The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 28: Idolatry at Sinai
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The answer was, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will
give thee rest." But Moses was not yet satisfied. There pressed
upon his soul a sense of the terrible results should God leave
Israel to hardness and impenitence. He could not endure that
his interests should be separated from those of his brethren, and
he prayed that the favor of God might be restored to His people,
and that the token of His presence might continue to direct their
journeyings: "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up
hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people
have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with
us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the
people that are upon the face of the earth."
And the Lord said, "I will do this thing also that thou hast
spoken: for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee
by name." Still the prophet did not cease pleading. Every prayer
had been answered, but he thirsted for greater tokens of God's
favor. He now made a request that no human being had ever
made before: "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory."
God did not rebuke his request as presumptuous; but the
gracious words were spoken, "I will make all My goodness pass
before thee." The unveiled glory of God, no man in this mortal
state can look upon and live; but Moses was assured that he
should behold as much of the divine glory as he could endure.
Again he was summoned to the mountain summit; then the hand
that made the world, that hand that "removeth the mountains,
and they know not" (Job 9:5), took this creature of the dust, this
mighty man of faith, and placed him in a cleft of the rock, while
the glory of God and all His goodness passed before him.
This experience—above all else the promise that the divine
Presence would attend him—was to Moses an assurance of success
in the work before him; and he counted it of infinitely
greater worth than all the learning of Egypt or all his attainments
as a statesman or a military leader. No earthly power or
skill or learning can supply the place of God's abiding presence. [p. 329]
To the transgressor it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God; but Moses stood alone in the presence of the
Eternal One, and he was not afraid; for his soul was in harmony
with the will of his Maker. Says the psalmist, "If I regard iniquity
in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Psalm 66:18. But "the
secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show
them His covenant." Psalm 25:14.
The Deity proclaimed Himself, "The Lord, The Lord God,
merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness
and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty."
"Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth,
and worshiped." Again he entreated that God would pardon
the iniquity of His people, and take them for His inheritance.
His prayer was granted. The Lord graciously promised to renew
His favor to Israel, and in their behalf to do marvels such as had
not been done "in all the earth, nor in any nation."
Forty days and nights Moses remained in the mount; and
during all this time, as at the first, he was miraculously
sustained. No man had been permitted to go up with him, nor during
the time of his absence were any to approach the mount. At
God's command he had prepared two tables of stone, and had
taken them with him to the summit; and again the Lord "wrote
upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."
[* See Appendix, Note 5.]
During that long time spent in communion with God, the
face of Moses had reflected the glory of the divine Presence;
unknown to himself his face shown with a dazzling light when he
descended from the mountain. Such a light illumined the
countenance of Stephen when brought before his judges; "and all
that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face
as it had been the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. Aaron as well as
the people shrank away from Moses, and "they were afraid to
come nigh him." Seeing their confusion and terror, but ignorant
of the cause, he urged them to come near. He held out to them the
pledge of God's reconciliation, and assured them of His restored
favor. They perceived in his voice nothing but love and entreaty,
and at last one ventured to approach him. Too awed to speak,
he silently pointed to the countenance of Moses, and then toward [p. 330] heaven. The great leader understood his meaning. In their
conscious guilt, feeling themselves still under the divine displeasure,
they could not endure the heavenly light, which, had they been
obedient to God, would have filled them with joy. There is
fear in guilt. The soul that is free from sin will not wish to
hide from the light of heaven.
Moses had much to communicate to them; and compassionating
their fear, he put a veil upon his face, and continued to do
so thereafter whenever he returned to the camp from communion
By this brightness God designed to impress upon Israel the
sacred, exalted character of His law, and the glory of the gospel
revealed through Christ. While Moses was in the mount, God
presented to him, not only the tables of the law, but also the
plan of salvation. He saw that the sacrifice of Christ was
pre-figured by all the types and symbols of the Jewish age; and it was
the heavenly light streaming from Calvary, no less than the glory
of the law of God, that shed such a radiance upon the face of
Moses. That divine illumination symbolized the glory of the
dispensation of which Moses was the visible mediator, a representative
of the one true Intercessor.
The glory reflected in the countenance of Moses illustrates
the blessings to be received by God's commandment-keeping
people through the mediation of Christ. It testifies that the closer
our communion with God, and the clearer our knowledge of
His requirements, the more fully shall we be conformed to the
divine image, and the more readily do we become partakers of
the divine nature.
Moses was a type of Christ. As Israel's intercessor veiled his
countenance, because the people could not endure to look upon
its glory, so Christ, the divine Mediator, veiled His divinity with
humanity when He came to earth. Had He come clothed with
the brightness of heaven, he could not have found access to men
in their sinful state. They could not have endured the glory of
His presence. Therefore He humbled Himself, and was made
"in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), that He might
reach the fallen race, and lift them up.
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