REV. JOHN BURTON
MOSES GOES UP THE MO
EX0DUS 24: 12
said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I
will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have
written for their instruction.”
So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses
went up into th
e mountain of God.
To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us,
until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute
may go to them.”
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the
The glory of t
settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it
for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.
appearance of the glory of the
was like a devouring fire on the top of the
mountain in the sight of the people of
Moses entered the cloud, and went up
on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
This scripture is all about a unique transforming moment which changed the way the
people of Israel related to God.
Allow me to exp
God sends word down
come up to me on the mountain, wait there, and I
will give you the laws and commandments which I have written.
they were talking right there. God could have just told him the 10
commandments right there and had
Moses take dictation
except that God wanted a
memorable moment to help reinforce the commandments.
Consider the context of
to “come up
Moses was in the midst of a
whiny, spoiled, bellyaching people stirred up by some self
Nobody was happy no matter what Moses did.
My guess is that Moses jumped at the chance to get out of that mess and go up on the
mountain for some clean air
and peace and quiet
. At least that’s what I speculate he
might have been thinking whe
n he left. But somewhere out there, when he had said
goodbye to the 70 Elders,
Aaron, Hur, and eventually to Joshua,
began to think about whether he was jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
God is a dangerous character
. Not many people go away from a God encounter
smelling like roses.
People, read your Old Testaments!
Most of them limp away,
nursing some bruises. People, even the most religious, did their best to avoi
d a direct
contact with God because it
ort of like the way we
view getting called in by the IRS for an audit
just how many times does that turn out
in our favor!
How many people call up the IRS and say “I’d like to be audited, please!”
Still, Moses went on. Afte
r all, Moses had stood before the burning bush and taken his
sandals off because he was on holy ground. And he had survived that encounter with
God! That alone put him on Israel’s all
Moses went up the mountain.
Way on up there!
Past the foo
thills. Past the tree line.
Past the area that hermits live. Past the point where it gets hard to breathe. Moses
went up to the top. He went as high up as any human could
Standing there, alone,
with his feet on the tip, top stone, as close to God a
s any human could get, he looked
up into the sky and waited!
I remember a ropes course in New Mexico. They had me climb a 30 foot telephone
pole and stand on top of it. Once I got up there, all alone in the shifting wind, I
remember thinking “OK, I’m he
re. Now what?”
I think maybe that was what Moses
was wondering, on the tip top of Mt. Sinai.
And then it happened.
it to us slowly. In the first place
cloud covered the mountain.” That could be gentle
like a mist for a fog that silently
creeps in. But later on the scripture tells us that the people
could see it from
cloud was like a devouring fire on top of the mount
ain. I try to
imagine the most violent
thunder storm possible with tornado force winds
clouds, and lighting shooting out everywhere
The kind of storm that would be off the
National Weather Service’s scale.
And there was Moses, on the tip, top
of the mountain, doing what God commanded,
Could there have ever been a more vulnerable position? Well, maybe. If, in
the midst of that lightning storm on top of the mountain, Moses had brought his golf
clubs with him (It never says that Moses
play!) and pulled out his one iron, held
it up over his head, and yelled out that “not even God could hit a one iron!” Maybe
that could have been more dangerous
but not much!
hat cloud was full of more than lighting. Within it,
“Glory of God.”
the Old Testament’s way of describing God’s actual presence in a particular
place and time. The Glory of God has been described as brilliant light which is
shrouded by cloud. The cloud keeps the splendor of God hidden and inscru
while making God more mysterious and beyond human reach or understanding.
Surrounded by God’s glory, not to mention all the lightning and winds, Moses waits
for six days, in silence. I know what you’re thinking but no: Moses did not have an I
od, or a Kindle full of books, or a cell phone, not even a Sudoku book. Moses actually
had to wait six days in silence in the midst of that storm. No dinner breaks! And don’t
even bother asking me about the port
It is an understat
ement to say that this meeting takes place on God’s terms, on God’s
schedule, and for God’s purposes.
Honestly, God and Moses
could have met over lattes at Starbucks, with a two
max and built in “personal breaks,” and still handed over the written
commandments… seriously…but that’s not the way God works!
We’d like to try and schedule our God time. Right now I have a prayer penciled in on
tee box just before I have to hit my driver over that big lake! When do you
have some God time
penciled in your schedule of activities?
on the 7
God spoke. The voice, hidden in cloud, mediated as glory,
spoke. What did God say? Well, we don’t know!!! And what did Moses reply? We
don’t know that either!!!
strating! We want to know! But on the other hand, what they may
have said was not nearly so important as the fact th
at they spoke, directly, at all
because that hadn’t really happened since the Garden of Eden times.
Sure, sure, God
had spoken to a few p
eople since Adam and Eve but almost exclusively through angels
who delivered messages or in dreams. Face to face encounters
that’s a big NO.
talking directly with God
a very big deal.
But here, Moses reached up into the heavens receives from God
reaching down to the
Earth, a great gift: the gift of God’s Law, which we call the 10 Commandments. Note:
they don’t bear any resemblance to a David Letterman Top Ten List!
What are the top 10 things that make God red in the face?
s identities and ruining their credit
Telling lies to the IRS!
Enough of that!
That would run us way past lunch time!
God’s gift is both a blessing and a burden which the people are to bear in
the knowledge of what displeases
the list of what to avoid if you
want to be in God’s good graces.
Think about it
before this time there were a few rules, mostly gleaned from watching
someone else get in trouble for doing something, and mostly passed down from
generation to generation orally. “Great Grandfather
Lenny says “Just say NO to
erybody knows they lead to crabs and lobsters!
But now, God gives the people clear, direct, simple instructions. Follow these 10 little
commandments and I will judge you to be righteous, good, and worthy for
communion with God.
Hey, this list was sma
ll enough to carry around in your back pocket or to have tattooed
on your forearm!
And it was doable! It gave people a way to live righteously and for
God to see them as good people.
thing that struck me about this story is that Moses stayed u
p on the mountain
for 40 days and 40 nights. That’s a long time! So, why did he stay up there so long?
Some people wonder if he was avoiding going back down there because he knew there
were going to be problems!
When he did go down they say his face ha
s been transfigured
it shone! Even through
the cloud he had been so irradiated by God’s glory that the skin of his face had
absorbed some of it and he glowed. This is not the same thing as a “healthy glow”
described in all the women’s facial cream ads.
You don’t apply Oil of Olay and then
glow like Moses did!
Sorry if that disappoints anyone.
When he came down to where the people were gathered everyone could see that he
had been changed by being in the presence of God. He was forever marked by that
saw what God’s presence could do!
He became a symbol of a
new relationship with God.
story is not about
about how this event
transformed the relationship between God and the Israelite people. N
o longer was
God going to be a “Fireman God” who comes only when there is a fire, puts it out, and
then goes away until needed
No longer were the people simply going to call on
God when they were in bad trouble. There were going to be expectations
. There were
rules. Commitment was expected. Unfaithfulness was not going to be acceptable.
Hey, it sounds like a marriage. Not one of those new fangled starter marriages or one
of those open marriages. A real old fashion, till
They had no idea what they were getting into! But that is another story, or two or