Give up to Go up

Exodus 24:12-18 Give up to Go up March 6, 2011

I think I’ve told the story before of a time when I hiked to the top of a mountain with my YES team in Peru.
It was a long hike, and it was fairly difficult, but the view from the top was worth every step.
We spent most of the afternoon on top of this mountain, and as we came to see, we spent just a little bit too much of the afternoon on that mountain.
By the time we got going, the Sun was well on its way down; which didn’t really concern me until it started getting dark and cold and it was clear we had no idea where we were going.
It wasn’t the first time I had been lost on a mountain, and it wouldn’t be the last time either.
But it was maybe the scariest time, because I was completely unprepared.
I had nothing to keep warm with, our team became separated somehow, the terrain was steep, densely wooded, and it was getting really dark, really fast.
So that’s the mountain I think of whenever I read this passage from Exodus.
I always assume Moses knew where he was going a lot better than I did in Peru, but still, Mountains can be unpredictable places no matter who you are.
Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to any passage of scripture that features a mountain in it.
So in the scripture this morning, we hear about a mountain, but the story is a lot more riveting than the one I’ve told you.
There are three main parts to this passage as I see it.
First, God speaks to Moses.
Second, Moses speaks to the people.
Finally, Moses goes up the mountain.  That’s the hardest part of this passage.
So, let’s take a look at the first part of this passage.
I.  God Speaks to Moses, not completely unlike God speaks to us (though today it seems to be a bit more subtle).
f only God showed up and spoke to us like He did back then.
If only we could hear an audible voice, commanding us what to do from the top of a mountain that was enveloped in cloud and fire.
But we all know that just doesn’t happen anymore…at least not for most of us.
But you know, even if it did, I don’t think obedience to the voice of God is as simple as we’d like to make it.
In fact, obedience to the voice of God; often turns into something more than we imagine.
Look at verse 12…God says to Moses “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written.”
It sounds so simple.
Often, when we discern the voice of God speaking into our lives, the command that we hear sounds fairly simple.
Maybe that’s why we find it so easy to ignore.
It might be just a simple nudge;
“You should call so and so”.  “You should take that guy out for coffee.”
“You should consider a year of mission work”.
“You should be baptized.”
But if you look at the second part of this passage, you can see that the task at hand quickly becomes more difficult and involved than you think it’s going to.
Obedience to God is kind of like a home improvement project that just keeps going; every step becomes more costly, more consuming, and more expensive than you ever dreamed possible.
God speaks to Moses and calls him up the mountain.
II.  In the second part, Moses speaks to the people.
In verses 13 and 14 you can see how Moses goes up the mountain, and it’s a good reminder for all of us, that God doesn’t expect us to go ‘rogue’.
Moses Speaks to the People with him.  He doesn’t just strike off on his own, fully convinced in his own mind and self-sufficient.  He understands that his life is linked up with the whole Hebrew community; especially since he was in a position of leadership.
As I’ve noted before, I’m currently taking a class called “Leadership Holmes County” taught by Leah Miller; and a recurring lesson in that class is that if you’re not leading, somebody who shouldn’t be will step in to take that role.
It’s a good lesson; not just for me as one of the leaders of this congregation; it’s a good lesson for all of us.
Are you leading your life?
If you’re not, who or what else is?
Moses takes Joshua with him and he arranges for his leave of absence.
He tells the elders of the people to wait for him, and he makes plans so that the people have leadership while he’s gone.
He sets up a system so that disputes can be settled without him.
He pulls together his leadership team and makes plans–not for how he’s going to be faithful to God’s call; but rather for how the people he’s leaving behind will function in his absence!
I like this passage.
It seems clear to me that Moses really didn’t know what was going to happen when he started  up the mountain…and I really think that’s how it should be.
My limited experience with mountains has taught me that they can be really difficult, sometimes scary, and unpredictable places; but they’re also  full of beauty, full of promise, and full of wild danger all at the same time.
Kind of like God.
It makes perfect sense that Moses makes arrangements before he goes.  He doesn’t know what’s going to happen or how the situation might change in a heartbeat.
I’m not sure Moses knew whether or not he was coming back.
That’s the nature of God; that’s the nature of the mountain.
We’d all prefer if things could stay the same on this journey of a God-centered life, wouldn’t we?
But really, nothing can stay the same when you put your foot on the mountain God is calling you to.  You have to give up to go up.
Like Moses did, the best thing you can do is arrange for your people when it’s time to climb.
…We’re all called to a journey that only we can go on.
But we’re all connected to each other, too.
And I want to be clear that the ‘giving up’ I’m talking about isn’t a giving up of hope or a giving up of the battle you’re facing; no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Quite the opposite.
The giving up I mean is a giving up of control…committing yourself to going up the mountain and staying there for as long as it takes.
Moses gave up control; he passed his responsibilities to others for as long as his journey would take him.
And then he went up on the mountain.
What’s your mountain?  Who are your people?  What is it that God is calling you to?
These are questions that are very close to each of us this morning.
But know that you’re not alone as you face your mountain.
You’ve got the Holy Spirit who goes with you and a whole church behind you.
And if you’re here for the first or second time and you’re not sure if you do have a church; you can consider us your church.  We’ll be there for you as well as we can.
It’s just how we understand church here; not that we always do it right or even well; but I can promise you we’ll try.
So, God speaks to Moses and Moses in turn speaks to the people.
He gives up control to go up the mountain, where God has called him and has promised to meet him.
III.  And finally we get to the last section of this passage; the part where Moses actually goes up the mountain.
He laid his groundwork right, which freed him up to give up and go up.
And then he left.
In the last 4 verses of this passage, we get our final lesson for this morning.
It has to do with the Glory of God.  My Bible uses imagery that suggests it comes as something like a cloud, and later it seems to resemble a consuming fire from the standpoint of the people on the ground.
For 6 days this cloud of the presence of the Glory of God rests on the mountain, and on the 7th day the voice of God again calls to Moses out of the cloud.  Then Moses entered the cloud; and stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights.
He took his time on the mountain.  He took his time in the Glory of God.
Chapters 25 through 32 describe what God says to Moses up on the mountain.  He takes a good long time to outline what the life of Israel should look like in relation to their God.
And it ends poorly, even though Moses did everything right!
In chapter 32, Moses comes down the mountain to see that the plans he made for while he was gone; they fell apart.  The camp was in chaos.
Sometimes we plan as best we can; we put good leaders in place, and we outline our wishes as clearly as possible.
We can do everything right as far as we’re concerned…but there are no guarantees in life.
You can do everything right, just like Moses, in fact…but it can all still fall apart.
While Moses was gone, the people made a golden calf and they worshipped it.
So when Moses came down the mountain with his revelation from God; there was an enormous mess to clean up.
He was carrying two tablets that contained the handwriting of God; and he destroyed them in his anger, along with the golden calf and a lot of people that day.
But that’s not where I’m going this morning.
I want to leave us up on the mountain.
The mountain represents our own personal struggles and challenges as much as it represents God Himself.
In drawing nearer to God, we encounter struggle and personal obstacles.
In the same way, as we encounter our own deeply personal struggles and challenges, we find ourselves drawing nearer to God.
Mountains are not safe places, though they are full of beauty.  Likewise our God is an all-consuming fire; full of beauty and power and majesty…yet not exactly safe.
It’s not our mission to go up the mountain and come back down as quickly as possible.
Our mission is to go up the mountain.  Period.
The rest we can trust God to reveal, even when our best laid plans fall apart and we get so mad we could scream.
Pray with me as I close;
God, you call to us even when we’re not listening.  Grant us courage to climb as faithfully as we can.  We know you are near to us, even when the cloud of your glory blots out the Sun.  You go before us, you surround us, you help us.
Give us strength for the journey and wisdom for the road.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit we pray…amen.


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