There are many thoughts running through my head right now – several ideas of what I’d like to write about and things that the Lord has faithfully been teaching me. But recently I was doing a little research for a dream of mine – to write a book on fear – (now that I said it out loud to all of you, does that place more pressure on me? Hopefully!) – and I was struck by the power of what I was reading.
In Exodus 20, God was giving the 10 commandments to Moses. It’s a familiar passage to many of us. We oftentimes read past it so quickly, thinking that we’ve heard the 10 commandments SO many times. I have a fault where I think that I’ve got something down, so I read but am not actually paying attention. I hate that. Anyhow, one of the gifts of sifting through the Scripture for specific passages that correspond to a topic is that we oftentimes slow down to more fully digest a passage we’d otherwise breeze past.
In Exodus 20:18, Moses is with the Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai when God puts on a large display: thunder, lightening, smoke, loud trumpets blaring. The Israelites were filled with fear – not just a little fear – they were afraid for their lives. It must have been some kind of amazing show! Remember — they had been wandering through the wilderness, and anything of this sort would have been quite the sight to behold in an otherwise bland territory. Trembling, they told Moses that they would listen to the Lord’s instruction as told by Moses, but they asked Moses NOT to allow the Lord to speak directly to them for fear that they would die (vs.19). Moses instructs the Israelites to not be afraid because God had come to test them that the fear of him would become greater than all else and cause them abstain from sin (vs. 20). God had ordered Moses to set boundaries around Mt. Sinai so that the people would not approach too closely to the mountain. And in verse 21, while the rest of the Israelites kept more than safe distance from the boundaries set in place to protect them, “Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
Moses did this?! Moses – the one who stammered and stuttered and begged the Lord to not ask him to go to Pharaoh. So what changed that caused this previously quibbling Moses to now be this bold leader who draws near to the thick darkness as the rest of the people stand around afraid for their lives?
If you remember – Exodus 20 isn’t the first time that the Lord met Moses at Mount Sinai. If we scroll all of the way back to Exodus 3, we see Moses in an entirely different light. We all remember the burning bush that never actually burned, right? This is it! Moses, while caring for his father-in-law’s flock (you know – his father-in-law that he acquired because he had previously fled from Egypt out of fear after killing an Egyptian?) – anyhow while caring for his father-in-law’s flock, he sees this miraculous bush, is overcome with awe as to why it’s not incinerated, and approaches the consuming sight. Upon drawing nearer, the Lord lays out to Moses his plan for Moses to go back to this land from which he fled and demand the release of his people group. Moses refutes the Lord’s judgment of his skill set over and over again, and as he still argues, the Lord responds to him, saying, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Moses still didn’t believe the Lord would be able to accomplish THROUGH HIM what He was saying he could do. And only after being reassured that his brother Aaron could go with him and speak on his behalf did he consent. But this little verse from Chapter 3 remains – that God would meet Moses on Mt. Sinai once more – AFTER the Egyptians release from captivity.
So flash forward to Exodus 20 with me. What has changed? Why did Moses enter so boldly into the darkness enshrouding the mountain and encompassing the rest of the Israelites in fear? Because confidence in God…the kind that causes you to walk boldly into the darkness in front of you that would scare the socks off of anyone else…comes from seeing God’s faithfulness to you again and again and again.
Moses finally understood. This wasn’t about Moses. It wasn’t about him having said everything perfectly or done everything perfectly in front of Pharaoh. It wasn’t about him leading the people perfectly through the wilderness. It was about God. And when we live in awe of his power to burn bushes without sending them to the ground in an ash-heep, to insight change in the heart of a world leader, to move the walls of waters so we can pass on dry land, to provide food in the wilderness, to lead us with cloud by day and fire by night, we see only his glory, and it consumes us from the inside out. And we are no longer afraid of anything else but are rather consumed by his infinite power and might – the weight of his glory.
Here’s what I find myself thinking. Forget about Moses’ faults. I want to be like him too; I want to enter into the thick darkness because of my confidence that God is there to meet me. How do we get there? We believe.
Here’s the good news. This daily belief doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be void of doubt. It’s just enough to daily move forward…until you find that God has been faithful to you again and again. And before we know it, we too will be walking confidently into the darkness because we know that God is there too.
It’s good news for our souls today, isn’t it? So boldly we go – even if it looks meek for a little while. Because God is there too. And He is faithful!