Surviving Quarantine Series Discovering 40 Day Episodes in the Bible
“Abiding in the Glory of God” Exodus 24.12-18
Last week we began a new series of sermons entitled “Surviving Quarantine.” We learned that the word “quarantine” comes from two Italian words quaranta giorni, which means “40 days.” The practice of being quarantine began during the 14th century to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving from infected ports were required to stay anchored off shore for 40 days to make certain that each member of the crew was healthy.
The Bible has several instances where God used the period of 40 days. So we are entering the second week in our own 40-day journey through the Scripture looking at 7 episodes where God used 40-days to make a spiritual emphasis. The focus of these sermons is to point out areas from the Bible that will help us survive the quarantine.
Last week we looked at Noah and the Ark and discovered that even though the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights, but Noah, his family, and all the animals were in the Ark for 371 days! Now, that’s being quarantined! Today we are looking at two 40-day episodes in the life of Moses. The first is recorded in Exodus chapter twenty-four and the second in Exodus chapter thirty-four. Both of these 40-day episodes took place on Mt. Sinai.
Here now the Word of God – Exodus 24.12-18:
12 Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and
I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.” 15 Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Chapter twenty-four begins with the Lord calling Moses to climb up Mt. Sinai once again. This time Moses is to bring Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and seventy of the elders of Israel with him. The next morning, Moses “built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.” (vs.4)
He offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings and read the Book of the Covenant and to the people, who responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” (vs.7). To ratify the covenant, Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice. (vs.8)
After the ceremony, God commands Moses to continue up the mountain in order to receive the stone tablets that God had prepared. (vs.12) Moses takes Joshua with him and sends the others down to the foot of the mountain. While Joshua waits, Moses continues the to the top of Mount Sinai. After reaching the top Moses waited for six days. A cloud covers the top of the mountain and on the seventh day God invites Moses to enter the cloud. Moses stays there for 40 days and 40 nights. (vs.18)
During this 40-day encounter on the mountain, God gives Moses much information, which included the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone by God Himself. Moses also receives complete instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, and specifications for the priestly garments, etc. (Ex.25-31)
Even though this is all wonderful information, I don’t think it will help us much in surviving quarantine. But there two points in our text I think will help us. The first point is God’s invitation to Moses to join Him on the mountain (vs.12) and the second is Moses abiding in the glory of God. (vs.18)
Let’s first look at God’s invitation. I love the first part of verse twelve. Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there.” Notice that there is nothing intrusive or demanding about the Lord’s invitation. The Lord’s invitation was like a good friend inviting a close friend to come up to his cabin in the mountains for a long weekend.
Moses had gone up to the mountain several times before and he welcomed another opportunity to commune with the Lord his God. But don’t miss the second part of the Lord’s warm invitation. “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there. Don’t rush off. Stay for a while. Linger for a while. The Lord is inviting Moses to come hang out. Maybe using that type of language to describe God’s invitation is too casual for you. If so, I’m wondering if you have made communing with God too formal. Maybe you have made communing with God a black tie affair instead of two friends hanging out on the front porch talking and reminiscing about old times.
Brothers and sisters, I think God is showing us the way to survive quarantine is to realize that God invites us to spend quality time with Him on the mountain. I think the Lord is teaching us the way to survive the quarantine is that to remain in His presence and not to be too quick to rush off. Spent time with the Lord—studying, meditating, hearing from Him in the Scriptures, and praying to Him.
Abiding in the Glory of God
The text reads, Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it . . . Moses entered the midst of the cloud . . . and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Verse sixteen states, “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai.” This word rested means to abide or to dwell. The Lord invited Moses to abide in the glory of God. Have you ever heard of the shekinah glory of God? Actually, the word shekinah does not appear in the Bible, but the concept clearly does. The word “shekinah” means “the One who dwells.” Our God is the One who dwells with His people. The Lord invites Moses to do “come up to Me on the mountain and remain there.” Why, because the Lord wants to dwell with Moses and desires for Moses to dwell in His glory. The Lord is not rushing off and He desires for Moses to not rush off either.
This reminds us that God seeks to dwell with us. As I share a few weeks back, the Lord invitation for us to abide with Him is the centerpiece of His redemptive plan through Christ. Christ is our Immanuel, which means God with us. Yes, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. (Jn.1.14) Our God is the One who dwells with us! The manifestation of the shekinah glory of God is at the heart of understanding God’s desire for us to dwell in His presence. We see it in the early pages of Scripture in the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day seeking to communion with Adam and Eve. (Gen.3.8) And we see it in its fullest dimension when the Word become flesh and dwelling among us as we beheld His glory. (Jn.1.14) This truth should evoke continual thanksgiving in those who have been invited to shelter under His wings.
No wonder Moses stayed for forty days and nights. This wasn’t a forced quarantine. This was a welcomed quarantine. Brothers and sisters, the Lord is calling us to enter into the midst of His glory through Christ. The way to survive the quarantine is to dwell in the shekinah glory of God through Christ. Let’s take every opportunity to enter into the midst of the cloud and not rush off.
Unfortunately, at the foot of the mountain, the Israelites had Aaron build the golden calf and were committing idolatry. When Moses and Joshua descended down from the mountain they saw what the people had done. Moses breaks the stone tablets, destroys the golden calf, and disciplines the people.
But in chapter thirty-four the Lord said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. (Ex.34.1-2)
This time Moses was to come alone. So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the
Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Once again Moses entered into the midst of the cloud of God’s glory. The Lord stood with him there and Moses called upon the name of the Lord. What a beautiful scene.
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” (Ex.34.4-6) These are words we need to hear today. “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” When we start to think that the Lord doesn’t care we need to remind ourselves that the Lord is compassionate. When we start to think that we haven’t live up to the Lord’s standards we need to remind ourselves that the Lord is gracious. When we start to think that the Lord doesn’t love us we need to remind ourselves the Lord abounds in lovingkindness. The way we survive the quarantine is by constantly reminding ourselves of who God is.
So he (Moses) was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Ex.34.28)
Moses once again basked in the shekinah glory of God for forty days and forty nights but this time he did not eat bread or drink water. (34.28) This was a completely unique and supernatural fast. It is definitely possible (yet remarkable) for someone to live without food for 40 days, but by any account it is a miracle to go without water for this long. This kind of fasting is never repeated or recommended in the Scripture. One theologian wrote, “It is impossible to exaggerate the stupendous things suggested in this simple statement. Forty days and forty nights he did not eat bread or drink water. These words are powerful evidence of the truth that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Morgan) And maybe that’s exactly what we need to hear during this time of unemployment and loss of income. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Mt.4.4)
After forty days Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets but Moses didn’t know that his face radiated the glory of God. The brilliants that shone from Moses face proved to the people that Moses had been in the presence of the glory of God. Close communion with God physically affected Moses. His face had a shining appearance that was so noticeable that both the leaders and the people of Israel were afraid to come near him.
After such a remarkable fast we would expect that Moses would look pale and sickly. Apparently not, instead his face shone with the radiance of God’s glory. Spurgeon wrote, “The face of Moses shone because he had long looked upon the face of God.” Brothers and sisters, we should seek to look long upon the face of God to the point that our lives show a noticeable change, especially during these difficult times.
Moses face shone so brightly that he started to wear a veil when he spoke to the people. When he was with the Lord Moses would take the veil off but when he was wear the veil. Now, it is easy to conclude that Moses wore the veil so the people would not be afraid to come near him. (Ex.34.30) But the Apostle Paul explains the real purpose for the veil was not to hide Moses’ shining face but to hide the diminishing glory of the Old Covenant – the Law. (2Cor.3.13) The Old Covenant (the Law) was great and glorious – but it looks pretty pale in comparison to the New Covenant (the Gospel of Jesus Christ).
The Apostle Paul uses this episode to make a point. If Moses’ face shone so brightly after forty days and nights how much more should the faces of those in Christ shine the glory of God? If Moses’ face shone so radiate after receiving the Law how much more should the faces of those who have received the Spirit radiate the glory of God? If Moses’ face glowed after receive tablets of stone how much more should the faces of those who have God’s Word written on their hearts glow for the glory of God? Paul challenges the believer to be transformed from glory to glory as we gaze on the face of Christ. (2Cor.3.1-18)
These days we all wear masks out in public just like Moses did. Our masks hide many of our expressions and emotions. But I want to challenge you today to not allow the glory of God to diminish in your life. I want to challenge you to not hide behind the mask. Lets honor the Lord’s gracious invitation to “Come up to Him on the mountain and remain there.” Let’s not be too quick to rush off and do our own thing. Moses had been with God, and it showed. And for us in Christ when we really spent time with the Lord—studying, meditating, hearing from Him in the Scriptures, and praying to Him—it shows. Let’s abide in the shekinah glory of God through Christ. Brothers and sisters, let’s gaze into the face of Christ with an unveiled faces allowing nothing to hinder people from seeing the glory of God in us. Let’s behold the glory of the Lord and be transformed! If we do – we will certainly survive the quarantine.