12 February 2018Exodus 24:12-18
“Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” (v. 17)
As with gladness
Psalm: Psalm 62
Again we are on the mountain, and again we are in the cloud (as in yesterday’s passage); just like Scotland! As we read today’s passage, describing this pivotal moment in the history of God’s people, it seems clear that the Gospel writers, in their relating of the Transfiguration some two millennia later, saw a connection between the two.
These verses follow more than four chapters of Exodus in which God gives Moses the law in great detail. Moses has written it down himself (Exodus 24:4), he has read it to the people (Exodus 24:7) and then comes this call to go up to the mountain to receive the law as tablets of stone. Forty is an important number in Jewish thought and writing, and adds significance to the narrative. Later this week we will enter the season of Lent which mirrors, in particular, the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the start of his ministry, but that, in turn, reminds us of these 40 days of Moses’ encounter with God in cloud on the mountain.
Almost every word in this dramatic passage is worthy of comment and of pause for reflection. Moses is told to “wait” (v. 12); another concept which might need a more positive interpretation than our culture sometimes affords (see Psalm 62). Later chapters reveal the inability of the Israelites to wait long enough, with all the consequent disaster of the golden calf (Exodus 32).
We are not told why Moses had to wait six days; it seems “glory” is not an instant commodity, but is worth waiting for. The glory which is revealed (verse 17) is certainly extraordinary; it is not the glory of fairy lights nor even of sunsets or magnificent cathedrals; this is a “devouring fire”, into which Moses steps. If resolving disputes is the only part of his ‘day job’ for which Moses will be missed (verse 14b), we can imagine that he might have welcomed the change and challenge. Those whose ministry or vocation involves them in hearing and processing complaints and disputes today may well sympathise. Was it God’s intention that “the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction” (v. 12) would bridge that gulf between earthly grime and heavenly glory?
- How might this reading lead you to Repentance and Renewal?
- How does waiting affect you? Would you have waited until the seventh day?
- Why did God’s law not solve the gap between the earthly grime of sin and rebellion and the heavenly calling of obedience and love?