It’s not too often that I find a passage in the Old Testament that just jumps up and grabs me. The problem with only teaching from the New Testament for me is that it doesn’t remind us of God’s history with us in the same way that studying the Old Testament does. So, I decided to look at this particular passage and look at a bit of our history. Maybe you will also see something relevant for your life.
It’s interesting that this is the second time Moses had been up to the mountain to receive the commandments from God. If you remember a little of your Bible history, Moses had already been up on the mountaintop with God and had been given the law that the people were to live by. That first trip took Moses a few days longer than what the people expected and they became impatient. When they didn’t want to wait any longer, they put together their gold, melted it and built a golden calf to worship. As this was going on, God told Moses that the people were creating a false idol to worship and God would now destroy the Israelites. Moses intervened on behalf of the people and changed God’s mind towards the people. But Moses had a bit of a temper himself – when he saw – he already had heard about it – but now he saw the golden calf – when he saw what the people had done he threw the tablets at the foot of the mountain and shattered them! So, Moses has to go up the mountain – again – and bring two more tablets, and spend some more alone time with God.
I know this is a creative description of what might have happened when Moses received the tablets, but let’s remember – he was just another human being! A common guy that had his faults and problems, but one that God chose to use in a very powerful way.
So what happened after Moses came face to face with God. Twice Moses had been in the very presence of God to receive the commandments. In the first account there is no description of his face shining or any other difference noted about Moses. In fact, as I stated a minute ago, he was the same temperamental guy after he came down from the mountain the first time as he was when he was a young man. But the second time he went to the mountain of the Lord, something was different about him. His brother Aaron and all the Israelite’s knew this the minute they looked at him because his face shone. Have you ever had something extraordinary happen and found yourself unable to fully comprehend what is going on, so you get stuck on the irrelevant details?
The story is told about a man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt one day. After a while he managed to shoot a duck and it fell in the lake. The dog walked over the water, picked up the duck, and brought it to his master. The man was stunned. He didn’t know what to think. He shot another duck and again, it fell into the lake and again the dog walked over the water and brought it back to his master. Hardly daring to believe his eyes, and not wanting to be thought a total fool, he told no-one about it – but the next day he called his neighbor to come shooting with him. As on the previous day he shot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked over the water and got it. His neighbor didn’t say a word. Several more ducks got shot that day – and each time the dog walked over the water to retrieve them – and each time the neighbor said nothing and neither did the owner of the dog. Finally – unable to contain himself any longer the owner asked his neighbor – “do you notice anything strange about my dog??”
Yes – replied the neighbor – rubbing his chin and thinking a bit – come to think of it I do – your dog doesn’t know how to swim…”
I think the neighbor missed the point!
Why do we people have such a problem seeing God in the everyday moments of our lives?
“Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant* in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” – Exodus 34:29-35