Then, we read in ch 20:1, “And God spoke all these words.” So, while Moses was up at the mountain peak, the Lord spoke audibly to him so that his people could hear. And what the Lord said that great day was none other than what we call the Ten Commandments. As they enter into covenant, God presents covenant stipulations that they must follow as his people. This morning, we will consider the first of these.
Exodus 19 is something of a Preparation for Worship email to Israel. Remember, according to 3:12, Israel is to worship Yahweh at Mt Sinai. God is preparing his people to worship him. That worship will involve the declaration of God’s Word. In the thick cloud, God prepares his people to believe him and his messenger, Moses. In so doing, Israel learns three crucial lessons about approaching God’s presence to receive God’s Word.
Exodus 19–24 is one of the most important passages of the Old Testament and entire scriptures. The covenant God makes with Israel in these chapters becomes the framework through which the great majority of the Old Testament is to be understood.
Our passage is really about God. He is a God of manifold grace, and that grace is seen in the covenant of Sinai. The text makes clear that what happens at Sinai represents his glorious desire for his chosen people. When we pause to look at how God is treating his people in Exod 19, we ought to be ready to proclaim the excellencies of this God who graciously cuts covenants with mankind.
The story of Jethro is primarily given to us to make this important point: All men ought to give the true God glory for his wonderful works. Even during this time of salvation history where God is dealing primarily with Israel, God’s dealings with them is intended to bring all the nations to confess that Yahweh is the true God. Every man, woman, and child ought to give God the glory due his name.
Our text this morning is the story of Israel’s first conflict after defeating Egypt. This morning, I think it’s better to approach our text from the ground up. I want us to understand what’s going on, and then draw lessons for us from what the passage reveals.
The rest of Exodus 16 deals with the institution of a pre-Sinai Sabbath and the people’s response to this. I believe that the same theme of first half of the chapter can be easily brought over and extended into the focus on the manna and Sabbath. That is, we still learn here that true saints believe that God alone can satisfy their greatest desires.
The provision of food is the demonstration of the LORD’s covenantal presence and glory. It is to be a manifestation of God’s care for his people. It is the LORD who gives this food to his people, and the gift of food from God is intended to reiterate his love for them. The bread comes from God. It comes from heaven. The message of this story, the Lord’s message in the miracle of the manna is, “I am with you. You can trust me. Rely on me. Lean into me. I will sustain you. You can know that I will never let you down. I will keep my promises to you. You can be assured that I am your God and you are my people.” That is, true saints believe that God alone can satisfy their greatest desires.
The real force of the story is unveiled in the second part of v 25: There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them. The LORD was leading his people. He was the one who led them to Marah. The LORD was the one who, in their desperate need for water, brought them first to the bitter waters. But v 25 is the divine perspective on these earthly affairs. Marah was a test. The Lord was trying his people to see if they would trust him. Thus the lesson from God’s Word is, in times of great difficulty, we must trust the Lord.
What do you do when you realize that God has saved you? You sing. Brothers, God’s people sing. In Gen 4, we learn that Jubal made musical instruments. Job mentions singing a handful of times. But this is the first time that singing appears canonically in the Scriptures. How appropriate that, after such a monumental event displaying God’s covenant love, that it is here that we see his people joining in song. The central point from this text for us is simply this: Sing to the LORD. But when I say that this passage urges us to sing to the LORD, I am getting after something more fundamental than mere singing. Indeed, I want us to have the heart to sing to God. My concern is that there is in each of our hearts joyful affections in Christ our Savior.