faith · family · learn

40, a Lent devotional: days on Mount Sinai

Text: Exodus 24, 32, 34

Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. Twice. We know that during this time, he was meeting with God. God gave him the specifications for the ark of the covenant and the temple spaces. God wrote on tablets of stone all the law and His covenant with His people.

Meanwhile, back at the desert, the people were restless and needed something to worship.

It’s a frightening idea that we can cause God’s wrath. Our sins are often committed in a bubble of sorts. We forget their consequences and long lasting effects on others. We forget that everything we do has ripple effects. Or if we do remember, we decide that we are more important than any of those people or things. We are hard-hearted and selfish. Before we start judging how wicked the people of Israel, we have to remember we see ourselves in them.

It was Moses who went to bat for his people. He begged God to forgive and he said something startling, something I hadn’t caught the first few times and definitely don’t remember hearing in Sunday School. All I remember from Sunday School was Moses coming down with two tablets with the ten commandments neatly printed on them. But the story clearly states in Exodus 32 that Moses said this, “O, this people have sinned. They have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin. If not, then take my name out of Your book which You have written.” He earlier appealed to God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He “changed” God’s mind.

After 40 days and 40 nights, Moses labored another 40 days and 40 nights to record God’s law. He put himself in harm’s way. He found favor in God’s sight. His face, after basking in God’s Glory, was shining brightly, radiating the Shekinah Glory, the very essence of God Himself. And while Moses was with God, in the most intimately profound ways a human could be, his people were worshipping other things. They were restless, not willing to wait, not remembering the One who provided for them time and time again. And God could have wiped out the entire nation. But Moses, the one time savior, said take me. He laid down his life for them, he wanted mercy for these selfish, adulterous people, his people.

But the people got confused. When Moses wasn’t there, they didn’t know where to turn for their savior. They made Moses into their god, replacing the true God Moses merely represented. And Moses let them down. Or so they thought. They had placed their trust in him.

But God in His goodness accepted the sacrifice. Moses pleaded and reminded God of His promises. Moses put himself in between the wrath of God and the people of Israel, so that God renewed His covenant with them and gave them another chance, another tablet, another day to worship the true and living God. And it bought them some time…

Questions:

In what areas of your life are you tempted to stray? When people you depend on fail you, when things aren’t going quite the way you expect them to, where do you go for comfort? What thoughts do you entertain as possible methods of comforting yourself or putting your faith in something more tangible than your current faith? You probably never built a golden calf or even made a shrine. But there are shrines in your heart. There are “alternatives” to your commitment to the One True God. What are your idols?

What things have your heart and mind? Are you easily distracted from knowing and meditating on God’s laws? Are you discontent in your present circumstances? Are you growing impatient? What precautions do you have in place to keep you from sinning?

Consider this. Meditate on it. God has written your name in His book. You were on the verge of having your name blotted out from it, but like a greater Moses, Jesus stood in your place, taking the wrath of God on himself, so that your name will not be blotted out. But your sins will be. “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear.” Rev. 3

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