VERBAL AND VISUAL
Lord, You are my light and salvation. Today, by Your Spirit, reveal new insights to me from Your Word.
Read EXODUS 24
The Covenant Confirmed
24 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2 but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”
3 When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
12 The Lord said 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 commandments I have written for their instruction.”
13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 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. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice … I turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me.’1
A fault line runs through present-day Christianity. Some Christians are Word-oriented in their faith, emphasizing Bible reading, study, and preaching. Others are visually oriented in their faith, appreciating the importance of visions, dreams, pictures or symbols. It may be something to do with cultural or educational differences. Interestingly, we often find that Scripture joins together what we separate.
The confirmation of the covenant, which took place at Sinai, is a case in point. It begins with an emphasis on ‘the Lord’s words’ (v 3). Moses ‘wrote down everything the Lord had said’ (v 4). Then he read ‘the Book of the Covenant’ to the people (v 7). To a God who created the world by speaking, words – exact words – matter. Immediately after we’ve grasped their importance, however, we read that Moses and his fellow leaders ‘saw the God of Israel’ (vs 9–11) and they describe what they saw, a vision replayed in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 1. That God showed himself like this was a shocking surprise, as the comment, ‘God did not raise his hand against’ them (v 11) indicates. Usually, his awesome, holy presence is shrouded in mystery, as Moses soon experienced (vs 15–18). Usually, people couldn’t see God and live,2 but here God graciously reveals something of himself.
John constantly keeps words and visions together: ‘The Word became flesh … We have seen his glory’.3 At Pentecost the Christians heard ‘a sound’ like wind and ‘saw’ tongues of fire.4 Revelation repeatedly refuses to separate words and visions.5 Perhaps we should learn from this, with each side of the fault line expanding and enriching its experience of God by giving space to the other. Do not separate what God has joined. You don’t have to choose: ‘All things are yours’.6
What is your natural preference, the verbal or the visual? Which are you likely to neglect or doubt? What can you do to enlarge the way you encounter God?
Amazing Lord, let a sense of Your goodness course through every fiber of my being until my lips declare Your praise. Indeed, You are good; Your love endures forever.
1 Rev 1:10,12 2 Exod 33:20 3 John 1:14 4 Acts 2:2,3 5 E.g. Rev 4,5 6 1 Cor 3:21
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