Wednesday 2nd September 2020
On the Mountain
Exodus 24: 9 – 18
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
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.
God manifests Himself within human history as Creator and Lord of all; acting in the realm of natural order but also in its upheaval as seen in the nature miracles of the Exodus plagues, the manna and quails and Sinai engulfed in a cloud. Mount Sinai is believed to be the mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt which tourists can ascend today to watch the sunrise.
In ancient times people believed that going to the top of a mountain was a way of being closer to God. Many years ago we journeyed to the summit of Vesuvius in Campania, Italy and found ourselves engulfed in the volcano’s cloud and smoke; akin perhaps to the experience of Moses as he received the tablets of stone. Mountain top experiences often give panoramic views of the expanse beneath; seeing the vastness of God’s creation and our humbleness before Him. We live in an age which remains sceptical of supernatural incursions by God into His universe, but in Biblical times as now, we have to accept that such phenomena are invested with a significance intended by God as revelation. Today’s world is one in which trust and faith in God is waning. How can we move closer to and rebuild our trust in Him? What mountains do we need to climb; to ascend to recapture the glory of a loving God? I believe that ultimately we must accept that God – not us – is in control; that to create a closer relationship with Him we must accept in faith that patience is a virtue; there is much that we can never see or comprehend – like Moses in that relentless cloud. We should find time and space to focus on God through Christ’s example – as Moses did on the mountaintop – in solitude and personal prayer; free of life’s distractions so that we can build that relationship in true humility.
“Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I look for you. For I cannot seek you unless first you teach me, nor find you unless first you reveal yourself to me.” (St. Ambrose (340-97)