EXODUS 19 – 20
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
Lessons for Life
After six weeks in the desert, moving slowly toward Mount Sinai, the Israelites finally arrive and are given instructions on how to prepare to meet God. God uses this opportunity to take His covenant relationship with the Israelites to the next level, to renegotiate the terms of the covenant to make it more mutual.
o Have you ever experienced a relationship change from being one-side to be more mutual? Perhaps your relationship with a parent or with a child? How did that feel? What was good about the change and what was difficult?
Meeting God (19:1-25):
o When Moses objected at the burning bush about his assignment, God promised to give Moses a sign of reassurance. What was that sign? (Read Ex.3:12) Was God true to His word?
o How does God describe what He has done for the people of Israel?
When God made a covenant with Israel’s ancestors, it was 99 percent a commitment purely on God’s part, a promise about something God was going to do. There were no specific requirements laid on Abraham except that the males should be circumcised. The situation has now changed. God has initiated the process whereby the covenant promise is being fulfilled. The people are on their way to the country God promised them. God has rescued them from their servitude to Egypt. (Admittedly, if you were an Israelite, you might think the language about eagle’s wings was a bit rich. “Eagle’s wings? Excuse me, we walked. That’s why it took us two months to get here!”)
o What is God offering the Israelites if they agree to make a more mutual commitment with God and take a more active responsibility in the relationship? What is God asking of them?
o What does it mean for them to become a “kingdom of priest”?
o What does it mean for them to become a “holy nation”?
o Read how Peter describes the people he is writing a letter to in the churches in the Roman provinces, 1 Peter 2:9-10. What does this mean for us today?
o What is the Israelites’ response to God’s offer?
o What is God’s reason for arranging to meet the people of Israel in person? (19:9)
o What do the people need to do to prepare themselves to meet God?
o The author of Exodus tries to describe the encounter with the Indescribable LORD. What images does he use to try to convey the experience?
o The letter to the Hebrews uses the Sinai story to contrast the Israelites who lived under the old covenant with those of us who live under the new covenant. Read Hebrews 12:18-29. What lessons are we to learn from them?
Rule of Life (20:1-21):
o Before listing the basic expectations within the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel, God identifies Himself. How does this establish the basis for the commands and the reason people should follow them?
Verse 2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”, like 19:4 reminds Israel of the basis of the covenant, namely Yahweh’s saving grace demonstrated in the exodus from Egypt. Obedience to the commandments is viewed as a response of gratitude for salvation, not a means of earning it. Gordon Wenham
o In what ways might people be tempted to misuse God’s name?
o Why might someone be tempted to disobey the Sabbath commandment?
o How do the commands create a better life for neighbors and family members?
o The Law was for people who had been set free. What was their freedom for? What is our freedom in Christ for?
o How do the Israelites respond to the experience of hearing God speak to them?
o Moses’ reply seems contradictory – what kinds of fear is he talking about?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: NIV Zondervan Study Bible, 2015
John Goldingay, Exodus & Leviticus for Everyone, 2010
David Nichols, Understanding the Old Testament: a narrative summary, 2008