Tuesday 24 July 2018

Bible Book:

“Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain.” (v. 18)

Exodus 24:1-18 Tuesday 24 July 2018

Psalm: Psalm 112


Puffing and panting as you walk up a mountain, you often set your sights on the summit, but then as you reach its crest you see, beyond it, a further peak. I like that feeling of a suddenly enlarged understanding of the size and height of the mountain, of realising that your first vision was too small to take it in. Yet, whilst you were struggling up the path, fixing your eyes on what you thought was the summit had been immensely helpful in motivating you to push ahead.

There is something of this here as the people ascend the mountain towards God. It seems that the 70 elders, with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu had arrived and indeed “saw the God of Israel” (v. 10). However, Moses and Joshua were then called further on towards God, further up the mountain, and finally, it seems, Moses alone ascended; though there is no mention of the actual summit, just that “Moses was on the mountain” (v. 18).

This image of Moses ascending the mountain ever higher towards, and even into, God is an ancient way of talking about the life of the follower of Christ yearning towards holiness. The Life of Moses by Gregory of Nyssa (c. 332-395) is an excellent example of this – he says that Moses indeed sees something of God, but never all, for “the divine is by its very nature infinite, enclosed by no boundary” (Life of Moses II.236) – the journey does not stop, but goes ever higher into God, or to switch metaphors, ever deeper.

At the same time, reading this passage more literally, it is encouraging to note that although Moses enters the fiery cloud, those leaders of the people on the lower slopes also see God for themselves (verse 10), and even the whole people on the plain can see “the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain” (v. 17). God reveals God’s own self to us in the way we need at the time. Like the walker climbing towards the summit, the view ahead is enough to motivate you onwards in the present moment, whereas to understand the whole mountain at once would be overwhelming. This is not a ‘spiritual hierarchy’, but instead a demonstration of the way that God reveals holiness to each person as they need and can receive. Amazingly at each point of revelation, it is still a vision of the fullness of God’s holiness, shaped for the limitations of the human ways that we are able to see.

To Ponder

  • What has given you a ‘mountain top’ experience of God?
  • What have you set your sights on for the near future?
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