Three months have now gone by since the people of Israel stood on the shore of the Red Sea as it crashed down on the Egyptian soldiers and king. These former slaves have been on quite a journey in just three months. The Lord has been leading them exactly where he wants them and providing for them along the way. On the way, the Israelites have witnessed many miraculous things. They have seen the Lord use them to defeat armies. They have seen the Lord provide food that literally fell out of the sky. They have been saved from a lifetime of slavery and ultimate death. But the question we have to ask as we look back on this amazing story is, “Why?”
Why does the Lord rescue these slaves? Why does he provide for them so much? Why does he do so much good to them? Could it be that they stand out in some way from the rest of the world? No, there is nothing more special about the Israelites themselves than any other group of people. Could it be that they have very strong faith in the Lord? Is it that they trust and obey him so faithfully that God responds with provision and protection? No way! A pattern we see over and over again in Exodus is that God is doing for his people what they could never do for themselves. And he does so by keeping his promises.
God doesn’t provide for and protect his people because they deserve it. He doesn’t desire a relationship with them because they have earned it or proven themselves worthy. God loves his people because of his grace. He loves us because he wants to love us.
God has been leading Israel to meet him at Mount Sinai. By meeting his people at this mountain, God is fulfilling a promise he made to Moses way back in Exodus 3. “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Ex. 3:12). It’s so easy to forget the promises of God. Israel did it. And we do it. Despite how much Israel (and we) forgets the promises of God, this doesn’t stop God from keeping them. He has brought his people to the foot of Mount Sinai to provide his people with the greatest gift they could ever dream to receive: Himself.
This gift of divine presence is only elevated as the story of Scripture unfolds. God’s presence through a divine theophany on Sinai would later be manifested in the tabernacle and even later, the temple. In the holiest of holy places, the Lord would dwell with his people by the means of his grace through a substitutionary sacrifice. Oh, but one day, God’s presence would descend upon the earth in an inconceivable way. The God of heaven and earth would condescend and take on flesh, to tabernacle with his people. On the basis of his grace in becoming the once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole vehicle by which men may dwell with God.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.