Friday, May 4, 2012
Exodus 19:20-25 God's Further Instructions to Moses
"The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai
and called Moses to the top of the mountain.
So Moses went up and the LORD said to him,
'Go down and warn the people
so that they do not force their way through to see the LORD
and many of them perish.
Even the priests, who approach the LORD,
must consecrate themselves,
or the LORD will break out against them.'
Moses said to the LORD,
'The people cannot come up Mount Sinai,
because you yourself warned us,
"Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy." '
The LORD replied,
'Go down and bring Aaron up with you.
But the priests and the people must not force their way through
to come up to the LORD,
or he will break out against them.'
So Moses went down to the people and told them."
Exodus 19:20-25 (NIV)
The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to approach. When Moses arrived at the top of the mountain, he was instructed to go back down again. (!) This was because the LORD wanted Moses to warn the people again against trying to force their way up the mountain to see the LORD. Even the priests, who normally officiated at sacrifices, were instructed to consecrate themselves, or they would face the wrath of the LORD.
Let me just take a moment to say that the LORD was not some wrathful God who was just awaiting to devour some poor soul who was trying to approach Him. If He were, He would not have bothered to tell Moses that he needed to warn the people again, so that no one would dare attempt to approach on their own initiative. It was just that He knew that sinful men and women could not stand before a holy God and live, even if their intentions were honorable and they just wanted to see God. God also knew that the barriers which had been erected against such casual approach would be an almost irresistible attraction to some rebellious hearts.
Moses says something like, "But we already warned the people and set the mountain apart as holy." It was true, but the LORD repeated His instructions, and Moses has to go down and warn everybody again.
Moses obeys God and returns to tell the people what the LORD told him to say. [At least Moses is invited to bring Aaron with him when he has to turn around and go back up again.] However, it seems that before he is quite able to go up again, God begins speaking to the multitude from the top of the mountain, for in the next passage, we will see that Moses is still at the foot of the mountain with the people when the LORD begins to give the Ten Commandments. In a way this is very appropriate. Moses and Aaron are the leaders which God has appointed, but they and all the people are on equal footing (physically and spiritually) when the Law is given.