Up and Down Mt. Sinai


In the midst of the thunder, lightning and smoke of Exodus 19, there is a rather amusing side story.  I love it when the Bible strikes my funny bone; God does display a great sense of humor from time to time.

In this scene, Moses has led the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, the place God had told Moses at the beginning of his adventure to come and meet up.  Now, Mt. Sinai is no Mt. McKinley, but it was still a good mile and a half hike to the top.  The Israelites set up camp at the base of the mountain and 80 year old Moses started to climb.  He was probably keeping his eye open for any burning bushes during his ascent, since that’s how God spoke to him the last time he was in the vicinity.

Moses “went up to God” (v.3) and sure enough, God had a message for Moses to take to the people.  So, Moses “went back” (v.7) and delivered the message.  Then Moses took the people’s answer “back up to the Lord” (v.8).  God was pleased and gave Moses another message for the people.  After Moses “had gone down” (v.14), it wasn’t long before God “called Moses to the top of the mountain, so Moses went up” (v.20).  Are you picturing this?

Here’s the funny part.  Moses had just made his third trek up Mt. Sinai and God’s first words to him were, “GO DOWN and bring Aaron up” (v.24).  Up and down, up and down, up and down.  Isn’t that just the way it feels sometimes?  But Moses spoke not a grumblin’ word; instead the Scripture says, “So Moses went down” (v.25).

Aside from the fact that Moses must have been in pretty good shape for an 80 year old, what do you think was going through Moses’ mind as he went up and down that mountain three times?  Bible study ladies (and anybody else that wants to chime in) think about it this week and post your comments!

**Please see post titled “Mt. Sinai Mystery” published on October 19, 2012

19 thoughts on “Up and Down Mt. Sinai

  1. I think Moses was thinking there must be an easier way! How many more times am I going to have to go up and down this mountain!

  2. This makes me smile…… verse 20, “The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up….”
    How long did Moses keep God waiting while he was climbing that mountain? Did Moses hurry? Was God drumming his fingers on the mountain top or was he smiling at an 80 year old man climbing the mountain……again:)

    • wHAT a wONDERFUl fEElING iT mUST hAVE bEEN fOR MOSeS tO bE CALLeD bY tHE mOST hIGH. pERhAPS a mIXTuRE oF uNWoRTHiNESS aND rEVERaNCE. hIS aGE iS oF nO iMPoRTANcE bECaUSE 80 yEAR oLDS rUN mARAtHONS tODAy, sO bACK bEFORE jUNK fOOD, t.v., aND IPaDS mEN aND wOMEN wERE pHYSIcALLY fIT. rEMEMBER tHESE ARE tHE cHOSEN pEOPLE oF tHE MOST HIGH wHO bUILT tHE tEMpLES iN eYgPT! wHEN i lOOK aT tHIS pHOTOgRAPh i tHINK hOW bLESSED aRE tHEY tO bE sO cLOSE tO tHE ANcIENT oF dAYS!

      • Lovely insights! Thanks for sharing. Yes! Perhaps the time spent with God on the top of the mountain was so intensely amazing that the climb was not even an issue. I believe God still desires that kind of closeness with His people, if only we would take the time and make the effort to climb the mountain. This post is consistently my most read and I often wonder why. Must be lots of people interested in Mt. Sinai!

  3. Good question! I’ve been thinking about this…

    I think God might have been giving Moses some time to get in a space to be able to share his God. This was the mountain of Moses’ intensely personal and transformative experience with God. But now, instead of a burning bush for one man, it was about to become a burning mountain for a whole people.

    • Ooo, that’s a great thought!
      Leadership is lonely and God knew Moses needed tending to.
      Also, perhaps God longed for/desired that time with Moses as well. God said, “Come up to me and stay here with me.” Not unlike Jesus appointing the Twelve to “be with him”. Relationship always precedes the commissioning.

      So, why is God so often manifested in the form of fire?

      • hmmmm…another good one to ponder! Thanks, Dinah 🙂

        My first thought is Passion – Holy Fire.

        Have you heard Amici Forever sing “La Fiamma Sacra”?
        Gives me chills

        Humans sure love sunsets – must be some connection!

  4. Pingback: God Relents | Sermons of a Lectionary Preacher

  5. Toshiko, as I’ve been preparing the Bible Study, I’ve been pondering how God and Moses first came together on Mt Sinai, and there was a fire on the bush, but it wasn’t burning, and this time, when Moses is there with all his family and his baby nation, God appears in a fire on top of the mountain, and Moses goes up to meet God and he doesn’t get burnt either. Some of these ladies have noticed the fire connection as well at the same mountain and the same God introducing himself to make a relationship with people he has chosen.

  6. That is such a good question! In Exodus 19:24 God told Moses, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you.” Again in Exodus 24:1-2 there is an invitation to bring Aaron and 72 other priests up the mountain, but they were told to not come too near — only Moses was to go all the up. What I find so interesting is that Moses told Aaron and the priests to wait on the mountain for him. This was the 40 days Moses spent with God receiving the detailed instructions for the tabernacle and ceremonial laws. But evidently, Aaron got tired of waiting, because it was during this 40 days that the golden calf debacle took place and Aaron was involved with that. Your question raises all kinds of new questions! What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading!

    • I think in Ex 24: 9-18 we read that Aaron did go up with Moses….and as best as I can discern this was Moses 5th trip up the mountain….the greatest lesson we can learn from Moses may very well be obedience?!

  7. wow how awsome this was just to be before the most high GOD…i go up a million time for GOD…what a awesome GOD we serve. moses did whatever GOD wanted him to do without grumbling. that the same way we as chiildren of GOD should be, when it come to our MIGHTY GOD HASHEEM……I LOVE YOU GOD

  8. Dear to whom it may concern,

    My name is Kelsey Heck and I am a research assistant for Professor Eric Zuelow at the University of New England. He is currently completing a book about the history of modern tourism that will be published by Palgrave next year and we are tracking down images to illustrate various elements of the text.

    I am writing to enquire about the Moses on Mt. Sinai attached image which I located on your website. Do you own the copyright or know who does? Any information will be helpful.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Kelsey Heck

    P.S. You can reach me at kheck@une.edu

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