Monday, May 05, 2014

God As An Active Participant In Our Obedience To Him -- Exodus 19:1-3


In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.  When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.  And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:”
 
Before we get into the content of this section, I want for a moment to reflect some more about Zipporah, Moses’ Midianite wife who bore him two sons.  The Jewish Women’s Archive website (http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/zipporah-bible) suggests that Moses’ neglect of Zipporah is obvious.  The site argues that it is Moses (not God) that tells the men at Sinai not to approach any women in preparation for God’s approach in three days (Exod 19:2).   They go on to say, that “since he himself is apparently always in preparation for meeting with God, we can infer that he never sleeps with Zipporah.”  And I guess that amounts to spousal neglect.  This is another one of those things that we will never know.  Poor Zipporah seems to not be able to redeem herself in the eyes of anyone. 
Returning to our current passage of scripture, we note that they have now been “out of Egypt” at least two months.  The phrase, “on that very day” may refer to the “first day of” the third month or “a particular day in” the third month.  Commentator Robert Jamieson suggests it is, in accordance, with Jewish usage, a reference to the “first day” of the month.  This becomes significant as commentators try to relate the “giving of the Law” and the date of origin of Israel’s charter of incorporation as a nation to a set number of days after they left Egypt. More on that later.  At any rate, that is the date they entered the wilderness of Sinai, having left Rephidim.  They camped in front of the mountain Sinai that gave its name to the wilderness before it.
The text says that while the Israelites camped there, “Moses went up to God”.  Most commentators agree that in “going up to God” Moses was responding to a calling from God to go to Him and at the very least, Moses was being led by God up the mountain to Himself, as the phrase “went up to God” may be suggesting.  I am reminded of our grandchildren who live with us.  Sometimes after dinner, when they have taken their dirty plates to the kitchen, one or more of them run downstairs to finish their homework, play or continue watching a movie they were viewing, etc.  And often, in their rush to get to what is important to them, they do not always do a great job of clearing their plates (e.g. throwing serviettes in the trash rather than leaving them on the dirty plate, etc.).  It is at that time, one of the adults calls down, “Gabrielle (or Naomi or Elijah), come back up here and clear your plates.”  Other times one of their parents may want to tell them something important before they get into their ‘other stuff’.  The grandchildren are called to come upstairs or we could say, ‘led into coming’ upstairs.  So, it is in that sense, that perhaps Moses was being led by God to go up the mountain to Him.  The fact that God spoke to him right away and gave him instructions also support the notion of Moses being “called” to go up to God.
Moses was up the mountain, but had not reached God.  The text says that God called to him from the mountain (implying God was ‘in the mountain’).  As Moses obeyed the direction God had given him to go and meet with Him up the mountain, God wastes no time in speaking to him and giving him further instructions. God is an active participant in our relationship with Him and He does more than meet us halfway.
God’s instructions to Moses are very specific.  “Thus you shall say.”  There’s no wiggle room here.  There’s no “say it whatever way you want to, Moses, but get the point across” here.  There’s no room for interpretation here – “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel.”  And there’s no opportunity for refusing to do so – “you shall say”.  Oftentimes we try to take what God has said and what He wants us to share or say to others and we water it down.  We are not the first to do that.  You will remember that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was.  He told Eve, “God did not say you shall surely die.”  Ah, but He did.  Let those of us who are teachers or preachers or leaders be careful not to misstate or misinterpret God.  Worse still, may none of us refuse to obey His specific instructions to us.
Let us also not make assumptions on what God may have intended to say, but left unsaid.  We cannot speak for God if He chose not to speak for Himself on a topic.  As convenient as that may be to our goals, God did not consider it necessary for His puposes.  If God did not say something, let us not make it a basic tenet of His church.  That simply divides people when it was God’s will that we be united.
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