Some babies are born into families where the relationship never rises above mere parental obligation. Though it is rarely verbally communicated, they hear clearly the message, “I will feed, clothe and house you because that is what society demands of a parent. Don’t expect anything else from this relationship. I’ll do what I must to keep you alive; let that be enough.” Believe me, these babies are luckier than some, but still, there is something lacking here; something that punches holes in the soul. Some babies are born into families where the relationship rises to a “precious treasure” status. I know that this can shift into dysfunction, but hey, that is not my point today. These babies hear verbally and through actions, looks, and laughter, “You are my special treasure, worth more than all the world to me.” They hear it in how their diapers are changed; they hear it as they are being dressed; they hear it when they receive food; they hear it in song and laughter and tears.
Exodus 19:1-6 is all about the offer of relationship. Three months after the escape from Egypt, the people of Israel have arrived in the wilderness of Sinai at the foot of the Mountain of God; the mountain where Moses saw the burning bush and received his commission. And you get this sense that Moses is rushing up to the mountain and that Yahweh can’t wait for him to get there so he called down to him from the mountain. It is the reunion of old friends who have important things to discuss. It is a servant anxious and maybe even a little apprehensive to meet with his Lord. Moses is to relay a message to the house of Jacob; the sons of Israel. At this point the people camped down in the wilderness are the house of Jacob or the sons of Israel. But what could they be? And Yahweh’s message to the Israelites seems a bit formulaic and many have suggested that it was a set piece used during covenant renewal ceremonies. Yahweh first reminds them of what he has done for them. The “you yourselves” is, of course, emphatic. This is not some story they have heard. They have seen it; touched it; experienced it. What did they see? They saw Yahweh man-handling the Egyptians during the ten mighty acts. They experienced him bearing them on the wings of an eagle, which speaks of his providing and caring for them during the wilderness wanderings. It is a metaphor of their complete dependence (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11-12). And now he has brought them to the Mountain of God to have a sit-down with God.
And then Yahweh gives them an offer of relationship. God is asking them to decide whether or not they will agree to listen to his voice; to keep and watch over his covenant. And if they agree to this they will be his treasure or valued possession. Yahweh tells him that all the earth is his. Why? If they enter into covenant relationship with him they will be the crown jewel of his possessions and he owns everything. What Yahweh is offering is relationship in which Yahweh will respond to them as his most valued treasure. You and I long to be treasured; valued beyond things and other people. What Yahweh desires here, at the beginning of the covenant, is not a bunch of tools to be used and discarded. What he longs for is a “value above all things” relationship. Still does. The Israelites will also be a kingdom of priests, which has generated a lot of discussion. It is found only here in the Old Testament. It seems likely that Yahweh is saying that they will become, as a nation, priests to other nations. He is not saying that every individual will be a priest. Not yet. The Israelites will also become a holy, set apart, sanctified nation. They are not to be common or just like all the other nations. They will be set apart for Yahweh; in a unique and holy relationship with the Creator of all things. They will be a nation that demonstrates relationship with God.
And what happens if they refuse? This is a guess, but it seems likely that they would go on being the house of Jacob; the sons of Israel; a nation just like every other nation. Would God still bring them to the promised land as promised? I think so, but I really don’t know.
Yahweh wants to be in relationship with his creation. And he longs to do more than just fulfill his obligations as God. He wants to be the Father; the Father who dotes on his children; the Father who values them above all else. God will be God. God is King of all things. But he longs to be in a covenant relationship with you. Always has and always will. And what about us? What would our world look like if we learned to treat others like the most precious treasure we have ever encountered? The Almighty who spoke all things into existence treasures you; has set you apart to be his priest. Covenant relationship anyone!