What gets your attention first each day? You have a todo list that begins to yell at you—yesterday’s list to finish first. But before the rush of productivity, God urges us to race to the foot of Mount Sinai —and pause.
That’s what God did with His people. Instead of taking them straight to Canaan from Egypt, He led them southeast for three months to Mount Sinai. There God entered into a covenant with Israel and gave them His commandments.
True, God could have led them straight to Canaan. After all, what better place to receive the Holy Bible than in the Holy Land?
But the Lord wanted them to have His Word before they walked in His plans for their future.
This principle hasn’t changed for us.
Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God
Mount Sinai served as the geographical backdrop for the final 22 chapters of Exodus, the entire book of Leviticus, and the first 11 chapters of Numbers. For a whole year Israel camped before the mountain of God (Exodus 19:1-2).
- Mount Sinai is another name for Mount Horeb (meaning “desert,” or “desolation”), the “mountain of God” where God first appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:1).
- The traditional location of Mount Sinai is Jebel Musa (“Mountain of Moses”). Nearby, the broad Plain of er-Raha (“rest) would have allowed space for the multitudes of Hebrews to camp.
- Because Scripture offers little description of the location of Mount Sinai, scholarly debates place it anywhere from Jebel Musa in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, to somewhere in the central or northern Sinai, or even as far as Saudi Arabia beyond the Gulf of Aqaba.
Moses and His Mountaintop Experiences
Moses had some significant events on mountains. Here are a few:
• Mount Sinai—where God called to Moses from the burning bush and where Moses later received the 10 Commandments.
• Mount Nebo—where Moses saw the Promised Land and then died.
• Mount Hermon (the likely site of the Transfiguration of Jesus)—where Moses appeared with Elijah in glory and spoke with Christ.
(Photo: Jebel Musa from below. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
God’s Word Given First Priority
Before God’s people could enter His will for their future, they needed the Scriptures. Even before entering the Promised Land, the Lord commanded His people to plan on reaffirming their commitment to living according to His Word:
- Dedication—immediately after entering the land, Joshua took Israel to Shechem to affirm their commitment to God’s Law by shouting the blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 27:4; Joshua 8:33).
- Rededication—at the end of Joshua’s life, he brought the nation together again at Shechem to rededicate themselves to the Lord again (Joshua 24).
- Repetition—The Lord required a regular public reading of the Law to the people “at the end of every seven years” (Deuteronomy 31:10–11).
- Reflection—All of Israel’s kings were commanded to write their own copy of the Law and read it daily (interestingly, no king recorded ever did this). Here’s why God gave this command to Israel’s leaders:
It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God. —Deuteronomy 17:19
The Principle Hasn’t Changed
Sinai came before Canaan. It always does.
For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. —Deuteronomy 32:47
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