It was the third day. The people had prepared themselves for the coming of God. They had been given very strict instructions – lines not to cross lest they die. In Exodus 19:16, we find the people of God awaiting his coming.
Come he did, along with thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and very loud trumpet blasts. Can you even imagine standing there?
There have been times in my life when the Lord has called me to do things that were very intimidating; uncomfortable; even scary. As I went full of fear, in that moment before I saw him, I remember how I felt. Although afraid, every second guess of why I should just forget it was silenced by two things: 1. knowing with absolute certainty his voice and 2. knowing I was prepared.
Knowing we have spiritually prepared ourselves before facing a spiritual event gives us confidence when we are afraid and do not understand what God is doing.
Have I prayed? Have I heard from God beforehand? Have I fasted? Have I waited for his instructions? Have I obeyed in as much as I already know? Am I continuously listening for Him?
If these answers are yes, that go time moment is far less dreadful.
Here, even the mountain was trembling. The trumpet was becoming increasingly loud. It was then that Moses spoke and God answered. He answered in thunder. The Lord came down onto the mountain and Moses alone went up to him.
Matthew Henry notes, “Now, at length, comes that memorable day, that terrible day of the Lord, that day of judgment, in which Israel heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, and lived…Now it was that the earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, and the mountains skipped like rams, that Sinai itself, though rough and rocky, melted from before the Lord God of Israel. Now it was that the mountains saw him, and trembled, and were witnesses against a hard-hearted unmoved people, whom nothing would influence.”
All this preparation, all this warning, all this waiting, all this fearful pre-meeting, and what does God tell Moses when he finally gets to the top of the mountain?
Hey, Moses! How are you old buddy? Let’s do lunch?!
No! God tells Moses to go back down and tell the people the very same things he has already thoroughly told them and warned them about.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and may of them perish.’ “ ~Exodus 19:21
Moses is still huffing and puffing from climbing the mountain. He has to be like, um, God. You already told them that stuff. You made me draw lines and limits around the mountain before I came up, remember? We prepared our garments. We did not go near our wives. Remember, God? We already did that.
Now. We can infer a couple things here. One, God was very serious about his instructions. Two, God doesn’t mind sending us back to do the same things over and over if they are imperative. And three, God cares a whole lot about people. He does not want to see them needlessly die because they are disobedient. God is willing to run his messengers up and down mountains in order to save His people from sin.
“And the Lord said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.’ “ ~Exodus 19:24
God does not even answer when Moses makes the point that what he is instructing has already been done. In fact, he says it a third time. God tells Moses to go get Aaron and bring him up, and, oh, by the way, Moses, don’t let the people near here or I will kill them.
God is pretty serious. God has a way of doing things. He has an order. He has specific methods and he expects obedience. If there is anything we learn from this passage, it is that God wants things done His way and he wants us to be involved.
God could have told Moses to bring Aaron with him before Moses got to the top of the mountain. That is not the way God wanted this thing done. This is God’s way. If I were Moses, I would probably be thinking, “Wow. I just climbed up this mountain in obedience and now I have to go right back down and get Aaron and say what I already said and come right back up…why didn’t God just tell me in the first place. I don’t understand this.”
Sounds just like something a Dad would do, doesn’t it? God’s ways are not our ways. But isn’t it just like him to test us; to test our obedience and our faith; to meet us only to send us away to get others who need to come to Him as well? These are the kinds of things God does while we are standing around scratching our heads trying to understand why he chose to do them in the unusual ways he so often does.
“So Moses went down to the people and told them.” ~Exodus 19:25
Moses obeyed. Moses did not argue with God. He told God he had obeyed and God said, obey again. So he did, and this, for the sake of everyone else and their extremely important adherence to God’s very particular instructions here.
God’s methods are often hard to understand. His ways are not our ways. He uses these kind of things to test our faith, to test our obedience, to see if we’re listening, to know if we’re faithful.
And he already knows those answers. It is we who need to know for ourselves how faithful or faithless we really are.
Do not be discouraged if you spend a considerable amount of time preparing to do exactly what God commands and when you get there he sends you back down the mountain to do the same things you just got done doing. He may want someone else to come meet him along with you. He wants everyone to obey. It is in these times that he is using you, just like he was using Moses. Moses is about to see the glory of God. He would not have seen it apart from his amazing obedience to God’s specific instructions.
“Note, in divine things we must not covet to know more than God would have us know; and he has allowed us as much as is good for us. A desire of forbidden knowledge was the ruin of our first parents. Those that would be wise above what is written, and intrude into those things which they have not seen, need this admonition, that they break not through to gaze.” ~Matthew Henry