must take him for their God. and devote themselves to his service—and then he would make them his people, and give them incessant and increasing tokens of his love and favour. This covenant was not wholly legal, nor wholly evangelical, but a mixture of both. Inasmuch as it prescribed conditions, it was legal; and inasmuch as it secured to them a remission of sins upon their returning unto God, it was evangelical: but on the whole the legal part was far the more prominent: and the promises were made void by their neglecting to perform the stipulated conditions.]
Those made to us, though absolute in some respects, are conditional in others—
[Under the Christian dispensation, all is of grace: grace is not only the predominant feature, but the sum and substance of the New Covenant: and repentance, faith, and holiness, are not merely required, but bestowed [Note: Acts 5:31; Hebrews 12:2; Romans 6:14.]: and that freely unto all who ask for them at the hands of God [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.]. “By the grace of God we are what we are:” and “by grace are we saved” from first to last. Yet are faith and obedience indispensably necessary to our eternal salvation: nor need we be afraid of speaking of them as conditions of our salvation, provided we be careful to divest them of all idea of merit, or of being a price whereby ulterior blessings are to be purchased. God has given us a covenant of grace; and that covenant we must embrace: and it will be in vain to hope for acceptance with God, if we do not found all our hopes of happiness on Christ the Mediator of that Covenant. God has also given us a revelation of his will: and that will we must do; nor will that “grace of God ever bring salvation unto us, if it do not lead us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world [Note: Titus 2:11-12.].” These then are the terms on which we shall enjoy all the privileges of God’s chosen people: and, though it is true that “without Christ we can do nothing,” it is also true, that the only way in which we ever can attain happiness, is, by repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is ready to save us all; but he will ultimately prove a Saviour to those only who obey him — — —]
In applying this subject to ourselves, we shall,
Deliver God’s message to you—
[Observe how solemnly God’s injunction to Moses respecting the delivery of this message is twice repeated in the text. In reference to this, God twice says by the prophet, that “he protested, yea protested earnestly,” to this people [Note: Jeremiah 11:7.]. But you have already seen that the promises in our text refer principally to the dispensation under which we live. To you therefore must this message be addressed, in the name, and by the command, of God himself. And, as Moses “laid before the faces of that people the words which God commanded him,” so also would we “use great plainness of speech,” whilst we are delivering to you the message of the Most High.
The terms on which alone you can be saved have been already stated to you [Note: A recapitulation of them here would be proper.] — — — We ask you then, is there any thing unreasonable in them? Are you not rather so convinced of their reasonableness, that, if we were to tell you that you were at liberty to disregard God’s covenant, and to violate his will, — — — you would cry out against us as impious blasphemers?—Behold, then, we have a testimony in your own consciences in favour of the message which we have delivered to you: and, if you continue to expect heaven on any other terms, you will be self-condemned to all eternity [Note: See Jeremiah 11:1-5.].]
Inquire what answer we must return to God—
[Moses received the people’s answer, and reported it to God. And O that we could near the same answer from you all, “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do!” It is true, they spake in their own strength, and therefore failed to execute their promises: but surely it was good to form the determination; it shewed that they saw the equity of God’s commands: and, had they sought strength from God to fulfil his will, their resolution would have produced the best effects. But are not many of you disposed rather to reply, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 44:16.] ?” Perhaps you are not yet hardened enough to make this reply in words; but is it not the language of your hearts and lives?— — — Must we not carry this report to God [Note: Put their conduct into words.] ? — — — O that you would hearken to God’s voice, before it be too late [Note: Jeremiah 13:15-17.] ! — — —
But we trust there are some of a better mind amongst us, some who cordially assent to whatever God has been pleased to propose — — — On behalf of them we pray, that God may fix this pious disposition abidingly in their hearts [Note: 1 Chronicles 29:18.]. Happy are we to see the rising purpose to obey God! but we must caution all not to adopt the purpose lightly, or to carry it into execution in a partial or listless manner. The message of God in the text is, “If ye will obey my voice indeed.” Our obedience must be sincere, habitual, and unreserved. We must not be satisfied with purposes and resolutions, but must carry them into effect: nothing must divert us, nothing intimidate us, nothing retard us. But let us hold fast the covenant of grace, and uniformly obey the commands of God, and then all. the blessings of grace and glory shall be ours — — —]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 19". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany