Exodus 19:3-8, “YHWH called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and, tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves 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, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that YHWH had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to YHWH.”
This is the first of three times the people will say “All that YHWH has spoken we will do”, before the covenant is officially ratified on the mountain top. Easier said than done, but the spirit of Israel has changed, at least temporarily, since they left Egypt. Back at the burning bush, at this very location 40 years earlier, Moses said “they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘YHWH did not appear to you.’” After arriving at the bitter waters, Yah said, “if you will diligently listen to the voice of YHWH your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am YHWH, your healer.”
Hearing the voice of Yah is a learned skill, and obeying it even more so. The wilderness is a great place to hear His voice, but our hearing skills are only really tested when it’s time for the doing.
He said that “if, you will obey and keep my covenant, you will be my “treasured possession…” The Hebrew word used here, segulah (Strongs 5459), is a very uncommon Hebrew word, which is especially appropriate, since a “peculiar treasure” could be another valid definition. The incalculable value He places on us can’t be separated from our peculiar nature, and that peculiarity is the goal He is trying to achieve via His commandments. When the world goes left, we go right. When they go down, we go up. Not because we are simply stubborn or contrary, but because His commandments are righteous, and the world is unrighteous. Living up to the expectations of our value is the biggest challenge—especially as all of the marketing and loud opinions all around us tell us our value is the highest only when we conform to the ways of the world.
One of the purposes for Messiah’s death was to reestablish our understanding as to how much Yah LOVES (values) humanity. Our value is based on the cost he paid to redeem us out of mere humanity, and offer we former gentiles new identities as ‘Israelites’. How much we value the death of Messiah, the price He paid for us, is measured by how we live our lives—are we being obedient or not?
Are we only embracing being His “treasure”, yet afraid of becoming “peculiar”? Exodus 19 is telling us in no uncertain terms, and not for the first (or last) time, that this is package deal. His covenant is conditional—it’s an “if/then” arrangement. “If you will obey my voice…”
Up until this point on the Way, it may not seem as if Israel has been asked to “do” very much, but what’s already been taught are actually the weightier matters of Kingdom living. If Israel could just master the principles already taught in Exodus chapters 15-18, we’d already be quite peculiar, reflecting Yah’s name through our lives to the world quite nicely. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thankfulness, gentleness, self-control, trust, fearlessness, rest, worship—these are most important facets of His Name that have already been taught since Egypt, while we were in the wilderness, even before we arrived at Sinai. Each and every command that is yet to come are simply tools to help us remember our value. The upcoming Laws are guidelines for us to stay on the Way so that the fruit of the Spirit can continue to develop within us. Sometimes we, as Israel, forget the goal of the Torah, and behave with a self-righteousness and puffed-up spirit that swells with pride because of our knowledge of all of the various tools in Yah’s tool box. But, as Messiah said, “unless our righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20).
The good news, the true gospel, needs to include the fact that He gives us second, maybe endless, chances to hit the mark. In fact, the context of the “New Covenant” in Jeremiah 31, and reiterated in Hebrews 8, is that this New Covenant, this writing of the Torah upon our hearts, remains in the future—even to us living today. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) We are called to live TODAY by His Torah, and we are to be motivated by our value as His segulah, purchased for the highest imaginable price.
He knows we are imperfect (like the most valuable gems always are) but the full extent of His promises to all Israelites, beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are still ahead.
In Malachi, one of the last Prophets before Messiah comes, we see Israel still struggling with their value, still undecided about whether it is worth the cost to follow Yah. This chapter is often used to preach “testing Yah”, specifically in our “tithing” to the church, but the context is much broader than simply that one aspect of obedience. If we look at these words as an introduction to the Gospels (because that’s what we’d be reading when we simply turn the page!), it should clearly inform us as to the nature of Messiah’s ministry as well as that of John the Baptist’s.
“You have said, “it is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or walking as in mourning before YHWH of hosts? And now, we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only proper but they put God to the test and they escape!”. But then those who feared YHWH spoke with one another. YHWH paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared YHWH and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says YHWH of Hosts”, in the day when I make up my TREASURED POSSESSION, and I will spare them as a man who spares HIS SON WHO SERVES HIM. Then, once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God, and one who does not serve him…for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings…Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of YHWH comes. And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (much of Malachi 3 and 4).
That great and awesome “Day of The LORD” is still future. The New Covenant is still future. The day he collects us, His treasured possession, His segulah, His peculiar people, is still future. The invitation to obey, however, is being offered on here on Shavuot—that offer is both ancient and current, but it will eventually expire. “All that YHWH has spoken we will do.” The people just said it once. They will say it a total of three times on The Way to Shavuot. Three. The number of Messiah, and the number of perpetual blessing and eternal life. (See yesterdays post.)
Tomorrow is the day that Yah finally arrives, on the third day of the third month (Exodus 19:16). Not exactly a subtle use of symbols. Besides our value, there is another motivating force Yah is about to instill in Israel. Fear. We will take a look at the fear of Yah tomorrow, on Day #39 of the way to Shavuot.