This Week’s Reading: Exodus 21-29
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God.
And he said to the elders, ““Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.”
Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24: 9-18)
Before Moses headed up the mountain and into the cloud of glory, first, the God of Israel came down. For supper. Moses, Aaron and his sons and the seventy elders of Israel ate and drank on Mount Sinai with the living God. They must have had quite the heavenly feast, a small taste perhaps of the wedding banquet that the Church will share with Jesus in the end of the age.
Can you imagine what it was like for these men to see God and to dine with Him? The Scriptures record that there was a paved platform of sapphire stone, as clear as sky, under His feet. I expect the elders were supping with Jesus, since His feet are described here and only Jesus has feet. God the Father and the Holy Spirit are witnessed on earth in terms of glory, fire,wind and spirit but Jesus is the One who became human for us all.
Since God is timeless, eternal, in and through all time and yet above time, Jesus as the resurrected Christ could easily appear at the opening ceremonies of Israel and God’s covenant celebration. Though Jesus never appeared to His disciples as a consuming fire, He did appear to Daniel and John as the Christ of fire (Daniel 10:5-6, Revelation 1:12-16). Perhaps like during the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter and John, it was the transformed Christ that Moses and his elders experienced.
I don’t know. I just know the Bible says God came down and had a party with Moses and Aaron, his kids and those seventy elders of Israel. By His Kindness, the men survived. The Bible clearly states they ate and drank, and saw God and lived.
What an awesome experience! Don’t you long for that kind of encounter?
Do you think it would change your life forever, to sup with Almighty God? How I wish I could have been there, on that mountain though I would have to have been disguised, since it was an all male gathering.
But, now, as Paul Harvey would sat, for the rest of the story:
After Moses entered the cloud of God and ascended up Mount Sinai, he stayed there for forty days and nights. The Israelites soon grew weary waiting day after day for their leader to come back.In Exodus 32, the Scripture states: Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!
Though the Israelites knew that Moses was up at the top of Mount Sinai with God, as they chafed at the long wait, they decided to take matters in their own hands. Instead of waiting on God’s timing to release Moses, they rebelled against the leadership and choose to return to their default: the Egyptian way of idol worship.
What a mess. Instead of humbling their hearts and waiting on God, the Israelites solicited Aaron to minister to the god of their own choice and their own making.
In Hebrews 3:11, God warns believers not to do what the Israelites did and harden our hearts against Him. Disobedience can only lead to rebellion. “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Why didn’t those 73 men who had just celebrated an incredible feast before God Almighty speak up and declare His Greatness? Where were these leaders when the people were ripping off their jewelry and melting down gold in their stressed and angry response to the forty day delay at base camp?
Wait! Where would I be in that crowd of a million Jews? How about yourself? Would I be shouting to the mob, “Wait! God is so good. Just wait a bit longer! He must have a plan! I am sure Moses is coming!”? Or would I join in, frustrated, scared and angry, and start melting down jewelry to make a god I could see and touch and pack in the backpack, a god that wouldn’t make people wait or leave anyone confused.
How do we handle our disappointment and delays with God? How do we navigate forty day waits for the leader to return alongside the testimonies of the Red Sea, Passover, and deliverance from Egypt?
Worship of God begins and ends with our heart’s perspective. Sadly, signs and wonders have limited impact against an angry heart disappointed in God. Whether publicly or privately, many of us, when we don’t understand what God is doing, secretly begin molding an idol we can count on. Movies, food, hobbies, friends, work, ministry – they can all replace our worship of God, as we check out on Him, shut down our hearts to Him, and in our misery, lose our way.
The Israelites certainly lost their way that day. Just days earlier, God had said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4). Yet Aaron feared the people more than His God and once the mob started shouting, within hours, a golden calf was presented as a gross counterfeit of the living God.
Up on the mountain, God told Moses, “They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’” (32:8)
O, why couldn’t the Israelites wait? How could they make the living God of all power and all potential into a mere cow, an ox that labours for man?
You would think that God’s heart just broke in two when He saw all those Israelites frantically worshiping a golden calf after all He had done to deliver them from Egypt, let alone the promise they had just made to obey and follow Him a few weeks earlier. Psalm 106 poignantly recounts the betrayal:
They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molded image. Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, Wondrous works in the land of Ham, awesome things by the Red Sea. Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them. Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord. Therefore He raised up His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness, to overthrow their descendants among the nations, And to scatter them in the lands (106:20-27)
Instead, Moses stood before God and asked that God punish him, blot him off the book of life, instead of the Israelites. Though judgment came, and thousands died in rebellion, eventually, the people repented for their trainwreck of idolatry.
Incredibly, God blessed Moses with the gift of Himself, saying in Exodus 33:8 “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Israel got busy melting down their gold for God’s tabernacle. Fear of God invaded the camp and worship grew in the hearts of the people, though if you have read the Bible, you know that resistance to God still remained. Even today.
Yet in this story, there was one man who didn’t resist. Joshua, Moses assistant, stayed on duty. He didn’t leave the mountain. He was the only one who waited while the rest of the camp moved in mob rebellion. All through those forty days, Joshua rested at the base of the mountain and just kept waiting. Perhaps this young man who refused to leave the tabernacle of meeting understood the simple truth that God Almighty was good enough to trust no matter what the circumstances. Perhaps the parting of the Red Sea or the water flowing sweet at Marah or Moses’ confession of God arrested this young man and kept him expecting God’s goodness and power, no matter what the delay. The bible doesn’t tell us why he waited, just that Joshua remained at the mountain base. Despite the noise of the camp below or the long delay, Joshua stayed steady, waiting for Moses to return. And he just kept waiting. I expect Joshua’s ascension to leadership in Israel began right then.
No matter where we are at, if like Moses, we repent to God, even for others, He always extends His mercy. No idol in the backpack is ever going to do that. Though idolatry brings blindness and enslavement, true worship of God brings freedom. As we worship Almighty God, though delays and disappointments may come, waiting on God always reaps a great reward. True leaders know how to wait on God while the mob will always convince you not to. And you never know, He might just show up with supper.
Father God Almighty, teach us how to trust in Your excellent goodness, to wait and not push You away in the delay of Your answers. Teach us how to love You while we wait, whether we understand or not, as Joshua did at the base of the mountain. Lord Jesus, You died a brutal death in love for us all, that we could draw near to our Father with boldness and confidence in His loving kindness and mercy. Holy Spirit of God, keep us far from idols and steady our hearts in true worship of Almighty God as by Your grace, we steadfastly trust in God, no matter how long the delay to our heart’s cry. We love you Lord God. Teach us Your Ways, O Lord. Amen.
1. Idol worship is demonic, for it steals worship of Almighty God for worship of the counterfeit. What idols do you cling to in your life? Can you repent and shift into worship of God alone? What is holding you back? Where do you find grace for this exchange?
2. Why do you think God calls Himself a Jealous God? God commands us to have no other idols, but to worship Him alone as the first commandment. What is God seeking from His people? Why? How does worship of God keep you steady?
3. How do you cope when your prayers aren’t answered, or God is silent, or you are really disappointed in God? Do you quit Him or can you stay steady and wait in hope like Joshua? Who helps you while you are waiting?
4. The forty day “wait” included day after day instruction to Moses with blueprints for the tabernacle, as well as Aaron’s priestly duties and the Ten Commandments scribed by God’s own hands. This delay seems well worth the wait. Do you have a story of a long wait on God and a huge reward after the wait? How does the power of testimony help during the waiting times?
Next week’s Reading: Exodus 30-40