Come Up to Me on the Mountain
A chiasm spans these verses. I found this one just a couple days ago as I figured there may be one here based on the 2 chiasms which spanned our last two sets of verses –
Exodus 24:9-18 Moses Went Up
Designation of Aaron and Hur to Lead During Moses’ Absence (3/2/2016)
a 9 Then Moses went up
b 10 (Description of the Lord’s glory)
c 12 T Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there;
d 13 Moses went up to the mountain of God.
x 14 (instructions to the elders/designation of Aaron and Hur as leaders
d 15 Then Moses went up into the mountain,
c 16 And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
b 17 (Description of the Lord’s glory)
a 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud
There is something pretty special about climbing mountains. There is work involved in it, like a test of endurance, but when you get up to the top, it can be the most rewarding thing. This is why Christians often use the term “a mountaintop experience.” When you are up there, you can raise your arms and feel the victory of having defeated the granite foe which tired your legs and exhausted your lungs.
From the mountain top, you can look back down on the mountain in derision – “You couldn’t beat me, instead I overcame!” And you can look around at the world around you and feel victorious over all of it. You have ascended to a point where everything else looks small and insignificant.
For the Christian, a mountaintop experience is one which says, “I am alive! I have come to the place of God and to the throne of His grace. Nothing can defeat me because I am up here with Him. Everything else is overcome.”
In today’s verses, there will be a mountaintop experience for the nobles of Israel. They will rejoice and feast in the presence of the Lord. And yet, they hadn’t really overcome anything. They simply agreed to the covenant and so the covenant was cut between the Lord and them.
If they saw God, feasted in His presence, and rejoiced at the marvel they beheld while still bound under the law which was set against them, then how much more should we rejoice at being in the presence of God while having the law fulfilled in our place? I mean, Christ is the One who did the work. Christ is the one who overcame. And by calling on Christ, we too are seated with Him in the heavenly places, not below Him looking up.
Text Verse: O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Isaiah 40:9
Today is a great passage because it shows us that we can, in fact, draw near to God. Not too long after this account, Israel will really mess up and will violate the very law that they go up the mountain to celebrate in its establishment. Their mountaintop experience will end. But for those who are in Christ, the law is fulfilled. And so our mountaintop experience is just getting started. And it is one which will last for all eternity. Great stuff from our glorious Lord!
It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. They Saw the God of Israel (verses 9-11)
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,
This must be a second ascension by these men after the ratification of the covenant. Some scholars see it as the same ascension mentioned in verse 1 and then verses 2-8 would be parenthetical. But as we saw last week this is not correct.
The first ascension was for the receiving of the Book of the Covenant. After that, it was brought to the people where agreement of it was made. After that it was ratified in blood through sacrifice. Now, a second ascension is made. This is for a different purpose which logically follows such a sacrifice.
The question of why each of these named people has ascended needs to be answered. Why are Aaron and his two eldest sons mentioned? Why didn’t one of the sons of Moses come? And why seventy elders? Moses is selected because he is God’s chosen prophet. There is no family line of succession in the Bible for prophets. Thus his sons are not included.
Aaron is to be the high priest. This line will include genealogical succession all the way until the time of Christ. Thus, his two eldest sons are recorded in anticipation of this. And the seventy elders are representative of their respective tribes. Seventy has already been seen numerous times as reflective of divine perfection. Thus these seventy leaders divinely represent all of Israel. Of this ascension, Keil notes –
“Through their consecration with the blood of the covenant, the Israelites were qualified to ascend the mountain.” Keil and Delitszch
In other words, Keil is saying that it is because of the sacrifice and the sprinkling of the blood that they may now ascend the mountain. This is not entirely correct as they had already ascended once. Rather, the consecration with the blood allows for what follows during this ascension, something marvelous for them to behold…
10 and they saw the God of Israel.
This verse is one which deniers of the Bible will use to challenge the inerrancy of it, and so it is good to evaluate it carefully. First, the words are clear – v’yiru eth elohe yisrael “…and they saw the God of Israel.” The first seeming contradiction arises from the words of Deuteronomy 4:12 where we read this –
“And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice.”
A moment later, the explanation for having seen no form is given –
“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth.” Deuteronomy 4:15-18
This is easily explained in that Moses was speaking to the entire congregation of people in Deuteronomy. The people as a whole were denied this privilege that the elders were granted. Secondly, in Exodus 33, Moses asked to see the Lord’s glory. In response, the Lord said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
Again, there is no contradiction here. Nothing is said of seeing the Lord’s face at this time with the elders on Sinai. It simply says they saw the God of Israel. After Moses was told he couldn’t see the face of Yehovah, he was still allowed to see his back. If He has a back, then He has a front.
We cannot see the future, but we can see the present, and in our mind we can still see what it past. Again, there is no contradiction. Third, twice in the New Testament, we are told that seeing God isn’t possible. Those verses are –
“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12
“I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:13-16
These verses are speaking of God the Father and the Divine essence within the Godhead. No man can see Jesus’ deity, and yet we see His humanity. Someday we will see His glorified humanity in a splendor that we cannot even imagine, but it will still be the part of God that is revealed in the present. The vastness of God will never be fully seen by us, even to all eternity.
It is Jesus who reveals God to us. And this then explains what the people there on the mountain saw. The “God of Israel” is Yehovah, the Lord. This is stated explicitly in Exodus 5:1. He is called the “God of Israel” here “because He, the God of the fathers, had become in truth the God of Israel through the covenant just made.” (Keil)
And as the Bible will continue to reveal as we progress, Yehovah, the Lord is Jesus our Lord. Therefore, the vision that they see in no way contradicts another portion of Scripture. Jesus revealed Himself to the people as Yehovah, the God of Israel.
This same God of Israel, Yehovah, will continue to manifest Himself to select people in various ways. Among others, He will appear in bodily form to Joshua, to Gideon, and to the parents of Samson. He will appear in divine splendor to Isaiah and to Ezekiel. Each time He reveals Himself in Scripture, we will get a better understanding of His glorious nature, all of which is revealed in Jesus. The author of Hebrews explains this –
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” Hebrews 1:1-3
10 (con’t) And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone,
The fact that the feet of the Lord are mentioned shows that they beheld the Lord. It would make no sense, as so many scholars say, to note what is under His feet if they didn’t see His feet. Instead, it would simply leave that out, but it doesn’t. And if there are feet, then there is a body connected to the feet.
The words here read, kemaaseh livnat ha’sappir – “a work of the clearness of sapphire.” Two words are introduced into Scripture here. The first is livnah. This is its only use in the Bible. The word means “brick,” and thus properly whiteness, and then by implication, transparency.
The second new word is sappir. This is the first of just 11 times it will be used. Sappir comes from the word saphar which means “to count.” And thus it is a gem, perhaps used for scratching other substances. It is debated whether this is actually a sapphire or a lapis lazuli, but it is probably the sapphire.
The reason why is because it is said in Isaiah 54:11 to be one of the foundation stones in the New Jerusalem. John then mentions the same concerning sapphire in Revelation 21:19. Thus, this clear sapphire pavement (if you will) is a part of the vision of God which is beheld by the elders of Israel.
10 (con’t) and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.
u’ke-etsem ha’shemayim la-tohar – “and the bone of the heavens in clearness.” The word “essence” is etsem. This word means “bones,” and thus it is a comparative word which stems back to the creation of Eve for Adam. In Genesis 2:23, Adam proclaimed this –
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23
He was making a comparison based on the rib from which she was made. Thus “bone” is a word of comparison. The etsem or “bone” of the heavens means “like the heavens.” And so this is not the sky that they saw, but something like the sky.
The word for “clarity” here is tohar. This is the first of only two times it will be used in the Bible, here and Psalm 89:44. In that psalm, it will be used in a negative way when the Lord is said to have caused the glory, or the clarity, of the throne of David to cease. Tohar comes from taher which means “clean.” Thus it literally signifies brightness; ceremonially purification; and glory.
Of this remarkable vision which these men beheld, Matthew Henry gives the following advice –
“The sapphires are the pavement under his feet; let us put all the wealth of this world under our feet, and not in our hearts. Thus the believer sees in the face of Jesus Christ, far clearer discoveries of the glorious justice and holiness of God, than ever he saw under terrifying convictions; and through the Saviour, holds communion with a holy God.” Matthew Henry
What Matthew Henry is saying is that this most precious of gems is used as a mere place for the feet of the Lord. And so let us not fix our eyes on even something so precious as this. Instead, let us fix our eyes on Jesus who is the Source and Creator of even such magnificent things.
11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.
A curious word is introduced here which is translated as “nobles.” It is atsil, and it is only found twice in the Bible, here and in Isaiah 41:9. Instead of “elders,” they are called atsil. The word gives the sense of separation.
In other words, the verse explains the use of the word. If we paraphrased it to say, “But on the separated of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand” then we can grasp why the word is used. These men were granted the right to have close proximity with the Lord because of their separated status. From this, the translators have designated them as “nobles.”
And again, this verse shows us that these men actually saw the God of Israel. If they didn’t and if they only saw a glimpse of His glory in light or fire as so many scholars suggest, then there would have been no need to include the words that He did not lay His hand on them.
The entire congregation has seen glimpses of His glory in light and in smoke, and in fire in both the pillar and in the manifestation at the giving of the law. Instead, these men are being given a view of far more.
11 (con’t) So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
Some translations give the idea of two separate occurrences – first they saw God, and then they ate and drank. This is incorrect. The two are simultaneous – they saw God while they ateand drank. This was a meal in the presence of the Lord as they dined on the peace offerings of the sacrifices of verse 5.
In this meal is a foreshadowing of the Lord’s Table which we participate in each week. It is a remembrance of the meal which was shared by Christ and His apostles at the giving of the New Covenant. We remember this by faith in the accuracy of the Bible and so, in Christ as revealed in Scripture we see, and fellowship, with God.
It needs to be noted that the word for “God” is used three times in our verses today. The first was calling him elohe yisrael, or “God of Israel.” The next two times it will say ha’elohim or “the God.”
This is the first such time. v’yekhezu et ha’elohim – “And they beheld the God.” The article is unfortunately left off once again by translators, but it is an important clue as to the nature of the Lord. This is evident because of the coming words of verse 12…
On the mountain of God His people will meet
There in His presence they will look upon His glory
The banquet will be delicious and the fellowship sweet
It will be the consummation of a marvelous story
There on the mountain of God the people will rejoice
For eternal days there will be gladness and delight
Never again will be heard the saddened voice
Never again will there be a dark fearful night
On the mountain of God where Christ will forever reign
The people will stream to Him, His glory they shall see
Never will there be troubles or trials, never again pain
Instead there will be only blessing and joy – for all eternity
II. The Mountain of the God (verses 12-15)
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there;
What can be assumed is that when the meal ended, all of the people descended the mountain and went back to the camp once again. This is to be inferred based on the events of Exodus 32. At some point after that, it says that “‘the Lord’ said to Moses.”
The God whom the elders saw is Yehovah. This name is mentioned 11 times in this chapter. The three times the word “God” is mentioned are only in this last section from verses 9-13.
They are given in relation to who the Lord is. He is the God of Israel. He is the God who can reveal Himself to the nobles, and He is the God who displays His power on the mountain. It is the God, Yehovah, who now petitions Moses to come up once again. It is for a very specific purpose that He does so…
12 (con’t) and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”
The word “tablets” is luakh. This is the first of 43 times it will be used. It comes from a root which means “to glisten.” Thus it is a tablet (as polished), of stone, wood, or metal. This is now the third time that writing has been mentioned in the Bible, but this time the words are said to have been written by the Lord Himself.
There is great debate as to the meaning of the words found here. Is this speaking of only the Ten Commandments in a triple description? In other words, the tablets of stone are the law and the commandments. Or, will the Lord give him tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments and also the law and commandments which He has written? Deuteronomy 5:22 says this –
“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.” Deuteronomy 5:22
This sounds like only the Ten Commandments were inscribed on stone. However, it could mean that only the Ten Commandments were spoken to the people and nothing more. This doesn’t preclude other words having been included on the tablets. In Exodus 31, after seven chapters of instruction to Moses, it will say this –
“And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” Exodus 31:18
This seems to imply that all of what was said in those seven chapters is recorded on the tablets, but it also doesn’t preclude the assumption that the Lord simply waited to give the tablets, which contained only the Ten Commandments, to Moses just before he went back down the mountain. The answer to this seems to come from Exodus 34 where it says this –
“So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:28
In that chapter, Moses was told to write the words of the Lord, but the words of the Ten Commandments were written on the new set of Tablets by the Lord. So, what seems to be the case is that only the Ten Commandments were written by the Lord on tablets. The rest of the instructions which follow in the next seven chapters will be recorded by Moses as the Lord instructs.
The stone tablets are given as a picture of our spiritual state. They are durable, but capable of being broken. In this, God knew that man would break them. It was therefore a picture of the hardness of the human heart upon which no impression can be made except by God’s finger. Paul explains this in the New Testament with the coming of the New Covenant. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he says –
“…clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” 2 Corinthians 3:3
Thus this entire giving of the law, with Moses’ breaking of the first tablets and then a second set being made, is a picture of Christ. God made the first tablets and recorded the law on them. But man was incapable of obeying them, pictured by Moses dashing them to pieces.
The second set of tablets was made by Moses and then the Lord wrote the commands on them. This pictures Christ, who came from man and yet who fulfilled God’s word without breaking it. The humanity/deity of Christ is the Stone of the tablets, unbroken and who is the Word of God.
Everything else that Moses will be told in the next seven chapters will also picture Christ. There will be instructions for religious life, a form of worship given, ceremonies, a tabernacle with associated furniture, garments, etc. All of these are given for the benefit of the people, but they will all picture the work of the Lord. These will be recorded by Moses at the Lord’s instruction.
13 So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God.
As suddenly as he appeared in Exodus 17, Joshua now appears again. Together with Moses, they both ascend har ha’elohim or the “mountain of the God.” As always is the case, when the mountain is referred to in connection with God, there is an article in front of “God.” The One true God, Yehovah, dwells there.
Joshua is certainly being brought along because he was not only the general of the forces as we saw in the battle with Amalek, but he was also his close and trusted assistant. He was shown to be accepted by Moses as his designated representative and successor. In every way so far he forms a beautiful picture of Christ.
What is just as remarkable here as in the account in Exodus 17, is that the name yehoshua, or Joshua, is used, but his name was originally Hoshea. It won’t be until Numbers 13 that the change in his name is recorded. And yet Moses calls him Joshua now. Thus, in this we are to see a further picture of Christ.
The commentator Bishop Pearson explains this as “…without Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, there is no looking into the secrets of heaven, nor approaching the presence of God.”
14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you.
All that is said here is that they were to wait for the return of Moses and Joshua. No timeframe is given for their return, but verse 12 says that he would remain there. The time was, however, unspecified. What is implied though is that no matter how long they were gone, they were to wait there and not ascend the mountain where the presence of God was.
14 (con’t) Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.”
As in the battle with Amalek, Aaron and Hur are given special attention. During that battle, which was led by Joshua, Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands to ensure the battle would end in Amalek’s defeat. Josephus says that Hur is the husband of Miriam and thus he would be the brother-in-law of Moses and Aaron.
15 Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain.
With his instructions for the affairs of the camp settled, it says that he went up into the mountain. The same words are used here as in verse 13 – v’yaal moshe el – “and went up Moses to.” When we get to verse 18, it says that Moses will go up again, using the same word v’yaal or “and went up.”
Because of this, scholars say that Moses went up the mountain with Joshua a part of the way and then when he is called again, he will go up the rest of the way alone. But it doesn’t say this. That is only speculation and it is unfounded. What appears to be happening is that verses 13, 15, and 18 are all the same ascent.
13 – So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God.
15 – Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain.
18 – So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain.
Between the first two notes of ascent, is a parenthetical thought –
14 – And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.”
16, 17 – Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.
No scholar looks at the first mention of going up as him actually going up until he first instructed the elders about Aaron and Hur. So why should the second mention be any different? Rather, that thought is given while Moses is still with the people. He waited six days until he was called and then he went up with Joshua into the cloud which had descended on the mountain before they departed.
It’s important to note that in Hebrew it doesn’t say “a cloud” covered the mountain. It says “the cloud” covered it. Thus, it is the same cloud which guided the people through their wanderings, through the Red Sea, and which has brought them to where they are. It is the cloud which both conceals the glory of the Lord and in which the glory is revealed.
What makes this interesting is that only Moses is mentioned from now through verse 32:17 when Joshua will again be mentioned. Despite him being with Moses all of the time, he will not be mentioned through the entire account.
We have not been left alone in the wilderness
Though the Lord is not here, He has a Helper given to us
And His word is written so we don’t have to guess
Which path to take to lead us straight to Jesus
And if it be the word of God, then let us daily attend to it
For in its pages are all that we need as our guide
With our feet shod, to its words let us submit
And walk the path it reveals, never turning aside
And when we come to the end of our days
For our efforts, upon us the Lord will smile
Because we have been obedient to all of His ways
Applying His words to our lives all of the while
III. The Glory of the Lord (verses 16-18)
16 Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.
Why is it important to determine if Moses went up part of the way and then waited six days to go up the rest of the way, or if he ascended the mountain on the seventh in one ascent? The reason is that Matthew uses the same terminology for the account of the transfiguration that is used here in Exodus. Here is what he wrote –
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” Matthew 17:1-3
The specificity by Matthew is given for a reason. In the preceding verse, which is Matthew 16:28, Jesus said this to His disciples –
“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:28
It was on the seventh day that Jesus, Peter, James, and John ascended the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, thus revealing the glory of the Lord. Matthew is tying the glory of the Lord seen at Sinai to the glory of Christ on the high mountain.
All three of the synoptic gospels tie in the glory of the Lord on the mountain with the promised taste of the kingdom. For the people of Israel, the law had been received and the elders had seen the glory of God. Now a repeat of this is seen in Christ.
In Matthew 16, Peter had made his proclamation that Jesus is the Christ. It was to be known and understood that He is the incarnate Word, Yehovah, just as Yehovah is understood to be “the God” by the elders of Israel. Unfortunately, in both occasions, the people failed to stand on the evident truth. In Exodus, they will fashion a false god, and in Matthew they will crucify Christ. But there is also another picture in both accounts which will be seen as we go on.
16 (con’t) And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
It is certain to me that Moses and Joshua are still with the people in the camp. Six days had gone by since the cloud descended upon Sinai. Now, on the seventh day, the call is made for Moses from the midst of the cloud. It is time for him to ascend the mountain.
Many – even most – scholars see this as a Sabbath day. I don’t see any reason to assume this. Rather, as Moses has to ascend the mountain, that would mean that he would have to work to go up, thus it would certainly be a violation of the very law that has been given and which will be engraved on stone. That makes no sense.
What makes more sense, if we are to speculate, is that this is the first day of the week. The call would have been made after the Sabbath when Moses had rested, not on it. Further, it would then match the day which John received his vision of the future which is recorded in Revelation 1:10, which was on Sunday, Lord’s Day.
17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.
The six days equate to the first six thousand years of man on earth. The seventh day equates to the millennium. This is the same picture that Christ was giving the disciples. He said that some standing with him wouldn’t taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
The transfiguration anticipated the fulfillment of this. The glory of the Lord was seen to them on the mountain on the seventh day, just as the glory of the Lord will be seen in the coming millennium during the final thousand years of God’s 7000-year plan.
The people of Israel had a taste of this truth 1500 years earlier. To them, the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain. The author of Hebrews uses the same terminology to speak of Christ our God. He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
The outward appearance of God’s glory on the mountain in this fiery display was given to demonstrate the “unapproachable justice of God” (Lange), just as it was when the cherubim stood at the east of Eden with their flaming swords and as is seen throughout the rest of the Old Testament symbolism.
Only in the death of Jesus, where the veil of the temple was rent in two, could man once again find access to God. The law which was received, and which Moses will now continue to receive, is only another barrier to true fellowship with God. Only in its fulfillment can that be realized. And only Christ has fulfilled it.
The Pulpit Commentary notes concerning the six days of delay before calling Moses to Himself that “God thus taught Moses, and through him the world, that near approach to him requires long and careful preparation.” That careful preparation of six days is directly equated to the six thousand years of careful preparation that God has taught us through until the coming of Christ in His kingdom.
It is true, we already have access to God through Christ, but this is not yet realized in its fullness. The account today shows us though that it won’t be long before it is. We are at the cusp of a great day in redemptive history.
18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain.
Moses alone is recorded as going up, but we know that Joshua was with him. The picture we see in this is realized in the layout of the temple. The people remained outside while the high priest alone went behind the veil. Thus Sinai, or the Bush of the Thorn, is given as a picture of that which is unapproachable but to the high priest. The people of Israel waited while Moses and Joshua went up.
Jesus is that High Priest, pictured by Moses and the unnamed Joshua. He wore a crown of thorns pictured by the naming of Sinai in verse 16. It is the only time Sinai is mentioned in this chapter and the first time it has been named since chapter 19, thirteen sermons ago. It was He who bore the crown of thorns who also went behind the veil.
And like bookends, the names are calling out to us. Moses is the one to receive the Law, Jesus is the One to fulfill it. Thus even the names fit the picture. Moses, or “He who draws out,” is the one to draw out the law for the people. Joshua or “Yah is Salvation” is there to picture Jesus, the Lord who saves, who fulfilled it for us.
*18 (con’t) And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
The chapter ends with these surprising words. If you had never read the account before, and if you had to stop here for a while, you would be left wondering about it. But as we know, Moses received an immense amount of information during those forty days. They will comprise the next seven chapters of Exodus.
But the number forty isn’t just an arbitrary amount of time that Moses happened to take to receive the instructions. The timeframe has been given for us to reflect on. Like all numbers in Scripture, there is a purpose for each. EW Bullinger defines the significance of the number forty –
“Forty has long been universally recognized as an important number, both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement—(not judgment, like the number 9, which stands in connection with the punishment of enemies, but the chastisement of sons, and of a covenant people). It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where forty relates to a period of evident probation.”
The forty days are rightly defined by Bullinger as a time of evident probation. The people had been given the law and now they were to be tested with that law without their leader there to supervise them. How would they fare during the period that he is gone?
There are eight such great forty day periods recorded in Scripture. One of them corresponds to this period in a marvelous way. Israel was given these forty days of testing and they will fail. Jesus was given forty days of testing and He prevailed.
And His forty day period also matches the other periods of forties found throughout the Bible; both periods of forty days and of forty years. In all ways, He was shown to be superior to those who came before Him. He never failed and He is consistently shown as our “Greater than…” In all ways and in all types and pictures, He is truly “Greater than.”
One thing is for sure about these many stories of the Old Testament. Time and time again, they are given to show us not just stories of things that really happened, but of something else, something that we cannot do without.
Each story points to our failings, but they are intended to lead us to Jesus’ victory. It may seem a curious way that God deals with us, but one thing is sure – nothing can be more rewarding than finding Christ on every page. The love of God for us is poured out in the ink which permeates the pages of the Bible.
All of this effort is to show us that God really cares enough to take the time through the ages of human history to weave together a most marvelous picture of Jesus. If you are seeing this, but are still on the outside of His grace, why don’t you settle that today? Call on Christ, receive His offer of grace, and be reconciled to God through that act. Let me tell you how you can do just that…
Closing Verse: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19, 20
Next Week: Exodus 25:1-9 Many details for Moses to tackle… (Preparations for the Tabernacle) (67th Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Meeting with God on the Mountain
Then Moses went up
Also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu
And seventy of the elders of Israel
Well, those seventy went up too
And they saw the God of Israel
Something marvelous that to their grandchildren they could tell
And there was under His feet
As it were a paved work of sapphire stone
And it was like the very heavens in its clarity
There below the feet of His awesome throne
But on the nobles of the children of Israel
He did not lay His hand
So they saw God, and they ate and drank
A marvelous feast, one ever so grand
Then the Lord said to Moses
“Come up to Me on the mountain and be there
And I will give you tablets of stone
And the law and commandments for you to share
Which I have written
That you may teach them
So Moses arose –
With his assistant Joshua together they did trod
And Moses went up to the mountain of God
And he said to the elders
“Wait here for us until we come back to you
Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you
If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them; this you shall do
Then Moses into the mountain, up he went
And a cloud covered the mountain for this event
Now the glory of the Lord rested
On Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days
And on the seventh day He called to Moses
Out of the midst of the cloud; such were His ways
The sight of the glory of the Lord
Was like a consuming fire, as the record does tell
On the top of the mountain
In the eyes of the children of Israel
So Moses went into the midst of the cloud
And into the mountain up he went
And Moses was on the mountain
Forty days and forty nights; the time that he there spent
So Moses went there to meet with the Lord
And to bring back instructions for Israel
All the instructions according to His word
Those words which the Bible does now tell
And all of this was a part of the story
To lead us to the coming of Jesus
Each step reveals a bit more of His glory
Each step is revealed in the word to us
Lord God, we thank You for this marvelous book
We thank you for all the wonder it does relate to us
Give us the burning desire each day to take a look
And to bring us ever closer to our Lord Jesus
Yes, through Him to You we shall eternally praise
Yes O God, so it shall be for eternal days!
Hallelujah and Amen…