Verses 1-3 tell us how Israel arrives at Sinai to worship the Lord on the mountain as God told Moses they would in Exodus 3:12. Peter refers to verses 5-6 in 1 Peter 2:9-10, as he applies what is said of the Lord’s people here to the church. The instructions to Moses to consecrate the people and to set boundaries they cannot cross (verses 10-13, and 23-24) prepare them for life as it will be when the tabernacle is built. The instructions for abstaining from sexual relations are merely part of the consecration at this time, and should not be construed as more.
As we have learned from other passages, the Lord could manifest Himself in any number of ways that He sees fitting. In this case, the spectacle He creates in verses 16-20 serves to demonstrate that He has been speaking to Moses from the mountain, which is made holy because of His presence – and that the people would do well to listen to Moses.
The sights and sounds – the smoke, fire, and trembling of the mountain (verse 18) bring fear and expectation for the Lord’s people, as though something great was happening here. And indeed it was. The words that the Lord conveyed to Moses would shape the very lives of His people, and things would never be the same as they once were.
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