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The Ascents of Moses

 

The Ascents of Moses

And a Comparison with the Jewish and Christian Ages

 

 

 

 

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Refugees !

How many in this world.

Our attention focuses just now on a vast throng of two million refugees. Their tents and animals, and children and goods, spread for miles throughout a great plain and the surrounding valleys in the wilderness of Sinai.

The exact location of this area is not absolutely certain, and at least two sites are favoured as possible for the greatly significant occasion described in Exodus 19. One suggested site is in what was once the land of Midian, and it was there that an 80 year old shepherd, called Moses, was tending his father-in-law's flocks, when he noticed a small bush-fire towards the slopes of a Mount. Nothing too unusual about that in the heat of the full sun. But instead of burning itself out, as would be expected, the bush continued to burn in a peculiar manner yet it was not consumed. As Moses drew nearer to investigate more closely, he was startled by a voice coming apparently from the midst of the flames. And the voice told him that he was standing upon holy ground. This was Mount Horeb, thereafter to be called, the holy Mount, and the Mountain of God.

 

[Exod 3:12] And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

It is in the completion of that perfect oneness of "the Christ" [Head and Body members,] represented in that act by Moses that Jesus said.. [John 17:21-23 21]

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Thus we begin to recognise in these acts of recorded history that these scenes were to form glowing illustrations of even greater works in the redemptive purpose of the Lord.

The Christ, and only the Christ, will accomplished this work of delivering all mankind from sin and all its terrible effects. The Christ will draw all men unto Him, unite all under those bonds of love of the family of God. The Christ will thus enable mankind to realise all the blessings of knowing and worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth, to serve Him in this Mount, this Kingdom of His holiness. In this wonderful achievement of the Divine purpose in creating man upon this earth will come that ultimate proof of divine authority and power behind the sending of His Son and the preparing of His Body members. So when all the people gathered at the Mount of God thus fulfilling the Word of the Lord we begin to have a glimpse of the Kingdom, its incoming process, and its ultimate blessings.

They were a bunch of newly freed slaves. For their full liberty to be realised they needed law and order. Ideally they needed to share a common attitude and spirit towards their Creator, and towards their fellow men, a spirit of benevolence and care for one another, and deep reverence for their God. The Divine Will and their will, each member of that race, needed to merge together as one. Only where and when His Spirit controlled each individual heart would full liberty be known. But they were nowhere ready for such a state of oneness with their God. The ascents of Moses up the Mount of God reveal a pattern of development and processing to bring that people to their desired haven. For the Lord had said that He would bring them unto Himself.

 

First ascent. The promise of blessing

As far as we have been able to detect from the record, six times Moses ascended that Mount. The first ascent was almost as soon as the place had been reached. Only seven weeks had elapsed since that night of such dread horror when the destroying angel had spared only the first-born of Israel and they came out from their bondage. This was the fiftieth day. The perfect seven times seven sabbath of the Lord, later to be known by the name of the horn whose sound would announce it as the Jubal or jubilee.

Can we sense the feelings of Moses as he again drew near to this holy mount? What deep emotion must have filled his heart. The Lord had fulfilled His word. He had brought them to this place. Now moved with holy awe Moses could hardly wait to make that first ascent to talk with God.

Exodus 19:2-6 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.

[3] And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;

[4] Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. [5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

The Lord first pointed to the deliverance He had wrought on their behalf. It might seem inconceivable to anyone that after man's deliverance from death they would require any reminder first of the power of their Deliverer and then the need to fully obey His directions for life. But Israel illustrated well the lapses of the human mind. For man to dwell forever with a holy God--- such a perfect state could only be achieved with the full co-operation of each human mind. It would be achieved not by force, not by power, nor by strength, but by His Spirit finding free access into every heart, that quiet voice of God that is even now is working so mightily within each saint.(Zech 4:6)

God's own ways, His very principles of a holy life, His holy Law, this needed to become the motivating and controlling spirit enabling each being to live and walk with his God.

Then what a wonderful relationship! Then shall ye be a peculiar treasure unto Me... a personal possession loved and treasured of God.

So Moses came down to give this blessed prospect and its requirements to the people. Ex 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.

Second Ascent. Preparing for Holiness.

And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

This was then the second ascent of Moses, and it is now that the Lord speaks of the needful preparation of the people before they will be ready to receive the directions of a holy God.. They needed to take those first vital steps towards the way of holiness. The fear and reverence of the Lord, such was the beginning of true wisdom. The people were to be washed, every one of them. Nor could any stand before Him in a garment spotted by the flesh. They would not be ready for the next stage until the third day.

These little time projections are always interesting to us, for here we note that indeed two ages (Jewish and Christian) would elapse before Israel, and all mankind would be prepared in the third, (the new age now opening,) to come near to the holy mount, the kingdom arrangements of God.

Third Ascent. Recognition of man's sinful state.

Even so the lesson had still to instilled. Boundaries were set, and a needful separation demonstrated between their holy God and the weak imperfect minds of such recent slaves to sin. The third ascent was to set those boundaries. For the people to rush forward in their eager presumptuous curiosity would expose them to the fire of that holiness that consumes all that is unworthy in its presence.

The people were soon to realise what was involved in their approach to God. Moses descended the third time to warn them of these boundaries, and the fear of death should any break through. It was an awing thought, but not half so awing as when God began to speak to the people Himself to give the ten words or commandments on which their relationship would be bonded or covenanted.

Every expression of His great holiness now emanated from the Mount, thunderings, flashes of lightnings, and the unnerving sound of a celestial trumpet echoing throughout every valley. And in the midst of this awing scene came forth the voice of God.

No longer were the people pressing to be at the front, scarce restrained from trespassing the very mount. In terror they now drew back. They were ready to flee. Jewish tradition states they withdrew 12 miles, the full estimated extent of the camp. Ex 20:19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

The people now realised their need of a Mediator. And such the Lord in His wisdom has provided for mankind in this kingdom age upon us. They needed someone who spoke their language, but who also could speak with God, and live! How essential that Mediatorial reign, that the ransom, so great a price, such precious blood of God's dear Lamb, should not be shed in vain.

We might say that here endeth the first lesson! A long history of God's dealings lay ahead before man would be able to enjoy the benefits of the true arrangements of the kingdom of which this was but a shadowy type. It is this history, this sequence of the work of three ages, that is now so graphically illustrated particularly in those next three ascents and descents of Moses.

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Second series of ascents

 

 

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   The Fourth Ascent. Boundaries of love spelled out.

 At his fourth ascent Moses was to receive the words of book of the covenant that he was to write on his next descent.

 This was in effect a further statement of boundaries. The laws and ways of God are ways of love. Those who have His laws in their hearts fulfil them in love. They love the Lord with all their heart, mind and strength, and love their neighbour as themselves. However, these were a bunch of slaves, and needed to have the ways of heavenly love explained. Thus the ten commandments were now expanded in terms of those boundaries over which love would not go.

 One day these same people will be motivated by the love of God in their hearts. Then will they need no explanation of loves boundaries.

"Love welling up in every heart will meet a kindred response in every other heart. Such will earth's society be." [Studies in the Scriptures, Volume one; The Divine Plan of the Ages.]

 When Moses came down he wrote these things in the book of the covenant, and it is at this point that the covenant is made. Blood was shed, and the people and the book both sprinkled to point forward to that future bond to be made on the basis of our dear Master's shed blood. That will be a new covenant, this was the old covenant. Here we have the shadow, the mere outline, yet to be filled in of better things to come.

But at this point we find marked the time that Israel came into that typical covenant relationship with their God. There was even given a beautiful glimpse of Kingdom blessedness in fellowship with God. As Moses ascended again he was told to bring with him the elders of Israel

Ex 24:9-11 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

This took place a little way up the mountain of God, though in its lower reaches, for these, we feel, aptly represented the earthly representatives of the kingdom, such as the ancient worthies. (Hebrews 11.)

But Moses went still higher up the mount to speak with God, and to receive the Law of God made permanent in engraved stones.

From then on, the process was begun of the ways of God, becoming part of them, the central part of their thinking, and centre of their hearts and lives.

We know that this was not to be.

Moses was on the mount 40 days.

We know what was happening meanwhile down below where men still lived on the lower earthly and carnal plane.

A golden calf of false religion was made. It was made in the name of their God, but it was not of God but of man. And Aaron was involved. "All these things we will do;" they had cried. But they drew near only with their lips. Their hearts were far from the Lord.

Israel's faith in their God became corrupt and they sought other gods. They needed something visible... tangible, and came to build the great system of Judaism with all its do's and don'ts. For much of the Jewish age their allegiance wandered away from the Torah, and even when, after Babylon, they returned to it, while they may have clung at the last to the letter of it, they knew nothing of its spirit.

The Law was to bring them to Christ. Their religion instead separated them from God and allowed them to deny and crucify their Messiah.

When Moses now came down from the Mount the people were engrossed in the religion and traditions taught of men. They probably did not even notice his arrival. Certainly Israel failed to recognise their Messiah, for we feel that the first advent of Messiah is depicted here.

This was the Jewish harvest, judgement time for Israel. The covenant stones lay broken, the golden calf was fit only for the destruction that was pronounced upon it by the Messiah. Anticipated here was the eventual destruction of Temple and end of the rituals of the whole Levitical system.

It was also at this time that Moses pleaded with God on behalf of the people that their sin might not be counted to them. He asks that instead, if needed, he himself should be blotted out. Jesus came to give His life a ransom to save His people from their sins.

But the people were not to be let of lightly. A great slaughter was to take place. From that time forward the Jewish nation was to lament as they realised that the Lord's favour had been taken away from them.

We read in Ex 32:35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

The Lord was to turn His back upon the race.

Ex 33:4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned:..

The true tabernacle was not yet constructed, but there was a tent provided representing the meeting-place with God. The glory of God's house had departed, the Temple at Jerusalem was destroyed. This tabernacle of the congregation was now pitched outside the camp.

Ex 33:7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.

All who now sought the Lord found themselves going to Him without the camp. Jesus warned His disciples of this ostracism that would mark the history of His true devoted followers. (See Hebrews 13:13.)

Moses himself would ascend again, depicting the ascension of Christ.

'No man has seen God at any time,' but here was the most blessed glimpse of His glory ever known, revealed in and through His Son. But so far as Israel was concerned it was a departing glory, as depicted in the book of Ezekiel. Ezek 10:18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house... Ezek 11:23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city...

The Sixth Ascent. The Processing of saints.

Moses now ascends to be again 40 days in the Mount. This 40 days once more represents a trial period, the Gospel age.

During the whole of this period the people of Israel are in a state of lament, and the tabernacle of the congregation, or the church, remains outside the camp. Thus is the earthly experience of those who seek the Lord now described. Yet their fellowship with God continues, as we have seen. Meanwhile we glimpse the higher view of the Spirit in the work of this age in the experiences of Moses on the Mount. He is involved now in the work of Himself preparing the stones which are to be engraved. This preparation by Christ was an essential beginning of that process. Without His sacrifice there would have been no process of preparation of these "living stones" of "the Temple of God." This aspect is further glimpsed in the work of intercession which is enacted there after His ascension while on the Mount.

Ex 34:9 9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.

In this context these are beautiful words. He ever liveth to make intercession for us, and it is by Him that we are able to present ourselves as holy and acceptable offerings in Christ.

The work of engraving proceeds. These stones are to be the living expression of all that is in God's heart. These are His jewels, his peculiar treasured possession, His inheritance. These are to show forth His praise as kings and priests in the new covenant arrangements of the Kingdom of Heaven. To these will be entrusted the work, with Jesus, of establishing that Kingdom on this earth, bringing mankind to the Lord, to the eternal glory of His Name.

It is here that the full expression of God's glory is revealed to those who share this heavenly mind of Christ. The words of Jesus while on earth now are brought to the mind of His friends by his spirit. The veil of human-mindedness is lifted from their eyes, and the goodness of the Lord is made to pass before them in accordance with His promise. This was not a sight for carnal minds, nor for those who dwell on the earthly plane. On the Mount of the Lord, those higher reaches of the Spirit's unfolding, do we glimpse what is possible for us to behold of the goodness of the Lord.

Ex 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. It is in ascending this Mount with Jesus that we share this blessedness.

Ex 34:5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

And so do we.

These stones are not being prepared in order to be destroyed like the first. The chiselling and shaping is the work of Christ, the writing is the work of the finger of God. And that finger, that instrument, appears to be Jesus Himself. For we read in Ex 34:1 1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

Ex 34:27-28 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. 28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

The combined work of God and His Christ is taking place now in each one of the Lord's people.

How is He doing this? He is causing His goodness to pass before us. His face, His full glory, we cannot yet see, yet it is 'face to face' that He speaks with us, that is, in the closeness of that sweet intimacy of those that share one Spirit.

This was the relationship between Jesus and the Father even during His earthly walk.

Ex 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

It is the relationship that we came into when we came into Christ.

This period of ascent corresponds so closely with the Gospel or Christian age. Peter explained to the Jews that their Messiah had come --- and had gone again! Now every Jew believed that their Messiah, when He came, would deliver them from the Roman suppression. Therefore even the disciples were puzzled when Jesus was about to ascend without delivering the nation. (Acts 1:6) After the Spirit's illumination on the subject Peter was able to face this obvious problem in the minds of his fellow Jews when he had spoken of the Messiah's departure.

Acts 3:20,21 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution ('restoration,' as in 1:6 where the verb is used) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

The times of restoration will eventually include the restoring of all that Adam lost (and in him the entire race) when his communion with God was broken through sin.

But the Jews had in mind the restoring of the sovereign state of Israel, the first part of this procedure as shown in the description of the Messiah's second advent work in Isaiah 49:6;

And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved (or desolations )of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

Peter now could reveal that Israel's full deliverance was to be part of the second advent program of Christ. In so doing, Peter afforded us one of the strongest evidences that we are today living in the time of Our Lord's return. The "UNTIL" of Acts 3:21, has been REACHED.

This synchronises with the other signs of His parousia (presence).

The Israelites drew back and ran away at the sight of God's holiness. What a contrast is our present joy of drawing near. He is the same Holy God. There has been no diminishing of that consuming fire of the glory of His Holiness. Yet we are privileged even now to approach that holy fire without fear.

Heb 10:19-22 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

At the final descent of Moses the glory of God shines from His face. This is the glory, the knowledge of which is to flood this earth. And it shines from the face of the Christ.

Where did that glory come from? It comes from the beholding and the reflecting of the glory of God as He makes all His goodness to pass before us. The result of this wonderful work of the age now closing is yet to be realised by mankind. When Jesus faced His accusers He said, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness". So has it been for His followers also throughout the age of their preparation Whether to be found within or without the "Christian" nominal systems these have been a people apart, "outside the camp," of whom Jesus spoke when he referred to "He that hath an ear to hear".. the Spirit's leading in the midst of apostasy.

Yet, while ostracised by the world, and worldly minded "Christians", these have been with Jesus on a higher plane, "seated with Christ in heavenly places", and "blessed with all spiritual blessings."

There, in their minds, like John on Patmos, they have been carried away in the Spirit to the top of a great and high mountain. It is there, on that higher plane of living, in newness of life, that they have undergone the process of engraving, until the ways of God are indelibly impressed in their heart. The living epistles of Christ. Or as Paul described the process in 2 Corinthians 3:17,18,

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

These (Colossian 3;10) -- have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

To what great purpose this secret work upon the Mountain of His Holiness?

Here in these living stones are the Spirit engraved principles of righteousness and holiness on which the new covenant relationship of God with man will be based. Enter the new government of this earth.

But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Daniel 7:18.

Of course, because this is the treasure house of the Word of God, there is more, far more, to the meaning of these illustrations written in Bible history of the future events of the Plan of God.

The Jewish age was in many respects typical of the Christian age. There was apostasy in both. In each -- a golden calf of false religion, human hands handling the ark of God, each to be consumed in a judgement time at the end of each respective age. Once it was Israel's turn, now it is ours. Judgement must begin at the House of God.

But the outcome will be so revealing of the patience and wisdom of God, and His great understanding and skill in achieving this most wonderful purpose of creation; -- The family of God in heaven and on earth.

The tabernacle pattern was given to Moses during his previous ascent. The Jewish age was to foreshadow as a pattern in types the better arrangements God had always in mind. It was after the final descent that Moses was to erect this structure showing the dwelling place of God in the midst of the people's encampments, and the function of the priesthood and altar as the people's sins were each dealt with and typically cleansed.

Now is the time for the better and more enduring arrangement there portrayed to come into its full effect in bringing mankind back into covenant relationship with God.

Rev. 21:1-4 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

AMEN

 

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