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A VISUAL AID OF GRACE

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Delivered to Dwell  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  58:12
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The law was not the means of their redemption but the goal of their redemption.

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GEOGRAPHY & CHRONOLOGY

Verse 2 gives us much needed geographical information. It tells you that they are before Sinai now. They are parked here in the wilderness of Sinai. They left the wilderness of Rephidim, they came before Sinai, and they met there with God.
This meeting lasts eleven months. It's not nearly as long, though as their wanderings in the wilderness. They will wander in the wilderness for 40 years. It’s interesting that only a small record is penned of those 40 years. This information is magnified when you understand that these eleven months (1/40th of their time) at Sinai occupy most all of 59 chapters; through .
Verse 1 gives us a chronological timeline which helps us to set this story within the grand narrative of the Bible.
They are on a lunar calendar which means that their arrival is fifty days after their participation of the Passover meal.
They are on a lunar calendar which means that their arrival is fifty days after their taking the Passover meal.
This connection should not go unnoticed. Christ died during Passover and the Holy Spirit fell during Pentecost. In Exodus the Israelite’s are saved through their faith in the Passover lamb then given the Law fifty days later. The Lord saves them and then gives them a pattern of holy living. Christ is the Passover Lamb and then gives His Spirit to empower holy living.
The chronology reminds us that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.

GRACIOUS COVENANT

What I’m about say paramount to rightly understanding and applying the 10 Commandments. Before God gives the Big 10 he instructs Moses to remind the people of His gracious covenant.
God is giving Moses a sermon in verse 3 when he says; “thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel”.
Moses is to remind them of three theological truths.

Divine Damnation

He wants them to remember His judgement on Egypt because that could have been their plight. The difference between Israel and Egypt was not that Israel was better but that God was merciful. He was merciful because of His covenant.

Divine Deliverance

His next statement was; “i bore you on eagles wings”. This was to remind them of divine deliverance. The Israelities did not form their own army and overthrow the Pharaoh. The Lord is reminding them that they had nothing to do their deliverance because is was divine.
“I bore you on eagles wings” is a beautiful picture that all of Israel would have understood. They knew how mother eagles taught their eaglets to fly. Mother’s would kick their young out of their nest. If the eaglets did not fly then their mother would swoop down and rescue them before impact.
The people had experienced the watchful and supportive guardianship of one so infinitely stronger and more able than themselves, and now they found that they had been welcomed into his presence and accepted into intimacy with him, not by their own efforts or merits, but because I … brought you to myself.

Divine Drawing

His last sermonic point is that of divine drawing. He tells them; “i brought you to myself”. It was the Lord who sent Moses to draw His people out of Egypt. It was the Lord who had Pharaoh's daughter draw him out of the water. It was the Lord who drew Moses to himself through a burning bush. God is saying; I did not wait for you to find your way, I drew you to Myself. This sermon is a sermon explaining “amazing grace”.
God is reminding Moses of HIs grace and He is to remind His people of His grace. This is paramount and necessary before His Law can be given.
God is going to spend three books on the law and somebody might start scratching their head and think, “Well, maybe since God spent so much time on the law it means that we're saved by law. We’re saved by law keeping, we're saved by obedience to the law.” And before anybody can get that in their mind God says Moses, “Tell the people, remember that I saved you by grace so that they won't forget that when I announce to them my household law.
The law was not the means of their redemption but the goal of their redemption.
There is absolutely no idea of salvation by works in God's covenant with Moses. You need to understand that there is not the slightest hint of the idea of salvation by works in the covenant of Moses. It's not that salvation is not by works in the Law of the Old Testament and it's by grace and faith in the New Testament. That is a false dichotomy and God tried to lay that false dichotomy to rest in , and He did it absolutely clearly, and the fact that we don't understand that means that it's not His fault, it's ours.
The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage 1. The Obedience of the Redeemed (3–8a)

Nothing must ever be allowed to upset this order. Notice, therefore, the past tenses of verse 4 and the contrasting future tenses of verses 5 and 6. The Lord’s great act of deliverance and salvation has already been done (4), and this is why verse 5 can speak of the Lord’s covenant3 as an existing reality and something to be ‘kept’, that is, preserved and guarded. It was in pursuance of his covenant promises that the Lord came to his distressed people in Egypt (2:24)—not to make them his ‘sons’ but because Israel was already his ‘firstborn’ (4:22). The redemption he achieved for them fulfilled the great covenant promise that ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (6:6–7). It was not, therefore, that they were ordered to obey in order that they might enter the covenant, but that, already being within the covenant, they were called to obey so that they might enjoy the benefits and privileges of God’s people. What was true of the ‘old’ covenant is true of the ‘new’, and we enter on exactly the same basis of grace and continue in exactly the same obedience of faith.

Nothing must ever be allowed to upset this order. Notice, therefore, the past tenses of verse 4 and the contrasting future tenses of verses 5 and 6. The Lord’s great act of deliverance and salvation has already been done (4), and this is why verse 5 can speak of the Lord’s covenant3 as an existing reality and something to be ‘kept’, that is, preserved and guarded. It was in pursuance of his covenant promises that the Lord came to his distressed people in Egypt
Exodus 2:24 ESV
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
)—not to make them his ‘sons’ but because Israel was already his ‘firstborn’ (4:22). The redemption he achieved for them fulfilled the great covenant promise that ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (6:6–7). It was not, therefore, that they were ordered to obey in order that they might enter the covenant, but that, already being within the covenant, they were called to obey so that they might enjoy the benefits and privileges of God’s people. What was true of the ‘old’ covenant is true of the ‘new’, and we enter on exactly the same basis of grace and continue in exactly the same obedience of faith.
—not to make them his ‘sons’ but because Israel was already his ‘firstborn’
Motyer, A. (2005). The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage. (A. Motyer & D. Tidball, Eds.) (pp. 196–197). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
Motyer, A. (2005). The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage. (A. Motyer & D. Tidball, Eds.) (pp. 196–197). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
Exodus 4:22 ESV
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son,
). The redemption he achieved for them fulfilled the great covenant promise that ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (6:6–7). It was not, therefore, that they were ordered to obey in order that they might enter the covenant, but that, already being within the covenant, they were called to obey so that they might enjoy the benefits and privileges of God’s people. What was true of the ‘old’ covenant is true of the ‘new’, and we enter on exactly the same basis of grace and continue in exactly the same obedience of faith.
The redemption he achieved for them fulfilled the great covenant promise that ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’
Exodus 6:6–7 ESV
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
). It was not, therefore, that they were ordered to obey in order that they might enter the covenant, but that, already being within the covenant, they were called to obey so that they might enjoy the benefits and privileges of God’s people. What was true of the ‘old’ covenant is true of the ‘new’, and we enter on exactly the same basis of grace and continue in exactly the same obedience of faith.
It was not, therefore, that they were ordered to obey in order that they might enter the covenant, but that, already being within the covenant, they were called to obey so that they might enjoy the benefits and privileges of God’s people. What was true of the ‘old’ covenant is true of the ‘new’, and we enter on exactly the same basis of grace and continue in exactly the same obedience of faith.

GLORIOUS CHOICE

Our final point and our two final verses seem to contradict my second point.
What does Moses mean when he says, ‘If indeed you will obey My voice and keep My covenant, then You shall be My own possession.’”
When he says, if then, does he mean that Israel is not a treasured possession, not a kingdom of priest, and not a holy nation, but if she will obey she will become a treasured possession, a kingdom of priest and a holy nation, or is he saying something else?
Two things need to be kept in mind. First, every covenant has its responsibilities.
There is no such thing as a relationship with no responsibility. Every relationship has responsibilities and that is what Moses is going to begin to talk about in this great passage. So bear that in mind.
Secondly, in God's economy responsibilities are always blessings.
Notice in verses 5 and 6 their responsibilities that are spelled out? We are to be His treasured possessions, we are to be a kingdom of priests, and we are to be a holy nation. Those are our responsibilities, but they are simultaneously blessings, the greatest blessings.
So, bear those two things in mind and then let me give you an understanding of verses 5 and 6. Moses is not saying, keep God's law and He will make you, in return, a treasured possession, a kingdom of priest and a holy nation.
Moses is not saying, “Keep the law and I will make you to be what you are not yet.” Moses is saying rather, “Keep God's law and you will be what He made you for. He made you to be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Now keep God's law and you’ll be what He made you to be.”
Then you immediately respond to Him, “This is beyond my wildest dreams. How could I be that? How would I go about living like that,” and He says, “Glad you asked.
, Leviticus, Numbers.
‘You shall have no other Gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to an idol.
You shall not take up My name in an empty and vain way.
Remember My day and keep it holy.
Honor your father and mother.’”
He says, “Keep God's law and you will be indeed what He made you to be.”
The significant if with which verse 5 opens relates not to covenant status but to covenant enjoyment. Status comes by the acts of God; enjoyment by the responsive commitment of obedience. Obedience is not our part in a two-sided bargain, but our grateful response to what the Lord has unilaterally decided and done.
There are two aspects to this response of obedience.
First, covenant people are required to obey me fully (lit. ‘listen attentively to my voice’). Our God is a speaking God who communicates his word to us; we are to be characterized by obedience to what he says. The hallmark of the genuineness of the people of God is that they possess, listen to and obey the word of God.
Secondly, covenant people are called to keep my covenant. As yet the Israelites did not know what this would involve, but they would soon learn that there were particular stipulations or requirements for living within the covenant. The main dimensions of covenant living were marked out by the voice of the Lord himself declaring his ‘ten commandments’ (20:1–17; cf. ) and the detailed applications revealed through Moses (20:22–23:19). This all amounted to a distinctive personal, social and national life—the lifestyle of the covenant people.
Motyer, A. (2005). The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage. (A. Motyer & D. Tidball, Eds.) (p. 201). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
When you say, “How can I be what You made me to be,” the law is repeated in our ears:
You shall have no other gods before Me, It's the expression of how to be what God made us to be.
Notice these beautiful blessing and responsibilities that are listed in verses 5 and 6. Notice the blessing are responsibilities, and the responsibilities are blessings. The privileges are responsibilities, and the responsibilities are privileges.
“You are My own possession.”
God announced in verse 5 that He owns the whole earth, but you are His treasured possession. This is a word that refers to a special item or object, or possession that a king delights in above all else. It's a phenomenal thing for God to say, that “everything in the world is Mine, but you are the thing that I have chosen to delight in the most.” That's why Calvin can say, “We are not our own, we belong to God, therefore let us live for Him and die for Him.” Because He's chosen His people in His grace and mercy.
You are a kingdom of priests.
Did you catch that? The priesthood of all believers in not a New Testament doctrine. It's an Old Testament doctrine and this doctrine is the foundation of missions. You don't have to wait until to get a foundation of missions. You actually find it in , but you really find it clearly in , and you certainly find it here.
If the entire nation is to be a priest, what does a priest do? A priest intercedes for people. Well, if you have a nation of priests, who are they interceding for? The nations. “You are a holy nation,” He says. Set apart, chosen, a people appointed to holiness.
My friends, these words are not just words for Israel. We don't have time to look, but you’ll remember in , Peter talking to a congregation of Christians like yourself, and he says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, a people for God's own possession.” Here we see the importance of the law, we see law in the context of grace and we see law in the context of the covenant and it is this that we will be unfolding in the weeks to come. For a Christian to understand the relationship between law and grace, faith and obedience, is one of the most important things that we can possibly know to live a fruitful and assured Christian life.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Let's pray.
Exodus 19:5 ESV
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Realize that this statement was made to people who were already saved. The Israelites had been delivered from bondage and redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb. This is crucial for understanding how God’s law works in the Christian life. The order of the exodus is important: First God delivered his people from bondage; then he gave them his law. Imagine what would have happened if it had been the other way around. Suppose God had said to Moses, “Tell my people: ‘If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, I will carry you away from Egypt on eagle’s wings.’ ” In that case, there never would have been an exodus at all. God’s people would still be in bondage due to their failure to keep covenant with God. But God is a God of grace. So he saved his people first; then he called them to obey his law. The history of the exodus thus helps us understand the function of the law in the Christian life. First God rescues us from our sin; then he teaches us how to live for his glory. If personal obedience had to come first, we would never be saved. But as it is, God saves us in Christ before he calls us to live for Christ.

At the same time, however, we need to recognize that God’s promise came with a condition. God said, “If you obey me fully … then … you will be my treasured possession” (v. 5). How are we to make sense of this? If Israel was saved by grace, then why did God make their destiny depend on their works? Could they lose their salvation?

One common way to answer this question is to say that although Israel’s ultimate salvation was secure, in order for them to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessing, they needed to keep the covenant. John Mackay writes: “The people have already been freed by divine grace and power. They are not given the law to save themselves, but so that they might continue to enjoy the salvation they have already been given.”6 There is some truth to this. The covenant is a love relationship, but how can anyone experience intimacy with God and at the same time break his law? Or to state the very nature of the case, we cannot enjoy fellowship with God while we are rebelling against him.

Realize that this statement was made to people who were already saved. The Israelites had been delivered from bondage and redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb. This is crucial for understanding how God’s law works in the Christian life. The order of the exodus is important: First God delivered his people from bondage; then he gave them his law. Imagine what would have happened if it had been the other way around. Suppose God had said to Moses, “Tell my people: ‘If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, I will carry you away from Egypt on eagle’s wings.’ ” In that case, there never would have been an exodus at all. God’s people would still be in bondage due to their failure to keep covenant with God. But God is a God of grace. So he saved his people first; then he called them to obey his law. The history of the exodus thus helps us understand the function of the law in the Christian life. First God rescues us from our sin; then he teaches us how to live for his glory. If personal obedience had to come first, we would never be saved. But as it is, God saves us in Christ before he calls us to live for Christ.
At the same time, however, we need to recognize that God’s promise came with a condition. God said, “If you obey me fully … then … you will be my treasured possession” (v. 5). How are we to make sense of this? If Israel was saved by grace, then why did God make their destiny depend on their works? Could they lose their salvation?
One common way to answer this question is to say that although Israel’s ultimate salvation was secure, in order for them to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessing, they needed to keep the covenant. John Mackay writes: “The people have already been freed by divine grace and power. They are not given the law to save themselves, but so that they might continue to enjoy the salvation they have already been given.” There is some truth to this. The covenant is a love relationship, but how can anyone experience intimacy with God and at the same time break his law? Or to state the very nature of the case, we cannot enjoy fellowship with God while we are rebelling against him.
In one sense everyone belongs to God because we are all made in his image. God has showered many of his blessings on humanity in general. “The whole earth is mine” (), he says, but in his heart God always reserves a special place for his own precious people. While we cannot deny his universal benevolence, it is not to be compared to the unique love that he has for his own people only. God placed his unique affection on Israel, saying, “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (v. 5a). The Israelites were God’s “peculiar people” (; , both KJV), his crown jewels among the nations.
This was Israel’s identity. They were God’s precious people. But what is our identity? Who are we? There may be times when we do not feel very precious. We struggle to make it from one day to the next. We are weighed down by on-the-job stress, or we spend all our time at home with small children. We never quite seem to succeed in business. We get discouraged by conflicts and difficulties in ministry. We struggle with illness and loneliness. Even when we seem to have it all together, there are still times when we feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
Whatever our struggles, we are God’s treasure, for we have been drawn close to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter took the words of Moses and applied them directly to the church of Jesus Christ: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (; cf. , ; ). Every Christian is precious to God, loved with a unique and everlasting love. Do we deserve this? No, but God values us as equivalent with the infinitely precious blood of his very own Son. By the grace of his everlasting covenant, he loves us more deeply than we would ever dare to hope or imagine. We are his “treasured possession.”
Ryken, P. G., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Exodus: saved for God’s glory (pp. 497–498). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
God’s precious people have a special purpose. We are called not simply to salvation but also to service. As God said to Israel, “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (). But what is “a kingdom of priests”? This is the only place in the Old Testament where this phrase appears; so scholars have struggled to determine its precise interpretation.
“Kingdom of priests” seems to have a double meaning—one for Israel and one for the world. Within Israel, it meant that every single person in the kingdom was called to serve and worship God. Later God would designate the Levites to serve as Israel’s official priests. The Levites had specific priestly duties. They offered sacrifices, led in worship, and looked after the tabernacle. But they were not the only Israelites who were called into God’s service. God wanted “a kingdom of priests,” a whole nation of people set apart to give him glory. Then Israel would be “a holy nation”—a people set apart for God and dedicated to serving him in all of life. This was a call God gave his people again and again, to be holy like him (see ; , ; , ).
The title “kingdom of priests” also had another meaning, one with global implications. As an entire nation, the Israelites were God’s priests to the world. This meaning is obscured in the New International Version, which emphasizes Israel’s exclusive place in God’s plan: “Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me …” (). It is true that Israel was chosen out of the nations. Later God said, “I have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (). However, God chose Israel with the ultimate intention of saving the world. This comes through in a more literal translation, like the English Standard Version: “You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (). This makes it clear that God’s plan for Israel was part of his plan for the world. Israel was chosen not only from the nations, but also for the nations. This plan was first revealed to Abraham, to whom God said, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (). The holy nation of Israel was part of the plan, for as Jesus himself said, “salvation is from the Jews” (). The Israelites were mediators of divine grace, serving as God’s priests to the nations. As they worshiped God and as they lived in covenant holiness, they preserved the treasure of Biblical faith until the coming of the Savior brought salvation to the rest of the world.
Ryken, P. G., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Exodus: saved for God’s glory (pp. 498–499). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Now Jesus has given the church the same priestly task that God once gave to Israel. We have seen how the Apostle Peter took and applied it to us: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (; cf. ). We too are a precious people, saved out of all the nations. But for what purpose?
Peter went on to explain our special calling:
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. ()
Like the Israelites, we are a kingdom of priests. Theologians call this the priesthood of all believers. God has made us his treasure, bringing us from slavery to royalty and setting us apart for his holy service. Since we are saved for God’s glory, our service is to worship God, to glorify him by declaring his praises. But we also have a mission to the world—not to rule it, but to serve it. The way we serve is by leading holy lives. What distinguishes us from the rest of the world is our personal godliness. Or at least it ought to, because the way we live is part of God’s plan for saving the world.
Ryken, P. G., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Exodus: saved for God’s glory (pp. 499–500). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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