Meeting God at Sinai

How important is it for us to hear from God for ourselves? Can’t we just go to church and listen to good Bible teachers, read good books about the Bible and depend on what others have learned to help us? Why do we need to spend time searching the Scriptures for ourselves?

When God brought the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, they came to the Mount of the Lord, Mount Sinai. There He desired to speak to them directly so they might know it was HE who was leading them.

Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
(Exodus 19:3-11)

God had been leading the people through Moses. Now it was time for them to hear directly from God. He wanted them to know for themselves that He was speaking to Moses so they could trust Moses’ leadership.

At first they were willing. They were probably excited to hear from the I AM who had sent Moses to take them out of Egypt. They purified themselves for three days and washed their clothes. They drew close to the foot of the mountain, right up to the border where they were to stay and they waited.

The third morning God began to reveal Himself to them. There was thunder and lightning, and a thick cloud descended on the mountain top. A loud trumpet blasted and the mountain was wrapped in smoke as the Lord descended upon it and the whole mountain shook. The people trembled with fear. They were not ready for a personal encounter with the I AM.

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”
(Exodus 20:18-21)

“…Speak to us yourself but do not have God speak to us.” The people did not want God to speak to them directly. They only wanted to hear through Moses. They were so overwhelmed with the awesomeness of God’s presence, they believed they would die. They wanted Moses to listen to God and pass it on to them. They missed something very important in the reason God wanted to speak to them directly.

“….God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” He was going to give them some instructions to prepare them for the Promised Land; He wanted to arm them not to sin. God not only wanted to show them His awesomeness, but He longed to speak to his people directly. But because of their fear, the great I AM continued to speak through His messenger Moses.

Verse 22 tells us “Then the LORD said to Moses, Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.”

God was left with no alternative but to speak to the people through Moses. And the first thing He told them was not to make for themselves gods of silver or gold. Isn’t it interesting that the very first command God wanted to give His people was not to create their own gods. Of all the commands God gave Moses to relay to the people, the first one was ‘Make no other gods’. Then when Moses finished speaking, the people all said yes we will obey.

“When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the LORD has said we will do.’ (Exodus 24:3)
Moses wrote down everything God said and read it back to the people and again they promised to obey. Verse 7 says “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’”

What was the first command they broke? The first one they had heard, to make no other gods. God again called Moses to come up the mountain and while Moses was gone, meeting with God, receiving the entire Law, the people grew restless and tired of waiting. They gave up on Moses and they forgot their promise to obey what they had heard. There at the very spot where they had trembled in fear of the great I AM, they took their gold jewelry to Aaron and created a golden calf, calling it their god. They reverted back to the gods of Egypt there on the grounds of the place where the one true God had desired to meet with them.
Are we so different? We draw back from hearing from God ourselves, depending on Sunday morning sermons and Sunday school lessons to get us through our week. Maybe we’re not afraid we’ll die from God speaking to us, but we have too many other things to put our attention on. We let other gods in our lives alongside the one true God.
God’s heart still longs to speak directly with his people. He calls us to meet Him so He can reveal Himself to us. He calls us to His Word. It is only when we stay and listen to His voice that we are able to not sin, not go back to the gods we learned in Egypt.
Psalms 119: 9-16 says:

How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I’ll delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

(Message Translation)

We need pastors, teachers, and Bible studies. We need books written by those called of God to share His Word. But we also need to hear God for ourselves. We need that time alone with Him, reading and meditating on His Word, listening for that word that will protect us, that will guide our decisions, that will prepare us to live a life for His glory.

Father, I hide Your Word in my heart, do not let me go back to the gods of Egypt. Teach me Your ways and let me walk in them so my life glorifies You.

Peace and blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ,