They have come to the Mountain of God (Elohim). All that has happened in Egypt and in the wilderness has been in preparation for this. When Moses told Pharaoh to let the people go, it was to bring them to this; “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD (YHWH) our God (Elohim) as He commands us.” So now here they are (three months later) at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
God is getting ready to speak with the people of Israel, so he first meets with Moses in order to get the people prepared to meet with Him. The people are given a few simple instructions before they come near to God. God instructs Moses to consecrate the people, they must wash their clothes, and the men must abstain from a woman for the three days. When they do come to the mountain of God, they must not touch the mountain. Anyone who does must be killed and their bodies not touched… this is obviously very serious.
The third day finally comes and Moses goes up Mount Sinai to meet with God, but YHWH wants to make sure that the people are not going to break through to see Him. So, He sends Moses back down to remind the people that they cannot touch the Mountain of God, and for Moses to bring Aaron back up with him.
So that naturally leads to the question, do we prepare to meet with God? When we go to spend time with YHWH, do we prepare ourselves? Do we understand that our God is the God of such Holiness, that any sin we bring into His presence is a foul stench in His nostrils? Are we preparing ourselves to meet with Him, or is He of such little regard to us that it doesn’t matter what kind of state we are in? The beautiful thing is that we do not need two days of preparation and abstaining from sexual intercourse in order to meet with Him. With the blood of Christ through repentance we are made clean. We are able to come into the presence of God cleaned from the inside. We are prepared through repentance and the blood.
When you come to God, do you come prepared? I know that repentance is something that i just do not do as i should, so that is something that i need to work on.
Rev. John Camiolo Jr.
Isn’t it nice to have an outside perspective sometimes. We look at our own situation time and time again. We see the same problems the same ways. We walk through the same doors and fall into the same traps. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own way of doing things that we lose track of the idea that there may be another, better solution. We also get so used to seeing the same blessings that we fail to see them as blessings. We see our successes in light of our situation and lose track of how amazing they can be sometimes.
Moses had started to get into some of these kinds of ruts. He was hearing the same people complaining about the same problems while doing the same things over and over. Then along came Jethro, his father-in-law, bringing Moses wife and two sons, and they saw it all anew. They heard the stories for the first time. They learned about the situation and saw all the blessings that God was doing for the people off Israel, and they were amazed. Jethro was the priest of Midian. He was a man of experience and wisdom, and yet he said, “Now I know that the LORD (YHWH) is greater than all the gods. Indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” He saw how God had treated those who stood proudly against His people, and Jethro, the priest of Midian, knew that there was no God like YHWH.
In response Jethro took a burnt offering and sacrifice to the LORD. He prepared it as a meal and invited the leaders of Israel to eat a meal together before God. He served in his role as a priest, yet he also set a precedent for the leaders; one of fellowshipping together before the LORD. Don’t you love a good perspective!?
The chapter finishes with Moses sitting before the people judging them. They came to him with their conflicts and problems, and he judged between the people. As i was reading this, it reminded me of the incident in chapter 2 “He (Moses) went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’” So Moses has become the judge that he had tried to be. He went from poser to the man of the hour; yet ironically, it was too much.
Jethro to the rescue! He tells Moses that this is too much work for him alone; that he needs to abdicate the work to others. To those who hate injustice so that it does not become too much of a burden. Do we pursue an outside perspective for our lives?
I’m beginning to understand more and more the qualities of a good pen. I have gone through probably 5 different pens already. Each of them has had a different work and feel to them. I started out with a three pack of Pilot’s Varsities. I had wanted to try out fountain pens for a while, but had never gotten around to it. They ran out of ink way too quickly, and the ink was so liquid that it would seep through the paper. On the other hand, writing with them was scratchy yet smooth, and the writing was bold and vibrant. That was a very good thing. Next i went on to an older gel pen that i had lying around. It was not nearly as bold or vibrant, but overall the flow was smooth and not at all scratchy. It was easy to write with, but the color definitely wasn’t strong enough. When that ran out, i moved on to a decent quality ball point. It was a bit more scratchy, the color was weaker, and writing with it was just a little bit more difficult, but overall it wasn’t overly uncomfortable to write with.
Now, I’m using what i can only describe as a cheap ball point pen that i picked up a while back. The pen stock seems to be decent quality (it advertises a small college), but the ink and writing process is horrible. At 32 i have hand and wrist problems that i suspect is from carpel tunnel ( i actually started noticing it at around 25). Ultimately, the rough working of this pen is definitely irritating it. The pen is not smooth at all. It requires heavy pressure to get a good line, and it is not really comfortable at all. I never really noticed just HOW different each pen is until i started on this project.
The Israelites had a different kind of body problem. While mine has to do with pain while writing or typing, the Israelites problem stems from much more important bodily factors. They were travelling through the wilderness and had no (or very little) food to eat. How does a man like Moses go about feeding a million plus people? The answer is that he can’t; so God has to do it. So what does God do? He provides them with bread from heaven. The instructions are simple. It shows up on the ground in the morning. Each person gathers what he needs for himself and their family for the day, and at the end of the day it needs to be eaten up. On the sixth day, gather enough for two days. Such a simple concept, yet the people just can’t seem to get a grip of it. Some try to hoard it. Others leave leftovers for the next day. Others don’t gather two days worth on the sixth day, and still others continue to complain.
It’s almost like this people have two things that they truly love; 1) complaining and 2) not listening. God is providing for their physical needs, yet it still just doesn’t seem to be enough. How about us? How do we react when God doesn’t supply what we are looking for?
It’s funny because after all that God has done for them, you would think that the Israelites would trust and honor God. Instead, when they see the Egyptians coming after them they could only see punishment and reprimand from the Egyptians and not relief from YHWH. Pharaoh and the army are chasing after them, and their first reaction is to blame God and Moses. They said, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to the wilderness to die?”
So what does God respond? He tells them to keep going! He makes it clear that He WILL be honored, and it will be at the expense of the Egyptians. Three times this word “Honored” shows up in this chapter. God will be honored by the Egyptians and the people of Israel. Yet, how do the people react? They fear the Egyptians instead of God. They would rather return to slavery than to risk relying on God.
YHWH instructs Moses to move forward while He personally covers their flanks. He tells Moses to open a pathway through the trouble and into the relative safety beyond. In the end, YHWH brings the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land and sweeps the Egyptian army with all of their world class chariots away in the sea. In the end, the honor and glory belong to Him and Him alone. He will be honored, and He is, both by the Egyptians, the Israelites, and later by the people of the promised land.
Are we giving God the honor that He deserves?
Looking at the chapter and trying to sum up the themes and basic concepts in one word brings me to the idea of ownership. Verses 1-16 are an intermingling of two ideas that most of us would consider separate. There are these very different and distinct concepts. The first is that YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel, and as such they belong to the Lord. Form here on out the firstborn, the one to open the womb, belongs to God. They must be given to God, or they must be redeemed. The second concept is that every year the people of Israel are to have seven days of unleavened bread and a feast at the end. This is in celebration of the Lord passing-over the Israelite’s, destroying the Egyptians, and rescuing the people from slavery. In honor of that event, Passover must be celebrated every year. The people of Israel are to take ownership of the acknowledgment and remembrance of this event. This should be something that they not only acknowledge and understand, but that they also celebrate. The Israelite people must take ownership of the remembrance of this event.
What’s interesting to me, is that these two very distinct and separate concepts are so intermingled in these first 16 verses that as much as it seems like they should be different, it becomes clear that they are interconnected and dependent upon one another. I can’t say that i fully understand it. To me they seem like two very different concepts, but God seems to say otherwise. How and why?
The final concept of ownership in this chapter goes from vs. 17 through the end of the chapter. In this section God takes responsibility / ownership for the people of Israel. He doesn’t just tell Moses to lead them to the Mountain of God; He leads them. He goes before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He does not leave this to someone else. He takes ownership and does it himself.
We serve a God of words and actions. He doesn’t just tell us to do something. He makes it happen. As a result He is also a God that expects action and ownership from us. We are to take ownership of the tasks that He gives us to do.