God has finished giving Moses Israel’s first marching orders. He sends him back down the mountain to gather the elders to seal the deal.
We aren’t told how long Moses was on the mountain for this instruction session. I don’t know if the people were waiting at the foot of the mountain or in camp but it was time for them to hear what God had to say. Let’s rejoin the story as Moses makes his way back down the mountain.
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Moses has been on the mountain receiving instructions from the Lord for some time. He has eagerly taken in every word spoken to him. These are the commands of His God; not just the God of his fathers. Moses’ whole heart longs to please Him and to do exactly as He says. Moses is also anxious for the people to hear the Lord’s words so they too can follow Him with right hearts. Their future depends on it!
“It’s time Moses. You need to go down to the people and share my words with my people. Afterwards come partway up the mountain and dine with Me.”
“Lord? Dine with you?”
“Yes. I want to host a dinner with my people. To that dinner you are to bring Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy of the elders. These men will represent the people and I will make myself known to them also.”
“Right away Lord!”
“I am inviting them as guests but they cannot come all the way up the mountain with me. Only you will be allowed to come closer. They will worship me from a distance but a closer distance than the people. Make certain that the people do NOT try and come closer.”
“Yes Lord. I will make all You have said known; including this invitation.”
Moses is seen by the people emerging out of the cloud. The people were watching for his return. The whole group wasn’t still in place as it had been some time since he left them but they had a contingent watching day and night for his return.
A shout is heard from the watchers. “Moses is coming! Moses is coming!”
That announcement quickly passes through the camp and everyone drops what they were doing and rushes back to the foot of the mountain. The people are anxiously awaiting news from Moses. The mountain is still covered by the thick cloud and the people are taking NO chances of angering God by approaching it. They wait for Moses to come to them. Moses takes his place atop a large stone near the base of the mountain and a hush falls over the crowd.
“The Lord had many things to share with me on the mountain. Things for each of us to live by. He ordained statutes for you, His precious treasure, that all may go well with you. His first statute is that HE ALONE IS GOD! Israel is to have NO other gods. You are to honor Him with your whole self; both individually and corporately. He is a jealous God and will NOT share your affections with another. If you do this, He will be your provision, your protection, and your future.”
Moses goes on to explain the rest of the statutes the Lord had given him while they were together. Every word was precious and the people need to hear ALL of them. Moses shares with the people for several hours before he feels he has reached the end of the Lord’s words to the people. “He asks you this day whether you will receive His words and become His people.”
No time passes at all before the whole crowd is rallying together to accept what Moses has shared. “And all the people answered with once voice and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do’” (verse 3b).
Moses is very pleased with this answer. He accepts their answer without a drop of fear. “Let us return to camp. It is late and I have much work to do before we offer our answer to the Lord officially.
The crowd begins to break up and make their way back to their own tents. Moses is right; it is late and there is much to think over.
Moses finds Joshua as he makes his way to his own tent. “Walk with me Joshua. I have need of your skills tonight.”
“Certainly Moses. I am at your service in any task you need.”
“You are special to me. Dearer to me than a son from my own loins. You are a gift from the Lord for this old man.”
“I don’t know about that Moses but you are dearer to me than my own father. I am honored to serve.”
Moses and Joshua get busy that night preparing parchment for the writing of what God has shared with Moses. Joshua writes as Moses recounts each of the statutes the Lord gave him. Moses doesn’t want to miss a thing. Having Joshua as his assistant prompts Moses to follow every thread the Lord laid down for His people so Joshua can understand each edict too. He is prompted to explain the Lord’s words to Joshua instead of merely reciting them.
“What is this ‘safe place’ for someone who kills another to go to?”
“It is only for those who kill without planning the act in advance. The Lord will set aside cities where they can go to be safe from vengeance or retaliation. Those who plan out the act of murder in advance have NO safe hiding place. They can even be dragged from the very altar of God to stand for their crime.”
And so passes the night, the next morning, and the following night. Moses and Joshua record every word spoken by the Lord for the people to have. The next morning it was time to put the questions to the people once more.
Moses got up early and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. Joshua helped him in this task as this altar was larger than any Moses had constructed before and it required a LOT of heavy lifting. Moses and Joshua worked away. Many of the people approached him and asked what he was doing. Without stopping in his work he impressed upon them the importance of this altar and what was about to happen. He also sent young men of the people to gather animals appropriate for the sacrifices this altar would host.
Twelve pillars of stone stood together to form one altar. These pillars individually represented the tribes of Israel and together they represented the whole of God’s people. Moses and Joshua moved every stone by hand. Not a single tool was brought to bear on this task. By the time it was finished Moses and Joshua were exhausted and dirty from head to toe. Both took a quick break to wash their hands and faces and changed their robes before coming to the Lord.
The young men Moses had sent to gather the sacrifices brought them to him. Moses had Aaron perform the actual sacrifices as he was spent. The young men assisted Aaron by holding and binding the animals. As the blood was drained from each animal, half of it was collected, per Moses’ instructions. They did not know what Moses was planning but they obeyed none the less.
Moses stepped up before the people again. A hush fell over the entire multitude. Moses walked over to the altar and retrieved the bowl that held the blood of the animals. He held it above his head and offered praise to the Lord for all He had done and what He was about to do. But first he separated the blood into two bowls and threw the first one at the sides of the altar; thereby anointing it. After Moses had done this, the animals were laid upon the altar and offered to the Lord for a thanks and dedication offering. As the offering was being arranged Moses read aloud the book that He had written the words of the Lord in.
“What do you say? Are you willing to accept the Lord’s statutes, His laws, and His future for you as a people?”
As one again, the people agreed to all that they had heard. Moses called for fire to be set to the sacrifice and he threw the remaining portion of the blood on the people. “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (verse 8b).
Rejoicing broke out in the crowd. Moses called Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, seventy of the elders and Joshua to follow him up the mountain away from the people. They brought part of the meat that had been offered to the Lord as the priest’s portion along with bread and wine. They ate as one and all of them were able to see below the feet of God. His shadow was cast on a stone pavement that looked like pure sapphire from Heaven itself. It was breathtakingly beautiful and clear. Upon this stone is where they rested and enjoyed their meal together.
“Moses. Come up further. Come up to me alone.”
Moses turned to his companions. They too had heard the Lord’s voice. “It is time for me to again meet with the Lord. Go back down the mountain and remain camped here. I’m leaving Aaron and Hur to stand in my place with the people. If there are any issues, let them decide as I would.”
Moses and Joshua turned from the group of elders and climbed higher up the mountain. The cloud enveloped them and it was if there was NOTHING but the Lord’s presence left of their world. Joshua stayed a way off from Moses so as not to infringe on his time with the Lord but also to be near enough to tend to any of Moses’ needs.
The elders came back down from the mountain and instructed the people to maintain their distance. “We will wait here until Moses returns. He has gone to speak with the Lord again on our behalf.”
The people were more than willing to wait; for a time.
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What an amazing story Father! The people as one were pledging their eternal loyalty to You. Did they mean it at the time? I know “the rest of the story” with this group. I believe they did. How could anyone have walked in Your miracles EVERY DAY and not be ready to “sign on the dotted line”?
The problem wasn’t the miracles or the miracle Maker but the hearts of the receivers. This whole group was the rocky soil. Quick to make a commitment but the roots of that commitment didn’t run very deep. I know, this is a story for another time. I just don’t want to be making the same “pie crust promises” to You with my life. I want to stand beside You in all You have laid out for my life. I KNOW You will be standing with me. You will never leave me to face any of life on my own, no matter how it may appear to others or even me. THANK YOU LORD that I can trust YOU to keep Your side of our covenant relationship, even when I fail at keeping my part. Jesus kept it perfectly for me in my stead. THANK YOU JESUS!!!
Thank You Holy Spirit for keeping me writing! I LOVE Your stories!!!