[Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai] Take 2. And Action!
Chapter 35 basically is a big do-over. We see Moses go up Mt. Sinai, re-write the Ten Commandments and receive God’s instruction for the people of Israel all over again. There is something different about the journey this time, though. It begins after God has the Israelites wipe out a good lot of their own families members, and the remaining Israelites are lucky to be alive. God got real mad, in other words. But after some time and some wise words from His good buddy Moses, God simmers down, and He seems to introduce a “new self” in verse 5. It’s almost like a comeback performance that everyone on earth has been waiting to see. Could we compare this to Queen’s appearance at the 1985 Live Aid concert??? Um, for the sake of understanding how dramatic God’s “resurfacing” appeared – yes. Because it helps me to visualize how exciting this must have been for Moses and the people of Israel. They thought they were doomed – never to see Freddie Mercury hit those high notes again. (Please, God, forgive me for this analogy. You know my heart). But then God swoops in, right in front of Moses – not hiding him like before – and proclaims His own unutterable name and that the “new and improved God” of love and mercy and compassion has arrived! Oh, sing it, Freddie! Sing it! He is slow to anger, filled with love and forgiveness and justice! – not that angry old God who wanted to kill everyone off. No siree, Bob, He’s a changed God – a Tony-winning, singer, songwriter, friend of the stage, screen and entire audience!
Moses is so overwhelmed by God’s complete 180 that he just throws himself on the ground and thanks Him a million times over. He’s so relieved God has decided to stick with them and is more than willing to listen to God when He offers up yet another covenant (with conditions) with the Israelites: He will stay with them and protect them and defeat their enemies, but they must do a few things in return. Even though God is a “new God,” He is not willing to compromise on a few things that He knows will keep their relationship strong. God even says in verse 14: “Please keep these traditions … because I am a jealous God. Heck, my very name means ‘jealous.’ I NEED these things in my relationship with you.” And while the stipulations that God sets forth in the next few paragraphs seem a little overwhelming, they’re really not out of line when you break them down. God asks them to not make deals with other nations or marry into other cultures. He says don’t make those stupids idols anymore. Dedicate your first-born sons to me. Bring an offering when you come see me; this is what feeds your fellow priests and keeps the Tabernacle operating. Do what you do six days a week, and rest on the seventh. Celebrate harvest twice a year. And there’s some more stuff about eating that isn’t hard either. Right here, in these few small paragraphs, we see the simple needs of God. We see him communicating those needs, and we see the people of Israelite responding in order to preserve their relationship with Him. Have you ever been in God’s shoes? Have you been so frustrated in a relationship – ready to throw in the towel – but then after a few hours or days pass, you decide to give it one more try? You even think, well, maybe I’m part of the problem and vow to be a better person. You go to your person and announce the “new you,” who is more forgiving and wants to try again, but only on these conditions: (you can fill in the blank here). We all have our set of priorities and conditions just like God did. We all have things we NEED from other people in order to feel closer to them, just like God did. And we all feel slighted and hurt when the people we love disregard those conditions, just like God did. It’s mind-numbingly hard to keep fake smiling your way through the same requests over and over and over, only to be met with disappointment, isn’t it? It feels … well… just like God did. Ouch. Luckily, though, because God did, we can now look to Him – who swallows His heartbreak time after time after time to preserve His relationship with the Israelites – for strength and inspiration.
He kind of goes in easy with his return to the Israelites, though, doesn’t He? Instead of appearing to the whole lot of them like He’d proposed before, God keeps it low-key with His good friend Moses. But Moses doesn’t even know what’s going on when he returns from Mt. Sinai! He has no idea his face is all aglow, but the Israelites see it. They know in their hearts what is true. And Moses, whether he realizes the glory of his own presence or not, is happy, happy, happy. God has relented, remade the Ten Commandments, is with the Israelites again – and no one made any dumb idols while he was away! All is well in the Kingdom of Israel … for now anyway.
Writing prompt: do-over
Most of us are in long-term relationships with someone, whether it be a spouse, a sibling, a parent or a friendship. Some long-term relationships, however, require a bit more maintenance than others. Think of your most difficult relationship and write out a few frustrations about it and delve into the reasons why you work to preserve it so much. Ask God for some help in how to approach this relationship and smooth out some of the rough edges.