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Sunday, February 6, 2005
Rev. Dr. Harold E Kidd
A MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE
"Then Moses entered the Cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights." Exodus 24: 18
Have you ever considered mountains? Has anyone here this morning ever taken a vacation in which a part of your travels was to visit and behold the beauty, wonder and majesty of a historic mountain range. Maybe it was the Alps in Switzerland. Or perhaps the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, or maybe just a trip up to Tahoe to see the Sierra Nevada.
Mountains do have the ability to speak to us. O yes, they do. They have a message for us in their majestic prominence. They have a message for us in their steep, rough and tough crevices. Yes, they have a message for us in their high and lofty pinnacles and snow-capped peaks rising like a king’s throne, high and lifted up above all other earthly dominion. God has a message for us in the mountains, if we would only stop, look and listen.
Have you ever noticed that mountains play a significant role in God's message of Salvation? The scriptures declare that God hath made mountains to magnify himself. Declares the Psalmist in Psalm 148, "Praise ye the Lord, you mountains and hills". Mt. Sinai in Exodus 18 is described as the Mountain of God. Sinai was God's Holy dwelling place among his people. He said to Israel upon their liberation from Egypt, "And you shall worship me on this mountain."
Mountains speak to us of God's stability and his eternal continuance. (Deut. 33:15). Amen. Mountains in the Old Testament were often used as places of refuge (Judges 6:2), which speak to the fact that God is our Refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. God also uses mountains in the scriptures, to speak to us of the difficult, dangerous, and wearisome paths in life (Jer. 13:16). Like Jeremiah, some of you here today know what it means to be going up the rough side of the mountain.
He speaks to us out of his word using mountains that become representative in the believer's life of what appear to be insurmountable obstacles (Matt. 21:21). Jesus said in Matt. 21, "And you shall say to this mountain ‘be removed’, and it shall be carried into the midst of the sea." If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. The Lord here is talking to his disciples about mountain moving faith. Amen.
There are mountains we face in life that appear insurmountable, but Jesus says if you just have the faith, God will give us some mountain moving ability. If we can't move the mountain, he will give us the grace to climb up the rough side of the mountain. So mountains in scripture are also used by God to represent challenges that bring out the very best in us. Without some mountains of challenge in our lives, we'd never know what we really can do with the help of the Lord.
And we find mountains were an integral part of Israel's communal life. Men would leave their homes for days, as they climbed mountains to herd their sheep and pitch their tents. They often scaled mountains in order to make animal sacrifices to God. Such was the case in Genesis 22 when God directed Abraham -- Abraham offered up his only son Isaac on one of the mountains in Moriah.
But not only do mountains in scripture symbolize obstacle and challenge, stability and refuge, God's glory and majesty. Not only do they represent a place of sacrifice. Not only do they represent God's dwelling place among his people. They also symbolize a place of worship and divine revelation. Amen.
In this covenant story before us, we see God taking the initiative to re-establish a relationship with his fallen humanity. We can only love him, because He first loved us. He is giving them the Holy Commandments. The Glory of the Lord has descended upon this mountain in the form of a cloud. The deep thundering as if it were the voice of heaven and brilliant flashes of lighting become the heavenly choir which announces to Israel that the Lord is in his Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silent in reverent worship.
He calls Moses to come up the mountain and wait. For God is preparing to give Moses the Stone Tablets that will contain God's Holy Word. When Moses has an audience with God, he does so in the cloud of God's glory, hidden from the sight of others. On top of Mt. Sinai, Moses is alone with God, the mountain itself engulfed in a cloud, smoke and fire. For Moses this is truly a Mountain Top Experience.
In Chapters 24 - 34 Moses is alone with God. Alone with God. I wonder what Moses must have felt. I wonder -- was Moses terrified like Peter, James, and John when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain and his face shone like the sun and his clothing became is bright as light. I wonder what reverent fear overcame his soul when he recognized the creature was in the presence of the Almighty. You know the Bible does say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Verses 29 - 30 of ch. 34 bear witness that the Moses who came down the mountain was a different Moses from the Moses who had gone up the mountain. For "when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant, because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him."
We mentioned in our Wednesday Purpose Driven Life class that when you study the sculpture of Michelangelo's Moses, you'll discover that atop his head Moses appears to have two little horns. The seeming appearance of horns is Michelangelo's attempt to try to capture in sculpture the glory of God's presence that was radiant from the face of Moses. His face was radiant. Scofield's description of Moses is, "That Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him."
The Biblical writer is trying to describe the indescribable. They are not saying that Moses had a big grin on his face or even a smile -- something far more than that, something had come over his natural flesh that bore witness that Moses had been in the midst of divinity. Call it presence, call it God's gift of charisma, call it what you will, but there is a radiance that God gives to those who are willing to spend time with him in private worship. Amen.
There is something about spending time in the presence of the Lord that conveys to others, we've been with God. Like Moses, when we worship God in that private place, where it’s just us and God, others will be able to tell that we've been with God. Because God will leave some evidence of his own that we have been with Him. Amen. Moses was not radiant from something of himself. But he was radiant, because he had been with God.
Yesterday a few members of our congregation participated in a community walk sharing in this experience with members of several other congregations here in Los Angeles. There were approximately 70 - 80 participants. We walked several local neighborhoods knocking on doors and simply introducing ourselves to residents as their neighborhood churches.
Many of us had anxieties about going out and engaging persons at their homes. However, it turned out to be a mountain-top experience. When the group returned to Transfiguration Church, they were radiant! Faces were aglow with the presence of the Lord. Somehow, in walking our neighborhoods, we had also encountered the risen Savior. In walking our community we experienced fellowship with Christ.
We live in a day and time when we're trying to advertise that we are God's people. That we are his Royal Priesthood. That we are a spiritual people. But people can no longer discern spirituality by the flashiness or conservatism of one's suit or dress. They cannot discern that we have been with God no matter how many doctoral bars one may have on their priestly robes, or attractive crosses that accent our attire. People today are unable to discern that we've been with God just by academic degrees or churchly titles. What draws people to this faith and to Jesus is the presence of God in us. God in us making us radiate. God making his appeal through us.
Although your face may not light up a room, the time we spend in private prayer, worship, and meditation upon God's word will have the kind of effect upon our life that causes us to radiate.
Something within will be so radiant, the presence of God in us. I suggest that God himself will acknowledge to others that we've been in his presence. "And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him."
Maybe what our churches need most of all is not more programs, but more radiance. Not more money, but more radiance. Not more advertising but more radiance. Not more gimmicks but more radiance. Moses face shone with the presence of the Lord because he had been with God!
And let's take note of the fact that Moses was not aware that he was radiating the glory of God. But the people who met him after he had been to the Mountain Top … they knew. They could tell. They saw that something was different. Joshua and the others could clearly see God's presence in Moses. Hallelujah!
His face was radiant. The skin of his face shone with the presence of God. The kind of radiance the writer is speaking of you can't get using a facial mud pack or Nivea skin cream. We might get all the sleep and rest we want, have no dark circles or bags under our eyes. We may have taken care of all the acne and the wrinkles, but even still that will not produce the kind of radiance that was upon Moses. We've got to spend time with the Lord on the mountain. Amen.
In fact, every day, the Lord is calling to us to meet him on the mountain. Yes, "Come on up to the Mountain of God. I've got something to show you. I've got something to give you. I've got something to reveal to you. I've got something that will renew your strength. I've got something that will heal your brokenness. Come worship me on this mountain."
When we meet him on the mountain, something will be given and something will be changed. Moses met Him, and he received the Ten Commandments. Moses was in the presence of God, and he was changed. For the Moses who came down the mountain was a different Moses than the one who had climbed up the mountain. His face was radiant, and the people knew that he had been with God.