Fellowship @Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Preparing for One’s Wedding with the Divine…
7/6/3; ed. 5/31/15
Introduction…What does it take to get into or find the presence of God… His real, intimate presence? Is there a bit of holiness or Spiritual cleansing that needs to take place? And if so, what does that look like?
Within this account of Yahweh and his bride Israel’s wedding, there is a sense of sacred awe surrounding God’s holy mountain.
Does God’s Spirit still do this with us, either the very first time, by faith, when we enter into an eternal covenant with God or even on a daily, seasonal or moment by moment basis? Do we the church, the bride, still need our dirty feet washed to enjoy intimacy with our Groom?
If so, what could or does this look like right now? Today? What does it take for you to feel or enjoy the presence and power of God? Worship? Music? A song? Prayer? Confession? His word? The community of the faithful? Perhaps different things at different times? But what works most of the time? How does it feel? Do you like this feeling? Would you like it more often? How might you better prepare to be in the presence of your Divine Love?
General Introduction: Led by God, Moses is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers many seven centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems.
Israel sings out its praise to Yahweh for his delivering of Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s fast-pursuing forces. Ex. 15:1ff.
After healing Marah’s bitter waters so that Israel’s need for water is met, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.
Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.
In turn, along with the introduction of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, Yahweh meets his complaining children’s desperate needs with the remarkable daily provision of manna. Ex. 16:19-36.
Via the staff Yahweh had provided Moses with, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and the warring Amalekites. Ex. 17:1ff.
In her desert journey to her Promise Land, Israel has her first ally, Moses’ father-in-law and apparently an important Midianite priest. Ex. 18:1ff.
With Jethro’s obvious observation of his son-in-law’s impossible workload in attempting to shepherd several million people, he advises his son-in-law to set up an appellate hierarchical administration of honest, non-corruptible leaders to administer justice amongst the people. Ex. 18:13ff.
This week the spiritual couple (God and Israel) are set to tie the knot.
Read Passage several times…(if more than 12 verses, I would read only twice).
Exod. 19:1 In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt –on the very day –they came to the Desert of Sinai.
Three months later? Where is the desert of Sinai? Is this where Moses met with God at the burning bush? Is this a special place? Have we come full circle? For Moses? And God’s plan for his people or bride Israel to begin with? So nothing has been an accident since Moses’ birth, survival, having left Egypt for having killed the Egyptian, to being a shepherd for forty years, to stumbling on the burning bush, to returning to Egypt, being the effective agent for Yahweh’s releasing the ten plagues upon the Egyptians? Miraculously leaving Egypt, and now having survived for these past three months in the desert wilderness? Nothing has been an accident. All God’s perfect design?
2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
Is there only one mountain here or are we talking about a specific mountain—“the mountain”?
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
Jacob and Israel are both names for the same person, their forefather, Abraham’s grandson, the father of Joseph and his brothers, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. God changed Jacob, “the Heal’s” name after Jacob tirelessly wrestled with God one night, or the angel of God, and then finally asked for the blessing, thus “Israel” means “one who wrestles with God and survives,” or something like this…So the “heal” or “deceiver” becomes the “wrestler” or “survivor”?
4 `You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
“Eagle’s wings” seems to be a powerful metaphor. This is similar to the prophetic provision of Israel during the Tribulation in Rev 12. To myself…to this spot? What is about to take place?
5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
What covenant? What is a covenant? A treaty? Contract? Agreement? Why did God want a “treasure possession” out of all the nations? Why just one nation? Why a special nation? Sounds a little exclusive to me? And yet there are conditions as well…
6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Not just a few priests or one high priest, but a whole kingdom of priests?
Will everyone be a priest? What does this mean, especially in light of that within the Law only a certain few descendent from Moses’ brother Aaron, both of whom are descended from Jacob or Israel’s son, Levi, and therefore the tribe of Levi?
Did God want everyone to be a priest? Why? How?
Would they all offer sacrifices?
Why did God not allow everyone to be a priest to begin with? Why only a few? Why only one high priest?
Why priests at all? What is a priest for? What does a priest do? Does he offer sacrifices? For what? People’s sins, wrongs?
Why offer a sacrifice for something I have done wrong? Is this like paying a traffic fine today since Israel was a theocracy governed by God instead of a democracy governed by men… or a kingdom governed by a king?
So not only would the offender or law breaker make restitution to the one he had wronged, but he also had to confess/offer a sacrifice for his own wrong or sin to God?
So, this seems to imply that when a person sins or breaks a law of God, not only has he wronged the offended, but he has also wronged God, and therefore both offended parties needed to be addressed?
And this is what priests do? They coordinate the nation’s, perhaps thousand of daily sacrifices? They are acknowledging the sin against both, via a real tangible cost or sacrifice?
I suppose this served as a strong deterrent to doing the wrong again, if sins were truly acknowledged?
On the other hand, did people really confess their sins to God? I suppose if they really believed in God or feared him, they would.
Bottom line: this is the goal–someday, God intends that all men will serve as a priests administering sacrifices to God? What kind of sacrifices? Animal or something else? Acts or deeds of kindness or obedience, as suggested within the NT (1 Peter 1; Rev. 1)?
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak.
God’s mediator approaches the people via their elders or leaders?
8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
So just as vows are exchanged within a marriage ceremony or a swearing in, Israel, through its leadership now agrees to enter into a covenant with their generous Benefactor, Redeemer and Deliverer? Israel’s says, “I Do” to her Divine Groom?
9 The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.
Why did God want the people to trust or follow Moses? What was so special about Moses, the man? Accountability? But could Moses be trusted? Evidently God felt so. Can all leaders be trusted? Doubtful. How do you know which ones?
10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes
Is this like a wedding ceremony? What does “consecrate” mean? Make holy? Clean? Pure? Spiritually clean or acceptable to God? Without sin? Without taint of evil or earthliness? Is this done ritually or via the heart or both? And why is this so important? Because God can’t enter into a covenant with a ritually unclean bride?
11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
Why three days? To give the people time to prepare?
12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, `Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.
Why does God not want them to come close to the mountain? Is this to show that God is powerful and that they are to trust Moses? If not, then they could claim to follow any leader, which is what exactly happens today—not God’s appointed or designated or ordained leaders, but man’s chosen or a self-declared leader, who may be NO leader at all?
Is this separation an illusion to God’s perfect holiness? No sin? No evil? No profanity or commonness tainted by man’s deceptively evil ways whatsoever?
13 He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.”
Yahweh is serious here.
So was the nation to do this to anyone who got near the mountain or went over the prescribed boundary? And how did one know exactly where the foot of the mountain was?
And why were they not to touch the transgressor? Even a wandering animal? Even accidentally?
Then how close could the people come? Beyond the initial boundary after the ram’s horn is sounded? And why then?
14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes.
How did Moses consecrate them? Via a prayer of blessing? Some questions as to their preparedness? A symbolic anointing of elders?
Who? Israelites, Moses, God, LORD, Jacob, people of Israel, all the nations, kingdom of priests, elders, whoever, he, man or animal…
Where? Left Egypt, Desert of Sinai, Rephedim, in the desert in front of the mountain, on eagle’s wings, to myself, whole earth, went back, before them, back to the Lord, in a dense cloud, in you, to the people, come down on Mount Sinai, in the sight of all the people, around the mountain, foot of it, on him, to the mountain, down the mountain
When? In the third month after the Israelites had left Egypt, on the very day, after they set out from Rephedim, then Moses went up, always, then Moses, today and tomorrow, by the third day, on that day, only when the ram’s horn sounds, after Moses had gone down…
Edward Lear (1812-1888); Arabs approaching Mount Sinai
• Three months after leaving Egypt, Israel camps in front of God’s mountain—the mountain where God first met Moses. 1-2
• God calls Moses up on the mountain where he tells him to tell the people of Israel if they are faithful to keep his covenant, they will be his treasure possession out of all the nations and he will make them an entire nation of priests to serve the world. 3-6
• Moses goes back and tells this to the elders. Representing the people they agree to this arrangement. Moses then takes this answer back to God. 7-8
• Then God tells Moses to get the people ready or consecrated to enter into covenant in three days; They are to wash themselves and their clothes and no one is to come close the mountain until the ram’s horn is sounded. 9-13
• Moses takes these instructions back to the people where they get ready to meet the Lord. 14
Summary…At the base of God’s mountain, Moses goes back and forth between Divine Groom and human bride or Yahweh God and his people, preparing them to enter into a sacred covenant or contractual relationship with a holy God.
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• God’s wants to enter into a relationship with his people. God wants a relationship with his people.
• But he wants it to be a faithful one…a holy one…a true one. One in which both parties are faithful to one another and to the agreement.
• God is holy, perfect and if we want to be in relationship or covenant with him and therefore enjoy both his loyal protection loving mercy, we must be Spiritually cleansed, as a bride bathes herself before her wedding. She wants to be at her absolute best for her loving groom, and so it has always been with his children. It’s just that we are now cleansed, once for all, through His Son’s atoning sacrifice and death for our rotten, sinful imperfection, and we are continually being bathed by His Spirit who dwells in us both individually and as a Body and seeks to by his word, prayer and the Body of Christ, encourage, teach, convict and discipline us.
• God’s ultimate desire for his Creature is to make him a kingdom of holy priests bringing Spiritually acceptable sacrifices of love, praise, truth and steadfast hope to him.
• In this case, God validates his leadership by using Moses as a mediator of the covenant agreement and ceremony; within the New Covenant, which replaces the Old, Christ and his death has become the mediator of a new covenant of forgiveness.
July 2003’s Previous Week’s Application…
Struggle? Major concern for the moment…only for this moment…is my grass. This may seem trivial to some. But it is important to me for the following reasons. I over-seeded and fertilized the Bermuda seed over the rye grass in the outfield just over a couple of weeks ago. Therefore the seed did not have as much access to the soil as it normally would have. The seed is so light and would have landed softly on the rye grass. So we mowed it to further spread the seed. Then the rains stopped and we just had to depend upon our in ground water system (thank God for that).
Now I have to go on vacation for two weeks. Which is not too bad, except for the fact that I have the sides/ foul lines and in front of the church to plant as well and will have to manually water these sections.
Because the seedbed needs to be lightly water 3-6 times a day, this is a lot of work and water management, moving hoses and sprinklers. It will require constant attention until the seed bed is established, which should take about three plus weeks.
Add to this that the ground has to be prepared/scratched, and at some point in time, some rocks picked up.
Finally all the seed needs to be planted by the end of July/the first of August. The seed also needs 70 degree nights to properly germinate, and this has been the coolest summer in quite some time (hardly any 70 degree night so far through June).
[Note: this has certainly been the case in May 2015.]
So bottom line, I have seedbed that needs to be properly prepared. I have seed that needs to be critically watered. I need heat. I need lots of water…and water moved around properly and constantly. Or it all waits again to next year…which can happen.
That’s why giving up two weeks in July for vacation is tough, but this is the only time Rhonda can go because of her job. She would stay, but I can’t do that to her nieces and nephew. Since we only get to see them once or twice a year because they live in California. We really need to go.
Well that is my seemingly trivial concern made large to me.
Truth? Joe, God knows your need. He will provide your daily needs and not before.
Application? Can you trust him? Can you trust him with respect to your Sabbath rest. We have not taken any time off in two years besides an occasional weekend—which I am trying to do better at, utilizing my assistant pastor to teach more.
It is time to go. Trust me, Joe. No matter what happens. Can you trust me with an almost blind faith? Can you rest in me? No matter what happens? Whether the grass grows or not, whether the seed germinates or not? Whether the rocks are picked up or not? Whether there is rain or not? Whether it is warm enough or not? Whether there is enough water or time or help or not? Can you trust me?
Yes, Lord. I can and must. I place this field, its preparation, its seed, its water, its temperature in your hands…succeed or fail. It belongs to you. I hope to achieve my objective within the timetable I desire, but if you see fit not to, I will accept your will. It’s your field LORD, not mine. And you know when you want the family of God to play on it and not a moment sooner.
Note: Below is an interesting historical look at what was going through my crazy mind 12 years ago, one year after we had finished completing the construction on our new church home. Apparently, I was trying to hectically get out of town for much-desired rest.
July 2003 This (Chaotic) Week’s Application:
Struggle? Just a lot going on trying to get out of town for our vacation.
Two years ago when we were going on the same trip, one of my good friends and neighbor had a stroke as we were driving through Arizona.
About week or week and half later he died, and I came back to do the funeral.
Yesterday, I got a couple of phone calls asking for urgent prayer requests.
One involved one of our members who had fallen in the night, broken their hip and was about to have surgery.
Another involved a family whose son had just had a major car accident and was not expected to live.
So I start to make phone calls.
No one is home.
I try to leave several messages.
At the same time, I am trying to finish this lesson before I leave, knowing that I will not have internet access up in the mountains of eastern Arizona on the Apache Indian Reservation this weekend.
In addition, I have a call out to a friend to see if they can stop by and advise me on my Bermuda grass situation–is it germinating or not after three weeks?.
Then the bottom of the refrierator is full of water for about the fourth time in the last 3-4 weeks.
I decide to switch out this 20-year old refrigerator for Reggie’s 7-year old one at the church which she has offered to give me.
When I go over to try to do it, Jordan and I, in our rush, try to load it vertically into the back of the truck. We lose it, I destroy a good frig when it falls to the ground and I cut my hand up in the process.
Having destroyed the frig, I go back home, clean up and go up to the hospital—Jordan will just have to mop up until we can get someone to look at it.
Then it is back home, I work on the lesson and then back to the ball field.
Good news, the grass is finally beginning to germinate, but I don’t need to fertilize today-it is too soon.
I fix a water zone that is not working and a couple of sprinkler heads.
We discuss procuring some water tanks to increase water pressure.
Then off to home church and Hebrews 7—I will be gone the next two weeks.
I end up staying at home church to help them get through a tough Bible study.
At the same time we are monitoring the hip surgery recovery at the hospital via some inside nursing.
For a moment it does not look good.
Good news on young man in the accident.
Situation upgraded for the moment; brain damage still a possibility.
We have a great home church. It goes late.
Begin packing at around 1 am.
Bed at 3 am.
Up at 8 am.
Finish this lesson.
Think about mixing and planting some more grass out front,
A dentist appointment at 11:30.
My son is off to his baseball tournament in Nevada, Mo.,
Check on patient at hospital.
Rhonda has a dentist appointment 2:30,
We finish packing up the car.
Get on road.
Drive through the night.
Arrive in Arizona late in the morning.
(There were a few other things I did leave out.)
You get the general idea.
When you try to leave town, everything seems to suddenly become hectic.
Truth? I would like to say something spiritually sensitive–like God desires Spiritual intimacy with me.
And in fact I did preach a message towards that end on this passage several years ago, but I don’t quite feel like that today.
I certainly did not feel like that yesterday.
And yet, in the midst of this somewhat controlled chaos, I suppose I am meeting with Him, via finishing this application, before I attempt this day as I am leaving town.
Application? So what is my application?
To thank God for this early morning quiet with him… before the day’s potential chaos.
Prayerfully, hopefully because of this quiet, I hope that this day, as I seek to leave town, may not feel as chaotic.
Father, I have paused in front of your holy mountain, as I did last night in home church, via Hebrews 7, and stopped to ask how has the
Greater, You, blessed the lesser, me, even today, and it was certainly rich.
Thanks for allowing friends to help out, for Reggie not getting mad at me for my stupidity in dropping her frig, for Neal stopping by and giving me the good news on my seeds’ germination, for Roger replacing my broken truck tape player, for my son helping to set up my computer and sound system in the car so the girls could watch videos, for MJ calling and telling me about Coach breaking his hip, for MA putting on a great supper spread for home church, for all the love, concern and participation shown to one another at home church.
Despite the chaos, despite my stupidity, despite my panic, you were inviting me to stop and meet me in your place of worship, your holy, sacred mountain.
O God, I need your help, for another day.
Coach and Ralpha need your help as well.
So does this young man and his family.
So do a lot of others God.
Please be merciful.
Please invite us to stop by your holy mountain in the midst of our desert chaos.
Please draw us alone unto yourself and give us your peace, your security, your love, your strength.
In Jesus name, I ask for your blessing, Lord. Amen.
Thanks…I am alive. I have had some wonderful personal meetings/counseling appointments this week. More blessed than I deserved. I was also surprised by how many were at church this past Sunday. I figured everyone would be gone for the holiday, but apparently that was not true. In the midst of what has seemed a soft May, and no doubt giving-wise, it has been, we have several nicely-attended Sundays, with Cru having arrived for the summer. The students always bring such a much-desired emotional lift and enthusiasm. Thanks, God. We also have two special classical concerts scheduled for Fellowship this upcoming month, as well as, a special family wedding. So a lot is still going on, which I am thankful for.
And I am continuing to trudge forward with respect to Sustainable Love. Currently prosing out my “agape” outlines from 2011. While it is not as easy I had hoped—apparently, when it comes to me, outlines are easier than prose—I am making progress, and I am almost at the end of this section of Sustainable Love’s Nail that needed prosing…that is, how the Bible’s Hebrew and Greek words for love contributed to our understanding of love. It has been good. Basically, ahab…attraction… or the general Hebrew term for love is strengthened by the Hebrew term for Yahweh God’s covenantal or contractual favor and mercy, primarily for Israel, but also for individuals, such as Abraham and David. When God enters into a covenant with you, he is both fiercely loyal, as well as, incredibly patient and merciful. So in essence via, checed, love or attraction matures. Then add to this the metaphor of “of the Spirit” or Spiritual, in the New Testament, and broken human love has healed or redeemed for supernatural or divine purposes once again. God redeems humans’ fallen attraction for one another with his Spiritual loyalty and favor and mercy directed towards those with whom he has entered into an eternal covenant with. Bottom line: God loves us as his children, and his parental loyalty and mercy protects us as we are maturing under the divine, ongoing tutelage of his Spirit. And as his children, we Spiritually grow, learn and mature, as we seek to better learn how to love our Spiritual siblings in Christ. The family context is unmistakable. And I just love restudying and reframing hundreds of uses of love, mercy and kindness within the Scriptures in simple applicable terms. It makes perfect sense to me, and I hope I can do that for others. I am rich in Christ and his Spirit, and so are you…
Struggle…Energy…it comes and goes.
Truth…That God, through his Son and Spirit, much as he did with Israel, does call us, comes and get us, redeems from our human bondage to sin and self-centeredness and in so doing prepares us to enter into a holy covenant or marriage with him, and that somehow someway, there is this cleansing or detoxification of us his bride before he enters into this wonderfully holy and pure relationship with him forever. He wants relationship with me…with us, but not without holiness or purity or Spiritual cleanness. The relationship has to be genuine, not fake, not filthy. And that is the great paradox, riddle and problem—how does God do this? Love what was formerly filthy? Redemption. He cleanses his bride. He prepares for intimacy with himself. But to do this, I…we must be clean. And how does he do this today? His Spirit. Truth. Confession. Prayer. Honesty. Brutal honesty. At the foot of his holy mountain, His Spirit using his inspired words, my brutal honesty and prayer within the community of the faithful washes my dirty feet (John 13) again and again, so that I can be clean…holy with my Holy Maker.
Application…Spirit, at the base of my Father’s Holy mountain, clean my dirty, tired mind, body and feet once again, so that I may come into your presence and experience my Divine Love’s intimate presence and joy. May I both rest and labor within your presence, for your glory and with your wisdom and strength. My flawed life, mind and body I entrust to YOU. May these next sixty hours plus be glorious for your Name.
Joseph M. Cross
Your student’s struggles?
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.