The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence

April 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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What a great relief it must have been to hear that God would re-write His covenant laws on tables of stone. Moses obeyed God and took two blank slabs up Mt. Sinai. Then God descended and proclaimed His name and His attributes.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:5-7

Do you hear the ominous note in Verse 7? “By no means clear the guilty.” Can you sense the tension and paradox between that and “forgiving iniquity [our sinful condition] and transgression [intentional sin] and sin [the most general category encompassing everything worthy of judgment and death]?”

Moses did not argue or debate:

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Exodus 34:8

He worshiped. God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be worshiped.

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Exodus 34:12-16

He told them that, when they got to the promised land, they must destroy the wicked people of the land, or else the wicked people of the land would corrupt them.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

Exodus 34:27

Again, this must have been a huge relief for Moses – that God was renewing or reconfirming His covenant with the people and reassuring them that He would be with them.

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Exodus 34:28-30

Moses’s face radiated in a way that was visible to those who saw him, but that he himself could not feel. This was a sort of foreshadowing of the great evidence of God’s presence with us in Christ. It makes us humble, yet it should impress and even convict others when God’s glory shines in our life. In Moses’s case, it was literally visible, though, and it terrified the people. They could not honestly question the fact of Moses’s appointment by God as their earthly leader while his face resembled a miniature version of the glory cloud of flashing stormy light they had previously seen on Mt. Sinai. He had to cover his face with a veil so that they could stand to be near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

A Busy Time-Out

October 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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Exodus Chapter 18 gives us a little snapshot of daily life in the camp of Israel around Mount Sinai. It is mainly about the solution to the problem of how the people would be governed now that they were free from Egypt and were a separate “nation.” They would go through a period where there was really no testing, no battles, no life or death struggle. This is where they would be for approximately 11 months, and it was far better than their former life in Egypt.

It is not that there was no hard work during this period, nor just that there was freedom from conflict. It was that their work and the problems they encountered were now oriented toward a better purpose. They belonged to Yahweh, and they were serving Him. They could see true meaning in their lives. The cliché is that we praise God in good times and doubt Him in bad times, but, the fact is, we often forget to praise Him even in good times.

Also in Chapter 18 Jethro arrived (with Granny Clampett and Uncle Jed and Ellie Mae, and he went for a dip in the cement pond). Sorry, not really, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.

And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father in law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them.

Exodus 18:5-8

Jethro was now a convert to the worship of the One True God (if he already hadn’t been).

And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God.

Exodus 18:9-12

Jethro saw a problem.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.

Exodus 18:13-16

Jethro suggested that Moses delegate his responsibilities.

And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

Exodus 18:17-23

We need to follow the principles of Exodus 18:21 in selecting leaders in church ministry: “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…” “Willingness to be given authority” is not the chief requirement to look for in a leader. Ability and character are both important, but character is the more important of these two.

From the beginning of Exodus Chapter 19, through Leviticus, and on through Numbers 10:10, the setting is the 11 months encamped at Mount Sinai. There, a promise was fulfilled:

And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

Exodus 3:12

During this time the Law was given, the Tabernacle and furnishings were built, the priesthood was established and instructed, and the people were organized by tribes. God made a covenant with them, and the people agreed heartily.

And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

Exodus 19:7-8

A common theme throughout the Old Testament is the distance between the holy God and sinful human beings.

And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

Exodus 19:11-13

And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

Exodus 19:23-25

God allowed Moses – as He would later through Aaron and the Levitical priesthood – to serve as an example and a type of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who would one day come and completely span the distance between wretched sinners and holy God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14


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