Exodus 20:19-21 Don’t Let God Speak With Us
Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 16, 2012
Exodus 20:19-21 KJV And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. (20) And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. (21) And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
After exactly two months after leaving Egypt, God called Israel to His holy mountain, Mount Sinai. Like any other text, we have to understand how God prepared Israel for their meeting on Mount Sinai before we can understand why God called them to His Holy Mountain.
As a new believer I have to question why Israel developed such a small faith in God after experiencing such a vast array of miracles. I often think to myself, would I have a stronger faith in God if I witnessed His many miracles in person. Then I think of all the times God has been with me. In every one of my trials, God has come through. While I was in the middle of them, it seemed they would never end. At times it seemed it would be the end of me. Looking back they seem so trivial. Is this how Israel felt? Did God’s miracles appear trivial only two months after leaving Egypt?
Israel continued to experience God’s presence over that two month period. Only a short distance outside of Egypt they found themselves at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. God announced everything was done for His glory before He opened the Sea to make a way no one saw. “When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the LORD!” (Exodus 14:18 NLTse)
I wouldn’t be fair to say no one had faith in God. It is entirely possible many fathers gathered their family close together while leading them in prayer. Imagine how the rumors spread from one end of the mass of people numbering over one million. Israel may have easily out numbered the Egyptians, but doubt and fear can spread like wild fire. It’s amazing to think Moses was able to control the crowd as people flocked to the opening in the sea. That must have been one of the reasons why God positioned Himself in between Egypt and His children. “Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.” (Exodus 14:19-20 NLTse).
During those sixty days God brought them quail when they complained they had no meat. He also brought them bread from Heaven. “That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground.” (Exodus 16:13-14 NLTse).
So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?” (Exodus 17:2 NLTse). God could have made it rain, but He didn’t. With all the complaining they did, Israel needed another miracle to believe. God instructed Moses to take his staff and strike a rock. All it took was one hit and enough water gushed out to satisfy all the people, flocks, and herds. How many of them noticed, every time they asked, God provided more than they needed?
God knew they needed more. God also sent them organization. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the LORD had rescued them from Egypt. (Exodus 18:1 NLTse). Jethro could see how ungrateful Israel was and how they took advantage of Moses. Jethro did not see any of the miracles, he only heard of them, yet his relationship with God was strong enough to know God was with them. Not only did Israel need the organization Jethro offered, Moses needed another set of eyes and a voice to tell him what he was doing wrong. Moses took the advise of his wise father-in-law, as he divided Israel up into small groups, appointing leaders to each. This is one of the few indications showing how many people had faith, prayed to God, and were led by His Spirit.
I often wonder what Jethro would have done if he stayed with Israel to see God give His ten commandments to them. Jethro’s advice was to help solve people’s common disputes. Imagine the look on Jethro’s face and the excitement he would have felt if He heard God give His perfect law. As a new believer I am amazed at the sequence God used to teach His children. He knew they first needed organization, strong leadership, and a perfect law to govern them with. Before God announced His law, He shared His plans for Israel. “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLTse).
Could God have done anything more to prepare them? What was their response? They said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” (Exodus 20:19 NLTse). After all God had done for His children, their only reaction was fear. Why did they exhibit fear? Were they afraid of responsibility, failure, or was there an unseen force working behind the scene?
Look back at the first commandment God gave them. “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:2-3 NLTse). Notice how God reminds them how He rescued them from Egypt, their life of slavery. Were the Egyptians enslaving them, or the other gods? Did Israel turn down God’s offer to be a kingdom of priests, and His holy nation because they couldn’t give up the other gods?
As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was. And the LORD said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: You saw for yourselves that I spoke to you from heaven. (Exodus 20:21-22 NLTse). As a new believer I have to question this scene. How can the people of Israel see God speaking to Moses from Heaven, while it appears God is in a dark cloud? Was it their perception of God? Was this symbolic? Was God using this to illustrate a lesson? I always though God would appear as light to those who believed.
John 1:4-5 KJV In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (5) And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Did some people see God as light while those who turned down the role of a priest see Moses enter a dark cloud? It seems this trend continued through the Exodus up to Jesus. Has it continued past Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven? Jesus came to open up the path to God for us as it was always intended.
John 1:9-14 KJV That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (14) 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.