SUNDAY STUDY: “Mine is the earth”

By Yitzchak Reuven, The Temple Institute @ TempleInstitute.org

“Mine is the earth”

(Exodus 19:5)

“Mount Sinai is G-d’s moment to shine! He is not busy rescuing anyone. He is not busy delivering a nation, nor soundly defeating an adversary. He is not preoccupied with providing daily meals for His children from His heavenly kitchen, nor causing life giving waters to flow from a lifeless rock. At Mount Sinai G-d is simply being G-d. His unparalleled glory is manifesting itself before Israel in ways that man can take in and absorb, if not on a completely comprehensible intellectual level, then certainly on a visceral, physical and emotional level. Seeing is believing! And so is hearing the roar of the thunder, and smelling the smoke and fire on the mountain and feeling the earth tremble beneath your feet. G-d has brought His people to His holy mountain and G-d is exhilarated!

G-d has waited an eternity for this moment. Or, at the very least, for twenty six generations of man. For that is how many generations have passed since G-d first created Adam and invited him to spend a blissful eternity with G-d in the Garden of Eden. G-d wants to be with man. He always has. And G-d, after cultivating a relationship with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, has chosen Israel to be His “treasured people,” and His “kingdom of priests and holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5,6) That is, G-d has chosen Israel to be His representative and His testimony to His presence among the nations.

To be appointed this role, to take on this task, requires an unwavering dedication, an unfaltering determination, an endless commitment, and a relentless ability to pick yourself up and put yourself back together after you have stumbled and it has all fallen to pieces. In other words, G-d is asking a lot of Israel. He is asking the world. And this may explain G-d’s unprecedented display of His benign, yet terrifying, glory. Like a suitor pursuing his beloved, G-d is doing everything in His limitless power to evoke a “Yes” from Israel.

And G-d’s display of His awesome Presence had the desired effect: “Moshe came and summoned the elders of Israel and placed before them all these words that HaShem had commanded him. And all the people replied in unison and said, “All that HaShem has spoken we shall do!” (Ex. 19:7-8) In other words, “I do!”

So now that G-d has “popped the question,” and Israel has answered with an irrevocable yes, what are G-d’s intentions? Does He want to sweep Israel away, and carry them “on eagles’ wings” like He did out of Egypt, and lift them on high to the top of trembling Mount Sinai, even to the celestial chambers of heaven itself, His supernal abode? On the contrary. “And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth.” (Ex.19:5) “Mine is the earth,” G-d says. This is My home. This is where I want My presence to dwell with man. This is where I have always wanted My presence to dwell: with My children, in this world that I created.

Clearly, however, following the conclusion of the Ten Commandments, the children of Israel are still apprehensive, and G-d, sensing this, delivers this tender message: “So shall you say to the children of Israel, You have seen that from the heavens I have spoken with you. You shall not make images of anything that is with Me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall slaughter beside it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.” (Ex. 20:19-21) We will conduct our relationship on earth, and on your (human) terms. You, My children, have been calling on My name and reaching our for Me by building altars of earth and stone since time immemorial. I am asking you now to continue to call on Me in this manner. It comes from your heart and not from heaven, and that is all the world to Me. Your love for Me, G-d tells Israel, is why you are, and always will be, My treasured people.”

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Editor’s Note: The above was written from a Jewish perspective and is a beautiful lesson (parashah) of God’s love for His people. God chose for Himself a people, (beginning with His covenant with Abraham Gen. 12:1-3), even though the division of Jews from Gentiles would be with Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel (Genesis 32:28; Exodus 3:15). God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All of Jacob’s descendants were members of God’s chosen nation. His 12 sons were the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. God promised them a specific land, numerous descendants, and blessing.

God’s purposes for them were: to be separated from the other nations (Numbers 23:9), to hold to His moral standard given in the 10 Commandments, to teach all the nations about Him, to be a blessing to all the world, to be the writers and keepers of His word, and to bring forth the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world.

There is much we Christians don’t know about God’s relationship with Israel, since our relationship with God is through Jesus Christ. However, Jews and Christians worship and serve the same God. He still has plans and purposes for His people Israel, and also for His children who are co-heirs with Christ (John 1:12; Rom. 8:17; Hebrews 1:2; Titus 3:7).

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For further study on God’s plan for Israel and the Church, see “Two Trains: Israel and the Church in Prophecy”

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