A good story for us has a beginning, middle and end. In Biblical times and especially oral cultures, stories are often structured differently to make them easy to remember. The use a chiasm – which is awkward to describe, but easier to picture…
A chiasm is like an arrow. The main “point” of the story comes in the middle. A and A’ are parallel statements, as are B and B’.
Exodus 19:2-8a is a great example of chiasm
When I first came across chiastic structures, I thought they were complicated! If you are interested in learning more about why chiasms actually make it easier to remember stories, check out this super article by Jackson Wu
In it he shows the grand narrative of Scripture is also chiastic!
That might all be very interesting, but what is the passage all about? In the next few chapters Moses goes up the mountain to meet with the Lord’s presence 7 times. This first one is the call for Israel to be obedient. The second one is a call to holiness, the third is a revelation of God’s holiness. The others emphasise each of these points. Exodus is the book of the presence of God among His people.
God wants to remind the people of what He has done – that’s why testimonies are so powerful. Next he wants to remind us of what he wants us to do “obey my commands” and then he wants to remind us of his promises to us. Leaders are commissioned to tell people of what God has done, what He requires and what He has promised!
Obadiah 17 later in the Old Testament speak of possessing one’s possessions. he idea is coming into full enjoyment of what has long been and is rightfully ours! God has acted securing benefits for His people v4, obedience to him v5 and enjoyment of what he has achieved v5-6. Can you see the parallels with the Gospel?
They are a treasured possession – God’s personal treasure
A Kingdom of priests – the root of the idea that there is a priesthood of believers, with access rights to God and the commission to show others who God is.
A holy nation – to be holy is to be set apart, different from the world, because we are a treasured possession and a kingdom of priests.
I have often taught that Israel in the end swung a pendulum between being a kingdom of priests trying to mediate God to those around them, but getting so en-culturated they would mess up. Then they would swing to the other extreme of trying to be so set apart they excluded the nations around them.
It’s only now that we all have the Spirit that Peter’s repeat of these phrases (1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation a people of his own possession) is possible! We can enjoy being treasured possessions, mediating the Lord to those around us while staying holy. Moses had the presence of the Lord he could go to those 7 times recorded. We have the Spirit all the time.
Enjoy being God’s treasured possession, act like the priest that you are and be holy in the power of the Spirit.