You’ve probably experienced a “gaper’s delay” on the expressway. An accident happens on one side of a divided highway, but vehicles slow to a crawl on both sides. On one side it’s due to the crash, but on the other side, the traffic jam is caused by people slowing down to take a look. Calamity or the unusual attracts our attention.
Something like this is behind the rules God gave Moses for the Israelites as the covenant was affirmed by the nation in today’s reading (vv. 10–13). Human nature being what it is, the people might have crowded forward to “get a look” or otherwise dishonored the sacredness of the occasion. They were also told to purify themselves beforehand by washing their clothes and abstaining from sex. The latter may have been intended to contrast with pagan religious rituals, which often included sexually immoral activities.
In the presence of the people, God met Moses on the top of Mount Sinai (v. 20). This clearly showed that Moses was God’s chosen leader and the people should follow and obey him as God’s representative (v. 9). Obedience to the Lord was their covenant obligation. Though they vowed to do it (v. 8), God knew they would fail . . . and He still promised in advance to remain faithful! Think about that: God established a covenant, which was normally mutual or two-way, and promised that He would remain faithful even knowing ahead of time that Israel would not hold up their end.
Why? Because He’s God. He chose and loved His people (vv. 4–6). They were His “treasured possession,” “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” He’d delivered them from bondage in Egypt and “carried [them] on eagles’ wings,” that is, they were weak in themselves but He was their strength (see Deut. 32:10–12).
>> Even when we are weak, we can be certain of God’s strength: “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:31).
We rejoice, knowing that You chose us even though You knew every wrong or foolish thing we had done and will ever do. You are our righteousness and strength; it is You who gives us hearts of worship.