And when they [the Israelites] heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (4.31)
I recall a certain theme throughout portions of the Old Testament: the Israelites fall away, God punishes/disciplines justly by subjecting them to the surrounding nation(s), the Israelites eventually cry out to God, and in His mercy He saves them. However in this Exodus instance there is no record of this cycle of falling away & then punishment. Slavery just happened. I find that to be quite interesting. Perhaps an example of how sometimes things just happen in this sinful world and God isn't directly disciplining us?
Moses returned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people [making bricks without straw]? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go . . ." (5.22 - 6.1)
I so enjoyed the honest conversations between the Lord and Moses peppered throughout Exodus. Despite the awesomeness of God's presence at the burning bush and many amazing miracles, Moses was not afraid to address God directly and honestly. Perhaps this is a lesson I need to learn? I forget sometimes that I can just talk to God . . . thought-out prayers, long journal sessions and perfect timing are not necessary.
During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds as you have said, and go. And also bless me." (12.31-32)
Also bless me!?! You've plundered my nation; my firstborn son just died; but please bless me before you leave and take all of our free labor with you. How ironic! Perhaps God indulged in a little chuckle at that comment from Pharaoh?
This is what you [Moses] are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (19.3-6)
I love the tender language God uses in this paragraph. Reminiscent of something Jesus said in Matthew (and Luke): as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Perhaps this side of God is one that I need to better understand?
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (24.17)
The only definitions I can find for "consuming" that could possibly work for this context are "to totally destroy; ravage" or "to absorb; engross." I think the second is more fitting. It was a totally absorbing fire, engrossing the top of the mountain - to the extent that the fire seemed to consume the entire area it covered. That is what the glory of the Lord looked like to the Israelites.
On the odd occasion when I think about the Lord's glory, I usually imagine it like a gorgeous sunrise or the view from the top of a mountain or the sound of ocean waves at dusk. Rarely do I imagine myself at the foot of a mountain, staring up at a consuming fire, raging, all-encompassing, engrossing. Perhaps I need to come back to this new mind-picture periodically . . . in order to have a more complete picture of the awesomeness of my Lord.
Exodus: a portrait of His glory
I see God's glory in the concern He showed for the Israelites in their slavery. I see His glory in open conversations with Moses, delighting in personal connection. I see God's glory displayed mightily in His dealings with Pharaoh. I see His glory in the tender language He uses to address His chosen ones, the Israelites. And I see a picture of His glory atop the mountain - a consuming fire.
How awesome is my God.
Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/2942945071/