“Thunder from Sinai!”
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ September 18, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Thunder from Sinai!”
This morning we embark on a new and exciting journey looking at the Ten Commandments. “The Ten Commandments for Today,” is our Fall sermon series. Over the next ten Sundays, we will be reflecting on the Ten Commandments, their meaning and their relevancy to our lives today. Each Sunday, we will be focusing on one commandment.
But this morning I want to briefly discuss in an introductory way before we get to the real business next week, the question: Why did God give the Law? What was God up to on Mount Sinai? So as we turn this morning to Exodus chapter 19, we see that dramatic, incredible passage where Mount Sinai is filled with smoke and fire and flashes of lightning and thunder. And God is the one who is speaking to Moses in Exodus 19.
Just to give us some background, the people of Israel had been liberated from the hands of Pharoah and they just started their journey to the Promised Land. They will be encountering the gods of the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Jebusites and the Perizzites. The Law was important to keep them in the right path. The Law was important for many reasons. I would like to suggest three reasons why the law was given.
First: The Law Reveals the Holiness of God
The first reason of giving the Law is to reveal the holiness of God. I think that the most fundamental attribute of God is holiness. Holiness stands at the very center and the very core of the being of God in ways perhaps that His other attributes do not.
The word holy really means “separate.” He is like no other. In Egypt, the Israelites lived among the gods of the Egyptians. Literally, there were hundreds of them. On their journey to the Promised Land, they will see the gods of other nations. But the God of Israel is different, and He is a cut above all others. He is transcendent. That means that God is beyond the limits. He transcends space. He transcends the universe. He is the God that goes beyond. That’s God! Transcendent and holy!
In the Ten Commandments, God reveled His holiness. If you look at Exodus chapter 19, you will see that God says that when He speaks on Mount Sinai there is to be a boundary around the mountain. No beast, no person is to touch that mountain. That physical distance between the people and the mountain is symbolic of the moral distance that exists between God and us.
Second: The Law Reveals the Sinfulness of Humanity
The second reason why the law was given is to reveal the sinfulness of humans. Nothing is in more stark contrast than the sinfulness of humanity once you we a glimpse of the holiness of God. The Ten Commandment show the total inability of humans to meet God’s high standards. Yes, we may be able to keep most of them, but when we fail in keeping one, we fail in all. Listen to these words from James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
The Law reveals not only the inability of humans to keep the commandments, but also the defection of people’s heart! In the New Testament, Christ elevated the standards of God; it’s not only our actions but the intents of our heart. In Matthew 5:21 Jesus said, “You’ve heard you shall not murder … but I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” “You’ve heard, “You shall not commit adultery,” but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Third: The Law Reveals the Need for Grace
The third purpose of the law is to reveal the need for grace. There is a great chasm, a great gap, that exists between God and humanity. How is it to be bridged? In Job 25:4, Job asked the question: “How then can a mortal be righteous before God? How can we be justified before God?” How are we going to take care of the pollution that is in the human heart? That’s where grace comes in, because grace comes along and says that there is a way that God made by which He could maintain His justice and His holiness and still welcome sinners into His family. That’s grace.
When you go home today, I want you to look at Hebrews 12:18-24 where the author of Hebrews contrasts between Mount Sinai, the Old Covenant, and Zion, the New Covenant. Here is Sinai, fear and trembling, darkness, thunder, lightning, and unapproachable God. That’s Sinai. Yet, in Mount Zion, the New Covenant brought about through the blood of Jesus Christ. There is light, approachability, a welcome, a reception, a congregation of other saints, and a knowledge that we can come into God’s presence without fear, knowing that we have been accepted and received on the basis of grace. That’s the contrast that the author of the book of Hebrews wants us to understand.
Friends, the Law reveals the holiness of God and our need for His grace. Our utter failure to keep God’s Law should get us on our knees crying for help. The apostle Paul says that “The Law is holy, just, and good,” and, as King David said, “we delight in it,” even though it sweeps our sin into an almost suffocating experience. But how else can we be driven to salvation? How else can we be driven to pursue sanctification? So as we continue to unpack the Ten commandments, one at a time, may we find joy and delight in walking in God’s ways. And when we stumble and fall, may we flee to Christ and flee to the Spirit for salvation and sanctification. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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