12The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” 15Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17Now 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. 18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai…
The concept of God covering us is deeply rooted within Scripture. When Adam and Eve break their covenant relationship with God and experience shame in their nakedness, God covers them with animal skins. When Cain kills Abel, God covers him with a sign upon his forehead warning others not to harm Cain. When the world is flooded in judgment, God covers Noah, his family, and the animals in the safety of the ark. When Moses is threatened with death as a baby, God covers him in the security of a basket and a powerful surrogate family. When the angel of death visits Egypt, the Israelites are commanded by God to cover their doorposts with the lamb’s blood so that they will be passed over. And so it goes throughout Scripture.
Such covering is a sign of God’s grace. Even when the one being covered is guilty of great sin, as with Cain, God reaches out in grace and provides a covering of mercy and compassion. This connection between grace and covering is seen in our word atonement. We associate the word atonement with the idea of securing forgiveness of our sins through an event (the cross) that eliminates our guilt and restores our innocence. In the ancient languages, the word we translate as atonement literally means “to be covered over.”
When Moses meets God within the fiery cloud of glory overshadowing Mt. Sinai, this is an act of grace. It is a promise – a covenant – that God is making with the people of Israel, in which God is essentially saying, “I will cover you in my presence.” In this sense, the law which Moses receives from God is a way to cover over our human frailty and tendency to sin. When we fail to live out our divinely given purpose, God will redirect us to wholeness through the law. God will always be available to surround us in his presence, especially when we feel particularly exposed and vulnerable.
Look at the picture above and notice the way the clouds cover most of the mountain. Imagine how this might have looked when the cloud of God’s glory covered over Moses upon the mountain. As you look at the image, imagine that you are on that mountain and the cloud is God’s loving, grace-filled presence. How do you need to be covered in grace today? Where in your life do you feel especially vulnerable and exposed? As you look at the image, can you feel God’s presence grow thick around you? You are hidden in his good love. God is here. God is present in the cloud – receive his glory.
- Tuesday, February 21 – 2 Kings 9
- Wednesday, February 22 – 2 Kings 10
- Thursday, February 23 – 2 Kings 11
- Friday, February 24 – 2 Kings 12
- Saturday, February 25 – 2 Kings 13
- Sunday, February 26 – 2 Kings 14
- Monday, February 27 – 2 Kings 15
Prayer Focus: So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.
Everyone needs a Joshua – and I am not just saying that because my name is Joshua! I mean that everyone needs someone they can trust who will accompany them into the unknown of the cloud of God’s presence. Spouses, friends, pastors, and spiritual directors can all serve that purpose. Think about who the Joshua is to your Moses. Who has been your spiritual companion in life? Pray for that person (or persons), thanking God for them and asking God to give them continued glimpses of glory. Think about how you might be the Joshua for their Moses, as you provide one another with mutual, committed spiritual support. If you do not have a Joshua in your life, ask God to reveal who that person might be for you. Ask God to lead you also to a person for whom you can serve that purpose of spiritual support.
Meditation Focus: The cloud covered [Mt. Sinai] for six days; on the seventh day [the LORD] called to Moses out of the cloud.
Is it enough for you to simply be in the presence of God? This passage implies that Moses waited within the cloud of God’s presence for six days before he heard God speak. That’s 144 hours of simply communing with God in patient silence. Recently, in a paper written as part of a doctoral class, I defined communion with God as “a personal or corporate relational connection to God in which God and humanity mutually share in the goodness and intimacy of love and grace which originates in the divine unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This reality could be further understood as an act of being with God for the sake of being with God, as opposed to an act of approaching God for the sole purpose of asking God to do something to meet an emerging need.”
I am sure Moses had many emerging needs considering his role as spiritual and political leader of the community. There were many things he could have asked God and many things he needed to hear from God. But this passage would indicate that he practiced simply being with God for the sake of being with God. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with this at first and wished God would “get on with it.” Regardless, I imagine when the time of silent being was over on that seventh day he was ready to truly and fully hear what God had to say.
Are you taking enough time to simply be with God? Have you readied yourself to truly hear what God has to communicate to you through patience in the divine presence. Sit in silence today in God’s presence and do nothing more. When you feel the time is over, then end it, no questions asked, and move on to another task. Then, when you feel ready for another moment of patient silent being with God, pause again. This might happen several times during the day, or once a day for a week. Train yourself to spend time with God for the sake of God’s presence (and not just God’s presents). You may be surprised at how quickly you grow accustomed to abiding in the quiet fire of God’s company.
Journaling Focus: 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.
What do you think this scene looked like? Could you try and draw it? Consider for a moment how comparing the appearance of the LORD’s glory to fire might communicate something to us readers about the character of God. If the LORD’s glory is like a devouring fire, what is it devouring? Should we be scared, in awe, flippant, confused by such an image? Why or why not? Literally, the words translated here as “the glory of the LORD” mean “the light of YHWH.” How have you witnessed the light of YHWH in your own life? How did it change you, devouring certain parts of your life? Remember as you write that even when a fire rages through a forest devouring plant life, it leaves behind the right conditions for new, healthy growth.
Breath Prayer: Father, surround us in glory and grace.