Mountain top experiences are some of the happiest experiences in our lives. When we are on the top of the mountain, we can listen to and be refreshed by God. We are pulled out of the ordinary life and changed in faith. Only then can we have a Christian life. Unfortunately, we can’t live on the mountain top forever. We have to face the valleys in our lives, and these valleys are the lowest and most disappointing times in our lives.
Exodus 24:12-18 shows Moses’ special status among the Israelites, including its leadership. As the story progresses he becomes further removed from Israel’s leadership as he draws closer to God’s divine presence. This is emphasized by Moses’ privileged status as a mediator and stressed the importance of the words that will emerge from his encounter with God.
Even before arriving at Mount Sinai, Moses was integral to God’s unfolding plan of redemption. He was a witness to the first Passover, Israel’s flight from Pharaoh’s army and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. It was on Mount Sinai where Moses must have felt that he experienced God’s greatest intervention-the giving of the Ten Commandments. They were written on stone and they were words to live by. They were words to guide God’s people on their way to the Promised Land. The Ten Commandments prompted the people’s response to the God who saved them, and they can prompt our response to Him.
God wore down Moses so that when he was summoned to come up to the mountain and camp Moses obeyed and did not complain. A faith that follows without complaining or seeking a way out has less to do with spiritual discipline and more to do with God wearing us down so that like Moses the way out is really the only way in.
This spectacle sets the event apart as a holy occurrence. God’s descent upon the mountain sanctified the mountain’s summit and set it apart as a holy place. The words that proceed from this place will be of a particular, binding significance for God’s people. it represents the importance of God’s Ten Commandments and His instructions regarding the Tabernacle.
The glory of the Lord was first manifested in the form of a covering cloud and then a consuming, purifying fire that represents His holiness. Moses went into that cloud for forty days and forty nights, where he received the plans for the tabernacle and the priesthood. That same glory would soon fill the tabernacle.
Moses had to wait for six days before he met with God. Patience is required in seeking God, and that is opposite to our modern culture of wanting things now. When we seek God, we can’t set the terms of our encounters with God. We have to wait until we are summoned by God.
God asked Moses to climb the mountain not only to collect the tablets of stone on which God wrote the Ten Commandments, but to come up and be there-to exist there. He asked Moses to come up and be fully awake, fully alive and fully present with God in that moment. He asked Moses to live fully awakened to the fact that he is in the very presence of God, the creator and sustainer of all, in the here and now.
God knows that we live our lives at a breathless pace. He knows that we rush from one place to another. God told Moses what He tells us today: “Don’t miss it.” Don’t miss what is going on all around you, just like Peter, James and John did not miss the Transfiguration. Don’t be focused on somewhere else that you miss the very moment that you are in. Like Moses, our tendency would be to climb the mountain, thinking the whole time about what might be on the top, only to reach the top, thinking about what might happen when we get back down. All the time, we miss the mystery of the present moment.
As Christians, we serve a God who is never in a hurry. He is patient and steadfast. If we treat our prayers like a slot machine or a 9-1-1 call, we will be disappointed. God will wait. He waits for us to come to Him or come back to Him. He does not respond according to the world’s pace. He wants us to follow Him, not the world. Waiting on the Lord brings strength to our character.
When Moses was on Mount Sinai, he ate nothing and drank nothing. Elijah also fasted for forty days. When Moses & Elijah met Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration-one representing the law, the other representing the prophets-they foreshadowed Jesus’ own experience of fasting for forty days in the Judean wilderness.
When Moses was on the mountain, God spoke to him. Not only did God give Moses the Ten Commandments, He gave Moses instructions about what was to take place next in God’s relationship with His people.
God gave the Israelites His Word so they would know His mind and obey Him. He gave them the design of the tabernacle so He could live with them. He wanted to make Himself accessible and available, but He wanted to live in a sacred place in the temple. He wants to have a relationship with us today, but He wants to live in a sacred place in our hearts and our souls.
God’s glory and God’s nearness are held in tension. The former shakes us, the latter comforts us. Terror is coupled with God’s loving presence. We are encouraged to contemplate God’s sovereignty and greatness in light of His intimate care and nearness.
Moses got to see God’s glory. What does that mean? Some references make it seem that seeing His glory is not far from seeing His face-something that man can’t do and live. Other references are less dramatic. God’s glory is always a wonderful sight, but it appears at different times and for different reasons; therefore, it can have different effects.
Life also has different effects for different people. We don’t know what’s in store for us next. This can be exciting or scary. Nevertheless, we must always seek God’s direction like Moses did. This is a challenge for every Christian. The only way to meet this challenge is to seek God’s will.
When Moses came down from the mountain after his meeting with God, his face shone with the radiance of God’s glory. It was the same glory that Jesus radiated during the Transfiguration. When God’s glory shone in the faces of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, people saw them as they truly were and always have been. When we meet God for the first time, we are changed. Every time we meet God after that, we are changed. When we are changed by God, His glory shines through us.
When Moses stood in God’s presence, there was a very dramatic, outward, unconscious effect. Moses didn’t even know that God’s glory shone on his face. Similarly, through communion with God, our lives and attitudes will be changed in such a way that we will show an outward expression of inward progress. We may not shine like Moses and Jesus did, but the evidence of our time with Him will be no less impressive.
There is something reassuring about God’s promise to live with His people. While a covenant with God is not something to be entered into lightly, God invites and welcomes us into a relationship with Him. The passage from Exodus with its awe-inspiring view of God’s presence and Moses’ willingness to walk into that cloud suggests that a relationship with God will not always be comfortable, but it is exciting.
All of us need to see God’s glory before we see hard times. We need to remember God’s presence and purpose when we face life’s challenges. The Transfiguration links the seasons of Epiphany and Lent. It reminds us that just like God was with Jesus all the time (and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death), God is with us all of the time.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1354)
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 2: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 276-277)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Mike Slay, “The Glory of the Lord.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Mike DeVries, “Come and Be.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “Learning to Wait.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charles R. Swindoll, “Doing Time.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
- Br. James Koester, “Conceived for Glory.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org/word
- Laurie Neill, “Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Callie Plunket-Brewton, “Commentary on Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=891
- Frank Yamada, “Commentary on Exodus 24:12-18.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=34
- Howard Wallace, “Year A: Transfiguration of Jesus.” Retrieved from http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/EpiphanyA/TransfigurationA.com
- Vikki Burke, “Powerless Prayers.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Paul Schreiber, “His Greatest Role Yet.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org/dailydevotionsprt.asp?date=20200218
- Craig Condon, “Mountain Top Changes.” Retrieved from the author’s personal sermon library.