Read His Words Before Ours!
If you grew up attending church, you’re probably familiar with Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai. If you did not experience the Sunday school version of this Exodus story, you may have missed out on the felt board story pieces (for those younger than 35, you probably missed those, too. Feel free to Google as needed) but you now have the opportunity to experience the story on a deeper level.
I learned of Moses on Mt. Sinai early on, and yes, I do remember my grandmother using felt board pieces! However, in some ways, I am envious of those who are reading the story with fresh eyes. You see, my memories of the story and its lessons have been caught in a young mindset, a two-dimensional understanding of the story and the basic tenets it conveyed. Thankfully, this Journey Study challenged me to traverse new terrain in my heart as I gained insight into the terrain around Mt. Sinai.
My childhood understanding of this story captured Moses climbing Mt. Sinai because God called him to the summit to talk to him. When he arrived, the Lord spoke the Ten Commandments and engraved them on tablets. Moses then took the tablets back to the Israelites waiting at the base of the mountain. There, he found the Israelites had made, and were worshipping, a golden calf in utter rebellion to God. Moses threw the tablets in anger, shattering them.
My young takeaways had everything to do with the creation of the tablets, the content of the Ten Commandments themselves, and Israel’s sin. All of which are practical and important, but recently, as I researched Mt Sinai, the enormity of the Lord’s presence in this story overwhelmed me.
What picture came to your mind while reading of Moses ascending the mountain? What did the mountain look like? How tall was it? Did it seem “normal” to think of a cloud at the top?
Depending on where we live or have traveled, we might imagine vastly different pictures. Therefore, let’s paint the picture of Mt. Sinai using insights from the mountain’s modern-day description.
Mt. Sinai is nestled in the middle of a larger group of mountains on the Sinai peninsula. Interestingly, Mt. Sinai is one of the smaller mountains within the cluster; meteorologically speaking, clouds, especially thick ones with thunder and lightning, would not form over a smaller peak when taller mountains surround it. The taller mountains would either cause the cloud to dissipate before reaching the shorter mountain, or the cloud would cover them all.
Throughout Scripture, the Lord uses His physical creation to highlight His power and Presence. Already in the Israelites’ exodus story, they have been led by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day. (Exodus 13:21-22) For Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the Lord showed His power by sending fire from heaven to consume the water-saturated altar. (1 Kings 18:38-39) At the crucifixion of Christ, the sky went black when Jesus breathed His last. (Matthew 27:50-52)
For Moses, the Lord used clouds, thunder, lightning, smoke, fire, and the shaking earth to evidence His powerful Presence to the Israelites. He even commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to not touch the mountain or they would be killed. (Exodus 19:12) The emphasis on the Lord’s holy presence was high; the ark of the covenant had a similar order connected to it, and also represented the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle.
My research helped me understand Moses’ profound experience of the Lord’s power and authority on the mountain not only spiritually, but also physically. Mt. Sinai is 7,947 feet (2,422 meters) tall. This was no small mountain! Only fourteen states in the United States have mountains taller than this height. Research showed there were two ways to access the summit on foot. The first is a roundabout route requiring approximately 2.5 hours to traverse. The other option is a much steeper, direct route, including 3,750 steps dubbed “steps of penitence.”
Moses likely took one of these routes multiple times in the process of meeting with the Lord. Can you imagine all the thoughts going through his mind? Out of obedience to the Lord, he climbs the mountain the rest of Israel was forbidden to touch or death would befall them. He steps onto the quaking ground and enters the smoke-filled cloud.
What level of humility would have been required?
What level of obedience, trust, and faith in the Unseen God?
Maybe you feel the Lord is asking you to take similar steps. While your Mt. Sinai may not be a literal mountain, you’re feeling the call to draw closer to Him or step out in following Him into your own unknown terrain.
Follow Moses’ example.
The journey is already worth it.
If you’re like me, and a more fresh understanding of a long-known story presents itself, dig in and discover all the Lord has for you. This Journey Theme is a great place to begin exploring, by excavating terrain we once found familiar.
Uncovering fresh perspectives and deeper understandings of our God will always be amazing!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!