We’ve all been there. The DMV. Maybe you’re like me, and would rather do stuff online. But, sometimes, you just have to go there. A little while ago I bought a used car, and had to get a license plate. In the old days, there was just one license plate. Today, there are hundreds from which to choose. Really. You can get just a license plate, white background with blue numbers and letters. Or, you can get a license plate with your college logo, your professional affiliation, your favorite local sports team or a political theme. Most of these cost a bit of extra money, but I just don’t want that generic plate on my car. I like a plate that says something. Thankfully, there is a free plate background that says “Virginia.” It’s called the scenic plate, and it shows Virginia for what it is…a beautiful state with the waves washing up on the eastern shore, and the peaceful mountains all the way at the western border.
Not many states have seashores and mountains. I live about two hours away from either. This is a real blessing for my marriage, as my lovely wife enjoys spending time at the beach, soaking in the sun’s rays, while I like to wander through the high mountain woods. I’m not sure why I like the mountains better. Maybe it is because I grew up near the mountains. Maybe it is because I love to drive through the winding roads as fast as my courage will allow. I’m not sure.
When I go to the mountains, I go to experience something. I’m sure you have enjoyed a day hike before, maybe even an overnight campout somewhere. Driving to the mountains, you can enjoy that brief glimpse of the mountain from afar, as you approach it on the highway. The closer you get, though, the less you can see. Finally, you meander to a parking area at the trail head. You feel that sense of anticipation…I’m here…I’m about to head out…I’m going hiking. You check your belongings, put your water bottle in those special pouches on the backpack, find the food bars you bought just for this occasion, and maybe even pull out a walking stick with a compass on top. Where’s your camera? Oh yeah, it’s in the backpack.
And then, the hike. In your initial rush, to get out of that car, to get going, there’s just happiness. You’re on the mountain. The trail is wide and smooth. Soon enough, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself walking a bit slower. The roots begin to get larger and more challenging to step over. The rocky path becomes a path of rocks, no boulders. Your legs begin to protest a bit. You did want to get in better shape, didn’t you? Soon enough, the path becomes all you can see. You focus on the next few steps, and maybe even take time out to try out that tree that fell over and looks as comfortable as your family room couch. The beautiful day is strangely dimmer and darker, as the trees growing block out the warm sunrays. You can do it. You can do it.
Blue. Blue sky again! You’re almost there.
Then, the moment. The trees step back. The bushes bow down. The sky meets you. The breeze cools you. You’re at the top! Your eyes take in a view unlike any other. There are other views, of course. Just not like this view. Miles and miles of beauty surround you. There’s nothing like it.
The Bible tells us of a man who hiked a mountain. It was after a particularly difficult time. He was leading a large group of refugees, who had recently been rescued from years of oppression. He had experienced many unusual, if not unbelievable things as he and the group left their enslavers. In the difficult terrain, he had dealt with the lack of food, the lack of water, military battles against other groups, and even the continual disagreements and disputes within his community. God rescued them, giving food, giving water, giving victory over the enemy, and giving him wisdom to judge. But now, it was time. It was time to hike up that mountain.
This hike unlike any we could take. The mountain was not quiet and peaceful. It was covered with a thick and dark smoke. At one point, the entire mountain trembled, as God came to the mountain top. Of course, everyone wanted to rush up the mountain to see, but he was the only one allowed to take the hike. There, he heard from God. Can you imagine? He reached the top, and heard from God!
Over the next few weeks, the mountain hike became more familiar to him. He went up and down the mountain, sometimes staying for a short while, and sometimes staying a long long time. Each journey brought new insight, new revelation, and new understanding. On a few occasions, his leadership team was permitted to join him as he approached the mountain, to see a glimpse of God’s incredible nature. But alone, he reached the summit and heard directly from God.
One day, after hearing from God many times, he asked God to reveal Himself, to show Himself. It would only be natural, to want to see God. What he asked, though, was not as you and I might ask. He didn’t say “Let me see you.” He pleaded “Show me Your glory.” Glory. It’s something we don’t really understand. It’s a word that tries to convey something that can’t easily be understood. Glory. Show me your Glory.
God was pleased to show him, with care, His Glory. God allowed the man to rest carefully protected in a rocky fold in the mountain, as He passed by. In answering the man’s plea, God replied that he would show the man “all my goodness.” His Glory was seen in His goodness. God is good!
When we read of these journeys, as the man hiked up and down the mountain, we might focus on a single important event. Here, from that mountain, God gave His people ten rules for living. But, He gave so much more! If we look at the entire experience, which covers many many chapters, we can be overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of God’s revelation. Let’s look instead at what we see across these passages.
We recognize God’s desire for purity. God, in His purity, demanded that man approach Him only in that purity. God gave instructions to His people to be pure. To be pure in our relationship with Him. To be pure as we relate to one another. The ten rules for living cover in just a few words how these relationships are created and how they are continued. The other directives speak distinctly about many different aspects of life, but in all, they speak of purity.
We see God’s purpose for His people. God desired that His people represented God in all His goodness to everyone. His instructions to create a tabernacle, a dwelling place for His glory, gave His people a special way to let others know of God, through their worship. The nature of offerings, the sacrifices for sin, and the centrality of worship for this community let everyone know of God’s glory.
We tremble at God’s protection of His people, in a hostile land. He offered His strength and His power to keep His people free from harm. He promised to drive out those who would oppose His people, those who were living in opposition to God himself. God protected His people not only by strengthening the people, but by actively fighting for them, through His angel.
We wonder at God’s provision for His people. He gave a place, defined by natural borders, to them. He slowly moved His people to that land, through a series of acts that prevented the land from becoming barren and unfruitful. He shared with His people that this would occur over many years, to ensure that the people did not lose heart that the land was not yet theirs.
We marvel at God’s passion for His people. On the mountain, the man asked God to show him His Glory. Now, in this special time, God’s Glory was made known to everyone, as it resided in the tabernacle within the large community tent of meeting. God’s Glory was evident day and night, and as it moved from place to place, the people followed. Clearly, God desired to be with His people, to dwell with them, and to enjoy a fellowship with them.
Today, life is so so different. Thankfully we are not in a time of transition, between a land of slavery and a land of peace. The lessons of times past are still meaningful, though. Do we relate both to God and our community in purity? Do we live out God’s purpose for us, showing God in His glory to everyone? Do we trust in God’s protection in times of trial? Do we recognize God’s provision in every aspect of our lives? Do we share in God’s passion for His relationship with His people?
Like the man who hiked up that special mountain long ago, time and time again, we can hike our mountains. Our mountains are those times when we journey to meet God. Each time we walk the path, our way becomes more certain. Our tired legs become stronger. The drudgery of stepping over rocks and roots changes to strong leaps over any obstacle. As we move toward the top, we stop looking at the path, and begin searching for the sky. Each time we hike, the path becomes more familiar. Each time we hike, we reach the summit sooner. There, at the top, we see God. We see His Glory, and we see His Goodness.
Climb every mountain!