Thursday, March 12th

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai.  They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.”  Exodus 19:1-9

 

Three months into the trip the Israelites reached Mount Sinai. 

 

I grew up in North Dakota but spent summers during high school and the first couple of years of college north of Seattle.  I remember the long drive across the plains and rolling grasslands of North Dakota and then Montana.  And I remember when the looming, mysterious mountains first came into view.  Whoever thought up the word “majestic” must have seen mountains a time or two in their lives.

 

Standing last year on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, you just can’t miss the snow covered Mount Hermon off to the north along the border between Lebanon and Syria.  It is literally a source of life for Israel as it supplies most, if not all, of Israel’s drinking water.

 

It is no wonder that mountains have been holy places in every religion through the ages.  And it is no wonder that God chose a mountain for his chat with Moses.  And yet it isn’t the MOUNTAIN that sets this conversation apart, but the MESSAGE that God has to share with Moses.

 

“Tell the people…I have taken care of you…I have lifted you up and protected you… Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.”

 

Tell the people that I am with them, protecting them.  Tell the people they will be my “treasured possession”, a “priestly kingdom” and a “holy nation.”  Every single one of those descriptions is spoken in love, rooted in purpose, and sealed with the promise of God’s covenant – I will bless you that you might be a blessing to all the peoples of the world.

 

As Christians we can’t read these words without seeing the depth of God’s promise for us, spoken not just on Mount Sinai but spoken out of the suffering on Mount Calvary.  They are life giving, life affirming words that help our lives make sense – we are a treasured possession, protected by God, blessed with purpose and promise.

 

We don’t worship mountains.  We don’t follow a god of stone.  Our God isn’t a distant deity to be appeased but a loving God to be obeyed by walking in the love shown to us by a God who sustains us in the wilderness, puts up with our complaining, forgives our rebellion and entrusts us with God’s loving mission.

 

The lesson for today is the reminder that sometimes the monotony of our wilderness wanderings can occasionally be broken by the majesty of a mountain – an awesome surprise – where God shows up and reminds us of our purpose and God’s love.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, thank you for the promises you have made to us that sustain our lives.  Thank you for the privilege of being counted among your treasured possessions.  Thank you for the call to obey you, for we know that in such obedience we will discover a life worth living and a love worth giving way.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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