Tuesday, March 3rd

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain.  Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.  As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the LORD descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the LORD summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to the LORD to look; otherwise many of them will perish.  Even the priests who approach the LORD must consecrate themselves or the LORD will break out against them.”  Exodus 19:16-22

 

The first time that Moses met God on a mountain, God revealed himself in a burning bush.  Moses could only see God’s backside.  When asked for a name, God said only an obtuse “I Am.”  Now today, at the foot of the mountain where Moses would soon receive the commandments, God appears only in smoke, thunder and lightning.

 

What do we make of that?

 

As a pastor, I am often asked the hard questions of the faith.  Things like, “What happens to babies who die without being baptized?”  “Do you have to be baptized to be included in God’s kingdom?”  “What will God do to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims at the last day?”

 

Often in the face of such questions, Martin Luther would return to these scenes of Moses’ encounters with God.  The Moses who only saw God’s backside, not God’s fullness.  Luther would remind us that God only reveals things on his own terms, in his own time.  God reveals what we need to know;  what we WANT to know often remains shrouded in mystery.

 

Why?

 

Because we live and walk by faith, not by sight.  We live by trusting in the goodness and the graciousness of God.  We trust in Jesus, the God whom we can see, who reveals the essential love of the God whom we cannot see.  But that isn’t good enough for us.

 

If you have time, read the rest of the story of Moses on Mount Sinai.  After you are reminded of the prominence of the Ten Commandments, skim quickly through the next chapters until you get to the 32nd chapter.  After hearing this long account of God’s conversation with Moses on the mountain, the 32nd chapter will amaze you when you see what has been going on back at the ranch.

 

Aaron and the folks have made themselves a god.  They have melted the jewelry which they had received from the Egyptians and have fashioned themselves a golden calf.  They made their own god – one they could see and touch and control and take credit for.  Impatient at the God whom they could not see, they settled for one of their own making.

 

Which God do you want to follow?  The God whom you cannot see but can only trust, or the quick fix gods of our own making?

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, we can be so restless and impatient.  We don’t like to wait – we want answers and action and certainty.  We want goodies more than goodness.  Help us embrace the mysteries and walk by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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