- 出埃及記 19:1–6
以色列人離開埃及之後，經過三個月的時間，來到西乃的曠野。我們看地圖，知道西乃山在西乃半島的南端。所以以色列人出埃及之後，是順著東南方向走的。但神所應許的迦南地是在西乃半島的東北端。為甚麼神要以色列人順著一個相反的方向而走呢？原來以色列人在埃及已經有 430 年的時光，他們的生活、文化、習俗、信仰、甚至口味都已經埃及化。他們學埃及的農業文化拜金牛犢，也學會吃蔥、蒜、韮菜。這樣的一個民族在成為神的選民之前，要先在西乃山下接受一年的訓練。上帝在我們的生命中也要做同樣的工作。藉著教會、讀經、種種的訓練方式，使我們在神的話語上生根建造，才能真正做神的子民。
出埃及記十九章 1–6 節是舊約的中心信息，因為緊接著的二十章（有名的十誡），以及其後的章節，甚至接續的利未記都是西乃山下的教導，而整篇的教導是從這六節開始的。這段教導裡有三個思想；首先神提醒以色列人他們過去所領受的恩惠。我們來看一下第四節裡的兩個動詞。第一個動詞是「看」：「我向埃及人所行的事你們都看見了……」（19:4）。上帝提醒以色列人，他們現在是安全的，但不要因此就忘記了上帝的恩惠。「看見」有「回憶」的用意。我們能很容易的回想起上帝的恩惠嗎？還是我們需要思索一下才能回答？「奇異恩典」的作者 John Newton 本來是販賣奴隸的，但是他回想起神的恩惠的時候，就訝異於神恩典的奇妙。上帝為甚麼要提醒我們呢？難道上帝很計較嗎？不是的，上帝要我們記住過去的功課，否則我們很容易重蹈覆轍。另一個動詞是「背」：「……且看見我如鷹將你們背在翅膀上……」（19:4）。老鷹訓練小鷹，是將小鷹背在翅膀上，使小鷹慢慢的學會自行飛翔。神也如此的訓練我們，為的是有一天我們能自立。在曠野的時間，神將生活中一切的細節都規定得清清楚楚，無論是清潔衛生、食物、獻祭、主僕關係，都有明確的規定。如此詳細的規條，就是因為神要使以色列人成為一個有紀律的民族。
在 19:4 中還有另一個動詞是「歸」：「……帶來歸我」。歸屬於神、作神的子民，是基督徒最重要的身分，而成為神的子民的意義，就是神的律法、神的期望，成為我最關心的事。屬世的期望是「五子登科」，屬神的期望是「作成神的工」。一個多月以來許多人看林書豪的經歷十分過癮，如吃人蔘果。但從屬神的眼光來看，我們更看重他成功不驕傲、失敗不灰心、謙卑、認真、將榮耀歸神的見證。「歸」這個動詞也出現在 19:6。原來「歸」是為了「作祭司的國度，為聖潔的國民」。祭司的國度，也就是一個有祭司牧養、關懷、領導的國度。但是「國度」指的是神安排我們的所在。一個人在教會裡做一個小組長，他就是這個小組的祭司；作父母的，就是家中的祭司。每一個屬神的人都有他事奉的疆域。但祭司是不容易做的，因為還有一個條件，就是「聖潔的國民」；這是要恐懼戰兢的一件事。亞倫的兩個兒子獻「凡火」（不按規例而獻的火）就在祭壇前被處死。所以在事奉上我們要認真，生活上我們要聖潔。
- The Teachings at Mount Sinai
- Exodus 19:1–6
- Pastor Edwin Su
Three months after the Israelites had left Egypt, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. Checking with maps, we know that Mount Sinai is at the southern tip of the peninsula, which means that the Israelites were following the southeastern route to Sinai, instead of the northeastern route to Canaan. Why would God lead the Israelites in such a winding route? It turned out that the Israelites had been in Egypt for 430 years and had adopted the style, culture, habit, religion, even cuisine of Egypt. They worshipped the golden calf, following the agricultural tradition in Egypt. They enjoyed the spices, following the cooking style of Egypt. For such a nation to become God’s elected people, they needed to receive a year-long training at Mount Sinai. Likewise, God does the same work in our lives. Through church life, bible study, and various trainings, gradually we become more rooted in His word and fit to be called His people.
The Grace of the Past
Exodus 19:1–6 can be regarded as the center of the Old Testament. The teachings at Mount Sinai, which extend to the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) and the entire book of Leviticus, started in these six verses. There are three major themes in this scripture, with the first referring to the grace which the Israelites had received in the past. Turn your attention to the two verbs in verse 4. The first verb is see: “You yourselves have seen ….” God reminded the Israelites that they were safe while at Sinai, but not to forget what grace they had received from God in the past. Seeing implies remembering. Can we remember God’s grace for us easily? Or must we think about it for a while before we can list any? John Newton, the slave trader and the author of Amazing Grace, was amazed by how wonderful God’s saving grace for him was when he thought of it. But why would God want us to remember? Is it because God cares about whether He receives His due credit? Certainly not. God wants us to remember lessons in our past, or we would fall through the same traps easily. Another verb in this verse is carry: “… how I carried you on eagles’ wings ….” The way an eagle trains his baby eagle is to carry it on its wings, so that the young eagle gradually learns to fly. Similarly, the purpose of God’s training is so that one day we would be independent. While the Israelites were traveling in the desert, God set clear rules for every aspect of their life from hygiene, food, offering, to master-slave relationship—all for the reason that Israelites should become a nation of discipline one day.
The Grace of Today
And another verb in 19:4 is bring: “… brought you to myself.” To be brought to God is to become God’s children, which is the most important identity of a Christian. The significance of becoming a child of God is that the laws and expectations of God are what concern me the most. The expectation of the secular world is to receive high honor and glory, whereas the expectation from the aspect of God’s Kingdom is to fulfill God’s purpose. For about a month now, many have enjoyed the story of Jeremy Lin. From God’s perspective, however, we would rather emphasize his attitude of success without pride, defeat without despair, humility, sincerity, and the testimony of glorifying God. The significance of the verb bring is further elaborated in verse 6, that becoming a child of God is to be “for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” A kingdom of priests is a kingdom under the care and leadership of priests. Kingdom refers to where God has us settled in. For the leader of a cell group of a church, he is a priest of this group. For the parents of a family, they are the priests of this family. Every child of God has his or her territories. But it is not easy being a priest, because of another requirement—the holy nation. This should cause us to feel rather uneasy. The two sons of Aaron were put to death before the altar because they sacrificed the unauthorized fire (fire not offered according to regulations). Therefore we should be serious in ministering and holy in daily life.
The Grace of the Future
God says, “… Although the whole earth is mine” (19:5). While the Israelites were at the foot of Mount Sinai, they could only see this huge and tall mountain. Their vision was limited. God encouraged them to elevate their view, from the Kingdom of Israel to the Kingdom of God. The training at Mount Sinai was for the conversion of all nations. Similarly, if Chinese people care about affairs regarding China only, then we are still at the foot of Sinai, and we fail to see that God’s grace surpasses this church. Support missions, elevate our view, and allow us a grander vision of world evangelism. When our view is limited, we can be troubled by the mundane things in life. But when we elevate our views, these small things can be resolved quickly. St. Augustine once said, “For those that care about things in heaven, they inherit heaven and earth.” The call from God to Israelites three thousand years ago is the same call to us today. Are you willing to follow this call?
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