Have you ever looked out the window as your plane ascends, just as you are passing through the cloud cover? You can’t see anything around you but gray, puffy, air. Sometimes, depending on what time of day you fly, you may climb out of the clouds just in time to see the sun peeking above. It’s a beautiful and glorious sight.
I’ve always thought it would be cool to sit on a cloud and watch the sunrise or sunset. I want to feel the soft, fluffy puffs wrap around my body like a blanket in the cool temperatures and rest in the comfort of the clouds. Being on plane is probably the closest I’ll get in this life. For now, I’ll hold on to the hope that in Heaven, I’ll be able to do it.
In the next three chapters of Exodus we read about God establishing more detailed explanations of the Ten Commandments. At the end, Moses climbs a mountain, into the cloud of God, and remains their for 40 days and nights. God’s presence is all around him. How amazing!
S – Scripture: Exodus 22-24
- 23:2 – “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”
- 23:8 – “Take no bribes, for a bribe makes you ignore something that you clearly see. A bribe makes even a righteous person twist the truth.”
- 23:20-22 – “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you.”
- 23:29-30 – “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land. “
- 24:10 – “There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself.”
- 24:15-18 – “Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the LORD settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from inside the cloud. To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the LORD appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
O – Observation:
- God continues setting laws for the people of Israel to follow. He breaks down specific situations and what the consequences are if someone disobeys the rules.
- An Angel of the Lord was sent to protect and guide the Israelites safely to their Promised Land. They are warned to pay close attention to him and obey his instructions.
- God promises to clear all of the current people living in their Promised Land, but not all at once. There is an order and a timing for everything. God sees the whole picture and knows that the land needs tending as the Israelites move in. If all of the people were to be taken out immediately, then the land would become desolate and wild animals would take over.
- How amazing! To be in the presence of God and see his feet on the “brilliant blue lapis lazuli” surface.
- Moses climbs higher on the mountain, into the cloud of God. He is there for six days until God calls him from inside the cloud. It looked like fire to everyone watching. Moses climbs even higher and remained there for 40 days and nights.
A – Application:
There are many good lessons from these few chapters in Exodus. God sends his angel to protect and guide the Israelites. They are reminded to pay close attention to him and obey his instructions. Just like God sending his Holy Spirit and angels to us, we need to be paying attention to where he calls us, knowing that they also protect us.
I also love the picture of God preparing the Promised Land for his people. But they won’t get it all to themselves at once. The land itself can’t hand the neglect that would be caused by not being tended to and left to wild animals. God cares for all of his creation and works it all together for the betterment of his chosen people. The Israelites will get all that is promised to them, but little by little.
Even when I want something immediately, I can see the wisdom in the piece by piece method that God so often uses when admonishing blessings and promises on his people. If we got it all at once, what need for him would we have? How could our faith and hope grow if we always got what we wanted exactly when we asked for it?
But the greatest lesson I learned from this passage was the last few verses describing when Moses climbed the mountain into the glory and presence of God. I broke it down into stages to help me understand the gravity of the scene.
Stage 1: Moses climbs the mountain and waits while God’s glorious cloud covered it. He separates from the people, up to a quiet place. Not much is said here, but I wonder if Moses needed the stillness and calm after leading a great number of people out of slavery and then through a dessert. It’s in the peace that our hearts can settle, re-focus, and let go. There are no obligations or expectations, you can just be. You can just breathe.
Stage 2: After six days, God calls Moses by name from inside the cloud. I love the times when I have quieted my heart and surroundings so that I can hear the voice of God clearly in my mind. I’ve never heard his audible voice before, I can only imagine it being terrifying, but amazing. In the stillness it feels more like a tug or a thought that comes out of nowhere. If I’m rushing through prayers, the Bible, and life, I often miss his voice.
Maybe those six days for Moses were a prep time for what was to come (it doesn’t really say what happens, this is just my thought on it). But he had to climb the mountain, into the cloud before God spoke to him and gave him further instructions. It took an action step in obedience on Moses’ part to get himself in a place where God could speak to him intimately. We need that more than ever, don’t we? We need to fight for the time to sit and still our hearts so that we can discern God’s voice. This, I feel, is the key to great action, is first being quiet.
Stage 3: Everyone watching sees God’s glory come down on the mountain like a blaze of fire. If I were an Israelite watching all of this go down, I would probably be slightly fearful of what could happen to Moses. He is on a mountain that a fire from Heaven just crashed into. Yet Moses kept walking up to meet God.
Or maybe, it would be just the thing I would expect from God. After witnessing all that he had done through the plagues and parting the Red Sea, this might seem normal. I think I like this mindset better: to be expectant of God’s amazing and almighty power. To not be so surprised at his abilities, but pray specifically for them in their full capacity. It’s like Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians:
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
How would my life be different if I prayed and had faith in ALL that God is ALL the time? How much time would be spared of fear and worry if I fully trusted that my BIG and MIGHTY God could handle all that I prayed for and accomplish all of my needs or desires in amazing ways?
Stage 4: Moses ascends even further up the mountain, through the clouds, into God’s presence for 40 days and nights.
I love talking with people who are clearly seeking to climb their personal mountain to meet God. They are longing for their passions and his purpose to collide. Many times, I find myself in awe of the things God calls them to do. These leaps of faith they take, though crazy, are all tethered to God and he is providing for each and every step as they go along, trusting in him.
Witnessing other people be obedient to God’s sometimes (but usually) crazy calling, strengthens me to trust in him as well with my journey. When others walk boldly into a fire and cloud covered mountain in pursuit of God, I want to follow. I don’t want to just be a bystander. The excitement drowns out the fear. It’s in the cloud that we find God and I want to be close to God more than anything.
Do you find yourself at a particular stage? Are you a bystander, watching others follow after God, but you are stuck? Where is God calling you to be at right now? Do you need to be in the stillness for a time to renew and refocus? Do you need to surround yourself with people who are pursuing God and will encourage you to do the same? Do you need to take the step into God’s cloud, not always seeing exactly what is around you, but trusting that he is there?
Take a little time today to just be still and evaluate where you are at. There is no shame or guilt to be had with this, only grace. Quiet yourself and your surroundings so that God can swoop down like a blaze of fire onto your heart and stir you to where you need to go next. Listen, then do. It may take effort and accountability. It may seem crazy and outrageous. But you are tethered to a God who can do “infinitely more than we can hope or imagine.” Best of all, he loves you so much that he will never leave you to do it on your own.
P – Prayer:
God, thank you for your good Word today. I love being in a place that I can hear your voice. Forgive me for the times I rush through life and miss what you would really have me do. I know that it’s never as good as you would have intended. I don’t want to miss those blessings anymore. I long to climb the mountain into your presence. I long to be still and listen to where you would have me go.
I know that I’m not along in this and I pray for those who have that desire too. I pray that you would speak to each person today. Reveal where they are at and where you would have them be. Renew and refocus their faith so they can be obedient to you.
You can do so much more than we can think or imagine. Help us to be expectant of that. Help us to pray boldly for that! You are so good, and you do great things. Amen.