The Sanctification of Israel
Exodus 5; 19–24
Samuel Lesson #149
October 9, 2018
“Father, it’s just a wonderful privilege to be able to study Your Word with the freedom we have in this nation that allows us to teach Your Word, to proclaim the gospel, to grow spiritually, to own a Bible, to read our Bible freely, and to study it. Father, we know this is a great privilege because many throughout the history of Christianity have not had that privilege.
“We know there are many in this world today, for example in North Korea, where the mere possession of a Bible or the mention of Jesus Christ can put people in danger of their lives. Father, we need to constantly remember these, our brethren, who are under such dire circumstances. We pray it will not be so with us.
“We pray that you might raise up godly men and women, people who understand the biblical principles on which this nation was founded and that will vote in the right way in this coming election and will not support those who would subvert the Constitution and oppose the truth that underlies the government of this nation.
“We know there needs to be a great change because not all is great and wonderful in this nation. Many over the decades have sought to erode our foundations. We need righteous men and women to come forward and take a stand and to take roles of godly leadership and turn out those who are ungodly.
“Father, we pray for us as we study Your Word tonight that we might come to understand the importance of our sanctification, especially in terms of worship. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re back in Exodus 3 where we were two weeks ago. It’s always good to review to get my head back into the train of thought that was going on so we’re going to take a few moments to remind ourselves of a couple of points I was making last time.
This is talking about sanctification. This word “holy” is a significant word in Exodus as we’re going to see. The Hebrew word is kadosh [noun] or kadash [verb]. It has that idea of being set apart. When it’s applied to God, it picks up a secondary idea of righteousness and moral purity.
When you get much later into the Scriptures, into for example Isaiah 6 where we started this study, it shows Isaiah presented with a vision of the heavenly throne and he screams out, “Woe is me, a man of unclean lips.” He’s immediately aware as he hears the seraphim chanting “Holy, holy, holy,” that he is not holy. He is a man of unclean lips. This brings out the sin aspect.
Isaiah has to be cleansed. We see one of the seraphs bringing a coal and touching it to his lips, which is symbolic of purification from sin, which is the need to be cleansed when we come into the presence of God. We saw the same thing last time in Exodus 3 when Moses saw this burning bush which was not being consumed. He turned aside to see it and there God confronted him saying, “Moses, you are standing on holy ground.” It wasn’t because this ground was mystical or magical or somehow divine or that nonsense that people bring to this word holiness.
The word “holy” means set apart. This ground was set apart because this was where God was appearing to Moses. That sand was chemically the same as the sand five feet away, but this sand was set apart because God was there.
We have this emphasis on God’s character. It applies to each of His attributes as we have studied. He is unique in His sovereignty. One of a kind. There is no other king over all creatures than God. God the Father is the King of Creation. That is different from Jesus Christ being the Messianic or Davidic King, the King for the theocratic kingdom which is prophesied in the Old Testament. It is important to keep those two senses of being king separate.
God is uniquely righteous and just. He is unique in His love. He’s unique in His eternality. Someone brought this question up to me. Eternal life means that God has no beginning and no end. Time does not apply to God. When we look at His other attributes, what we see is the application of infinity to His attributes. He is infinitely love, infinitely powerful, and He has infinite knowledge. That is different from eternality. So keep those concepts separate.
When God shows up to Moses, He is telling him that He will be with him. We’ve seen that again and again. God said that to Jacob when Jacob was at Bethel. It is used by God many, many times in the Old Testament when He appears to Israel. When Jesus gives the Great Commission to the disciples, He said, “I will be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.”
This is significant for us. This is where that promise has its origin, back in Genesis and here in Exodus. He’s calling out these people as a nation. This episode here and in the following chapters up through Exodus 19 is calling out the nation. They have been a unique people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now they’re being called out as a nation. We see in Exodus 3:12, “You shall serve God on this mountain.” That, of course, is going to be Mount Sinai. In verse 13 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name? What shall I say to them?’ ”
We talked about this last time. I brought out new material so I wanted to review it again because if you’re like me, you forget what you just learned. We all need to hear things and read things five or six times before it really catches, especially when we’ve heard the wrong thing. Often what we hear is that when God identifies His name as it’s translated here in the NKJV and also in the NET Bible saying “I AM who I AM” as a present tense. That is often used to emphasize that God has eternal existence, that He is the Self-Existent One.
This, of course, was very prominent in the Middle Ages when Christians thinkers like the scholastics, who lived in the monasteries and were the readers who preserved education and preserved the Scriptures as they were studying, understood the importance of reason and developing the discipline of the mind. It was out of those church schools, which became cathedral schools, that we had the development of universities.
No Moslems started a university. No Buddhists started a university. Hindus did not start universities. Universities are uniquely the product of Christianity and the impact of understanding that God is a rational God on the thinking of men, called “schoolmen”, like Boethius, like St. Thomas Aquinas, and all of these medieval thinkers that wrote commentaries on Aristotle and Plato. They all understood this to be existential. It became the foundation for their understanding of the eternal existence of man.
Some of the things they said were right. Some of the things were not right, but we know from a look at the text that is not what’s really going on here. That’s what I was taught. That’s what you’ve been taught for many, many years. It was brought out as I was pursuing a study on this. I got a new commentary on Exodus which had about ten pages on this and developed it very, very well. It was written by a Jewish–Israeli scholar and also backed up in a paper that was published in Dallas Theological Seminary’s theological journal Bibliotheca Sacra in about 1985.
God is giving a new sense of the meaning of His name. I went to Exodus 6:2–3, “And God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord [Yahweh]. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Elyon], but by My name LORD [Yahweh], I was not known to them.’ ”
He’s not saying they didn’t know the name Yahweh, but understanding its meaning as He’s identifying it now wasn’t understood. They understood Him in terms of His power, El Elyon, the Mighty God, but they didn’t understand Him in terms of what He’s saying now.
What we’re going to see is that He says His name is Ehyeh, which in Hebrew is the first person. He’s basically saying I AM but there’s something about this that has a future sense to it. What He’s saying is that He’s here now to act, to intervene in history, and to fulfill the promises He gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When He says He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He didn’t appear to them as the One who was interceding and acting in fulfillment of these promises, but He’s doing that now. It’s very clear from at least the end of Genesis 4 where it says “men began to call on the name of the Lord” referring to Seth’s son.
Seth’s son is the replacement son for Cain. His son is Enosh. They knew God as Yahweh even before that. In Genesis 12:8 at the beginning of Abraham’s career when he was in Haran, he was calling on the name of Yahweh. He knew the name, but he just didn’t know the theological significance of it as it’s being revealed to the Jews in Exodus 3.
In Genesis 22:14, after God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac—a ram that is caught in the bushes, just as Abraham was just about to slit Isaac’s throat—Abraham comes up with a new name for God, Yahweh, indicating He knows that name. We usually call it Jehovah-jireh (in our English bastardization of the language) which means the Lord will provide. This shows he knew the name, but again he doesn’t know its significance.
One scholar named Motyer has paraphrased Exodus 6:2–3 as you see at the bottom of the slide, “And God spoke to Moses, and said to him, I am Yahweh. And I showed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob in the character of El Shaddai, but in the character expressed by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them. …” It has to do with expressing something new related to the implications of that name.
I went on and here’s a quote where Ehyeh is in the qal imperfect. You don’t need to know all the grammar, but it literally means “to be” and it’s in the first person singular. Yahweh is in the third person, meaning “He is”. When we say Yahweh, that means “He is”. In other words, He is the One Who intervenes. He is the One Who acts. He is the One Who fulfills His promises.
I pointed out that what this is emphasizing is that God is sovereignly independent of His creation. His presence guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant, the fulfillment of those promises He made to Abraham—that after approximately four hundred years, his descendants would come back to the land.
This contradicts the ontological meaning, I am or I am the Existent One. It’s not a present tense; it’s a future tense. I will be or I will act. That’s what God is claiming. Tell them it is I Who will act, I will fulfill that promise. Contextually He’s sending Moses to deliver them.
This is the message that Moses is sent with to the Hebrews in Egypt. He goes to them. He’s told to gather the elders together and to tell them that the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appeared to him and will bring them up out of the affliction. The context is all about God delivering Israel. That’s the significance of His name.
Now we’re going to move forward. That’s where I stopped last time in Exodus 5 and this brings up the major confrontation that occurs with Pharaoh. We’re told in Exodus 5:1, “Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Let My people go that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” ’ ”
He’s going to reveal something new about Himself to His people. We have seen in Genesis 22:14 that God is the provider. God provides a substitute. We will see in this Exodus event that God is revealed as the Deliverer, the Redeemer.
Israel is in slavery to Egypt, and God is going to redeem them from slavery. This becomes a perfect picture of the redemption that Jesus Christ is going to provide for us in paying the price to free us from our slavery to sin. There’s a third implication when the name Yahweh is used that shows God is associated with the covenant. The covenant to Abraham, the covenant with Moses, the land covenant, the covenant with David, and eventually the New Covenant.
This is when God begins to move to deliver the people. Moses goes to the Pharaoh. Remember Pharaoh is the incarnation of one of the Egyptian deities, therefore he is a divine person. Remember the end of the story with Joseph. He has the vision that talks about the fat years and the lean years. The fat years reflect seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine.
We’re told that toward the end of those seven years of famine that people were having to come to the government for handouts. During all that time of plenty, Joseph had been stockpiling grain. Now they’re running out of their own stockpiles of grain, and they’re having to come to the government.
When they ran out of any way to buy the grain, the government said they’d buy their land to give them the money to buy grain. Now the government owned all the land and all the means of production in Egypt so that every Egyptian was virtually a slave to the pharaoh. So the Jews were the slaves of the slaves.
Now these impertinent Jews are coming to him and saying they have another god who says they are His people. This is the height of effrontery to the Egyptian pharaoh because they’re his people’s slaves. He owns his people, so therefore he owns their slaves and they want to go into the wilderness to have a feast to this God who is calling them to come out and worship.
It’s interesting that the word used for “feast” here is hag. Its Arabic equivalent is hajj. When a Moslem reaches a certain age, sometime in his life, he needs to make the hajj and go to Mecca. Once he has made the hajj, he gets to prefix his name with that title “hajj.” That’s why the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the 1920s and 1930s, who was one of the most evil men who ever lived and hated the Jews, prefixed his name with hajj. In fact during World War II, he spent most of the war in Berlin with Adolph Hitler and gave a lot of guidance and ideas to him for how he could torture and murder the Jews. His name was Amin al Husseini from the al Husseini clan, but he was usually known as Hajj Amin al Hussein, meaning he’s made a hajj to Mecca.
Anyone here know who his nephew was? Arafat was his nephew. Al Husseini was so evil that Arafat changed his name to his mother’s family to disguise the fact that he was really the heir to al Husseini. That’s part of the evil of anti-Semitism.
That’s the meaning of the word hag here. It means to celebrate and have a feast. God says, Exodus 5:1, “Let My people go that they hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” They’re going to go celebrate. This celebration isn’t a big party like we might think of a birthday party. This is a more somber, more sober celebration of God. That’s part of what worship is. It’s to celebrate our salvation.
It’s related to joy and excitement because we know we’re saved, but it’s also a time of sober thinking and reflection, a time of seriousness to reflect upon Who God is and why He has called us into His plan and why He has given us so much. They are going to go worship God in the wilderness.
Pharaoh doesn’t like it. He basically in great derision in Exodus 5:2 says, “… Who is Yahweh, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh, nor will I let Israel go.” He was saying these were not Yahweh’s slaves; they were his slaves. This was just the height of arrogance, and, of course, we know what’s going to happen eventually.
Exodus 5:3, “So they—Moses and Aaron—said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to Yahweh, our God,—Yahweh Eloheinu—lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’ ”
Exodus 5:4, “Then the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.’ ” He absolutely, totally refuses to do that so that triggers a series of events. I’m not going to get into all those events. We know what they are. They’re the ten plagues. They began with the water turning into blood with the first plague and it ends with the last plague which is the death of the firstborn. The redemption solution to that plague is the Passover.
What’s significant about that for us is that this lays the foundation for all of Israel’s worship, all the other festivals and everything else, because the Passover is the picture of their redemption. It’s the picture of God’s provision of a substitute sacrifice so that Passover itself stands as a picture of justification. The price for sin is paid and redemption takes place on the 14th of Nissan. Nissan roughly covers our March/April timeframe. It’s the first month on their ceremonial calendar.
In Exodus 12:3 Moses is told, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.’ ”
This is important because it’s on the tenth of the month. When Jesus enters into Jerusalem right before His crucifixion, guess what day it is? It’s on the tenth of the month. On the tenth, the Passover lamb would be selected, and the Passover lamb would be evaluated to make sure no bones are broken, no scars, no spot, no blemish.
It’s taken into the house. Later on we’re going to see that this would be identified as the firstborn of the flock, the year before. At that time, something happens that’s distinctive. If you’ve ever been around sheep or cattle, you know that when springtime comes if you have large flocks or herds, there are a lot of babies. You have to spot the firstborn. In order to make sure you don’t lose the firstborn, you have to do something special to isolate that firstborn.
You’re going to bring that firstborn in, you’re going to keep it near the house. You’re probably going to name it. It’s going to be part of the family. This lamb that lives with you for a year hasn’t done anything wrong and has basically lived with the family and is now the lamb that you are going to take at Passover.
You’re going to take that lamb to the tabernacle, and you are going to slit its throat as you put your sins on that lamb. That really brings the point home. You’ve lived with this lamb for a year and now there is an emotional bond. Maybe not like we have today because we’ve all been psychologically affected by Bambi and other Disney stories, so we personify our animals too much.
Jesus fulfills that type by coming into Jerusalem on the tenth and then He’s evaluated with all those confrontations with the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the chief priest, and the elders. The qualifications for the lamb are then set forth starting in Exodus 12:5.
One of the things that we need to understand here is that with this introduction of the Passover, there are a couple of things that are going on as part of this foundational meal, this first Seder meal. There are three key things that are going on here, or four, actually but I’m not going to talk about the bitter herbs.
There are three central things that are happening here. The first is the bread. There’s this point made that you’re not going to leaven the bread. In the first circumstance, they didn’t leaven the bread because this was going to happen so quickly they didn’t have time to let the bread rise so they left it unleavened. The significance of that is going to come up later. The bread was unleavened.
The second thing here is the body of the sacrifice, the lamb that is going to be eaten. That’s important too. What’s been separated from the lamb is the third element—that’s the blood. The blood is drained from the sacrifice and then the blood is applied to the door. So you have these three elements: the bread, the body, and the blood.
The body and blood together represent a sacrifice. That’s the imagery. In a sacrifice, you have the body and the blood together. The body is eaten and the blood is applied. I want you to think about that for a minute. When we come to the Lord’s Table this coming Sunday, I’ll point this out again.
When Jesus is taking the bread, what does He identify it as? “This is My body.” We have the unleavened bread and we have the body. Then He will come much later in the meal to the third cup, and He says, “This is My blood.” We’ve got these three elements in the Seder meal which the disciples are eating with Jesus when He is going to change the meaning of these particular elements.
The point I want you to remember is that when Jesus talks about the blood and the body, what are they hearing as a Jew in a sacrificial system? They’re hearing that He’s identifying Himself as a sacrifice. That’s the symbology of what He is saying when He says, “This is My body and this is My blood.”
The blood represents the death of the animal, and that death was necessary for the redemption of the people because God was going to take the firstborn in every family. In God’s grace, He gave a substitute. So the lamb that is killed whose blood is applied to the doorposts is the substitute. That’s part of the imagery here that underlies all of Passover, which is the central feast for Israel. It speaks of their redemption.
It occurs on the 14th of Nisan. The next day is the 15th. What begins on the 15th is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. By Jesus’ time, many just considered it all one holiday—the first day was Passover and the next day the Feast of Unleavened Bread— so it just all gets jumbled together now as one long holiday.
That loses the doctrinal point here. The teaching point here is that justification is on the 14th, and it is separated from a process. It’s a one-day event where the person believes and is saved. That’s justification, but what happens the next day is talking about sanctification and the spiritual life. And that’s pictured by the next seven days when they don’t eat leavened bread. Leaven represents sin so it’s representing the fact that the redeemed person is supposed to live a life that is sanctified and set apart to the Lord.
You have these passages like Exodus 12:21, “Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families and kill the Passover lamb.’
Exodus 13:13, “But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb: and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” It extends beyond the firstborn son to the firstborn of the flocks.
Slide 21 (skipped)
It’s followed by seven days. In Exodus 13:6, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.” I think the seven days represent a sanctified life symbolically, and it ends with a feast, a celebration. When we are absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord, what happens to the Church-Age believer? There’s a wedding feast just before Jesus returns to the earth. I think this foreshadows that in the order of events.
Paul picks this up. I’m not just drawing this symbolism out of thin air. He talks to the Corinthians about this, and he talks to them in such a way that he expects them to have already been taught about the Passover. This is why I think it’s important for us to go through a Seder meal every now and then to see what a big celebration it was. If you’re in a Jewish household and you go to a Seder, you’re going to bring all the kids and all the grandkids, and it’s going to be a family celebration like Christmas. It’s a fun time.
It is suggested that this idea we’ve picked up from the movies and Renaissance art that it’s just Jesus and the boys is not accurate to a Jewish Passover. That Upper Room was probably quite large. How do we know that? Because they met in the same room some forty days later and there were 120 there.
Jesus wouldn’t even think of having Passover without His mother there. That would be absurd. That just wouldn’t happen. Everyone was doing a normal Passover so it’s very possible, highly likely, that when they’re in this Upper Room, Jesus takes the guys aside and has a little time with them, but this whole evening would have lasted three or four hours. We just hit the high points where He’s talking about the bread and the cup.
We’re not getting the whole event where they act out and they read and they go through the whole narrative of Exodus and everyone reenacts what happened in the deliverance of God so it’s not a five-minute meeting. It lasted well into the night and past midnight. In fact we know from rabbinical writings that they would have to come up with a lot of games and activities. They’d have to figure out ways to keep the kids alert and involved because they’re staying up way past their bedtime.
This, of course, doesn’t fit with the Davinci painting and a couple of others I’ve seen. It’s a dead giveaway that they don’t know what they’re doing. If you look through the windows, you see a blue sky. “When evening came, they were celebrating the Passover.” You have to wait until sundown before you can have the Passover. The second error is they’re sitting in European chairs instead of reclining on couches because it’s the position of someone who is free and no longer a slave. Just a couple of extra things to think about.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is challenging the Corinthians because they’ve been minimizing sin in the congregation. In fact, they’ve almost been glorifying it. This is a situation where they had a man who was committing incest with his mother-in-law. It was really a stepmother, I think. It offended even the pagans. Now that’s not such a big offense necessarily in our culture, but it was a big offense in the Corinthian culture, so much so that everyone in town knew about it, and they were really embarrassed by what these Christians were doing.
It was bringing a lot of shame to the Cross, so Paul is having to correct them and tell them to deal with it. In the middle of this, he says their glorying is not good. They were proud of their gracious ways and pointing out that God forgives all sins, even gross ones like the one in their midst. They were acting licentiously.
Paul tells them, 1 Corinthians 5:6, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” What’s the imagery there? The imagery goes right back to the Feast of Unleavened Bread; you can’t have any leaven. He tells them to purge out or clean it out. It’s a form of the word for cleansing that we have in 1 John 1:9. 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore purge—cleanse—out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”
He’s applying this whole imagery of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a picture of the life of a believer who is sanctified, who is living apart from sin. When He tells them they truly are unleavened, he’s referring to positional truth. Their position in Christ is that they now have His righteousness, but experientially they need to cleanse out the old leaven.
Then he says what? Look at that. He says Christ is our Passover. They already understand this. This isn’t new to them. He’s identifying again that Christ is our Passover. Literally He uses a word here that’s used to refer to the lamb. Christ is the Passover lamb. He was sacrificed for us.
1 Corinthians 5:8, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven …” What feast is he talking about? A lot of people come along and say this is the love feast, related to observing the Lord’s Table. In the early church, they would have meals and then end with the Lord’s Table. He’s talking about the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
He’s saying, 1 Corinthians 5:8, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” He’s moving from the type to the application. We need to be cleansed from sin—malice and wickedness. We learn something about worship there. To worship a holy God, we have to be holy.
We can’t make ourselves holy. Holiness comes through cleansing. Cleansing comes first at the Cross when we trust Christ as Savior. That’s when we become truly unleavened and are positionally identified with Christ and positionally cleansed of all sin and given the righteousness of Christ. Second, when we sin experientially, we confess sin and we are forgiven of those sins and then cleansed of all unrighteousness.
The next thing to point out in Exodus related to worship is something that is mentioned the first time in Scripture. I don’t think it’s the first time it happened, but it’s the first time that God’s going to talk about it in the Scripture. That’s in Exodus 15. After the deliverance from Egypt and they crossed the Red Sea, that’s a picture of their redemption. They come out on the other side, and that’s when they’re going to be given the Law.
The Law wasn’t given before the nation was redeemed and saved. You have to keep salvation and sanctification separate. This is the problem with so-called lordship salvation, otherwise known as perseverance Calvinism. It’s the idea that if you’re a true believer, you will not commit certain sins. They merge justification with sanctification. It’s also the problem with Catholic theology.
In biblical truth, justification takes place at a point in time. Sanctification is a process. In Roman Catholic theology, you have to keep crucifying Jesus every week in the Mass because salvation is a process, just like sanctification. You never know when the process is complete because Jesus has to be re-crucified every week, and He’s still on the Cross.
If you go to a Catholic Church, you will notice that they have Jesus on the Cross. He never gets down. Their emphasis is on the death, and that’s what gets celebrated in the Mass. Protestants don’t wear a crucifix with Jesus on the Cross. They just wear an empty Cross. It’s interesting that in Eastern Orthodox churches, their emphasis is on the resurrection on Sunday so that’s a real interesting contrast between western Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy
In Exodus 15, after they have crossed the Red Sea, they have a celebration and they sing for joy. This is the first time singing is mentioned. Exodus 15:1, “Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!’ ”
I think that when we get here, the last part of that verse becomes a chorus that gets repeated antiphonally as an echo by the women. Where in the world did I get that? First, in the order of events, you have the song of Moses. We ought to read that and think about how it tells the story poetically—the structure, how it is organized. This is a pattern for music.
This is the first time singing hymns to God is presented as forms of worship. Now you have a congregation, an assembly, and they are corporately worshipping God. This hasn’t happened before. Moses writes this. There are great verses here. Exodus 15:2, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”
This is a praise hymn to God declaring what He has done. Then you get to the end which is all describing the same event. Exodus 15:20–21, “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand—she has a tambourine;—and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them:”
That’s antiphonal. The men would sing one verse and the women would echo with this chorus. You have something like this in one of the psalms where every other line has to do with the faithfulness, the loyal love of God towards Israel, and it’s echoed, it’s antiphonal.
That’s what’s going on here. Miriam is leading the women in an antiphonal response. We’re going to do this Sunday morning when we read from Isaiah 53. I’ll have the men read one verse and the ladies read another verse. That’s another way to do that.
This is what is happening here in this section. When it talks about Miriam the prophetess, we have other women mentioned as prophetesses in the Old Testament. We have in Judges 4:4, “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” Deborah is a judge and also identified as a prophetess.
There are a couple of other prophetesses ,so we ask what in the world is this referencing? We think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future but that’s wrong. A prophet was a spokesperson for God. Most of the time the prophet is bringing an indictment, like an attorney general, against the nation because they’ve violated the covenant.
It’s not a pleasant message. Read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve [prophets]. They’re constantly presenting these lawsuits against the nation. That’s the role of a prophet. In the course of presenting a lawsuit, they’re telling them that God is going to kick them out of the land, but then He’s going to bring you back under these circumstances. That’s when the future part comes in, but it’s indicting the people for their violation of the covenant.
Prophet has another meaning. In 1 Chronicles 25:1, using the same Hebrew word, we read as David is developing the worship that will be part of the temple, it says, “Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service—the service of the Lord in the tabernacle—some of the sons of Asaph,—a writer of some of the psalms—of Heman, and of Jeduthun who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.”
Remember when we studied Saul and Saul falls in among the prophets and everyone scratched their heads and asked what’s going on here? The only thing that makes sense is that they’re singing praises to God. Miriam is a prophetess. What’s she doing? She’s singing.
You have Deborah (Judges 4) mentioned as a prophetess and a judge. What does she do in Judges 5? She sings a hymn to God in gratitude for the victory God gave them over Sisera and Jabin, the Canaanites.
This is the best way, I believe, to explain this. This is a new addition to worship, which is corporate singing. We’ve had sacrifice. We’ve had cleansing. We’ve had confession. We’ve had proclamation, calling on the name of the Lord. It’s a long time before we get to singing.
Singing is important. But today we live in a world where too many churches, almost every church outside of just a smattering, have fallen into very sloppy thinking. They refer to the song leader as the worship leader, and they refer to singing as worship.
The highest form of worship is that time we take to study God’s Word, to learn God’s Word, and to think about God’s Word. That’s worship. The worship leader is the pastor. The worship leader is the one who teaches the Word of God. The worship leader is not the song leader.
When we look at these passages, we don’t see statements made that Moses and the children of Israel sang this worship song to the Lord or worshipped by singing to the Lord. We don’t find that kind of language. They are worshipping, but that’s not the restriction.
We live in a world today where we want the church to be like the outside [world]. Here’s the rationale. When unbelieving pagans, whose souls are filled with darkness and are corrupt and spiritually dead, come in to the congregation, they can feel comfortable.
Now I ask you. Do you think that an unbeliever, spiritually dead, a pagan idol worshipper, would have felt comfortable walking into the temple of God in the Old Testament? Not at all. Believers didn’t feel comfortable walking into the presence of God.
It’s a wrong value system. It’s not what the Scripture emphasizes.
I want to turn our attention to Exodus 19 and spend a little time looking at the next five chapters. Chapter 19 prepares the nation, who are a redeemed people, to be spiritually prepared to worship God and receive the covenant. Exodus 20–23 is the reception of the revelation of God in the Mosaic Covenant.
Exodus 20 is the preface to the Law, the Ten Commandments. Where were the first ten commandments in the Bible? Anyone remember? Genesis 1. There are ten commands of God in the Creation narrative. That is the first ten commandments, and this is the second Ten Commandments.
Exodus 21–23 go into a lot of detail in case law. Then in Exodus 24, Israel is going to affirm the covenant with God and Moses is going to go onto the mountain with God. It’s not a worship service, per se, but it has a lot of things in common with worship.
In Exodus 19:1, we read, “In the third month after the children had gone out of the land of Egypt …” If they go out in Nisan, which is roughly April 1, this is now summer, three months later. Where are they? Sinai. Is it cool, balmy, on the beach? No, it’s pretty hot and dry desert there. Just keep that in mind.
They are in the wilderness of Sinai, and this is why water is always an issue. In Exodus 19:3, “And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:’ ” Why are they going to listen to Moses? It’s because they’re going to hear the voice of God. They don’t just hear a rumble in the mountains. They don’t have some kind of mystical vision. It’s an objective reality. They hear God speaking to them and it shakes them to the core of their existence. If they would have had a little MP3 recorder with them, they could have recorded the sound of God. If they’d had their iPhone with them, they could have had a nice little video that would tell all of us what this appearance looked like. It was an objective reality.
Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” He is saying these are the commands that God gave you, and they know they are because they heard the voice of God, and Moses went up on the mountain.
They had seen the plagues. They had witnessed the splitting of the Red Sea and God’s deliverance and other miracles along the way, including God’s provision of water and God’s provision of food.
In Exodus 19:4, God says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians …” Think about it historically. All throughout the ancient world, they heard what God had done to the Egyptians. It wiped out the Egyptian civilization. We don’t hear about Egypt getting involved with the Middle East for about four or five hundred years in Scripture. Egypt was devastated by what happened in the plagues. This is 1440 BC and the time of David is about 1000 BC. So it’s four hundred to five hundred years before they are a player again. They are wiped out.
Exodus 19:4–5, “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 will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine.”
God is staking out His zone of authority. “All the earth is Mine. I am the sovereign Ruler of creation. I created everything: the heavens, the earth and the seas and all that is in them. Therefore, I can do what I want. Of all the peoples of the earth, I have chosen you through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be Mine.”
What for? What is the purpose? Earlier we saw the purpose was to go into the wilderness to serve God and how are they to serve Him? In Exodus 19:6, a key verse in the Old Testament, they are told, “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Let’s work backward. They are a nation. What kind? Holy. Does that mean they’re pure? Does that mean they’re sinless? Does that mean they’re perfect? No. It means they are set apart to the service of God. That’s why they are holy.
We have all kinds of garbage associated with the word “holy”. It means they are set apart to the service of God. How are they going to serve God? As a kingdom of priests. That means that Israel as a nation is going to be a priest-nation that does for all the Gentile nations what the tribe of Levi is going to do for Israel.
He’s called the nation of Israel to be His servants as a kingdom of priests, but they couldn’t be a kingdom of priests unless they were a holy nation. That’s why God tells them later on, “You be holy, for I am holy. You be set apart to Me because I am unique and distinct above all the gods.”
He’s called out the priests, the Levites, and established qualifications for them so that they would be holy and a distinct tribe within the tribes of Israel. What we see here is the significance of being set apart to God. Salvation is pictured in redemption, and their spiritual life, their spiritual growth, their service to God, is what is being pictured here. They have to learn to be a holy nation.
We’re going to come back next time and get into that and start talking about these next two or three chapters in Exodus and, then we’re going to go into the distinctive worship and service of God as we look at the tabernacle and what’s going on in the service of God in the tabernacle.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things tonight and to be reminded that we are involved in no less a distinctive aspect of worship in the Church Age. We have a higher role than Israel because we are the bride and the body of Christ. We are called to serve You, and we are called also to be holy for You are holy.
“That doesn’t mean we walk around thinking we are more righteous than everybody else or better than everybody else, but we are to serve You and serve others and love others as Christ has loved us. We are to grow in our sanctification, learning to live more and more for You.
“Challenge us with this as we continue. In Christ’s name. Amen.”