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50 Day Countdown To Pentecost - From Egyptian Slavery to Mount Sinai

Israel’s journey from the bondage of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai is a journey from their service to the cruel taskmasters of Egypt... to a covenant of service and loyalty to the living God. It is a parallel to the spiritual journey taken by every man and woman redeemed from the bondage of sin through Christ to serve the living God.

God set Israel free from bondage through the events of Passover and the festival of unleavened bread. He led them out and guided them to the foot of a mighty mountain where He introduced to them the way to real freedom. The freedom that comes from knowing the truth of God beginning with His righteous commandments. The truth of God sets you free from bondage to habits and ways of thinking that have no future beyond the grave... and therefore end in death.

Pentecost reminds you that both the word of God and the spirit of God are needed to attain life everlasting! Today we are gong to zero in on the delivery of truth.

Tradition teaches that Israel's journey from Egypt to Sinai took about 50 days. Placing them at the foot of that mountain to hear the commandments spoken on the day of Pentecost. You have probably heard something like that over the years. Based on the biblical data even skeptics cannot deny that the giving of the commandments at Sinai took place at least sometime very near the day of Pentecost.

The bible does not explicitly say that the commandments were spoken to Israel by God on the very day of Pentecost. However, as we walk through Israel's journey from Egypt to Sinai I am going to point out to you the biblical statements we have about the timeline. I believe these are road markers that lead us to Pentecost.

The chart referenced in this message can be accessed here: https://www.ucg.org/system/storage/serve/1289511/egypt_to_sinai_chart.pdf

Leaving Egypt and Crossing the Red Sea

The journey begins when Israel woke up on the morning of the 14th of Abib/Nisan [1st of the month]. The angel of death had passed over and the first born of Egypt were dead. Sometime during the night Pharoah had ordered them out of the country.

During the daytime portion of the 14th they packed up all their stuff and gathered at Ramses. As the evening came and the 15th of Nisan began, they headed out from Egypt and encamped at Succoth Numbers 33:3-4.

Exodus 13:17-20 the shortest route to the promised land would have been "the way of the Philistines" along the Mediterranean Sea. God leads them southwest toward Mt. Sinai. From Succoth the Israelites are told to got to Etham at the edge of the wilderness.

Exodus 14:1-4 God then tells them to turn south and go into the wildeness west of the Red Sea. The Pihahiroth are a set of mountains that jut out abruptly into the sea. These are the mountains that would box Israel in and make crossing the Red Sea the only way of escape from the army of Paharoah that came after them to take them back into slavery.

God alters the forces of nature and opens the Red Sea so Israel could cross over. Then lets the waters come crashing back to drown the Egyptian chariots that were chasing after them. This marks the end of the days of unleavened bread.

Israel then travels southeast roughly tracing the coast of the Red Sea. Let’s take a look at some of their stops along the way to Sinai.

The Waters of Marah and Elim

Exodus 15:22-27 - Israel was now moving just beyond the furthest Egyptian military outpost on the edge of the wilderness. They had travelled beyond the bounds of civilization into the unknown.

Their request for water to drink is not an unreasonable request given the circumstances. The problem is that their attitude is bad. They are not asking they are complaining. Complaining is not pleasing to God.

Manna and Quail

Exodus 16:1-6 Israel travels down the coast of the Red Sea. Notice that they arrive at Elim exactly one month after Passover begins. The date then is the 15th of Iyar [2nd month].

God answers this second session of complaining with a miracle. This very evening you will eat meat and in the morning I will rain down bread upon you. Then that evening quali cam and covered the camp, and in the morning there was bread upon the ground [manna].

I believe the phrase “this very evening” means that the quail came at the beginning of the 16th of Iyar in the evening. Therefore, the first of the daily bread [manna] came on the morning of the 16th. The bread came down each day for six days. Then there was a double portion on the  6th day which would be the 21st of Iyar. The 7th day there was no manna, this would be the 22nd of Iyar.

Exodus 16:21-26 This was a miraculous cycle of 6 days of manna, a double portion on Friday, and nothing on the the 7th day Sabbath. The cycle was repeated for the entire time Israel was in the wilderness [which ended up being 40 years].

What Is God Accomplishing With The Miracle of Manna?

After several generations of slavery the children of Abraham may have lost track of the Sabbath.

Through this repeated weekly miracle God re-established the 7 day weekly cycle that began back in Genesis where it says "by the 7th day God had finished all His work... and on the 7th day He rested... and He blessed the 7th day and made it holy". ... the living God left no doubt as to when the true Sabbath day was.

Keeping the correct day of rest and worship matters to God, He went to a great deal of trouble to make sure it was burned into the minds of the people and then entrusted them to preserve it throughout human history.

If the 22nd of Iyar was a Saturday as the scripture seems to indicate... then if we trace the cycle back to the departure from Egypt… the 15 of Nisan [the first day of unleavened bread] would have been a Thursday. This will become important when we get to the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Water From The Rock at Rephadim

Exodus 17:1-7 the people are now being led away from the coast and up into the foothills of the dry and stony mountains where Mt Sinai is. The territory they are crossing is very dry! Here the people are not making a request... they are making a demand... and are showing great disresepct towards God.

Moses, for His part, does not handle the situation in a manner pleasing to God. He makes it about himself and his leadership, rather than God's leadership with Moses as the representative. Moses cries out with fear, doubt, and appears to strike the rock in anger. Because of this badly handled situation that God informs Moses that He will not be allowed to enter the promised land with the people when the day comes [Number 27:14, Psalm 106:32].

This serves as a warning to all of those who are chosen to represent the living God before the Church. Be careful what words you let come out of your mouth,and always uphold the holiness of God. You are accountable.

Attack of The Amalakites and a Visit From Jethro

Next we have a short record of an attack by roving desert bandits, the Amalakites. This is a well known sequence where it is only when Moses lifts his hands up that Israel is able beat the Amalakites back. But Moses is getting tired and he needs assistance to keep his hands raised. This is another indication that the burdens of leadership are wearing Moses out.

Then, Moses gets a visit from his father-in-law Jethro who sees that Moses is getting overwhelmed by the burdens of leadership and advises him to delegate Exodus 18:17-23.

Distributed Authority

Delegation and distributing the administration of judgment, counsel, and instruction is the biblical model. Some people like to focus on men like Moses, David, or Peter and advocate a biblical model of one man rule. But I believe scripture contains just as many examples where the work of God is accomplished through many helpers.

This is the model we follow in the United Church of God... and the model we try to enact locally. Lots of engagement, lots of distribution of labor. God wants everyone to be involved. But at the same time He does provide a structure of authority. Within the Church, Jesus Christ Himself is the head but the power of His spirit works through people.

At Sinai, God will speak the 10 commandments  directly to the people, but the rest of His law is delivered to Moses who then distributes it out to these officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. How else could Moses, a mere man, get the word out to 2 or 3 million people?

Israel Arrives at Sinai

Exodus 19:1-2 here we have yet another date provided. The third month mentioned here would have begun sometime just before Pentecost. However, the bible does not specifically refer the first day of the third month... it simply says "during the third month".

Rather than give us a specific day of the month the scripture here says they arrived at Sinai "on the very day they departed from Egypt [self same day]". Some interpret this to mean then arrived there on the  15th day of the third month. The same day of the month they left Egypt [the 15th of the 1st month to the 15th of the 3rd month]. This interpretation would place the proclamation of the ten commandments well after the day of Pentecost [63 days out].

But what if the phrase "that very day/self same day" meant the same day of the week? What if it means they left Egypt on a Thursday and the arrived at Sinai on a Thursday? If that were so then it could indicate Israel arriving at Sinai on the first Thursday in Sivan which would be 47 days out from the departure from Egypt. That places us only 3 days ahead of Pentecost! Note: the bible is not emphatic on this point.

Exodus 19:10-11 They are told to prepare themselves over the course of the next three days... and on the third day God would speak directly to them.

Lets say Israel did arrive at the foot of Sinai on a Thursday. Then assume the three days mentioned here are Friday, Saturday, Sunday. That would place the proclamation of the ten commandments on Sunday, the 8th of Sivan [the 3rd month]… which would be Pentecost.

If Israel departed from Egypt on a Thursday, the 15th of Nisan, which is the beginning of the feast of unleavened bread… that means the first after the Sabbath that falls during the days of unleavened bread would be Sunday Nisan 18th which is the day we begin the countdown to Pentecost [Leviticus 23:15-16].

Sunday the 8th of Sivan, is a possible calendar date for the proclamation of the ten commandments. It is also 50 days out from the first Sabbath that falls during the days of unleavened bread. It also synchronizes with the Sabbath week of manna in Exodus 16.

The Giving of the Commandments

Exodus 19:16-19 the presence and the words of God are accompanied by the sound of thunder, fire and a loud trumpet blast.

Acts 2:1-2 the receipt of the holy spirit came upon the disciples of Christ with the sound of a violent wind, and tongues of fire resting upon each member. There appears to be a symbolic parallel.

The Giving of the Commandments

What if God orchestrated the timing of the journey from Egypt so the   commandments would be proclaimed on the day of Pentecost? Would that give us further confirmation and assurance that God is working off a plan? Would it remind us that human history is not random? Would that remind us that He has us all heading for a grand smash finale with a set time and date?

Would that sort of reassurance cause you to think soberly about how you live your life? Would that give you greater confidence in the unity and inspiration of scripture?

But, if there is such a wonderful parallel why isn’t it explicit and obvious? Proverbs 25:2

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