Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings , and brought you unto myself. (Ex.19:4)
Eagle parents push baby eaglets out of nest, but swoop down under them if they get in trouble, and the eaglet is returned to the nest on the wings of the parent eagle, and by the power of the parent eagle, over and over again if need be, until they can soar on their own.
This is an awesome picture of God's love for us, the way He swoops under and bears us to himself. His love for us is unconditional, but His promises are conditional, as we see in the next verse.
Now therefore, if ye will 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.(Ex.19:5-6)
God was about to enter into a covenant love relationship with the people He had chosen, but there was a condition to that covenant. They had to obey His voice and keep His covenant. Throughout the Bible, we see that God's promises are always conditional: obedience is always the condition He sets for His children.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.(Ex.19:8)
The people agreed to the covenant, without even knowing what they were agreeing to. They promised to keep a covenant, saying they would do all He asked, without even knowing what He would ask. There are two principles in this verse, one for Christians, one for lost people:
1) God's people should be willing to do whatever He asks, even if they don't know exactly what He will ask, just because we KNOW He is Sovereign, and He is not going to ask any wrong thing of them. Abraham did not know what God was going to ask him to do, but he was willing to do it, anyway. God didn't give him all the details, but he obeyed anyway. We, as Christians, need to respond to God the same way. We don't have to have a roadmap, we should obey anyway, just because He is the Sovereign God.
2) The people broke the commands God gave them, because they didn't know what they were agreeing to. Many times we see people pray a prayer, or follow the formula we've given them, but then they fail to progress to the point of obeying God's commands. I believe this is because we have placed far more emphasis on what they can get FROM God than on what they should do FOR God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ec 12:13)
Maybe we need to place a bit more emphasis on what God will require of them when they repent and invite Jesus into their lives, instead of just what they can get from God. After all, Christ himself said, no man goes into battle without first counting the cost. I don't believe we put enough emphasis on living as God commands, and too much emphasis on how easy it is to pray the "sinner's prayer" or follow the "Roman Road" to salvation. They need to know up front what they are agreeing to. That doesn't mean God won't accept them as they are, but that they can't continue in their old way of life.
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled . And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire : and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.(Ex.19:16-18)
The Lord was about to enter into a covenant love relationship with the people He had chosen for himself; yet He appeared on the mountain in such a way - thunders (qowl: from root meaning to call aloud; a voice or sound), lightning ( lightning; by analogy, a gleam; concretely, a flashing sword), an exceedingly loud voice (again, qowl) of the trumpet, and fire and smoke, like that of a furnace - that they trembled with fear; In fact, they were absolutely terrified! In Ex. 20:18-19, we read:
"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die."
Why did the Lord appear to the very people He had chosen in such a fearsome manner, if He wanted them to love Him and enter into a covenant relationship with Him? Why not appear in a gentler manner, less fearsome and more friendly? We see the answer to that in Ex.20:5:
"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God."
God wanted His people to have a healthy reverential fear of Him, because He was investing His love, His time, His effort, on them. He was not jealous OF them, he was jealous FOR them. This kind of jealousy is not a petty, spiteful action; it does not stem from pride or ownership; rather, this jealousy springs from love, because God IS love. Godly jealousy idicates a watchful protection, wanting nothing to harm them in any way, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It shows a dedication to the well-being of the loved one.
God is jealous for His people, just as a husband or wife is jealous for the one they LOVE. We aren't jealous for someone we do not love, someone we have not invested our time and effort in. His jealousy is a sign of His great love for His chosen people. He wanted them to fear the consequences of taking His love covenant lightly, of committing spiritual adultery.
You see, while a covenant relationship has many privileges and blessings attached, it also increases accountability. While you are single, you are not accountable to a husband or a wife; you may date several different people and go where you will and do what you please. Once you are married, however, you have entered into a covenant relationship, and are now accountable to your spouse. You are no longer free to date others, or go wherever you like or do whatever you choose.
In the same manner, Israel was entering a covenant relationship with the Almighty God; they were going to be accountable to Him.He established from the very outset that while He would love and bless the people He had chosen, he would not tolerate infidelity on their part.He is jealous with Godly jealousy; in fact Ex.34:14 states His name is Jealous: "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:"
This attribute of God's personality is repeated numerous times:
- Deut..4:24: "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."
- Deut..5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.
- Deut..6:14, 15 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
- Joshua.24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions (a revolt (national, moral or religious):--rebellion, sin, transgression, trespass.) nor your sins (an offence (sometimes habitual sinfulness), and its penalty,).
- Zech..8:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy , and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Why on earth would the Almighy God, the Creator of the universe and all that's in it, be jealous? The next verse tells us:
"Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods." (Ex. 34:15)
What is the point of all this? Of all the verses in the Old Testament that refer to God's jealousy, almost all of them also refer to His anger or wrath. God wants His people to have a reverential fear of His anger. The reason He appeared before the Israelites in such a terrifying manner was so that they would fear Him. Why? TO KEEP THEM FROM SPIRITUAL ADULTERY!!!!!
God said it very plainly:
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." That doesn't mean only that you may not worship another god over Him, there is more to it than that. It means you may not have any other gods in His very presence! He is God, apart from Him, there is no other.
God wants His people to have a reverential fear, so that they might be afraid of the consequences of disobedience and spiritual adultery. From the very beginning, He presented Himself to His people in such a manner that they would fear His wrath. He wants to be first in the lives of His people, and He will not settle for second place. We would do well to remember that!