Posted by adventbiblestudy on October 20, 2015
Jethro Visited Moses
One of the strangest sequences in the Bible began when Jethro, Moses’ father in law came to see him. Moses was not a young man, but Jethro saw age lines on his face and gray hairs he didn’t see when Moses departed for Egypt. In a few short months, responsibility and worries took their toll on the man of God.
Jethro remembered the happiness on Moses’ face when he married his daughter. That was the look Jethro expected to see when he appeared at Moses’ tent. Jethro was familiar with Moses look of concern when one of their sheep was not well, or missing. But this was different. Something molded Moses into the broken and worried figure standing in front of him. Moses tried to hide that anguish inside. He was also excited to tell Jethro everything that happened in Egypt. It brought great joy to Moses and a sense of relief as he went over every detail of what God did in Egypt.
Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians. “Praise the LORD,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! I know now that the LORD is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” (Exo 18:9-11 NLTse).
Moses showed how important it is to look back, remember the past, and share God’s glory with other people. Moses showed us what a witness is and how to witness. It’s a simple process. So simple, people often times skip over it, or do it without realizing it is part of God’s plan. It is another important aspect of becoming an effective priest for God. But something in the look on Moses’ face gave him away.
Jethro, the wise old priest knew better than to say anything, or offer advise. Jethro knew he had to assess the situation by observing the situation, and pray for the right answer. After watching the routine Moses was subjected to from sunrise to sunset, Jethro heard the answer and knew how to guide Moses.
The entire day was taken up by listening to complaints from people. Israel stuck to what they knew best. Their new found freedom set them free to do what they held in all their lives. They let out all those penned up complaints one after another. As soon as one situation was solved, they found another situation to complain about. Moses’ tent had a revolving door and he was the complaint department. Moses was so busy, he didn’t have enough time to look for or pray about a solution.
Jethro offered a simple solution. “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out–and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” (Exo 18:17-23 NLTse).
Jethro also revealed an important quality God’s priests must have. When they hear God’s voice and deliver a message, the role of a priest is to turn people over to God. Jethro told Moses to listen for God’s command. Jethro didn’t take any credit. He gave all the glory to God like he did in the previous verses when he offered a sacrifice and praise to God. Read the whole story to see how Jethro conducted himself and how he helped set an example.
Jethro also showed how important it is to train others. Moses had to be an example of a relationship with God for people to see and copy. Jethro also told us other aspects of the priesthood. To know and follow God’s precepts, instructions, and to be an example.
It seems like such a simple process to follow. Moses had to go through 600,000 men to find a few able to understand and willing to make a commitment. Moses had to find people he could trust and God could trust. What do those figures tell you? How do they relate to our day? There are a lot of Christians, but how many are willing to step and to be the type of examples they need to be? What percentage waste their time looking for things to complain about?
Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. (Exo 18:24-25 NLTse). This seems like a happy ending to one story. We know, Moses needed some good news. God always knows when we need a boost, a time to reflect, and evidence we are going in the right direction. Jethro knew what Moses needed most. That’s why Jethro sent Moses to personally talk with God on the matter.
This is where the story takes a strange turn you can see when you pay attention. Jethro talked to Moses about what? How those leaders should judge. What did those leaders need to judge correctly? They needed a close relationship with God and some rules to follow. After Jethro left, preparations began for Israel to receive the ten commandments directly from God. That would have been something Jethro would have loved to see. He left early and missed an opportunity of a life time.
Kingdom of Priests
- ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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.” So Moses returned from the mountain and called together the elders of the people and told them everything the LORD had commanded him. And all the people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, Moses, so the people themselves can hear me when I speak with you. Then they will always trust you.” Moses told the LORD what the people had said. (Exo 19:4-9 NLTse).
Just like we’ve seen, God followed His process by reminding Moses to look back. It was easy for Moses to do because he just told Jethro every detail. God didn’t commend Moses for playing the part of the priest, but reminded him to keep up the good work, and continue to be the example he needed to be. And Israel needed all the good examples they could get.
God told Moses why He brought them out of Egypt, to be His own special treasure, a kingdom of priests. God had been preparing them for this moment for months. All those plagues taught important lessons to prepare them for this moment. Moses was an example. Jethro came to teach additional lessons. They should have been prepared for the invitation Moses was told to deliver. Before God made the offer, He reminded them, all the earth belonged to Him. The offer couldn’t get any better than that.
What would you do if you were there when Moses told Israel they were about to become a kingdom of priests? Imagine being part of that movement. Nearly a million people around you. All those miracles are fresh on your mind. You can still feel the spray from the Red Sea on your face. You remember looking down on the dry ground trying to figure out how God pulled that one off. Standing behind you was the Egyptian family who heard about the Passover and came to you seeking safety. They thought you were something special and that made you feel good inside. You told them everything you knew about God. You were so thankful to share. It was a way of thanking God for everything He did to purchase your freedom. Telling that Egyptian family about God was the least you could do. Every one of those plagues was fresh on your mind. It seemed every time you thought about them, you noticed a new detail. Now God revealed your purpose in life. How would that make you feel?
So Moses returned from the mountain and called together the elders of the people and told them everything the LORD had commanded him. And all the people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD. (Exo 19:7-8 NLTse).
Israel couldn’t help but accept the invitation. After all, God owned all the world. But how did Israel look at those words? “You will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” Did that invoke visions of riches and glory? Did they think God was offering to give them the world? Was it too good to be true, going from slavery to running the world? With God anything is possible. But did they miss the beginning of the offer? “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant.” There was a condition attached. Why? God had a job for them to do. They thought serving as slaves put them in a position to receive special favors. It seems that gold, silver, and all those other materials weren’t enough. They wanted more.
Is that what born again Christians think? The moment they turn from sin to God, they should be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams? Is that the way it works? Where do people get that concept from? Is it something they carried out of Egypt?
Time to go back and take another look at those priests in Egypt. Only Pharaoh was above those priests. The higher their position in the priestly order, the closer they were to Pharaoh. Position wasn’t their only reward. Riches, honor, and glory were part of the package. They didn’t have to work. The priests didn’t have to worry about serving in the armed forces or risking their lives. Life was good as a priest. They seldom had to think. Most of their work was carrying on a few traditions and rituals. They had the easiest job in the kingdom. That was how Israel viewed the priesthood. That was what they were supposed to leave behind in Egypt.
What Did Egypt Represent
What does Egypt represent? A symbol always points to something far greater. To begin a search for an answer, it is always a good idea to examine the symbol itself. On the physical level, Egypt was a country. One of the dominant powers in the region during Moses’ time. Not a world power, but one of the major powers. Moses listed a number of other kingdoms that threatened Israel while crossing the wilderness. In Egypt, Pharaoh decided which gods to worship and how to worship them. Pharaoh appointed the priests. He had to choose people loyal to him. One man had total control over both civil law and religion.
Every god had its own purpose. They all had a few things in common. Those gods were designed to control the people, rich, middle class, and slave. People were required to make offerings to those gods. None of the gold, silver, and other gifts left this world. Those riches were enjoyed by the government and priests.
I’m not going to make any guesses at any physical thing Egypt could represent. When we look at the religious implications, the list could go on and on. I am involved in an interesting discussion that seems to keep distracting me. Some people claiming to be members of the remnant church, and as the bride mentioned in Revelation, have been opposing my efforts to teach people how to study on their own. They seem to know nothing about how to study the Bible. When questioned, they said they use what they refer to as proof texts to study the Bible. They insisted that is the only method to study the Bible. I found a link on the Internet and sent it to them. After viewing it, they agreed that was an example of proof texts and a proper use and example. I told them that study was written by a priest in the early stages of the dark ages. It was a popular study used to convince people their church was the bride, and mother church. As a mother it was their duty to discipline her children. That study which relied on the method of proof texts was used to justify the persecution, arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution of millions seemed to be a accurate and truthful study to those people. After reading that study and learning what it was used for, those people insisted their use of proof texts was safe, based on the fact they were the true mother church, bride, and remnant church. My question was, if they left the church they call Babylon and Egypt, why did they carry away everything that church invented and taught? How could they think putting a new name on error made it a blessing?
This proves how difficult it is to leave all the leaven behind in Egypt. Something always seems to tag along. I’m not sure why and I don’t think people are aware of what they are doing. It seems people like to rely on their own wisdom. They claim to have a better understanding then previous generations or churches they broke away from They’re doing nothing less than claiming they’re led by God’s Spirit and previous generations or other churches are limited. This seems to be quite opposite from Jesus’ ministry. As a matter of fact, it sounds much like those disciples arguing who was the greatest. Is that what churches do? If you read some of their doctrines and fundamental beliefs, that’s exactly what they do. Can you imagine a group of church leaders in a meeting hammering out a set of fundamental beliefs, and they can’t see what their actually doing?
Israel had that problem. They witnessed all those miracles, something made them feel they were special, so they started bossing around God. Actually not God, but the old man, Moses made a pretty easy target. The young men who were slaves a few weeks ago looked at Moses thinking, how is that old guy going to stand up to us? We’re younger, stronger, smarter, if everyone was like us, everything would be better.
Prepare My People
Then the LORD told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch. Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death. (Exo 19:10-12 NLTse).
God had to step in to show who was in charge and who He trusted. God set up physical boundaries and ordered a physical cleansing hoping those people would look at it was spiritual boundaries and cleansing. God gave them three days to think about it. There wasn’t much else to do in the middle of that wilderness except to follow orders.
Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. The LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain. (Exo 19:17-20 NLTse).
God put on a show to remind them of what He did in Egypt. After He caught their attention, He called Moses up the mountain. Everyone watched Moses travel up that mountain. He was the only one allowed to cross that boundary line, and everyone knew it.
God had a reason for all that preparation. No one could have guessed what was up next. They had to wait until God determined the proper time. He also chose the location. When everything was ready, God put the next phase of His plan into action.
Then God gave the people all these instructions: (Exo 20:1 NLTse). God spoke directly to them. After all, they were His kingdom of priests. To be an effective priest, they had to communicate directly with God. I’ve heard hundreds of people claim Jethro told Moses how to organize a church. Jethro never told Moses how to organize a church. Jethro gave Moses advice on settling civil disputes. Today we may consider it a court system. That was an illustration showing how people get confused on one detail, misinterpret an event, or replace one word with something that has a totally different meaning and how things can get messed up by one little change.
Some people decided to use the organization of a civil court system in a church system. They made two major mistakes. The used the advice Jethro gave Moses to create the Egyptian system God took Israel out of. They wed church and state. They also showed how they misunderstand the priesthood. Mixing the right to judge with spiritual matters convinced them it is their job to judge. That is not the advice Jethro gave Moses, and that is not what Moses prayed about when he consulted God on the matter.
When confusing a civil court system with the role of the priesthood, people have no idea they are placing Moses on the same level as God. In the matter of the civil court system, judges decide small matters. When in question, the problem goes to the next level, and the next. The most difficult problems went all the way up to Moses. That was the role of judges under under Moses. But God’s priests have a direct connection with God. Everyone has equal access. To emphasize the point, God spoke directly to everyone. God separated the two systems to show, Moses is one man, and very limited. But God can handle everything.
The 10 Commandments
“I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. (Exo 20:2 NLTse).
You have to ask yourself why God had to remind them about Egypt so often. I’ve got news for you. They left Egypt only two months ago. Was God reminding them or us? It seems people today have no ideas their slaves to sin. They forget God has power to deliver them from sin. This reminder is spread throughout the Bible to make it easy to find. How often do people really open their Bibles?
“You must not have any other god but me. (Exo 20:3 NLTse)
Let’s do something a little different today. Let’s look at these commandments from the eyes of a slave who just left Egypt. That’s the context God placed them in by reminding us they just left Egypt. After seeing God deface Egypt’s most important gods and expose those priests, they didn’t have much of a choice but to leave those memories behind and follow what pillar of fire in front of them. Those gods in Egypt never did anything like God did. They had more evidence than any generation ever received. Having God as their only God was an easy commandment.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. (Exo 20:4 NLTse)
After they saw what God did to those gods of water, and how God brought hail from the sky, there was no reason to serve any idol that only took and never gave anything in return. God did exactly what He said He was going to do when He said He was going to do it.
You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected–even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. (Exo 20:5 NLTse)
Those slaves spent their entire lives despising those idols. Promising never to bow down to them wasn’t difficult at all. Putting away those idols should have been the easiest thing for them to do.
But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (Exo 20:6 NLTse)
God showed His love when He answered their prayers and freed them. He showed them His concern when He gave them water. God showed He was listening when He fed them. All He asked them to do was keep the commandments He was giving them. The fact God personally gave them the commandments showed how much He loved them. David summed up the feelings. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey your laws. Your eternal word, O LORD, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans. If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery. I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life. (Psa 119:88-93 NLTse).
“You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. (Exo 20:7 NLTse)
God heard how they complained about everything and blamed Moses for all their problems. After reminding them what He did for them, God asked for a little respect. Before God offered them the priesthood, God told them the world and everything in it. God also told them, He was not on the same level with other gods. And God wanted them, as His priests, to show the world the respect He not only deserved, but earned.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exo 20:8 NLTse)
God was telling them to look back on those instructions He gave them about the manna. They were supposed to collect it in the morning six say a week. On the sixth day collect a double portion because there wasn’t going to be any on the seventh day. That was the day God set apart to be with them and He didn’t want to waste a minute.
You have six days each week for your ordinary work, (Exo 20:9 NLTse)
In the wilderness they collected the food God provided every day. But when they finally settled in the promised land, they still had to work. But only for six days a week.
but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. (Exo 20:10 NLTse)
God wanted the Sabbath to be a family affair. The Passover reminded them how important the family was. But as we’ve seen by those constant reminders, once a year will not be enough. God established a seven day cycle and nothing had changed. After being slaves forced to satisfy their master’s every whim seven days a week, a day off would be something they appreciated.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exo 20:11 NLTse)
Not only did God want to remind them, He wanted them to look back. Since Moses showed up in Egypt, he followed the same pattern. Look back and remember. It was a pattern established before the plagues began, just like the Sabbath rest began before God gave the commandments from His mountain.
So far those commandments seemed easy. Love God, give Him the respect He earned and deserves, don’t play around with any other gods, and spend one day a week with Him. Israel must have been thinking they could keep those commandments without thinking about them. After what they went through in Egypt, those commandments were more like describing of a vacation. So far God’s commandments were plain, simple, direct, and for lack of a better term, common sense. But God wasn’t done. He continued.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exo 20:12 NLTse)
It isn’t hard for anyone to honor their father and mother. That’s where love begins in this world. The first people everyone loves is their father and mother. Except for those who lost their parents at or near birth. Or were given up at birth. Something like that happened to Moses. That’s another lesson to consider. Another way to look at this commandment. That thought should make you love and appreciate them even more. Not one commandment was any harder to keep than the others.
God placed a message about the cross in the 5th commandment. Think of those people who can’t keep this commandment and the cost they had to pay. Then think of the cost when other commandments can’t be kept. Your on your own on that thought. I posted this on the Internet and received some, shall I call it strange feed back. To me it seems obvious. God is using one commandment associated with a sever loss, a cost most people can’t imagine, and using it to teach a spiritual lesson. Some people refuse to consider that cost or any other.
This commandment points us to dozens of texts about orphans scattered throughout the Bible. God made His concern for orphans obvious. He knows their loss and feels their pain. When we apply that physical loss and pain to the plan of salvation, it opens a new understanding of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice. Not only at the cross, but the sacrifice that began the moment He began planning the step by step process of salvation for this sinful world. I have to wonder who faces the greatest loss, those orphans, or people who can’t understand the spiritual side of God’s laws.
“You must not murder. (Exo 20:13 NLTse)
Another commandment that made sense. None of them seemed difficult. None of God’s laws seemed anything like the laws they had to keep in Egypt. Except for this one. And they had to agree with it. When the went to take treasures from the Egyptians, they didn’t want to take revenge by killing anyone. If those slaves didn’t want to kill the master who made their live so miserable, why would they want to kill anyone?
“You must not commit adultery. (Exo 20:14 NLTse)
After seeing some of the practices in Egypt, they had to agree with this one. They didn’t want to copy customs from Egypt or other nations. They knew the creation story. God made one wife for Adam and that’s the way it should be. Now that they were God’s priests, their role was becoming clear. And the support they needed from their family was key to their success.
“You must not steal. (Exo 20:15 NLTse)
No one wanted people to steal from them. It made sense to treat people the way they wanted to be treated. This made them think about the things they took out of Egypt. Was that stealing, or was it payment for generations of forced labor? It was something to consider. Was all that gold and silver really theirs?
“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor. (Exo 20:16 NLTse)
Don’t lie. This one may take a little work. This one they’d have to think about. It was going to take some effort. But it could be done. And God was on their side. So far this was the most difficult commandment to keep. After a little thought, some people could see how this sin led to all the others. There are always lies before and after adultery. Lies often precede murder and almost always follow. Lies disgrace and dishonor parents as well as God. This was the one that really needed a lot of concentration and work.
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exo 20:17 NLTse)
Another hard one to follow. This one must be the most difficult one to follow. It was hard not to look at something nice and not want it. But it would be wrong to steal it. And worse to kill for it. Nothing was worth that. Not even a pretty woman. The ox and donkey could be borrowed. So it was a good idea to have a good relationship with your neighbor. This reminded them about the Egyptians who came to them for food and to share the Passover meal with them. They had to forgive those Egyptians, feed them, and protect them during the Passover.
Israel Turned Down God’s Plan
Everything seemed simple enough. God told them what He expected them to do and the instructions didn’t seem that difficult. But there was more to the story. After seeing all those miracles in Egypt, they still didn’t trust God, nor did they know him.
When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And 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!” “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:18-20 NLTse).
Those people just turned down God’s offer to be His kingdom of priests. They didn’t agree with God’s system. They didn’t want the responsibility of taking orders directly from God. To them, that was a foreign thought, not at all like the order of worship they followed all their lives. They decided to return to the old way of doing things. They wanted someone between themselves and God. Moses seemed to be the obvious choice.
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. Remember, you must not make any idols of silver or gold to rival me. “Build for me an altar made of earth, and offer your sacrifices to me–your burnt offerings and peace offerings, your sheep and goats, and your cattle. Build my altar wherever I cause my name to be remembered, and I will come to you and bless you. If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use. And do not approach my altar by going up steps. If you do, someone might look up under your clothing and see your nakedness. (Exo 20:21-26 NLTse).
When we examine this story, we see the people around the mountain heard only a portion of the instructions. They heard the most important part, the ten commandments God eventually wrote on tablets of stone. It’s important to know these laws existed before they were written in stone.
After telling everyone the ten commandments, God called Moses into a dark cloud. In that cloud, God gave Moses detailed instructions explaining what the ten commandments meant, how to follow them, and how God wanted to be represented by His priests.
Moses was told to tell Israel all those instructions. The first one was a reminder not to make any idols. God mentioned silver and gold. What about the worst idol – self? Let’s be honest, the idol of selfishness is what changes, alters, tears apart, and refashions God’s laws, and everything He said. A wise pastor pointed out, God never gave authority to any man or government to create any law. But that’s what people do. Religious organizations seem to be the the worst example. Think of it. All their supposed to do is tell the world about God’s law and be an example of following it. But what do they do? They do everything in their power to slice God’s law apart, add to it, make exceptions, and find excuses to break God’s law. Religions become the worst examples to this world. Then they wonder why their system doesn’t work.
We’ve seen how this pattern was used by Sarah, Rebekah, and others. They had their own plans. They thought their ideas would help move the plan of salvation along faster. Religions do the same thing with God’s law. They think God forgot a few details, or doesn’t understand this world He created. They really think they are doing God a favor. What they are really doing is what they were supposed to leave behind in Egypt, the system of worship where a priest creates a system to control people.
God’s priesthood was far different than those established in Egypt. In God’s form of worship, everyone was to have direct access to God. The gathering at God’s mountain illustrated that point. Moses was the only person allowed direct access to God’s throne at that time, and we have to ask why.
Moses was introduced to God at the burning bush. When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. (Exo 3:4-6 NLTse).
Here we’re shown what the fear of the Lord is. The first time Moses approached God, He was afraid. The first time God spoke to Israel, they were afraid. The fear of the Lord is simply being in God’s presence.
Moses was shown how to approach God. At the time, Moses was afraid. But God comforted him and gained his trust. Then God gave Moses a mission to accomplish. Moses had to go through a learning process during that mission. Along the way communication between himself and God became more frequent and easier.
Israel may have left Egypt, but there was more they carried out of that place than silver, gold, and the other articles they loaded on wagons. There were spiritual aspects to consider. Unseen pieces of those idols hung onto them.
Moses spent a number of years away from Egypt before He was ready to meet God. This shows us, it takes time to get to a level to understand God and see Him in a spiritual sense. Moses had to learn about God from Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest. Moses also learned about God from the love he had for his wife, and the flocks he tended. Moses had a spiritual journey beyond the physical path from Egypt to his home in the wilderness tending his flocks.
Not much is recorded about that spiritual journey Moses was on. We do know, it took time. Israel wasn’t ready to go up that mountain and meet with God like Moses did. But that didn’t mean God wasn’t ready to talk with them.
Listening to God is a learning process we all have to go through. Like Moses and Israel, the first encounter can be frightening. The meeting is simple, short, and direct. The rest of the journey is up to the individual and we all make mistakes. Moses made at least one.
On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted him and was about to kill him. But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the LORD left him alone. (Exo 4:24-26 NLTse).
People like to try to figure out the physical interpretation of this event, and often miss the spiritual meaning because they don’t look back and they don’t look at the story as a whole. Taking this or any other event out of a story and trying to figure out what it means will never work.
Moses was being prepared for an example of what God priest’s should be. The fact that event centered on circumcision showed Moses needed to learn a few things. The circumcision was a sort of symbol pointing to his role as a priest and the fact he forgot about it showed Moses had some things to learn.
Each of us is on our own spiritual journey learning at our own pace. Exodus gave us an example of two classes. The first class consisted on one man, Moses. The other class was made up of 600,000 men, plus women and children. Moses decided to overcome his fear and continue a personal one on one relationship with God. About a million people decided to turn down that one on one relationship and return to the way things were done in Egypt. They wanted a priest between themselves and God.
“These are the regulations you must present to Israel. “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. (Exodus 21:1-2 NLTse).
After the people turned down the offer to talk directly with God, Moses told them regulations about slavery. Those people were only in the wilderness for two months. Why would God give them regulations about slavery? Common sense will tell us, they hadn’t been on their journey long enough to own slaves. Everyone was carrying around their treasures they took out of Egypt. Slavery could not have carried a physical application at that time. So it must have taught a spiritual lesson.
God established a time frame associated with slavery. People were not expected to live their entire lives as physical or spiritual slaves. Six years is related to those six days at creation as well as those six days to gather manna and rest on the seventh day. The Sabbath represented a release as well as a rest. It represented the return to a one on one relationship with God. It was God’s way of telling Israel, one day you will wake up and realize it was a huge mistake to ask Moses to stand between me and you.
God gave Moses a long list of regulations to follow. They all have a physical meaning and teach a spiritual lesson. When you carefully read through them, giving time for God to explain each one, you’ll be among the one in a million who went up God’s mountain to listen to Him.
Then the LORD instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the LORD. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.” Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the LORD had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” (Exodus 24:1-3 NLTse).
It seems God was a little angry at that time. He wanted to show those people there are different levels in that journey up that mountain. Moses went all the way up. Seventy three others could go up so far, but had to worship at a distance.
Notice how Israel reacted. When they got the offer to be a kingdom of priests, they jumped right up with an instant promise to obey after God told them everything was His to give as He pleased. After they heard ten commandments, they changed their minds and told Moses to talk to God, come back and tell them what He had to say. Moses complied with their wishes. Moses told them everything God had to say. And they promised Moses they would do everything the LORD has commanded. They couldn’t promise God, but they could promise Moses. God had to show them how serious their promise was.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded. We will obey.” Then Moses took the blood from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the LORD has made with you in giving you these instructions.” (Exodus 24:7-8 NLTse).
God introduced the concept of blood. Their promises turned into a covenant sealed in blood. This was their first introduction to the services in the Tabernacle, the sacrifice, and Savior they pointed to. We can only wonder how it may have been if Israel accepted God’s invitation.
Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people.” (Exodus 24:9-12 NLTse).
This story really makes me sad. About a million people turned down the offer to talk directly with God and be His priests. They missed out on a meal of a lifetime. It makes me sad to think about people who are missing out on that meal today. The concept of a meal with God is part of the Tabernacle. We will come back to this when we look at that detail.
It also makes me sad, and angry at times to think of how people misunderstand this story about Moses and the Exodus. They misapply the simple lessons or ignore them all together. They jump ahead in this story to the priesthood, cut out bits and pieces they like to create their own custom designed priesthood then claim it is Biblical. People can take bits and pieces out of the Bible and create anything out of it. All they need to do is come up with a concept on their own, then search scripture to find a few texts that fits their model. All of those models have one thing in common. They are all based on less than 1% of the Bible. The only other thing they have is common is, they all are designed to replace God’s authority and relationship with their own concepts. When we look at the entire story in the sequence God had Moses record it, we see how God had no choice but to go to plan B and give Israel what they wanted. David pointed out some valuable details to learn from. You can read this on your own. Time for a little alone time with God.
Image seeing a vision of Heaven and sharing a real meal with God. That showed the type of relationship God had planned. I feel sorry for God. He must have had a meal prepared for a million people, and they turned Him down. Imagine planning an event like that. So many people promising to come. The day arrived, and most of the people had other plans. I can see how God felt when a million people broke His heart.
Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the LORD settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from inside the cloud. To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the LORD appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18 NLTse).
Moses continued his journey. Which way were the Israelites going? The good news is, chapter 25 begins the long list of details in the Tabernacle. We can finally begin to look at how all the details we covered relate to the pattern God gave Moses.
After writing all of that information about the scene at that mountain, what it represented, and how people reacted, I ran across a beautiful description in Hebrews.
You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.” No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29 NLTse).