The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
Dear God, this is one of those scenes that reminds me of the proverb of the blind men touching different parts of an elephant and then describing an elephant to someone. There are a lot of people involved in this story, and each one has a different perspective:
- Moses: He is the one that went into the fire and saw you up close. He got to be in the loop and have first-hand knowledge of you. But he didn’t know what it was like to just see a mountain with cloud and fire, not knowing what was going on. He was just trying to figure out what you wanted him to do and getting to know you better. And he was getting several chapters worth of instructions from you down to some pretty specific details.
- Joshua: He went only so far, but not all of the way with Moses. He saw some special stuff. He probably heard more than the Israelites did. But he didn’t see everything Moses saw. He had a unique experience.
- Aaron and Hur: Moses left them in charge. They were caught between watching Moses and Joshua disappear onto the mountain, seeing the cloud and fire, and then having to manage the people–mainly being their judge–while Moses was away.
- The elders: They were in a unique form of leadership. They were watching Moses and Joshua disappear, witnessing the cloud and fire, and then submitting to the two men Moses left in charge. We don’t know how they felt about Aaron, but we know that they will feel leaderless after several days and demand that Aaron build them a god (Exodus 32). But from their perspective, they were coming from a world where they probably didn’t have much faith and gods were tangible inanimate objects, the person that seemed to be leading them and talking to you was missing into a cloud of fire for over a month, and they apparently felt lost. It’s hard for me to imagine how seeing a golden calf would make me feel better about my situation, but there was obviously something about it that helped them. Almost like a child’s security blanket or a prized stuffed animal. You and I know that the security blanket and stuffed animal don’t offer any real protections, but there is something about its presence that is reassuring to a child. The same is apparently true for the Israelites in this story. Come to think of it, what is it about cows (sacred cows?) that people find worthy of worship? I think that Hindus have a special place for cows as well. Hmm. Interesting tangent for another day.
- You (God): Yes, you are a witness to this whole thing as well. You saw your interaction with Moses. You saw Joshua, Aaron, Hur, the elders, and the people all respond to this situation. You know what was in each one’s heart. And like the parent who can see things that their small child cannot see, you could and still can see things that we cannot see. You know more than we know. You understand more than we understand. You also are capable of loving us more than we are capable of loving you.
Father, once again the theme of what I seem to be learning through these times with you is that my knowledge of the past, present, and future is so limited. Faith is something that is not only recommended for a relationship with you and a life spent worshipping you–it is a requirement. So please give me the faith I need to have to let go of my own wisdom and simply trust in you. Whether it be in how I manage my own life or try to have input into others, please guide me beyond my own wisdom (a.k.a. foolishness) and into your peace.
In Jesus’s name I pray,