18:1–24:18 The Lord liberated His people from Egypt to bring them to Himself, to make them His special possession among all peoples. In order to enjoy this blessing, however, they were to obey Him and keep His covenant. The revelation at Sinai manifested the holy character of the covenant God and defined the character and behavior appropriate for God’s covenant people.
The Sinai covenant also underscores the special role of the mediator. The Lord declared His intention to descend and speak directly to Moses so the people might hear and trust Moses forever (19:9). However, the face-to-face revelation so terrified the people that they pleaded with Moses to go up to God and receive the commands, then return and report to them (20:18–21). Moses was to represent the people before God (19:8), and represent the Lord to the people (19:7).
Another crucial lesson of the theophany and revelation at Sinai is the importance of separation in preparation for the coming of God. Even Moses objected to the stringent preparations (19:23). The ceremonial law given at Sinai was the Lord’s gracious training of the people, a protective measure for a people unaccustomed to the holy presence of God (Gen. 34 note).