Preamble to Israel’s Constitution - Bible Study

by Tom Bulick and Stephanie Thomas on

Bible Studies 1 document
Exodus 19:1–6

  • Preamble to Israel’s Constitution | The Scrolls | June 5, 2022

    Copyright Central Bible Church

The Scrolls is a weekly Bible study written by pastors and other leaders at Central Bible Church, based on that week’s sermon topic. Use The Scrolls as a personal Bible study tool, for family devotions, and for small group discussions. You can read part of it below. The downloadable PDF also includes discussion questions, more in-depth commentary, end notes, and a kids’ page designed for families to study the topic together. This lesson goes with the sermon "Preamble to Israel's Constitution."

When traveling west from Denver International Airport on Interstate 70 into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado strange things begin to happen. Your aspiration quickens as the air gets thinner. Your ears may begin to “pop” as you climb in altitude. Your pulse races from fear of going off the road over a cliff. Some will experience “elevation sickness” with symptoms of headaches or nausea. Even your car engine groans due to the extra strain of battling gravity. Significant elevations cannot be ignored. Mountains make us pause.

In the saga of the Exodus, the people of Israel left the lowlands of Egypt. They were led by God to a Promised Land of milk and honey. Before they experienced this state of bliss, they were confronted by mountains. “The Lord may have chosen to use this setting [Mount Sinai] for the giving of the law for two reasons. First, the dominating peaks of this region put mortals in their place. On the Nile Delta, the highest things on the horizon were all made by mortals, permitting, even encouraging, mortals to think more of themselves than they ought; but here in the southern Sinai, people are appropriately humbled by the magnificent terrain shaped by the hand of God. Here humans are inclined to feel as small as they are, with attitudes perfectly positioned to receive a message from God. In addition to that, the southern Sinai also facilitated understanding of a mortal’s total dependence on the Lord. A lack of rain and other natural resources forced Israel to turn to God for survival. The few miracles mentioned in Exodus and Numbers must only be examples of the divine intervention necessary to sustain God’s people in this place for nearly one year. Thus God may have selected Mount Sinai for this special moment in Israel’s history because it provided a physical context that shaped a receptive audience for what he had to say” (John A. Beck, Zondervan Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 176–177).

Moses had a long history with this mountain (Ex. 3:1, 12; 4:27; 18:5). Mountains are mentioned 48 times in Exodus. All but one of the mentions refer to Mount Sinai/Mount Horeb. The people of Israel will spend almost an entire year at the foot of this mountain. They will learn much about God while gazing upward. Much more will be learned about themselves as Moses frequently comes down from the mountain to challenge them with God’s laws. The grandeur of God on the high mountain will challenge the grandiosity of a latent self-sufficiency fostered by Egypt. The spectacular display of God’s power on the mountain will outshine any displays of individual superiority. Humility experienced in the alpine will evaporate the accumulated hubris of all things urban. God saved his people by removing them from a place of enemy territory and brought them to himself in a stark, mountainous range. Before God gave the people a Law or a Land, he brought them to himself. Exodus 19 brings the salvation of God to a physical and literary climax. The mountain of God served as a constant reminder to the people that God alone can save. God saved the people from someone else and brought them to himself at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:4). The covenant with God (Ex. 19:5) came after the salvation of God (Ex. 19:4). The people of Israel did not ascend to God by climbing a self-erected pyramid. Rather, God gathered his people to himself on “eagles’ wings” and descended onto a mountain of his creation to reveal his holiness and grandeur. God gets all the credit when it comes to salvation.

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.” – William Blake

Central Message of the Text

First, accept God’s salvation by faith, which is always by grace. Then obey God’s commands to enjoy his additional blessings.

Family Talk

Are you taking a summer vacation? I recently went on an amazing trip to Florida with my daughter to celebrate a friend’s graduation. We made the decision to drive because we love road trips, and we’re crazy. Before we left, we had to get ready and put a plan in place for the route, packing, stopping points, snacks, etc. But before we did any of that, we had to get ready to get ready. There was a mental preparation that we had to work through in order to be ready to plan our trip. Dreams were dreamed, possibilities were considered, and sites were Googled before we acted to plan, pack, and drive. It seems to me that our text today is a “get ready to get ready” for the Israelites. God plants a seed and introduces Israel to his covenantal promise to make them into a great nation. His gracious proposal to the people is simple: obey him and keep the covenant, and they’ll be his treasured possession, a special nation of his holy people. He’s getting ready to gift them with his law, but in order to get them ready, he has to get them ready to be ready. I love that he gives his people this space to reorient themselves and turn to him. Is this what new morning mercies are? Is this the quiet space of the morning before we hit the ground running? What if we spent those first few minutes of the morning getting ready to get ready? What if we spent time inviting God to order our day? Let’s get ready to get ready.