On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 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; 6 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.”
7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
Through her tears, the young woman in my office told a story which was too familiar. It had seemed like the right thing to do when they moved in together. It had been fun, and they did not need to get married. They were in love. Until they weren’t. Until, that is, he got abusive and controlling. But, as she saw it now, he had been abusive and controlling all along. Now it was time to get out with her child to safety and a chance to pick up the pieces of a broken life.
This story and its countless permutations occupy a fair amount of a pastor’s ministry and a professor’s vocation too. When I started teaching, I was surprised at how often living arrangements were disrupted and people had to move out during finals week. I have concluded that God’s command to get married first, then move in, and then have children is not only a command but also a really good idea. The sociologists who study these things will usually concur. Their studies also point to the importance of this sequence for human well-being.
Moses would have us look at another sequence of events that is terribly important today. Before God asks any faith or response from the people in Moses’ day, God first rescued them. He brought them up out of slavery in Egypt on eagles’ wings (what an image!) and brought them to Himself. It is only then that he calls for their faithful response. Notice the order of events. God rescues first, then they enter the covenant.
That order is important for us today. Perhaps your life has been lived out of order. I know that at times mine has been. God does not wait for us to get our lives straightened out before he rescues us, and he does not make his love contingent on our getting something right. The children of Israel were likely worshiping the Egyptian gods when Moses showed up. God loved them anyway. If life events have revealed the weak and broken places in your life, do not despair. God rescues people. He has been rescuing stinkers and sinners for a very long time.