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 Do We Go In or Run Away

John Hoole June 15, 2008


At the beginning of our lesson today, I want to make a statement. I hope all of you read the Bible daily. When you read your Bible, I hope you don't avoid the Old Testament. We are to be a New Testament church, but that doesn't mean there isn't good instruction in the Old Testament.

The New Testament is an outgrowth of the Old. Almost all of the 66 books in the Bible were written by Jews. And the only Bible the New Testament writers and believers had in the early first century was the Scriptures we now call the Old Testament.

You may have heard the maxim: "The New is in the Old contained - The Old is by the New explained." Someone else said it similarly: "The New is in the Old concealed - The Old is in the New revealed."

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul speaks of some of the things that happened as the Israelites left Egypt. He mentions the passage through the Red Sea, along with the cloud by day and fire by night. He also talks about the water that came from a rock. And then in Verse 11 (NKJV), he says:

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

If they were written for our benefit, shouldn't we know about them? Paul doesn't want us to miss the examples given us through what the Israelites experienced. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. He has not changed.

What happened at Mount Sinai is not only important for the Jews, it is also important for us who are of the New Covenant. Mt. Sinai is one of the high peaks of Jewish history. Of course, the reign of David was also a high water mark of Israel's past. Allow me to make a few comments about the Torah - the Pentateuch - the Books of Moses. The Book of Genesis takes us from Creation to the Jews becoming slaves in Egypt. In Exodus 3, we find Moses at Mt. Sinai tending his father-in-law's sheep. It is at this mountain that Moses sees the burning bush that didn't burn up, and where he receives his call from God. And it is there that God gives one of His many promises to Moses.

Exodus 3:12 NIV

12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

God tells Moses he will return to the mountain, but he won't worship alone - the Israelites will be with him. That tells us that Moses is familiar with the area to which he will lead the Israelites. He had roamed in these deserts for many years. As I mentioned, it is at this mountain that God appears to and speaks to Moses from a burning bush. Fire will be a recurring theme in the Book of Exodus. We will see it on the Mountain. And in the last chapter of Exodus (40), we find the fire of God descending over the Tabernacle. Sinai is the focal point of much of the revelation documented in the Torah.

HOW LONG WERE THEY AT MOUNT SINAI.

They stayed at Mount Sinai for 11 months, 20 days - just less than one year. Do you know how much of the Torah is given just for that one-year period? The Israelites arrive at Sinai in Exodus 19, and they take leave in Numbers 10. That's 59 chapters out of a total of 187. Almost one-third of the Torah is dedicated to the narration of only one year in the history of Israel. And you will see that what happened at Sinai will put its stamp on the subsequent history of Israel

For the last two weeks, we have looked at the annual Jewish feasts, to investigate the implications they have on Christianity. Because our series topic is the Holy Spirit, we focused primarily on the Feast of Pentecost. In Acts 2, we read that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon 120 people in the upper room, occurred on the day this feast was celebrated. The word, Pentecost, comes from the Greek, meaning "fiftieth."

We also noted that another very important event in Jewish history probably also occurred on a fiftieth day. It is believed by the Jews, and there is some biblical corroboration, that the giving of the 10 Commandments at Sinai occurred 50 day after the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, left Egypt.

Two weeks ago, I showed you a chart that listed some comparisons between the giving of the 10 Commandments and the beginning of the New Testament church. Look again at some comparisons between what happened at Mt. Sinai and the Day of Pentecost in Acts.

At Sinai, the Commandments of God written on stone - Exodus 24:12. In the New Covenant, the commandments of God written on our hearts - Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10.

At Sinai, the commandments were written by finger of God - Exodus 31:18. At Pentecost, they were written by the Spirit of God - 2 Corinthians 3:3, Hebrews 8:10.

At Sinan, 3,000 slain because of disobedience - Exodus 32:1-8, 26-28. On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 saved by being obedient - Acts 2:38, 41.

Each occurred on a mountain. Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11). Mount Zion (1 Peter 2:6).

At Sinai God did what He had never done before. He entered into a new relationship with an entire nation. In Exodus 19:6, God says about the Israelites, "You shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." The only other time God uses the term, "Holy Nation," is in 1 Peter 2:9 concerning the Church. "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation..."

I want to take you back to Exodus 19 and read a rather lengthy passage.

Exodus 19:1-11, 16-20; 10:18-21 NKJV

1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.
2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.
3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him.
8 Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD .
9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD .
10 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.
11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain.

In the first 17 verses of the following chapter 20, we read the 10 Commandments that were given verbally by God to the Israelites - not yet on stone. Let's pick up the story again in Chapter 20, verse 18.

Exodus 20:18-21 NIV

18 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
19 and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."
20 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."
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Now that you understand what happened on this 50th day since they left Egypt, let me make a few comments. Let me start with Chapter 19, verses 4 - 6. Let's read those three verses again.

Exodus 19:4-6 NKJV

4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'...

These are amazing word from Jehovah. He tells them how He bore them on eagles' wings. He doesn't say He brought them to this mountain. He says "I brought you to Myself." God is offering them an option of going to a new level of intimacy with Him.

They could be contented with burning bushes and rejoice over the periodic display of a supernatural God. Now they have been brought to the mountain of decision. God had removed them from their bondage in Egypt, and began making a people out of them. Up to this time, they were all descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they had never really been a nation with a ruler.

God tells them, "I want you to be a kingdom of priests for me." The Lord brought the descendants of Abraham to the base of Mount Sinai, but it wasn't easy. When the multitude of people needed food, God wanted them to seek Him for their bread, but instead they berated Moses and talked about how good it was back in Egypt, the place of their bondage.

Nevertheless, Moses prayed and God supplied quail and manna. The same thing happened when there was a water shortage. Instead of asking God or believing in His abundant supply, they immediately cornered Moses to complain, and talk about the "good old days" in Egypt.

The sad and unfortunate truth about the Book of Exodus is that the group of people God brought to Mount Sinai, was not the group of people that He took across the Jordan into the promised land.

WHY DID MOST OF THE GROUP AT SINAI NOT ENTER THE PROMISED LAND?

It was because 10 of those sent in to spy out the Promised Land came back with a bad report. But although the first generation of Israelites that gathered around the mountain would ultimately believe the fearful spies and shrink away from the land in fear, the real cause, I believe is found right there at the foot of Mount Sinai.

You see, God intended for all the Israelites to come close to Him on the mountain, but they were uncomfortable. Read it again.

Exodus 20:18-20 NIV

18 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
19 and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."
20 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."

Their doom was sealed when they looked at the promised land and shrank back, but it really began when they shrank back from God's presence in the cloud on Mount Sinai. It was there that they ran from God and demanded that Moses stand between them and God.

Now, let's look at our local church here at New Life. Or, maybe just look at this class. There are a few here who were part of the church in its early years. Others of you came a few years later. And some of you are brand new believers, or at least more recent arrivals.

God has brought us to the mountain today. You who were "not a people" have been made a people.

1 Peter 2:10 NIV

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God took all of us out of the slavery of sin. He has pulled some of us out of bad marriages. Others were delivered from the bondage of alcoholism and other chronic substance abuse problems. We've been delivered from joblessness and destitution, and from too many other pits of hell to mention. In the end, we have all wound up together today at the foot of His mountain. And like the Israelites, He is calling us to come closer. And also like the Children of Israel, whom God wanted to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nations", He is now calling us to the same stature.

1 Peter 2:9 NKJV

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

And with this call, we face the same challenge as the Israelites. DO WE GO IN OR RUN AWAY? Into what? Into His presence.

When the Israelites stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, they were only a few day's march away from the promised land. The only reason they were delayed was because of their reluctance to press in to God. Their fear of intimacy sowed the seeds for fear of the enemy. The same can be said of most churches today. I really sense you and I stand at a critical crossroads today - right here in this room. On the one hand, we could say, "We've come too far to turn around now." But we could also say, "We're really tired. We want to sit here for a while."

The most important question is: What does God say? I believe He wants us to grasp where we are at this point. Then He wants us to reach out and receive everything He has to give us today. You and I are going to do one of two things from this point on:

1. We will grow into a relationship with Him, no matter what it costs us, or,

2. We will turn back to where we came from and become a program-driven, meeting-going, organizing, committee-run church people, doing all the "good" things that "good people" are supposed to do. We will end up fondly looking back on this time of decision and saying, "Those were the days."

I don't know about you, but I don't want to grow old and look back with regret and say, "Oh, those were great days." Why should I when I've come to understand that with God I can live in the present tense? I can walk in the freshness of what He has for me every day. If we dare to follow God today, then on some tomorrow we may be able to look back and say, "I remember those years; that was before we had the great revival of His presence."

Our futures will look totally different if we say today, "Thank you Lord - but where is the rest?" There's got to be more! Oh, Lord, show me your glory! Yes, we can be satisfied with where we have come from, but totally dissatisfied to stay there.

We need to learn from the events at Mount Sinai. God revealed on Mount Sinai that He wanted to begin dealing with the people directly and personally. Until that day, Moses had always relayed to the Israelites everything that God said. At the mountain were days of transition, a period in which God was saying, "Okay, it's time to grow up. I want to talk to you directly from now on, as an entire nation of holy priests. I don't want to have any more intermediaries. I love Moses, but I don't want to have to speak through him to you. I want to deal with you directly as My nation, as My people."

God is saying the same to us today. I don't want to always speak through a pastor or teacher. I want to talk with you directly. We need to develop a hunger and desperation for God Himself without intermediaries. I hope you pray, as I have, "God, I'm tired of everybody else hearing from You." "I want to tune in to your frequency and hear from You myself." God is tired of having long-distance relationships with His people. He was tired of it thousands of years ago in Moses' day, and He is tired of it today.

Exodus 20:18 & 21 NIV

18 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.
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

What a dichotomy! One ran in - the others ran away.

This is not unique to the Israelites of Moses' day. It is also a serious problem in the Church today. We sometimes - maybe often - place the cart before the horse. We say, "We want revival," and never mention intimacy. We seek revival without seeking Him.

No true revival has ever occurred simply because people sought revival. They were birthed when people sought Him.

Too many of our churches have become the spiritual equivalent of a dysfunctional household, a single-parent congregation, without the presence of the Father.

Are you ready to move into His presence? Are you ready to make a commitment of intimacy.

I read an account of a group of Chinese Christians who were caught holding a church service. The officials placed a horse trough in the middle of town and forced every man and woman in that congregation to urinate into it. Then they drowned the pastor in it, right in front of their eyes! Do you know what happened? The church congregation doubled in two weeks. And it wasn't because of their nice sanctuary or dynamic worship team. True church growth, wherever it may be - in freedom or persecution, comes because of only one thing. It springs forth from a pursuit of an intimate knowledge of the living God. Are you ready to make that commitment?

These kinds of believers don't gauge their relationship with God by whether they received a salary raise this quarter. nor by how things are going with their bank account, or by how much "fun" they've had during church activities. They have joined Paul by saying, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry, which I have received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

You are at Mount Sinai today, and God is calling you into personal intimacy with Him. If you dare to answer His call, then it is going to redefine everything you've ever done. Your decision today will determine whether you go forward or backward in your walk with Christ. The games are over. He is calling you.

   
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