Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the Lord settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day theLord called to Moses from inside the cloud. To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.—Exodus 24:15-18, NLT
Not all of the movement embraced by God’s immigrants goes horizontally from country to country. Sometimes they must make vertical moves. For Moses to guide the people of Israel into the Promised Land, he had to go up into the presence of God. In Exodus 19:11, God invited all the people to enter God’s presence, but the Israelites were terrified by the holiness of God and God’s voice. So, they pleaded with God to speak only to Moses.
So Moses went up to the encounter with God, accompanied by the 70 elders that had received the Holy Spirit (Numbers 11:25). The concept that no one can see God and live notwithstanding, the Bible reports: “There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!” (Exodus 24:10-11, NLT).
What a glorious thing Moses and the elders gained by climbing the mountain! What a terrible loss the people suffered by asking God not to speak to them!
When Moses left the elders behind to get even closer to God’s presence, which was at the top of the mountain, the Bible says: “To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire.” From afar, the holiness of God seemed like a terrible fire. But to Moses, the holiness of God seemed like refreshing clouds. To the human being, fire represents terror, but clouds bring delight.
Your concept of God also depends on your condition. When you stay far away, God seems like a terror and a threat. Those who draw near find that God seems like clouds of glory. In the process of your migration, draw near to God and be refreshed.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.