Exodus 34:1-9 New Tablets
Moses is going to get that encounter he asked for the last time we were together. But the people are going to get something too; God’s written commands.
We are not told how long it was between Moses coming down from the mountain and finding the children of Israel celebrating another god and when he came to God and pleaded for another chance. “If You don’t go with us, don’t send us. We are nothing without You!” We know that God answered Moses’ cry though so it was just a matter of time before He put things back in motion.
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Moses wakes early this morning, like every other day, but he has an expectancy in his spirit that had been missing for a while. Three days ago he had petitioned the Lord regarding His presence going with Israel on their journey. God had agreed to go with them but He had also agreed to let Moses actually SEE Him! Every day Moses wondered if this was going to be the day, but he had also learned to be patient with the Lord over the many experiences he has gone through since meeting Him in the burning bush. The Lord’s timing is not to be rushed.
After breakfast Moses heads to his favorite spot, the tent of meeting. He loves spending time with the Lord. He knows the people are watching and waiting to see what will happen next but all that leaves him as he steps past the tent flap. Joshua meets him along the way.
Good morning Moses. It is a beautiful day. I wonder what the Lord has in store for us today.
Good morning Joshua. Yes, it is a beautiful day and I was wondering the same thing.
I know, “patience Joshua.”
Moses laughs and puts a reassuring hand on his young friend’s shoulder. Patience indeed but I have a good feeling about today. Let’s go and see what the Lord says about today.
They walk on in silence for the rest of the short journey. The tent of meeting is outside the camp but no so far away that they cannot see the camp from its position.
Joshua and Moses come to the door and both remove their shoes before stepping inside the tent. Joshua goes to his customary spot to wait while Moses speaks with the Lord. As soon as the flap falls from Moses’ grasp the pillar of smoke settles over the door on the outside so it can be seen by the people in the camp and the presence of the Lord fills the tent where Moses and Joshua wait.
Joshua is accustomed to watching Moses speak with the Lord. More often than not, Joshua hears only Moses’ words as they converse but he has NO doubt that the Lord is truly speaking too. His ears may not always bear witness to this fact but his spirit does. He settles back to watch and to add his prayers to Moses’ while he waits to be called upon for any need that Moses has.
Moses talked with the Lord about all the happenings in the camp. He knew that God knew what was going on but it was like sharing with a friend and he ALWAYS needed the Lord’s counsel on the issues brought to him. “Aaron and his sons came to me last evening and asked if there was any new way they could demonstrate their repentance. I told them that coming to Your tent would be a great way. They are still afraid You will punish them for their sins.”
“Moses, it’s time to pick back up where we left off.”
“I would LOVE that Lord. What do You need from me?”
“I want you to cut two stone tablets, like the ones I gave you on the mountain. Like the ones you broke.”
“I’m sorry Lord. I got so angry when I saw what the people were doing. I didn’t even think. I just threw whatever I had in my hands towards that abomination. All of Israel lost something precious from my anger that day.”
“It’s not lost Moses. Meet with me in the morning, with the two stone tablets you cut today. I will write on them again. This time though I want you to come completely alone. Not even Joshua is to accompany you. I also don’t want anyone even coming near the mountain and this includes the herds.”
“Why not Joshua? He has always accompanied me and has been of great use. He also is very devoted to You.”
Joshua hears his name mentioned and is pleased with Moses’ comments about him but he remains in his place. This conversation is between Moses and God, not him.
“This time on the mountain I will do for you what you asked. I will show you Myself.”
“Oh Lord! That is AMAZING! Thank You! I will get busy on those tablets immediately and will be ready with them first thing in the morning.”
Moses nearly jumps to his feet, ready to rush out the door. Then God’s voice stops him. “Moses.”
“Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.”
“Patience. And be careful when cutting the tablets. Don’t let your excitement leave room for an accident of carelessness.”
“Yes Lord. Thank You for the reminder.”
With much more restraint now, Moses turns to Joshua who has been patiently waiting. “The Lord wants me to make new stone tablets and bring them up the mountain to Him tomorrow. He will rewrite all the commandments He gave us previously.”
“I am not to accompany you though on this journey” Joshua states.
“No, you are not. The Lord has said that I am to come alone. But this also gives me a great measure of comfort knowing that you will be with the people this time to help keep them in line. I do not know how long the Lord will have me on the mountain and I need to know that the people will follow the Lord’s commands in my absence.”
“I will assist Aaron in keeping the people in line while you are gone. And we will wait patiently for your return.”
“Thank you Joshua. I know I can trust you. I will make certain Aaron knows he can lean on you if times get tough.”
Moses left the tent of meeting to begin his stone cutting task. Joshua remained where he was, as was their usual custom, until the midday meal. Joshua would then rejoin the camp and attend to any duties he had been given for that day.
Moses worked on the stone tablets all day. Several of the stone cutters asked if they could do the task for him but he insisted that he would do this task himself. He did, however, allow them to show him the best and most efficient ways to cleave the stone without breaking it. By the end of the day Moses had two tablets he felt were similar in all aspects to the ones the Lord had provided him with. He also had a few extra cuts on his hands, a thoroughly tired body and a new respect for those in the field of stone cutting.
The next morning even before dawn Moses rose in preparation of his journey up the mountain. The first thing he wanted to do was bathe. He wanted to be clean from head to toe when he presented himself to the Lord. He wasn’t told to do this but he had made a practice of washing at least his hands and feet before meeting with God.
After his bath, Moses put on his best robe, picked up the tablets he had made and went to see Aaron. Moses had met with Aaron the night before but he wanted to speak to him before leaving so he would know it was time to assume the mantle of leadership again.
“Good morning Aaron. I am setting off to meet with the Lord. I don’t know how long I will be gone but you need to keep the people in line, no matter how long it is. As we discussed, Joshua is available and willing to help with anything you need. He is strong in the Lord. Lean on him. You can trust his counsel.”
“Thank you Moses for giving me this chance to redeem myself and for the people to redeem themselves too in your eyes and those of the Lord. We will not fail you again. Thank you for blessing me with Joshua’s strength and wisdom. We eagerly await your return to hear what the Lord would say to Israel.”
Moses left Aaron standing at the door of his tent and walked straight to the foot of the mountain. The people all stopped in their tasks to watch Moses as he went. They knew where he was going. The tale of his cutting stone tablets and their memories of the last tablets spoke all they needed to know. They also knew that their behavior last time nearly cost each of them their lives. There would be NO cry for another God this time.
When Moses reached the base of the mountain he stopped and waited to be invited up by the Lord. He didn’t have long to wait. The cloud of the Lord settled over the mountain and Moses heard himself being beckoned.
As soon as Moses reached the spot where he and the Lord had spent so much time together he felt the physical presence of the Lord. It was so overpowering that he fell to his knees. God bodily picked Moses up and placed him in the cleft of a rock. From here Moses was able to hear God’s voice clearer than ever before. It was as near as his wife’s in the night and more familiar than even his own brother’s.
The Lord proclaimed His own glory and majesty to Moses. If ANYONE ELSE had made these proclamations they would have been lying and bragging beyond their nature. But with the Lord, He was simply stating the truth of Himself. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s’ children to the third and fourth generations” (verses 6b-7).
God then shielded Moses’ eyes as He passed before him and then removed His hand so Moses could see His back. This is exactly what God had promised Moses only a few days earlier. Moses was overcome and fell on his face and worshiped God.
It was time now for Moses to intercede on Israel’s behalf. ALL that God had just granted to him was beyond comprehension but if He didn’t go with His people how could they move on into His promises?
“If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your inheritance” (verse 9).
Moses plea’s do not fall on deaf ears. God will not abandon His children and that is the reason He has brought Moses back up the mountain with Him.
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Father God, thank You that You don’t give up on us, and especially on me. I know I have let You down SO many times, yet You still tell me You love me. You still bless my days. You still let me rise up again in the mornings. And You still let me come to You and climb in Your lap and listen to Your stories.
I so wish I could have been hiding in that cleft with Moses as You passed by. But I can wait until it is my turn to see Your face. I love being able to bring my day to You just as Moses brought his. I have a distinct feeling he prayed for his “family” a lot more than I do for mine. I want to but I get distracted, busy, or even frustrated by their refusing to turn. I bet Moses had a lot of those feelings too but he never gave up. He kept right on bringing them to You. Forgive me for not following his example.
Lord Jesus, You know the state of each of my family member’s hearts. Some are close to you while others are miles away. Please touch each and every one of them and bring them closer still. Those who put their trust in You, meet their needs right now please Jesus. Those who are confused or in denial, please make Yourself so real they CAN’T miss the truth; whatever it takes! I’m not pulling them back out of Your hands Lord by praying for them again. I’m simply expressing my heart’s desire to see them ALL walking with You before there it’s too late. I TRUST YOU to care for them. Thank You for that assurance.