Quinquagesima Sunday Morning Prayer (14 February 2021)
A. SERMON -- preface and introduction.
A FEW WEEKS AGO, WHEN I WAS ABLE TO PREACH HERE, I USED A TEXT FROM THE EPISTLE Romans 15.4-13
WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Psalm 19, More to be desired than gold.
Proverbs 16:16 How much better to acquire wisdom than gold
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. So we are in the Church Age, often referred to as the Age of Grace, thus we have had the completed Canon of Scripture, the Bible, available for many centuries. The Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and the other writings in the NT bring us into a fuller understanding of God, of Trinity, of Sacrifice than believers in the OT had, although we do have some lovely prophesise such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 regarding the One who would suffer for us. He came. He accomplished. He is risen and glorified. He is coming again!
But there are essential lessons for us. God is God, humans are human!
Illustrated in history past. Recorded in the Bible for us.
Note: This Sunday we have Moses in the Holy Mountain,
Remember that this was in the Old Testament, before Jesus Christ came to Bethlehem. So we have Older Covenant, and we have the so-called Law of Moses is well under way of being written down, and the Israelites are in the wilderness, these aspects mentioned by Chris Thomas last Sunday. But we in the Church Age now live under the New Covenant.
Covenant theology is a subject on its own! Maybe refresh yourselves regarding the Adamic C, the Noahic C, the Mosaic C (comes in our chapter today, the Davidic C, the New C.
Superb lessons from each of them.
Faith in the true LORD God, as we know, embraces people of all periods, depending on their response to God, and His truths.
B. SERMON -- main body thereof.
1. Israel had been delivered from bondage in Egypt.
2. Israel was on a journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
3. And yes, many happenings occurred, many lessons learned or not learned.
Let us focus a bit on the Old Testament Passage,
God addressing Moses in Exodus 20.
Exodus 20: And God spake all these words, saying.
2. I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (followed by the rest of the first giving of the Decalogue.)
EXODUS 24. And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.
2 And Moses alone shall come near the Lord: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.
3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord,
and all the judgments:
and all the people answered with one voice, and said,
All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.
Following previous Adamic Covenant, Noahic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, etc.
4 And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord.
6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.
NOTE: THE ISRAELITES HAD MADE A COVENANT PROMISE,
NEXT, THE GROUP OF LEADERS WENT WITH MOSES TO MEET CLOSER WITH GOD.
NOTE THERE WERE THE KEY LEADERS AND 70 OF THE ELDERS. (REMEMBER THAT JESUS SENT OUT THE 70 MESENGERS?
9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
Do you remember the 20th Century chorus, “Draw near to God, and He’ll draw near to you.?”
NOTE THAT THIS SPECIAL GROUP ACTUALLLY SAW THE GOD OF ISRAEL, although not on the mountain top! But they were close to the Holy Mountain.
12 AND THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, COME UP TO ME INTO THE MOUNT, AND BE THERE: AND I WILL GIVE THEE TABLES OF STONE, AND A LAW, AND COMMANDMENTS WHICH I HAVE WRITTEN; THAT THOU MAYEST TEACH THEM. 13 AND MOSES ROSE UP, AND HIS MINISTER JOSHUA: AND MOSES WENT UP INTO THE MOUNT OF GOD.
Note: Joshua was a man in training. He would become the next leader of Israel.
14 AND MOSES SAID UNTO THE ELDERS, TARRY YE HERE FOR US, UNTIL WE COME AGAIN UNTO YOU: AND, BEHOLD, AARON AND HUR ARE WITH YOU:
Note: Aaron and Hur
Aaron (high mountain, exalted, enlightened are possible name meanings) was Moses’ elder brother, -Moses ( to pull out, or draw out, (from water))-- his sister was Miriam (of the sea, or bitter) .
Hur (liberty, whiteness) was a companion of them in the senior leadership team!
A passing comment about Aaron.
He was about to let his brother Moses, the people, and God Himself, down.
The Golden Calf incident.
Many Israelites would die from sword or plague because of their disobedience. Aaron was spared.
He had weakened but it was in the face of the initiative of the rebels who had got tired of waiting for Moses to come down from his meeting with God on the mountain.
A merciful God.
In the instructions God gave to Moses on the Holy Mountain He includes one for Aaron, once the Tabernacle was built.
Aaron, who would be a weak leader whilst Moses was on the Holy Mountain, would become High Priest, in charge of worship at the Tabernacle (tent, that God has instructed should be built.
God gave this instruction knowing that Aaron would fail in his leadership in the absence of strong leader Moses. God’s purposes, His judgements, His mercy, are His divine prerogative, the outcomes in His sovereign hands.
Note Exodus 28. The future position of Aaron.
Exodus 28:1-2 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. 2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. (Another version says dignity.)
God can cast down, He can build up, as those of us at the helpful Bible Study on Tuesday were reminded when we read from Hannah’s Song, which came a bit later in Israel’s history when they were in the Promised Land. (In answer to prayer she was blessed with being able to bear children, and Samuel would be born.)
Back to our today’s narrative from Exodus 24
13 AND MOSES ROSE UP, AND HIS MINISTER JOSHUA:
IF ANY MAN HAVE ANY MATTERS TO DO, LET HIM COME UNTO THEM. (Aaron and Hur, plus the seventy elders in support.)
15 AND MOSES WENT UP INTO THE MOUNT,
AND A CLOUD COVERED THE MOUNT.
16 AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD ABODE UPON MOUNT SINAI,
· Note: The leading and non-leading Israelites saw the signs of glory of God, the smoke and the glow.
· Previously they had seen the mountain glow and heard it tremble with God’s present. The 70 elders, plus the four key leaders, had had a glimpse of God, not showing his overwhelming glory, when they went with Moses nearer to the mountain.
· So, pray tell, why would these leaders, with all they had recently experienced and with their covenant promises of obeying the LORD, have weakened and eventually grovelled to the backsliders and paganists amongst the people who asked for a false god idol to be made?
At this point Aaron showed leadership—but a dreadful and disappointingly wrong type of leadership, in that he took charge and instructed them in how to achieve the golden calf idol.
· Why would the paganists, after seeing God’s holy cloud on the Mountain, dare to ask for an idol god to be made?
· But are we not sometimes, perhaps, guilty of being close to God, then certainly slipping into weakness, as Aaron did, even if we do not condone paganism?
· We may be guilty of idolising money, position, fame, entertainment, sport, or popularity?
· Some of us, even as Christians, can watch unhelpful and less than pure programmes on TV? The church has failed to give clear leadership and practical guidance regarding such matters.
· Do you remember the question asked in the mid-20th century? What would Jesus do?
· There are times when, perhaps, we watch programmes on TV that if Jesus was staying with us for the week we would not turn to. I am talking programmes where bad-language or immodest dress or other undesirable elements may creep in. Where do we draw the line?
· Sometimes it is so hard for drama-lovers to find a good drama story without suddenly encountering these conscience challenges!
· Where would Jesus draw the line?
· If Jesus suddenly popped in whilst we were watching them, how would we feel?
· Many of us could do better, I am sure.
· Sanctification and holiness are challenging qualities to maintain, and we need God’s provision, guidance and grace through His eternal Holy Spirit, to achieve a measure, or a goodly measure, of these.
· Back to our Exodus 24 Narrative.
· God called Moses to ascend the Holy Mountain to receive more instructions for the nation. Not mere suggestions, but instructions.
· Already civic instructions had been given, but now matters of worship would be covered.
· These instructions, if followed, would be a blessing for the nation, for individuals. There are some rules which we need for our physical, emotional or spiritual well-being. God was seeking to make a blessed and successful nation,
· At that period in history God chose a certain prescription. When God prescribes, we should hearken!
· God longs and loves to bless.
Another fascination for me is the next verse, which reads:-
AND THE CLOUD COVERED IT SIX DAYS: AND THE SEVENTH DAY HE CALLED UNTO MOSES OUT OF THE MIDST OF THE CLOUD.
· When I read this verse again, I thought of Creation.
· Six days, followed by the Seventh Day, a day of rest.
· Symbolic of our one day in seven for collective and individual special worship.
· It was on the 7th Day on the Holy Mountain that Moses had a precious meeting with God.
17 AND THE SIGHT OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD WAS LIKE DEVOURING FIRE ON THE TOP OF THE MOUNT IN THE EYES OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.
(We could pause, to think of Ezekiel’s visions of God, of the calling of Jeremiah, eg., of Isaiah’s vision of God, of the Shekinah Glory which could come upon the Tabernacle, later upon the Temple built by Solomon, and especially in the Holy of Holies.
We could ponder God’s glory in so many ways.
We could ponder the visions given to aged John, recorded in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation.
Even when the angel came to move the stone entrance covering of Jesus’ tomb, the guards of the tomb became helpless.
We have all these helps to encourage us to ponder God’s holiness and our response.)
Today, in our Exodus 24 passage, let us again remember this fearsome but wondrous reminder to Israel of the glory and greatness of their LORD God.
18 AND MOSES WENT INTO THE MIDST OF THE CLOUD, AND GAT HIM UP INTO THE MOUNT:
Moses was God’s chosen leader of the people.
Moses had received instructions to go to the Mountain.
Moses went to the mountain.
No one is perfect, but Moses was an obedient and meek man.
He failed on two or three occasions which we are told about, but he succeeded in obeying God, in pleading for the people, on so many, many occasions indeed.
AND MOSES WAS IN THE MOUNT FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS.
Contrast to JESUS 40 days and nights in the Wilderness of testing and temptation.
Moses went up the mountain to get close to God, but this was after sacrifice.
In our church calendar we are entering the period of Lent. Forty days of seeking closeness to God and cleansing of our lives.
Note: Whilst on the Mountain, Moses was spoken to by the Lord.
Question: Where and when, even, how, does God speak to us, to you or to me?
Anyway, Moses listened to God, and followed instructions.
1. Instructions for the Tabernacle structures and worship.
Tabernacle means “a place of meeting” – thus sometimes we speak of being in the tabernacle when we are in the sanctuary or church, worshipping God.
2. This included the making of a storage chest known as the Ark (which means the chest) which was to be kept in the most Holy Place in the Tabernacle.
This would contain certain special items.
MOSES, THEN, A MAN OF GOD, HAD THIS SPECIAL ENCOUNTER WITH GOD.
(Not quite like the long 40 years in the wilderness.
No quite like Jesus, 40 days in the wilderness. being tested and tempted.
Here are 40 days of glorious time spent in the presence of the Lord of Glory!
Yes, Moses was very special. And a called man for a special purpose.
CF others who had glimpses of the glory of God, in vison, dream or reality.
A QUICK POP OVER INTO THE NEW TESTAMENT. JESUS AND THE THREE KEY DISCIPLE, PETER, JAMES AND JOHN.
THE THREE DISCIPLES ON THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION.
(TALK ABOUT A MOUNTAIN-TOP EXPERIENCE.)
But Moses came down from the mountain-top experience.
But the three, Peter, James and John, would never be the same again, human and frail though they were.
How can one ever be quite the same when the glory of God has touched one?
Then the disciples saw that Moses and Elijah had disappeared, the glowing glory of the Lord was dissipating.
The mountain was a bleak mountain again.
They came down from the mountain.
Back to disciples as a minority group in a land that still largely rejected Christ, thus largely rejected them.
Yes, they came down from the mountain,
BUT THEY HAD JESUS WITH THEM, going back to the valley.
(WE RECALL THAT WHEN MOSES, BEARING THE GLORIOUSLY-GIVEN TABLETS OF STONE, CAME DOWN FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, IN EXODUS 32, THERE WAS A HORRENDOUS THING HAPPENING.
A HASTILY-MADE IDOL, THE GOLDEN CALF BEING WORSHIPPED.
BY A FAIR NUMBER OFTHE PEOPLE WHO HAD SEEN HOLY SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP.
BUT NOW THERE WAS UNHOLY SMOKE FROM A PAGAN ALTAR..
LAST WEEK CHRISTHOMAS MENTIONED GOD’S DISCIPLINARY JUDEMENT AND GOD’S SEVERE JUDGEMENT.
HERE THE THEOCRATIC NATION WAS JUDGED AND MANY DISOBEDIENT IDOLATERS WERE SEVERELY CHASTISED, SOME DIED. FIRST BY THE SWORD.
THEN BY VENOMOUS SNAKES.
THE ONLY DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH FROM POISONOUS SNAKE BITES WAS THROUGH LOOKING AT THE SNAKE ON THE POLE, GOD’S PROVISION EVEN THEN OF A WAY OF DELIVERING THEM FROM DEATH.
LET US LEAVE THAT SAD SIGHT.
Later, in Exodus 34, we read of God’s mercy in providing and inscribing two more tablets of stone with the ten commandments.
You may hear more about that next Sunday.
C. SERMON -- CONCLUDING THOUGHTS.
MOSES HAD HIS MOUNTAIN=TOP EXPERIENCE.
How about us. Our experience. Our faith?
Are we, like Moses, willing to climb a mountain, cross a wilderness, be sometimes unpopular with others, face dangers, in order to live out our faith in, and obedience to, God.
· Do we sometimes experience a real closeness to God, in worship or prayer?
· Are we inwardly, as well as intellectually, and doctrinally, aware of the greatness, goodness and holiness of the triune Godhead.
· So good when we can declare with real zeal in our hearts,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world with end, Amen.”
But why are we so foolish at times?
How refreshing when we are sensible and obedient!
Why can we be so prone to wander?
How much better we feel then once we have returned to the straight and narrow way.
We do not have to wait until LENT to reflect on our ways. But certainly the church-originated calendar period of LENT gives us helpful pause for thought.
Pausing to be reminded of serious and wonderful Biblical truths about life, conduct, sin, forgiveness, dedication, Christ Jesus, and more.
Our frailty, our fallibility, our desires. Salvation, growth, sanctification.
· Oh, for more holiness in our lives.
· Oh to feel more of the glory of God in and around us.
Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the sold-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His blood?
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with god,
Calm and serene my frame,
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
Dear LORD God, please ever be gracious to us, forgive us and restore us.
May we walk our pilgrim pathway with inner peace and joy,
by the Light of the world, and helped by the presence of the Lord. Amen.