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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 19:1–8

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. (NRSV)      

We are very early in the journey for the Israelites. They have only been away from their days of slavery in Egypt for two months and, I am sure, are still feeling the high of being led from cruelty with a dash through the Red Sea. Now their leader, Moses, has been called by God to come up the mountain and meet with God.

God is giving Moses instructions for the people, but first God is documenting the recent acts that support God’s right to do this. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Then the Lord tells Moses the terms of the deal God will make with the people. This is a covenant, an agreement that requires walking together. God’s requirement is for the people to obey God and keep the covenant. God’s promise is they will be God’s own special treasure from among all the people on earth.

When Moses comes down from the mount and assembles the people, he tells them what God said, and they readily agree: “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.”

Fast forward another forty days or so. Moses has been away from the people to receive the Law from God. Again he comes down from the mount with the tablets we know as the Ten Commandments and finds, in chapter 32, that the people have built a golden calf and have bowed down and sacrificed to it.

Our conviction and our weakness are not far apart, whether we are ancient Israelites or current residents of earth. But God is willing to forgive our sins if we repent.

Heavenly Father, help me to learn from the history of your people Israel that I am weak. Strengthen me for the journey. Amen.

Written by Roger Wilson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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