God initiates a covenant with Israel despite their rebellion and promises his presence.
At Mt. Sinai, God invites Israel into a covenant relationship. He desires to make them a nation of priests to be a blessing to the nations. But Israel immediately fails to trust God.
Exodus 19-40 Overview
Ascending the Mountain
The first eighteen chapters of the book of Exodus recount how God miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt. As they approach Mt. Sinai, God’s presence covers the mountain in a dark cloud. Moses climbs it as a representative for the people to receive God’s law and a plan for God’s own dwelling space, the Tabernacle.
Filled with symbolic garden of Eden imagery, the Tabernacle would become the place where God’s space overlapped with humanity’s space. Immediately after this, Israel breaks the covenant, and Moses intercedes for them by asking God to remember his promise to Abraham.
God relents and re-establishes the covenant. The Tabernacle is completed and God’s glory fills it. However, Moses is unable to enter this micro-Eden due to his own compromise.
This is an important step in the biblical storyline. God previously made a covenant with Abraham, but now God makes a covenant with all the people of Israel for the sake of the nations.
Giving the Law
God gives Israel the beginning of the law (Torah), which will make Israel a nation of justice and generosity that reflect God’s character.
Upon their agreement of the covenant, God promises to dwell with his people in the Tabernacle, a portable micro-Eden that will house his presence.
The Golden Calf
Almost immediately, Israel rebels and breaks the laws of the covenant. Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, and God listens to Moses.
God’s presence comes down on the Tabernacle, but Moses is unable to enter. How will God’s people dwell with a holy God?