Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Exodus. Day 65, The Lord Comes Down On Mount Sinai

In yesterday's passage the Lord said the people should consecrate themselves and be prepared for the third day when He will appear on the mountain. Today's passage begins with further instructions regarding this assembly.

"Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.' Only when the ram's horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain." (Exodus 19:12-13) These sound like strange instructions! What do they mean?

I think the Lord wants to impress upon the people His utter holiness and "differentness" from them. Though He wants to communicate with them and be their God, at no time must they begin to think they are anywhere near being His equals. God is God and man is man. God is the maker of man and the Creator is far superior to the creature. The people must stand at a distance in a reverent attitude when their Maker comes down onto the mountain to speak with them. Any person who rashly breaks away from the group and tries to crowd in on the presence of the Lord or attempt to see Him face to face would be behaving in an audacious, irreverent spirit. Even Moses himself will never actually see God face to face and only goes onto the mountain at the Lord's invitation, not on his own initiative. To put oneself forward in a bold and prideful manner in an attempt to meet one-on-one with God on the mountain would be stating the person thinks himself equal with God. Anyone who does this thing is to be considered unclean and untouchable and is to be put to death in a manner that doesn't require anyone else laying hands on him.

We don't get a sense of the state of the people's hearts in Exodus 19 but in Exodus 20, when they hear the Lord's voice and see a mighty display of His power, they will decide they don't want to hear His voice and that they don't want to see Him even if they could. It's too much for them. They are not ready, spiritually speaking, to step up their game to the level of where Moses is in his relationship with the Lord. They will voice their preference to continue to have Moses speaking on behalf of the Lord instead of hearing the Lord's voice for themselves. They are not ready to interact with the Lord on a much deeper level and will be content to stay at a distance, both physically and spiritually. Because they are not yet close enough in their hearts to the Lord, it's imperative that they don't come too close physically to Him. He's actually being merciful to them in instructing them to keep their distance from the mountain at this time. He doesn't want anyone to perish as a result of recklessly rushing in.

After the Lord provides these instructions, Moses comes down off the mountain to relay the instructions to the people. "After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, 'Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.'" (Exodus 19:14-15) There is nothing sinful about sexual relations between a husband and wife, but during this time the people are to focus on that which is spiritual, not that which satisfies the carnal side of man's nature. When the Apostle Paul was giving marriage advice in 1 Corinthians 7:5, he stressed the importance of the husband and wife fulfilling each other's physical needs, but he said it was permitted for them to abstain from sexual relations from time to time (by mutual consent) in order to devote themselves to prayer. I think that's what the Lord is asking the people to do in verse 15. While they ready themselves for the meeting at Mount Sinai, they are to devote themselves to prayer. They are to "fast", if you will, from fulfilling physical desires. A similar thing happens when a person fasts from food while laboring in prayer. That person is temporarily denying the physical needs of the body in order to focus on his spiritual needs.

"On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like the smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the voice of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him." (Exodus 19:16-19) Can you imagine how intimidating this whole experience was? The mountain is covered with smoke and fire. The earth is shaking. The people are shaking. The long trumpet blast from heaven steadily increases in volume until the sound of it probably feels like it's vibrating inside their bodies.

And yet this is but a mere glimpse of the glory and majesty and power of Almighty God. This is the smallest hint of the One who spoke into the darkness, "Let there be light," and an entire universe sprang forth out of nothing. The people will not actually see God's face, and it's a good thing they won't, for His indescribable glory and holiness would consume them in their natural physical condition. He will sternly warn Moses of this outcome should anyone break through the barrier and try to rush up the mountain, saying, "Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish." He doesn't want anyone to perish, but this would be the natural outcome of the imperfect coming into too close contact with the perfect, with the unholy coming in too close contact with the holy, with the carnal coming in too close contact with the Spirit.

How, then, can we ever approach God and speak to Him man to man? Through Christ, through the Word of God made flesh, through the One who took on our image in order to conform us into His image. As the author of the book of Hebrews states, now we no longer approach God at the foot of a mountain that shakes and smokes, but we approach Him through the Son who mediated a covenant between man and God that is superior to the covenant Moses mediated between man and God. (Hebrews 12:18-29) No man could ever see God's face and survive the encounter, so He came to us as God the Son, in the form of a man, to interact with us, to give Himself for us, and to consecrate us by His blood. This is how we will someday stand in the presence of God without being consumed.

No comments:

Post a Comment