Friday

7 June 2019

Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. (v. 7)

Psalm: Psalm 141:1-5

Background

Another of the Bible’s great dramas unfolds in this passage: the giving of the Law at Sinai. The Ten Commandments will come in the next chapter, but here in chapter 19 is the lengthy preparation.

The emphasis is on the holiness of God, the awesome experience of meeting the Divine and the need for cleansing and consecration. The sheer danger of such a close encounter is emphasised in the section omitted between verses 8 and 16, danger to the point of death.

Verses 3b to 6 comprise a beautiful poetic statement of God’s love for Israel. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the awe and dread which runs through the narrative. One august commentator (Dillmann) observed that “it is the classic passage in the Old Testament on the nature and aim of the theocratic covenant”, that is, the covenant between God and the people of Israel.

Again, there is no specific mention of God’s spirit. Indeed, here there is less of a sense of an agent of God at work, which is the feeling we get in Genesis 1 where the wind of God sweeps over the waters, for example. The Sinai encounter is direct contact with the full majesty of God.

Singing the Faith 391 is a glorious hymn sensing the power and freedom of the Holy Spirit. It was a favourite at the Keswick Convention rejoicing in the Spirit’s power to break and remake, to renew and revive.

Psalm 141:1-5 is an individual lament praying that the Lord will keep me on the straight and narrow. Purity, protection and holiness are sought, the same blessings required of the people at Sinai, but here in the context of one person’s experience.

  

To Ponder:

  • How do you react to the sense of danger in the Sinai encounter with the Divine? How does it compare to the approach to God in typical Methodist worship?
  • Does Psalm 141 reflect the way in which you respond to difficult times?

Bible notes author

The Revd Alan Bolton

The Revd Alan Bolton is a Methodist minister serving in the Connexional Team with responsibility for the Church's complaints and discipline process. He is also a musician and was a member of the group producing new music resources for Methodist worship.

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